Eugene Arocca has earmarked Ballarat as a regional market ripe for North’s picking. Like almost everything Arocca does it seems like a smart move. With the well publicised shit stadium deal at Docklands, selling home games has been seen as an imperative for North’s financial viability. But it’s fair to say that past administrations’ attempts to build any real secondary market have failed pretty dismally:
- Sydney – we pissed off the local AFL club, conceded a home ground advantage and the locals hated us (the “Boo a Roo” campaign was nothing short of disgraceful)
- Canberra – was a favourable little dung hill for a while, but the board didn’t have the balls to see out a long-term strategy, seduced by the cash of the Gold Coast …
- Gold Coast – looked like it could have worked, but the AFL forced the Roos hand on permanent relocation and the rest is history
Throughout these interstate forays, the local heartland was bleeding. No-one realised the extend until last season. The location-neutral ‘Kangaroos’ brand was finally identified as the lame experiment it was and North Melbourne was reclaimed. 34,000 people signed on.
So will Ballarat work?
There are some stark points of difference with North’s previous travels. Firstly, it’s an hour drive from NMFC heartland, not exactly a big deal for a low-drawing match. Secondly, there’s no question of which football code the locals follow. Drew Petrie, perhaps North’s most popular clubman, is a local. And North already have a four year affiliation with the North Ballarat VFL team.
But most of all, this administration seems smart enough not to fixate on immediate results. Entering into a footy stronghold is one thing, expecting to change the natives’ stripes is another. Real results in terms of supporters, and ultimately members, may not be seen for a generation.
But the real questions rest with the AFL. Do they have a willingness to invest $ in a footy stronghold (Tassy probably know the answer to that already)? Or will they pull a rabbit out of their hat and strike a favourable deal with Docklands, rendering the Ballarat experiment obsolete?
Either way, it is yet another example of the masterful Arocca-Brayshaw communications strategy. Positive media coverage and a story to highlight the daylight robbery of the Docklands stadium deal … it’s a brave new world of PR at NMFC headquarters.