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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Mackinlay

SXSW Sydney and The Flipping Point

House of Kitch was delighted to host ‘The Flipping Point’ on Friday 20th September at the inaugural Sydney SXSW festival. And attendees were clearly keen to hear the insights – with people setting up camp outside the room and queuing down the corridor waiting for doors to open.

Samara Kitchener, Founder and Managing Director, House of Kitch Communications, opened the session with a ‘Tipping Point 101’ overview of Malcolm Gladwell’s seminal book and shared her observation that Cortnee Vine’s penalty flipped us over the tipping point during the Australia v France match by overlaying the match viewing figures with Gladwell’s Tipping Point chart.

Tipping point vs viewers

“I love it when theory flips beautifully into practice,” said Kerry Turner, NSW Office of Sport Manager Participation and Partnerships, MC for the session. Kerry then asked the panel when they ‘felt’ the flip – the seismic shift in the universe, where we experience the superpower of women’s sport during the Women’s World Cup.

Kerry, Tom and Angie

Angie Tutt, LEGO Australia, Senior Director, Head of Marketing described her personal flipping point as her viewpoint from the stadium crowd beside the goal when Sam Kerr scored her iconic goal against England. “It was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen,” she said.

Tom Rischbieth, Football Australia Head of Commercial and Events, said his personal flipping point came seeing the response of his three kids under 5 years old to the event and his four-year-old daughter saying she wanted to “flip like Sam Kerr”.

Sam Kerr flipping

Kerry then asked Tom about Football Australia’s compass for determining the right brands for the Matildas to work with:

“We started building the Matildas as a brand from the start of 2021. We knew that we had this opportunity [the Women’s World Cup] and saw it as the biggest moment since the 2000 Sydney Olympics on home soil. We’re a governing body of sport, we don't have huge marketing budgets and we knew we needed to work with other companies.”

Tom shared the power of the ‘stickiness factor’ through Football Australia’s collaborations with Nike, Rebel, Collette and Smiggle which provided fans with multiple opportunities to engage with the Matildas.

Football Australia's Partners

"It meant that our brand was appearing in non-traditional sports environment. But it also meant that we had ways of fans buying in early and building momentum in the lead up to the big tournament as well, which is really important.”

These conversations had a long lead time and were taking place 12-18 months ahead of the Women’s World Cup. But not everyone was convinced ...

“Retailers need to buy into the program and the reality is there was a lot of conversations that didn't go ahead. And there's a lot of people that weren't convinced that the Women's World Cup was going to be very big because they were looking at historical data.”

Clearly, LEGO were convinced. Describing their first meeting with Football Australia, Angie shared that “We weren't quite sure what to expect because, technically, it was about football. [But] it wasn't just: ‘let's play football,’ it was about empowerment. It was about trying to drive an equitable place for both girls and boys to play football. So, for example, changing the locker rooms to be more available to girls as well as boys. And when they started putting up their purpose and their values, my PR manager and I realised they were just so aligned to the values that we (LEGO) have about empowering kids through sports - it was a heartfelt moment in the middle of a meeting.”

Sam Kerr and LEGO figure

This shows the importance of values-based partnerships and the magic that happens when brands are aligned. Angie explained LEGO’s ‘Play Unstoppable’ campaign: “It’s all about empowering girls to play the way they want. We want them to play without judgment with the freedom to express themselves, to give them

choice on how they want to play. And it's not just playing with bricks, it's just play in general because we all know that play is a super important part of children growing up and learning.”

The alignment was clear. Angie also shared the importance of role models and how LEGO spotlights four role models in the ‘Play Unstoppable’ ad campaign. They chose Sam Kerr, Asisat Oshoala, Megan Rapinoe and Yuki Nagasato because of their achievements on and off the sporting field.

Play Unstoppable ad

“They’re the perfect people to have in this game because kids need positive, unique powerful icons. These women are more than just powerful athletes - Yuki is an amazing drummer. Sam is a huge advocate for getting girls into sport. Asisat has created her own association in Africa to help empower girls through sports and through football.”

Storytelling played a huge role in the Matildas’ campaign and Tom spoke about their partnership with Disney and how it helped create context. “We wanted ‘23 for 23’ – we wanted the 23 players in the squad to be household names prior to the tournament, and a lot of work went into that. We had this opportunity to work with the world's greatest storytelling company. Their reach was global. It was a complex project with a high-performance team and getting them used to having cameras follow them around, but the output ended up being a really nice story.”

Kerry and Tom

“Every episode was golden to me,” agreed Kerry. “Because for the first time we were in the world of high-performance women's sport. We could see their lives. It was so authentic. It was a really clever way of bringing Australians closer to these players through really powerful storytelling. It lit the pre-World Cup love with the Matildas.”

Stephanie Rudnick, Angel City FC Head of Public Relations, shared the ‘secret sauce’ of Angel City FC:

“There’s a couple of different kinds of secret sauces. Community is by far the biggest one. From the beginning, we have embraced our community - and that means our supporters, and even those that don't support us, and our community at large. We've included them in the decision of our crest, in our name, and our jersey design. We have six supporter groups.”

Angel City also partners with sponsors who have similar brand values. With DoorDash (their front of kit sponsor), they have delivered over a million meals to people in Los Angeles with food insecurity.

Angel City FC Impacts

That leads to folks going, you know: ‘I don’t like soccer, but you fed my grandpa in the pandemic, I'm coming to a game, I'm gonna buy a ticket, I'm gonna buy merch.’ We actually find a lot of our fans come because of the work that we've done for them.”

To wrap up the panel Kerry asked where the momentum should be focused on and what's their vision for the future:

“Our organisation has tried to impress upon the business case that exists already to invest into this area and we've got companies that invested early and invested big amounts of money and are getting a return on it,” said Tom. “We've all had a recently-lived experience of being in a moment that I don’t think any of us will realize the impact of for another 15 or 20 years, the number of kids that came along and saw that. But it needs people to invest and to back it and to build that momentum and we're lucky to have some companies that have done that.”

In the short term the impact is being seen with three sold out Matildas games in Perth next week and record audiences at the A-Leagues’ opening matches.

Angie said that LEGO’s ‘Play Unstoppable’ is a long-term campaign that will keep going: “It’s a long-term proposition. It's continuing to close the children's gender ‘play’ gap and break down those stereotypes. It's about offering choice and letting kids choose as much as they can.”

session audience

Samara closed the session with a call to action: “Nelson Mandela said that sport has the power to change the world and has the power to unite us like little else. Today’s panel has shown the power of women’s sport to redefine how a whole generation of kids see themselves. The main point that I wanted to make today is that all of us in the room are changemakers: we’re mavens, we're salespeople, we're connectors. And I think it's about all of us tapping into our own power to see how we can use that to drive good in the world because we really need it right now.”

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