Create fans for life. See how the AFL is growing engagement.

Find out how the AFL is growing the game and fan engagement using CRM + AI + Data + Trust.


About the Company:

The Australian Football League (AFL) is an extraordinary force in the nation’s sporting, social, and cultural landscape. The organisation is responsible for growing the game at all levels—from grassroots to elite competition.

The Challenge

The AFL is on a mission to celebrate ‘footy in every home’. That footy could be playing, supporting, coaching, umpiring, or even just volunteering down at the local club. To achieve this goal, the AFL needed to work smarter to increase participation at the grassroots and grow fan engagement.

It has turned to Salesforce to do exactly that and is now kicking goals using CRM + AI + Data + Trust. Used by the game development team and professional clubs like the GWS GIANTS and Sydney Swans, Salesforce helps the AFL engage communities and fans at every touchpoint.

“We have experienced extraordinary growth as a code post the pandemic, and for that to be given every chance to continue, Salesforce is central to achieving one of our main priorities of having ‘footy in every home’. It has given us insight into exactly what we need to do and the tools to do those things smarter and faster.”
Rob Pickering
General Manager of Technology and Chief Technology Officer, AFL

How Salesforce Helps

1. Work smarter and faster to increase grassroots participation.

Youth participation acts as a flywheel in the AFL, helping to grow the game and create lifelong fans. To take advantage of this, the AFL wanted to work more effectively with schools and community organisations to increase participation at the grassroots.

Data on grassroots programs was previously siloed in emails and spreadsheets. It was difficult to track participation and know what initiatives were working and which weren’t.

To solve this challenge, the AFL connected all its data on Salesforce for better, faster decision-making. Sales Cloud has helped by replacing emails and spreadsheets and bringing all school-based game development activities and data onto one platform.

The game development team can now centrally record teacher interest in running school programs and follow up to offer support. They can also record where and when local programs are held and how many students take part.

“Teachers are busy, so when we can catch them and have a meaningful conversation we need to track that and follow up at the right time. Recording our interactions in Sales Cloud will also help us we relaunch our school membership program and offer rewards to schools based on their engagement,” said Rebecca Marshall, National Participation Program Manager, AFL.


2. Take data-driven actions to grow the game.

Data silos were also a challenge for the AFL’s clubs who lacked a single source of truth about fans and members. This impacted their ability to make decisions like where to focus marketing campaigns to grow and retain members.

MuleSoft, Tableau, and a growing data culture have addressed these issues. MuleSoft simplifies integration and allows AFL to connect to any system and partner for a single source of truth. This includes Ticketmaster, the AFL’s ticketing partner. The AFL then uses Tableau to automate data analysis and power its Fan Data Service.

Managed centrally by the AFL’s Data and Analytics team, the Fan Data Service provides trusted data to clubs and others throughout the organisation.

“We now capture nearly every single point of engagement and make that data surfaceable via Tableau. So clubs can see ticketing data, merchandise purchases, and whether fans are engaging in fantasy or social media competitions,” said Elisa Koch, Head of Data and Analytics, AFL.

The GWS GIANTS were an early adopter of the Fan Data Service, leveraging it to become much more data-driven across its operations.

“Understanding what makes our fans tick as well as where they come from, how they transact, and how they consume content are all critical to our growth. Tableau allows us to visualise all that data and embed it into our flow of work,” said Mitchell Dale, Head of Strategy and Growth, GWS GIANTS.

The AFL’s game development team also uses Tableau to extract insights from their data and understand participation trends. They can then focus their resources to grow in the right areas.

“We are big on understanding the level of engagement across our school programs and can now measure that better than ever before,” said Marshall.

With the AFL’s Fan Data Service, clubs can segment fans into hundreds of categories for personalised engagement.

3. Make every moment count and maximise fan engagement.

After a couple of challenging years during the pandemic, clubs needed to get fans back to the game. At the same time, reduced staffing meant they could no longer afford to spend hours manually compiling data to personalise emails or build reports.

“We heard loud and clear that clubs couldn’t go back to their old ways of working and many were relying on us to help them build and grow,” said Pickering. “Bringing in Salesforce as a shared service allowed us to provide them with capabilities like marketing automation in a way that was cost-effective and enabled us to build and share best practices.”

Several clubs are now using Marketing Cloud together with the AFL’s Fan Data Service to automate and personalise engagement. For instance, they can tailor emails and journeys based on whether fans show interest in the men’s squad, the women’s squad, or both. They can send tailored campaigns to frequent attendees and encourage them to sign up as a member.

8 out of 10 clubs on the Salesforce platform increased membership during the 2023 season
42+ hours per week saved by clubs as a result of email automation

4. Unlock new opportunities and future-proof growth with data and AI.

With data and AI-driven capabilities, Salesforce has provided the AFL with a foundation for increasingly seamless and hyper-personalised game day experiences. These could include delivering real-time information to ease fans’ travel and entry into the stadium.

“It’s all about creating giant moments in fans’ lives and providing them with experiences that they want to keep coming back to and tell their friends about. The more we can connect our data and the faster we can understand and act on customer insights, the more we can unlock those opportunities,” said Dale.

AI will be key and help the AFL and clubs improve decision-making and stitch together their data to create better, more personalised fan experiences.

“For us, AI is also about freeing up people from tasks that have previously been overly time-consuming and onerous. However, as we move down this path, it is important that we use ethical and trusted AI that’s without bias and makes employees' lives easier, so no one is left behind,” said Pickering.


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