With the licenses awarded, marquee signings announced, draft completed, uniforms launched and preseason started, AFLW has officially begun. This blog will take a look at what we can expect from the competition in its inaugural season and the key reasons why it already looks to be a winner.
How it Will Work
A competitive bidding process saw 15 of the 18 AFL clubs apply for a license in the league, with Adelaide Crows, Brisbane Lions, Carlton Blues, Collingwood Magpies, Fremantle Dockers, Greater Western Sydney Giants, Melbourne Demons and the Western Bulldogs named as the competition’s foundation clubs. Each of these club’s will have a playing list of 25, with the season to run from February to March (fixture and broadcast information expected to be announced in November). There have been a number of rule changes introduced specifically for the competition including 16 a side (6 on the bench), a smaller ball, and shorter quarter lengths, all changes were introduced with the intent of making the contest as exciting as possible, by reducing congestion and increasing disposal efficiency.
Why it is a Winner
A New Group of Stars
The AFL Women’s Exhibition matches started in 2013, for the first time providing an opportunity to shine a broader light on a group of elite athletes that will soon become household names. Daisy Pearce’s ability to make time stand still in traffic, Katie Brennan’s balance, Mo Hope’s flare, Darcy Vescio’s signature hang time and Tayla Harris’ booming right boot will provide footy fans with an ever growing highlight reel for years to come.
A new league provides an opportunity to build competitive balance from the beginning. If the even spread of talent is a guide, fans of all participating clubs can expect exciting, close and unpredictable footy. With most experts nominating over half of the teams as potential premiers, we can expect the unexpected.
Inspiring the Future
The AFL recently released their annual participation numbers and the solid growth in female football has continued. With an increase of 19% from last year’s numbers, females now represent over a quarter of all football participants. The addition of 354 new women’s and youth girl's community teams means there are more avenues than ever for females to get involved. The increased participation, combined with more targeted talent pathways, will help to ensure that the quality of AFLW matches continues to go from strength to strength.
The introduction of elite level women’s football programs at 8 AFL clubs has and will continue to open up opportunities across a number of key areas including people and culture, fan growth and engagement, and commercial and consumer revenues. These opportunities will only be realised with complete support from each club’s board, executive team, and all football and administration staff. If the intent from clubs observed so far continues, it will mean all footy fans have a lot to look forward to.
What does this mean for partnerships?
The AFLW competition has seen a number of existing club partners increase or divert their partnership investment to AFLW teams and has also introduced a number of new partners to the AFL landscape. What is more encouraging is that some AFLW team partners have such belief in the competition, and what the athletes offer, that they have entered the sponsorship environment for the first time. There are a number of reasons why AFLW can provide value through the right partners, including:
For many potential partners, women’s sport provides an opportunity to align with their core values and brand. As the AFL and other sports provide greater opportunities for female athletes, the alignment becomes stronger for brands that are looking to tell their own stories of innovation, excellence and opportunity.
The athletes from AFLW bring to the league a wide array of knowledge and skills from a range of diverse professional and personal experiences. These skills, combined with an ever growing, positive digital presence, provide brands with access to quality ambassadors.
Actively Growing the Game
With the AFLW competition and female football participation in a strong growth phase, there is an opportunity for brands to play a leading role in supporting the growth of the game, and developing the next generation of talent.
With a smaller number of teams in the competition and a smaller number of total partners, brands have so far taken advantage of the relatively uncluttered environment in comparison to the men’s competition.
With the first bounce only two months away, we will watch with interest to see how the inaugural AFLW competition performs - on and off the field.
Feature Image via The Age