SUPPORTERS TO HAVE MORE CHOICE
of eight Australian Football League clubs will see exciting
changes to their membership packages following a research
collaboration between Deakin University, international market
research firm TNS and the AFL.
A membership forecasting system, developed using six years
of data from Deakin’s research into membership and the
choice modelling* expertise provided by TNS, will be used
for the first time in a professional sport by AFL clubs.
“You are likely to see significant changes across AFL
club membership packages as a result of the work we have done,”
said Associate Professor Heath McDonald.
“AFL club membership packages have not changed substantially
since they were set over 25 years ago and are still based
on a season ticket, 11 game entry package,” he said.
“Clubs over time have added onto and modified the basic
package, and some clubs now have a complicated range of packages.
The impact of more radical options or changes such as offering
a reduced game membership, or investing heavily in member-only
communications have previously been difficult to assess.
“People now consume their football differently, not
everyone has the time to go to 11 games but they still want
to support their club financially. “There are opportunities
to develop membership packages to suit those needs much more
efficiently. The goal is to reduce money spent on things that
members don’t value and put those resources into the
things they do.”
Associate Professor McDonald said the clubs involved in the
research had been keen to look at ways to develop or increase
their membership base without impacting on revenue.
“Membership is critical to club success,” he said.
“Over 570,000 Australians are members
of an AFL club, it is a $100m business. “Our estimates
of supporter numbers, however, suggests the ratio of club
supporters to members is typically around 12 to 1 and the
question was why doesn’t membership attract larger numbers.
“Clubs have worked hard over the last four years to
increase the recognition given to members, improving service
quality and member satisfaction.
“Now it seems the best way to achieve further growth
is to critically review membership package structure, and
bring it more into line with the needs of various member segments.
“Clubs are reluctant to make changes, given the importance
of membership revenue, without strong research evidence of
the impact those changes will have. “For example the
introduction of a reduced price five game package may not
be viable if it results in the cannibalisation of the existing
membership base and revenue.”
Associate Professor McDonald’s research allowed clubs
to see which features of the membership packages were most
important to their members in relation to value.
“The results were very exciting,” he said. “As
you would expect Grand Final access, seating location and
the pricing were important, but there were a lot of things
that were of lesser importance to members.
“This program avoids the need to use other less robust
methods to set their targets and prices. “They can use
real data and the latest research techniques to see what the
demand will be.
“They can also see the impact of new products across
their membership base and set their membership and ultimately
business strategy accordingly.
“With the AFL’s support, clubs can now tailor
membership packages to suit their particular support base,
rather than rely on generic options.
“One club for instance has reduced its 10 packages down
to four, radically increased seating options and reduced some
prices significantly based on our recommendations.
“We expect to see positive results in terms of both
their membership figures and revenue in 2009.”
The clubs involved in this research were Port Adelaide, Brisbane,
Collingwood, Melbourne, Richmond, St Kilda, Sydney and the
The forecasting system was developed using choice modelling
techniques. *Choice modelling builds a model of how the market
makes decisions based on individual consumer responses to
choice experiments. In this case over 12,500 supporters and
current members across the eight participating clubs were
The resultant club specific models allow each membership manager
to tailor their packages to particular groups of fans and
accurately predict the effects of doing so on the club’s
other products and overall financial position.
Choice modelling is commonly used in by companies such as
airlines and supermarkets to improve their pricing and product
strategies. TNS are world leaders in choice modelling, having
recently used the technique to assist clients such as Unilever,
Coca-Cola and Samsung.