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NBL’s Phoenix Focus On Building A Digital Community

T
he National Basketball League’s (NBL) newest team, the South East Melbourne Phoenix, are using the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to build their digital community in an effort to boost membership numbers.

Ministry of Sport spoke one-on-one with the Phoenix’s chief commercial officer, Anoop Singh, about how the club aims to target the basketball community in South East Melbourne.

Singh has been in his role at South East Melbourne Phoenix for just over a year, following his eight-year stint at Hawthorn Football Club as the AFL club’s general manager of finance.

He explained how digital engagement will be key to building a strong fanbase and believes a new club app will be a major factor.

“Our focus is around digital content and keeping fans engaged with our club – whether that be on-court or off-court videos,” Singh said.

“One of our major partners, Solos, is working with us to build an official club app.

“It will allow fans to digitally access a range of benefits, and push notifications out to them.

“It will also authenticate their jersey and help with VIP express lanes in stadiums,” he said.

They are planning to pilot the app later in the season, with the expectation it will be launched next year.

The importance of engaging the local area was also made clear by Singh, who said he intends to centre the commercial strategies of the club around the significant population of South East Melbournians who are involved in the sport.

“The South-East community is really important to us – there’s a number of businesses and basketball associations close to us,” Singh said.

“It’s the heartland of Australian basketball, with over 100,000 registered basketballers in the area.

“We want to connect with them as much as possible and build that trust between the region and the team.

“We consider ourselves the people’s club, and we hold all the people connected to our club closely,” he said.

He oversees all revenue streams for the Phoenix and said listening to fans and colleagues has been key to success since the COVID-19 pandemic struck.

“It’s about staying close to your fans and knowing your business well and working closely with your staff to understand what the priorities are for your business,” Singh said.

“We found during the pandemic what our business’s key focuses were, and we understood that engaging with our fans and members was essentially why we exist,” he said.

Notably, professional clubs across Australia have been impacted by crowd restrictions in stadiums.

The Phoenix’s home stadium, John McCain Arena, holds approximately 10,500 fans at full capacity.

The Victorian government currently permit 50% attendance at most sporting games, but Singh also believes the NBL’s fixturing has been a major hurdle this season.

“We had a lot of momentum coming out of our first season, so the lockout held that back,” Singh said.

“It was disappointing to have such a great start, and COVID really put a stop to that.

“The difficulty this year, however, is mainly around the fixturing – the NBL is only releasing fixtures two weeks ahead of time.

“That has not provided a whole lot of certainty for our fans and our corporate hospitality partners.

“In terms of reduced capacity though, it is what it is – there’s no point groaning and moaning about it,” he said.

The Phoenix are currently sitting at roughly 2,000 members, but Singh is realistic about their membership targets for this season.

He said he would like to reach the 2,500 mark soon but is predicting they will finish with around 2,000 members, with the season at the halfway point.

It is all about the accessibility of tickets and memberships for local fans though, according to Singh.

“It is about how we can make it easier for [fans] to get to games, whether that be ticket offers or membership offers, to make it affordable,” Singh told Ministry of Sport.

“We think our price point for members is very competitive in the NBL,” he said.