Sick of getting pilloried for tinkering with the rules? Problem solved, try them in AFLX.
Can’t expand the code into fresh markets because of no full-sized fields? No problem, play games on soccer or rugby pitches.
Can’t fill the insatiable appetite for the AFL product? Solved, introduce a new competition.
Wary of an entrepreneur pinching your product and creating a rebel spectacle? No worries, do it yourself.
Sports marketing expert Con Stavros is much anticipating the AFLX experiment.
Stavros is a footy fan.
He’s also an associate professor at RMIT University’s School of Economics, Finance and Marketing with research interests including sport and sports marketing.
Which is why he’s doubly-intrigued about the launch of AFLX in Adelaide on Thursday night.
From a marketer’s viewpoint, Stavros says the AFL has shrewdly crafted a format which could answer long-term questions.
“Any sport going outside its realm is really, really challenging,” Stavros said today.
“But the great thing with this product is because it’s brand new, you can do whatever you want with it in the name of experimentation.”
AFLX games will be 20-minutes long, with seven players on each team on fields about 110 metres long.
Thursday night’s format debut in Adelaide will be played at a soccer stadium before kicking off in Melbourne on Friday night and Sydney on Saturday night.
New rules will be trialled: 10 points for a goal kicked from outside a 40m arc; the team which last touches the ball before it goes out of bounds will surrender possession to their opponent.
There will be kick-ins after any score; a 20-second shot clock; no time-on; no interchange cap.
“The criticism the AFL often have from their real brand loyals has always been don’t tinker with the rules,” Stavros said.
“They have now got a platform where they can actually start tinkering a little bit more.
“They are doing it in the AFLW but this gives them a chance with the elite athletes in the AFL game to also test things on them and get their feedback.
“It just lends itself to a great little experimentation area.”
Stavros doubted expansion into overseas markets was a prime motivation behind AFLX.
“The different stadiums is a really interesting one,” he said.
“I know there’s some talk about going international and I guess there is that exhibition potential. But I’m not sure it’s going to be a change changer to take off internationally.
“But surely it becomes much easier for them to say ‘hey, let’s do this next year in New Zealand or Singapore or the United States or wherever’ – it’s far easier to find the grounds.”
Stavros believed AFLX would also thwart any potential entrepreneur with designs on creating their own rebel Australian Rules competition.
“Nobody owns sport around the world,” he said.
“It’s one of the truisms that anyone can come along and just start up a rival football league if they wanted to.
“As a league, you’re much better off being in control of that sort of stuff. Developing your own products is always really helpful for the governing body because it tends to shut off those opportunities.”
AFLX also enabled the governing body to offer more product to its largely-insatiable customers.
“They have timed it really well,” Stavros said.
“The AFL is very good at keeping their brand in the news 24/7, 365 days a year. They have become absolute masters at it.
“Everyone is raring to go at this time of year.
“The fans are excited because every club comes into it with what marketers love to call hope – at this time of year it’s square one.”
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