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  • Writer's pictureOli Shawyer

It's more than just a game

As of the weekend just gone, the Port Adelaide Football Club delivered it's third annual in-season game in Shanghai. And for the third time, delivered a great win against first time travelers, the St Kilda Football Club.

There's always a lot of discussion surrounding why we as a club pursue playing in Shanghai, and an interest in the underlying strategy that sits with it. And whilst that in itself is worth a considerable post, this isn't a piece that sets out to reveal all.

Being tasked with filling the stadium in Shanghai, I wanted to share some strategic insight to that process and where I landed. Particularly in encouraging Australians to travel.

January 2019.

Following the launch and announcement of the game in October 2018, consideration and conversion into travel package sales was tracking slower than we’d initially anticipated (exclusive period until February 2019 where tickets to the game were only accessible via purchasing travel package from travel partners).

Accompanying this was a lower than expected "registrations of interest" for public ticket sales (pre-February). Reasons why were anecdotal, but I considered with some confidence that it include:

  • unawareness of the event;

  • limited understanding for the game offering;

  • perception that the barriers for attendance were too high;

  • mis-assumption that it’s no different to a game at Adelaide Oval (or MCG, Marvel);

  • belief that it’s no different to the last time they went;

  • and/or more broadly, a lack of consideration for Shanghai as a travel destination when considering how to use leave or their international trip allowance.

Thinking about the brief a little differently.

The ultimate outcome we wanted from our efforts was for people interested in the game to attend the game in Shanghai.

But the behaviour we needed to drive is not to purchase tickets to the game, but rather, flights to Shanghai. As obvious as it seems, they wouldn't purchase tickets to the game if they'd not purchased flights to Shanghai, and they wouldn't purchase flights to Shanghai if they don't want to go to Shanghai.

As counter-intuitive as it seemed, the brief became about selling people the destination of Shanghai.

How to drive behaviour.

Borrowing from my days at Behaviour Change Partners, when we used to obsess over marketing briefs from the perspective of behaviour change briefs, I returned to a familiar model to tackle the brief:

B = M.A.T

Very simply, at the moment a trigger (t) is pulled to prompt us to do a 'said' behaviour (b) - travel to Shanghai - we'll only do that 'said' behaviour if we have the right amount of motivation (m) combined with a competent ability (a) to do that 'said' behaviour.

The path to "let's do it".

As the above model indicates, when it comes to deciding if we're going to do something (or not do something), we have to address the two following questions through everything we do:

  • Is it worth it? (Motivation)

  • Can I do it? (Ability)

Therefore, the intent and success of our messaging and execution was hinged on a balance between influencing motivation and making travel to Shanghai as accessible and as easy (at least perceptually) as possible.

A balance between emotion and rationality. Day dreaming and practicality.

The task.

We therefore needed to make people really really want to go to Shanghai, and then, help them think and feel that getting there was easy.

The execution brief shifted from trying to sell the game to trying to motivate Australians to travel to Shanghai (culture, experience, people, food, beauty etc) whilst breaking down the reasons why they don't believe they can get there (ease, safety, lack of understanding, cost, time etc).

Re-positioning the occasion.

To give ourselves the best chance of driving consideration and purchase, the overarching proposition and balance for Shanghai 2019 needed to be delivered as clearly and consistently as possible. We needed some glue that would hold everything together.

In light of the lack of momentum, energy and excitement surrounding the game announcement, a decision was made to 'relaunch' Shanghai 2019 in March by building and delivering on an entirely new campaign around a single-minded proposition that could work consistently across our key audience pillars: consumer (tourism, social, entertainment), corporate (networking, connection, opportunity) and political (bi-partisan, sports diplomacy).

Taking it to market.

Hanging everything off a single-minded proposition, filtered through our key audience pillars helped us bring energy, focus and creative endeavour to bringing the ask to travel to Shanghai to life consistently, relevantly and frequently.

With limited budget, and ultimately very little time in market (purchase journey for travel would usually require more lead time than 2-months), we executed a long-list of interventions that elevated the idea that travelling to Shanghai was much more than just for a game of footy.

Within this was a content series that featured two respective Port Adelaide and St Kilda football heroes, who over the course of 3 days with my team, traveled to Shanghai to showcase why Shanghai was worth visiting (motivation) and accessible for all (ability).

Shanghai in 48 hours

Nick and Gav Showcasing Shanghai

Nick and Gav's Rivalry

How-to Tips

The results.

Whilst only in market for less than eight weeks, we managed to officially 'sell-out' the game via travelling Australians, hospitality guests and local Shanghai residents. That said, for full transparency, the stadium wasn't full come game-day.

The opportunity for Shanghai 2020 will be to have this proposition in market many months earlier, with increased investment and extension of the idea to truly capture everything the city has to offer and how Aussie Rules in China is so much more than just a game of footy!


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