What we follow – AFL

If you’re in Australia you’d know it is AFL Grand Final week. In US terms its the Super Bowl for Aussie rules football.

One of the most popular teams, Collingwood Football club has made it to the final. They have many fanatical supporters. So it got me thinking about what we are really supporting when it comes to football:

The Location? No, they do not play their games or even train in their original location of the suburb of Collingwood.

The Players? No, they are also never from the location they actually play for, let alone the same state or even country. They also change teams frequenctly and we welcome new players from other teams with open arms (so long as they are good players)

Our Peers? No, often our best friends follow teams which are the arch enemy of ours. We do not switch teams to be accepted by anyone. We’ll attend the games with them, but barrack for our own team.

The Jumper? No, that changes frequently. It barely looks like the original from 100 years ago and we are often forced to change it if the opposing team has colours which are deemed to clash.

The Performance? No, success is tenuous at best. Systems have been built in AFL to ensure the a more equitable distribution of success (Salary caps, draft systems). 1 successful year in 10 is a great result. 1 in 20 is more frequent.

So what do we support? We support the idea of loyalty. A concept only humans can understand. Following a team allows us to live vicariously, and display loyalty no matter what in a non life threatening way. It allows us to be emotional in a world that attempts to demand only rational thought.

Football and sport in general is one way we can remain human without consequence. And when it comes to brands, or clubs in this case, people can only truly love those which feel human.


5 Comments What we follow – AFL

  1. Leon Sammartino

    I think you are discounting the factors of History and Family, which of course go hand in hand a lot of times.

    I know that your entire family, brothers, the poorly informed cousins, parents, the less smart uncles are Colligwood supporters. I’d be willing to bet that’s where your love/support of Collingwood germinated. (and I do mean germinated in the dirty dieased sort of way)

    Similarly my dad saw the light a broke ranks with the rest of the Collingwood loving family, to support North Melbourne, this is handed down to both myself and my brother, the attendence at games and loyalty to the Kangaroos has more to do with being part of a family than it does with a jumper and or displaying loyalty in a non life threatening way.

    Oh an why did Dad start supporting North? – Because he lived near the ground. Your claim of Location not mattering is false. It matters less than it has in the past, but it still matters, firstly to the interstate sides, secondly in a historic prespective, you’ll still find a high proportion of St Kilda supporters in the bayside suburbs, or Bullies supporters in the west.

    Support of footy teams is an multi layered beast, The reasons people support teams are actually for all the reasons you mentioned above from the new immigrant living in the North Melbourne housing commission towers identifing with local team, to the primary school kid meeting a AFL player at a footy clinic. The newly arrived foriegner going to the footy and given a team by his workmates. The Italian Juventus supporter supporting Collingwood because they like the colours or the five year old choosing their team because they were in the grand final that yeah.

    From a marketing presepctive we need to understand that all the things you claim we do not support a team for are the very things that attract us to the team in the first place.

    Which of course is often the case with products. We are attractived by the advertising, the packaging, other people’s recommendations, but to gain our loyalty, our support the product needs to be good, it needs to make us feel good, it needs to make us feel human.

  2. Steve Sammartino

    Terrific thought out response – I think they key point is we want to be loyal to something. The thing is not real, it’s not a thing, or even what we think we are supporting – it’s more etherial.

    Great comment Leon,

  3. Ryan Spanger

    I really like this discussion. I’m going to add the idea of ‘belonging’: That by supporting a team we are exercising the feeling of belonging.

    Shortly after I arrived as a new immigrant to Australia 20 years ago I was taken to the football. We went to see Collingwood play at Victoria Park. I remember seeing people standing on empty VB cans to get a decent view, the colourful language, and the magic of the whole scene. But something told me Collingwood wasn’t the right team for me 🙂

    It took a few years to choose a team. It felt like a big commitment, and I had no historical basis to make the choice. But something about St. Kilda grabbed me. I remember being at a game and being struck by the idea that these guys (while of course being professionals and being paid a healthy salary) were putting their bodies on the line and giving 100% for us. And so, slowly, over the years, I built a connection with the team.

    Having a team provided a layer of engagement with workmates on a Monday morning. Provided some social lubrication through the office footy tipping competition. But over time, I started to feel like I was going on a journey with this team. And in some small way I was part of the experience.

    I think the best brands can evoke a related experience: that you’re associated with something that matters, something with integrity, something that cares about you back.

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