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Just the other week at the 2014 Vision Critical APAC Summit, our delegates voted that the Asia Pacific Insight Community of the Year for 2014 was to be the Australian Football League (AFL). The highest-level professional competition in Australian football, the AFL won for the AFL Fan Focus, an insight community of almost 12,000 fans.

Other nominees this year include Target (for its 5,000+ community Target Talk), Westpac (with four communities across its various group) and Telkomsel, the Indonesian mobile telephone provider. Congrats again to all nominees!

Just like last year, marketing and insight professionals at the Vision Critical APAC Summit in Sydney voted for this year’s winner after all nominees presented their story to delegates. Despite the tight competition, AFL prevailed due to a compelling story and specific examples of how the league has used fan insight to drive business changes.

“Historically, decisions have been made based on ‘gut feel’ or as a reaction to views expressed by the media or views from highly-engaged supporters on our social media channels and talk-back radio,” says AFL’s Customer Strategy Manager Shaun Welch about the community. “Since launching AFL Fan Focus in March of 2013, all areas of our business have been asking ‘can we ask our fans through Fan Focus?’”

“Since launching AFL Fan Focus in March of 2013, all areas of our business have been asking ‘can we ask our fans through Fan Focus?’”
- Shaun Welch, Customer Strategy Manager at the Australian Football League

So, how is the AFL’s insight community making an impact? AFL says its community has influenced many marketing and fan entertainment decisions. Before rolling out a major television marketing campaign, the AFL turned to its fans, who indicated that they didn’t prefer the voice over.  With that feedback in mind, the marketing team was able to improve the TV spot before launch.

The AFL Fan Focus is also influencing major changes to the sport. When the AFL Commission, the sport’s governing body, considered changing one of the league’s elite competition formats, it consulted with the community. Anecdotal feedback suggested that fans were dissatisfied with the 2013 pre-season competition, so the league asked fans directly. Fans told the AFL that they wanted a shorter pre-seasons competition and an earlier premiership season. By engaging its community, AFL was able to show how different fan segments will react to changes in the competition format. The commission made changes based on fan feedback, resulting to increased satisfaction (52% satisfaction in 2014 compared to 29% in 2013).

The AFL Fan Focus helps the league accomplish one intangible—but crucial—objective: it lets AFL build relationship with fans. “The feedback that our community members have provided indicates that they feel closer to the game,” says Shaun Welch. “Our fans feel like they are able to voice their views and opinions directly with us as an organization.”

From the Vision Critical APAC team, congrats again to the AFL!

Photo credit: Hunter Neild (via Flickr | Creative Commons)

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