Soccer takes aim at cricket for ad dollars

James McGrath
By James McGrath | 2 April 2015
The Socceroos scored against Netherlands in Brazil.

Football Federation Australia is in talks with four Asian Cup sponsors about extending their reach in Australia through sponsorships, and the soccer body is also boasting to the domestic market that the Socceroos are as popular as the Australian cricket team.

CEO of the FFA David Gallop made waves last month when he went public with comments suggesting the Socceroos were more popular than the Australian cricket side and better reflected the multicultural nature of Australia.

Cricket Australia hit back a day later, saying that the men's cricket side was still the most popular, “followed by daylight”, resenting the implication that cricket did not appeal to a broad range of people.

The comments were seen as soccer flexing its muscle in the post-Asian Cup glow, taking aim at its main summer rival rather than going after its more popular winter code cousins in the AFL and NRL.

FFA commercial manager Luke Bould said the reason the FFA was getting noisier about promoting its own audiences was because it has started to shift the way it presented to advertisers.

“What we've done over the last twelve months is become more scientific in our approach to measuring that fan engagement we knew we had, but didn't have a measure on,” Bould said.

“We've become much better at selling our audiences, in much the same approach a TV station would take.”

Part of the FFA being able to make more strident noises in the marketplace is that it now has metrics around support for the national side and support for soccer in general.

Making noises

Bould told AdNews that the stoush with cricket was the result of a GEMBA survey it conducted of 4500 people in Australia post-Asian Cup.

The results suggested that for the first time in the sport's history, the Socceroos are the most popular national sports side – with some caveats.

“We've seen 63% growth in the number of people who say the Australian football team, the Socceroos, are their favourite national team which is significant,” Bould said.

“What is really interesting is that in the 16-39 segment we're neck-and-neck with the cricket team, which is something that hasn't happened before.

“If you look at 45 plus, the cricket team's nearly double us, but if you look at those really attractive [younger] demographics, it's swinging towards us as a sign of how the Socceroos are resonating.”

Crucially, the results didn't take into account the cricket team winning the final of the Cricket World Cup, but rather the first month of the tournament.

Bould said the upshot of the Asian Cup for soccer was that brands who wouldn't talk to the FFA before now were.

“When we got on the phone after the Asian Cup, everybody was answering. People actually wanted to talk to us. We were talking to people after the Asian Cup that prior to we just couldn't get on the phone,” Bould said.

“We've also seen parties that have said to us that 'Now wasn't the right time' come back to us and actually approach us.”

Asia Rising

However, the FFA is now also looking further afield than the domestic market for sponsorship, using an upcoming spate of World Cup qualifiers as a launch pad to talk to sponsors of the Asian Cup, most of which happen to be Dentsu Aegis clients.

Dentsu agency Team Epic, which specialises in in-venue sponsorship programs, inked a deal with the FFA last year to help attract larger ad dollars from Asia.

Dentsu manages seven out of the ten brands which were major sponsors of the Asian Cup, and of these, Bould said the FFA was in serious talks with four of them.

“Equally there are other companies which weren't involved in the Asian Cup out of Asia that we're  talking to. In some cases they're competitors of the Asian Cup sponsors,” Bould said.

He said that there could be anywhere between a 15% and 50% uplift in sponsorship revenue on the back of the late deals it's working on with Asian brands, but it was still too early to put a definitive figure on it.

While its partnership with Team Epic is part of the rise in interest from Asian brands, Bould said the Asian Cup itself was a fantastic networking opportunity.

“To actually have them down here in a room … there's nothing like that one-to-one time you get with them, and that's been reciprocated by invites up to Japan to further the discussions.”

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