Back

AFL Sponsors Are Fully Invested In Season Return

AFL general manager of commercial, Kylie Rogers, has told Ministry of Sport that the AFL’s partners have “been wildly excited and really supportive” during the 2020 season suspension, as the AFL prepares for its return to action Thursday night.

Speaking exclusively to Ministry of Sport, Rogers said the AFL has brought in new partners and extended existing partners during a global pandemic and is now stronger as a group coming out of the pandemic.

“The fact we’ve brought in new partners and renewed partners in a global pandemic is pretty wonderful,” Rogers said.

“We will be renewing our 4-year partnership with Rebel, with the recommencement of the season tomorrow night, they have stamped their commitment by buying the signage rights of the goal square.

“Supporting AFLW, AFL men’s and community football, they will be activating their Rebel Rookies program, during halftime at one game in every round, and really expanding the partnership out.

“I think it’s been a really successful period, I wish it didn’t happen, but all in all we’re far stronger as a group coming out of it,” she said, discussing the work the AFL has done during the season hiatus in securing new partnerships and extending existing partnerships.

When asked about how the commercial partnership process changed during the global pandemic, with added uncertainty of if and when the AFL season would return, Rogers said the focus on digital solutions was heightened more than ever.

“What did change was the pace of change and the moving landscape, the lack of resources on both ends, because most of our partners suffered the same as us where we had to stand down staff, and the need to pivot to digital solutions in an environment where we had no games,” Rogers said.

“We couldn’t execute our normal physical programs, and a good example of that would be our NAB AFL Auskick program.

“Clearly we couldn’t run that so we created the NAB AFL Auskick At Home program and that lived on our digital ecosystem, allowing thousands of Auskickers around Australia to enjoy the program at a time when it suited them on the platform they most preferred.

“It was a real success.

“[When the AFL season returns] you won’t see matchday activations, you won’t see corporate hospitality for a period, you won’t see live competitions at games, you will continue to see digital variations to the programs.

“Consumer behaviour has changed, and people are into those digital options,” she said.

Discussing the AFL’s ability to communicate and work with partners during COVID-19, Rogers said the support from the AFL’s partners has been overwhelmingly positive.

“They’ve been wildly excited and really supportive, firstly I have to say I was overwhelmed as to how supportive our partners have been over the suspension period, and just how proud we all stood together, shoulder to shoulder,” Rogers said.

“As soon as our partners got wind we were potentially recommencing the season, they threw all their marketing support at the recommencement, none more than Toyota.

“It just shows our partners are equally invested as us in the return to the AFL season.

“It has simply deepened our relationships and our support for one another and our reliance to a degree on one another.

“I guess a global pandemic can do that,” she said.

Talking about what the future of sport sponsorships will look like in a post-COVID-19 world, Rogers said the shift to deeper strategic partnerships with flexibility will be accelerated.

“Maybe partners will look to organisations like ours to deepen their association, I think we’ll move from traditional sponsorships into deeper strategic partnerships,” she said.

“Because post-COVID-19, partners are going to be looking for brand exposure, they’re going to need to create legacies, we’ve already been on that path for the past couple of years, but I think you will see that accelerate.

“Brand exposure will still play a pivotal role in brand building, but I think the transition to being more agile and changing our assets around term by term, year by year, will get more and more important,” Rogers said.