The AFL Brand and Umpires’ Reputation through Media Commentaries

Robert Gill


Australia has its own unique brand of football code, called Australian Rules. The code is played at a professional level, known as the Australian Football League (AFL), and has evolved from a localism culture to now be a ‘commodified sport’ that has generating revenue as a main objective. The commercial focus of the code has resulted in a stronger emphasis on brand and reputation. The controlling body, the AFL Commission, endeavours to protect and control all aspects of the brand through its media relations, public relations and marketing teams.
The game-day adjudicators for the game of AFL are called umpires. They are an integral part of the AFL brand and play a considerable role in the formation of the AFL’s reputation, as they are a visual representation for AFL officialdom to the spectators and viewing public at each game. Even though umpires have a low profile in the professional code compared to the AFL Board, professional teams and players, umpires make a sizable contribution to the AFL’s overall reputation.
The paper reviews literature on sport branding and draws links between brand performance and reputation. The new research identifies the current reputation for AFL umpires as portrayed through traditional and social media commentaries. A previous survey conducted with the AFL public demonstrated the umpires were held in reasonable regard, but does contemporary public commentaries through media reflect this opinion? The paper analyses public media commentaries on AFL umpires, and in light of the findings suggests strategies the AFL Commission can use to improve umpire reputation and AFL brand through media management.


brand; reputation; AFL umpires; public commentaries

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The University of Newcastle
ISSN - 1839-8227