Turning hype into powerful ads: Clemenger's first work for the AFL

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 13 March 2018
AFL player Aliir Aliir

Clemenger Melbourne is kicking goals with its first work for the Australian Football League (AFL) turning the hype around the sport into powerful ads.

Some naysayers in the industry questioned if Clemenger Melbourne's strong creative reputation would take a hit following the exit of its leadership team to launch the new Monkeys in Melbourne.

But the agency’s first work for the the AFL since winning the account in February shows that Clemenger hasn’t lost any of its creative clout.

In fact, some of the industry’s biggest names are celebrating the work.

The three powerful short films introduce a new brand platform for the AFL, Don’t Believe in Never, moving away from its 2017 tagline, ‘I’d like to see that’.

The first ad tells the remarkable story of Aliir Aliir, the first Sudanese player to be taken in the AFL draft. The long-form spot tracks Aliir’s life from his birth in a refugee camp in Kenya, right through to being drafted by the Sydney Swans.

Secondly, the story of Dema, a young Muslim girl from Bankstown introduced to the sport via her PE teacher. It shows her father’s struggles to reconcile the physical aspects of the game with his own religious beliefs.

Lastly, the AFL reflects on a story that played out on screens across last season - the long-awaited rise of the Richmond Football Club. The ad follows the emotional story of coach Damian Hardwick‘s professional and personal redemption.

It’s a strong shift away from the AFL’s previous approach, created by Cummins&Partners, which focused more on humour.

Diageo CMO Adam Ballesty describes the AFL’s marketing shake-up as “a great pivot in a world where hype can be the easiest tool to navigate the need to spike interest at this time of year”.

“Over the past few years the NRL and the AFL have just tried to out hype each other. This year the AFL has created a tremendous and meaningful story that brings the power of people to life. Love it. Go the Bankstown Bull Sharks," he tells AdNews.

Thinkerbell founder Adam Ferrier says the ads are "brave and right".

"Some people refer to advertising as good story telling - under this definition this is first grade work," he says.

"The statement that the three stories are all of equal importance is profound. Winning from behind, busting down barriers, or providing opportunity - all are important messages for a sport that shapes so much of our culture, and is so spectacular to watch. It also sets a high bar for the AFL's new CEO to live up to."

Ex-Leo Burnett CEO Peter Bosilkovski believes the AFL has "nailed it" with this new work.

"I believe the difference between the codes is the storytelling. All the codes are rich in values, but the AFL translates their values in powerful, authentic and inspiring storytelling," he says.

"The campaign 'don't believe in never' doesn't just sell the sport, it makes you fall in love with their story. Stories of passion, dedication, diversity and overcoming adversity. The story of the Bankstown Bullsharks is real and brilliant - it's an authentic portrayal of a real Australian family and the 'dad' is just legendary - i just love it. No matter if you like the AFL or not, you do get hooked by their point of view" 

Campaign Edge’s Dee Madigan also gave the work an emotional shout out on Twitter.

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