HomeInterviewExclusive: Commercial Innovations To Expect In The 2021 NRL Season

Exclusive: Commercial Innovations To Expect In The 2021 NRL Season

Exclusive: Commercial Innovations To Expect In The 2021 NRL Season

In an interview with Ministry of Sport, NRL general manager of partnership, Caroline Yuen, discussed the NRL’s plans for commercial activations in the 2021 season.

Discussing how the NRL’s commercial strategy evolved from the start of COVID-19, Yuen said the pandemic caused the NRL to develop stronger communication with its commercial partners over the entire year.

“Last year, when it all happened with COVID coming into play, it was something new to all of us in all industries,” Yuen told Ministry of Sport.

“We were quite worried about what it means for the sport, but we moved pretty quickly.

“The big focus for us was communication with our partners.

“Our strategy evolved over time, we set something in stone then moved according to changes happening in the industry and in our sport.

“The focus for us was getting the game back into play on the 28th of May, but at the same time, the key priority for us was keeping our partners and communicating with them on a regular basis.

“We saw a real positive return with that approach and making sure they were updated as we were changing and getting the game restarted, but even keeping that up for the rest of the year.

“We amplified our communication with partners more than we’ve ever done in the past, that’s definitely a strategy that will remain in 2021.

“We had to stay flexible and nimble, things changed differently for different industries, we had some partners that saw their business actually increase and some partners were greatly affected, and their focuses changed.

“In that respect, we had to adapt to them and to help provide benefits that also had the ability to change as our ROI and metrics changed.

“The thing we discovered the most is how valuable relationships in partnerships are.

“If you don’t have a real strong base with partners, it’s not a genuine partnership.

“With all of our partners, last year was a great year of showcasing how our partners work with us as well.

“A lot of them were really understanding and they could see how we were trying to do everything we can to put on the game, to ensure we could get crowds back.

“The partners all stood by us the whole year, financially a lot of partners invested more when they saw we were back up and there were other opportunities.

“We also realised in part there were other things we could amplify through our own business to help partners out and rely more on our digital network.

“We never stopped delivering or servicing our partners at any stage in the year, even with football at a standstill.

“We kept everything going on our digital network,” she said.

Talking about the new innovations the NRL is set to reveal for commercial partnership activations throughout the 2021 NRL season, Yuen said there will be a lot more in-stadium activations that also utilise digital assets.

“We’re still trying to push for real creative innovation within stadium,” Yuen said.

“We can’t do the same activations as before COVID in a precinct, but we are still trying to push the boundaries, within the COVID-safe plan still, but it’s about how do we engage fans and get partners connecting with fans during game time.

“For example, at Magic Round this year in Brisbane, there will be a lot more in-stadium activations, we will still rely on digital to amplify these activations, but we will have that touchpoint for fans at games, and that’s quite exciting even though we are still in the COVID landscape.

“A great campaign only recently launched is with Telstra; Telstra’s network is all about connecting people and supporting small businesses, so they’ve recently launched a Telstra Small Business Campaign.

“In round nine of the season, they will be donating their signage through our game for small business.

“Small businesses will be able to nominate themselves to win signage at our games, which are quite substantial financial placements that Telstra use to promote their brand.

“Another innovation is to help our partners reinvigorate the travel market, in Magic Round, we are working with Great Northern through CUB.

“We’ve partnered with them for the Great Northern Magic Getaway, which works with our NRL travel network to provide fans the opportunity to come onboard and enjoy bespoke experiences as part of their event.

“They can go fishing in North Stradbroke Island and get experiences in the CBD, and then get to come and watch the games in Brisbane with their mates.

“Seeing our partners work in a different way, they are all being extremely innovative, they’re challenging themselves to create new ways to amplify their brands through our sport.

“They know how much we’ve strived to keep the game on and they’re challenging themselves to see how they can connect with fans outside the traditional way of activating, and that’s really exciting,” she said.

When asked what she would do differently if given the chance to go back to the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic with the knowledge she has in 2021, Yuen said: “If we could have predicted the number of people we could have had in stadiums earlier, that would have helped.”

“When we look at the coming year, a big learning from last year is understanding you can plan for different scenarios.

“If we went back to last year, we would always have a numerous number of approaches, we went in quite risk averse.

“We can still deliver something even if something changes overnight, such as border restrictions or crowd reductions; the ability to still deliver partner activations to their full focus and capability is key.

“Having that experience from last year, we can plan for that, and plan completely different scenarios that still deliver the same outcomes for our partners.

“You can still plan with not knowing the uncertain climate.

“Given the year we had and how our season changed, we still delivered on every facet of our partnerships and what our partners expected.

“We’re in a really good place and the year has gotten off to a really positive place and all our partners are just ready for football to start.

“We are extremely thankful for the partners we have, we’re very selective with our partners.

“The partners we do have currently are fantastic organisations and people to work with, and they are true two-way partnerships where we work together as one team to deliver,” Yuen told Ministry of Sport.

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