#BETTERSTATEDEBATE: NRL bolsters Origin with Influencers

Client work
According to research from the National Rugby League, their notable Holden State of Origin series – the biggest rivalry in Australian sport – has seen a dip in popularity in recent years. Coming into the 2018 series, Queensland had won an impressive 11 of the last 12 series, and interest from the general public suffered. Additionally, new streaming rights and digital platforms have also seen the import of popular overseas leagues including the NBA, EPL, and NFL, which have fragmented the Australian fan market. As such, the NRL had a job to do to make 2018’s series more interesting and accessible than ever before. While Origin proved to be a massive talking point across social on game day, our social listening revealed that chatter tends to drop off in the weeks between the games.

Cue our solution to rally new fans and get everyone talking – the #BetterStateDebate. This year, people weren’t just chatting about what happened on the pitch, but rather conversing over a range of topics in a reignited state rivalry.

We needed to create authentic conversation drivers that engaged people in an ongoing basis over the course of the three games. So we enlisted the help of influencers – proud NSW native @NeelKolhatkar and Maroons’ mad fan @MichaelBeveridge to start the “which state is better?” debate.

Prior to the MCG kickoff, we kicked off the series with a launch film on the influencers’ and NRL’s channels. The video introduced the rivalry between Beveridge and Kolhatkar, who play co-workers in an office, and was followed up by the the first debate film, which focused on convincing Melbournites to pick a side for Origin.

Debate two was released after the Blues win in Game 1, and the final debate film was released following the Blues series-deciding victory in Game 2.

In-game activity included custom reactive GIFs featuring Beveridge and Kolhatkar that were tweeted during key moments of play.

This year’s Origin proved to buck the decade-long trend, and luckily we were prepared for that. Predicting unpredictability, we shot multiple versions of the films to keep content reactive in accordance with the games. To appeal to a broader audience than just Leaguers, we touched on a range of topics including music, food, beaches and importantly, celebrities. We then let NSW and QLD faithfuls duke it out in the comments.

Some other notable Aussies even got behind the banter, with Savage Garden singer @DarrenHayes engaging on Twitter.

The debate was boosted further by the Betoota Advocate, who we enlisted to release social and web content reacting to Game One and discussing the debate.

You can read more here.