Last week I went head to head with the NRL media department over a little idea we promoted on Twitter. The idea being that the NRL should just use the Tina Turner/NSWRL promo from 1989, using her popular song “What You Get Is What You See”, and just insert new footage every year.
I created it as I’m a huge fan of those promos, and believe it along with “Simply The Best” to be songs that are synonymous with Rugby League. Sure it was tongue in cheek and it tugged on the nostalgic heart strings of NRL fans, and I didn’t expect the NRL to take me seriously. But I also didn’t expect this:
Now I wonder if the NRL were more angry that I used their footage (Legally of course. The NRL need to brush up on the “fair dealing” laws), or the fact that as of writing this, my promo had accumulated nearly twice as many views, likes, and retweets, as their new promo had in the same amount of time (3 days) despite them spending money sponsoring their post, and my channel having under 3k followers compared to theirs having over 530k followers?
Yeah. They’re pissed a bloke with a laptop did in a few hours, what their marketing couldn’t do during the off season. Create a promo that engaged the fans. (I actually didn’t mind the billboards. I actually praised them.)
But this is not new. The NRL have been shutting out fan created content for years.
Many fan run Instagram and YouTube pages have been issued notices like the one I received, with some even having their accounts shut down permanently. Shut down after spending countless hours over many years creating montage content highlighting their favourite players to many viewers across many countries. And not just video content. An NRL social media manager personally inboxed many “meme” pages earlier this year threatening to shut them down after a fake tweet did the rounds showing a twitter conversation between Paul Gallen and Wigan. (Obviously he didn’t like anyone making fun of his beloved Sharkies)
Now I understand protecting the rights of the broadcasters by stopping illegal streams and people uploading full games on YouTube, but to file complaints that get a 15 year old kid’s Instagram account deleted because he created a montage of Benji Marshall’s steps and flick passes, is fucking insane.
People point out the NBA and how they use fan created content to enhance their social presence. And it’s not hard to see why.
If you search the hashtag #NBA on Instagram, there is over 16 million posts, the majority of those videos created by fans, using broadcast footage. Search the hashtag #NRL and you will find that the majority of videos are Rugby Union highlights/montages with the occasional video from Fox or Channel 9.
Now it’s hard to compare a sport that is broadcast worldwide to one that is popular in a few states in Australia, but the essence is there. The reason the NBA has such a large social media presence worldwide is that they allow their fans to engage with them, not against them.
There is an abundance of talented content creators in Australia willing to promote the sport for free. A sport that is so well suited with this type of short-form content. Big hits, spectacular tries, athletic footwork, all worked into 30 second “ads” for Rugby League. But unfortunately due to the NRL’s arrogance, they are now jumping ship to other sports that freely let them do what they do best.
All because the NRL are greedy and hate fans. There’s no other explanation.