Taking a Digital-First Approach for the AFF Championship 2020
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With the delays, challenges and disruptions brought about by the pandemic, a digital-first approach and refreshed visual identity was implemented by SPORTFIVE for the AFF Championship 2020 (held in December 2021), in order to continue to leverage on its appeal and deliver the same experience and value that the fans and stakeholders have come to expect from the biggest football tournament in the Southeast Asia (SEA) region.
The biennial AFF Championship is the “crown jewel of ASEAN football”, which draws a legion of passionate supporters and massive crowds at stadiums since its inception in 1996. In 2018, with the tournament taking place in a home-and-away format, a record total of over 750,000 spectators attended the 26 matches played across 10 cities, with one of the matches even boasting 88,000 spectators, the record highest attendance.
However, for the 2020 edition, to ensure the safety and well-being of all teams, the ASEAN Football Federation (AFF) decided to host the tournament in a single host city format (Singapore), and with forced governmental restrictions on capacity due to the pandemic, fans had fewer opportunities to attend the matches and engage with their teams and players live.
Despite the challenges and disruptions, the SPORTFIVE SEA Creative & Digital Marketing team recognised the massive appeal the AFF Championship still has in the region and an ever-increasing number of fans would still be accessing the content through TV, digital and social media platforms. To elevate the experience for the fans watching at home, the team decided on enhancing the competition’s visual identity by introducing new Team Masks, character graphics that reimagine the image and identity of each ASEAN national team, to emphasise the passion and rivalries between them.
"It was important for us to enhance the tournament’s visual identity and elevate the experience for live spectators and the fans watching at home. To match the tournament’s theme and emphasise the passion and rivalries between the teams, we created a collection of bold and unique graphics to represent the teams and to interact with the fans who are unable to be at the stadiums physically."
Mari-Ani Camchong, Creative & Design Global Partnerships Director, SPORTFIVE SEA
Besides achieving a visually attractive brand identity, the team also pivoted to a digital-first approach for the tournament and delivered a diverse digital content and social media strategy in order to grow the event fanbase and engage with the supporters in an authentic manner. The content mix included:
A comprehensive line-up of editorial content featuring match previews, post-match reports and player interviews on the official tournament website
High-quality, real-time content on official social media accounts, aided by the use of innovative AI tools, such as Stats Perform’s PressBox Graphics and WSC Sports, to provide match data insights and statistics, and automate workflows
Strategic collaboration with media partners such as GOAL and TikTok to amplify online content
The tournament’s digital channels were at the heart of the AFF Championship 2020, bringing a wealth of real-time content online to get the fans as close to the action as possible.
The refreshed visual identity and digital-first content mix generated unprecedented fan engagement numbers and demonstrated the massive fanbase and online community of the AFF Championship, even surpassing the likes of the continental competition AFC Asian Cup.
billion online impressions generated
million online engagement across tournament’s social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube & TikTok)
million followers across tournament's social media accounts (increase of 61% compared to 2018)
"Adopting this digital-first approach for the 2020 tournament has allowed us to extend our reach manyfold and continue to increase our engagement with the fans, even with the restrictions imposed. With the persistence of the pandemic, as well as the evolving media landscape, we do not foresee changing our approach for the next few editions to come as we see greater potential in putting digital engagement first."
Shane Loi, Digital Marketing Manager, SPORTFIVE SEA