Called upon

By Tom Briglia

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Just about everything is a PR exercise now. Every social media post (I’m talking about you and me, as well as the St Kilda Football Club), every line in a professional situation, every line in a social situation, and every membership ad (now I’m just talking about the St Kilda Football Club).

The 2019 membership ad (or “campaign”? The “TVC” suffix was never going to see the end of this decade) is one of the better ones the club has produced. Ultimately, it’s PR. They want the club to appear a certain way, and that it’s heading in a certain direction and as it empathises with us and the journey we’ve been on for the past 22 (146) years, so we buy memberships so they have more money. The club has $6 million more to pay back the AFL, and the same amount again to whoever else; they have players to pay exorbitant amounts of money to, likewise a whole lot of coaches, less so a bunch of staff. Most of them want to keep their jobs, and the more money that comes in means they can market the fineprint of the Road to 2018 (which says it was actually the Road to 2020), and then we keep turning up no matter how many times we’ve got guys kicking it forward to empty space and wasting another several years.

They need to pay marketing people to tell them to not just shit on the club song by using a bad cover version, but how about deep into a terrible season we tie in our major sponsors and have a marching band lead out the laughing-stock team while pretending to play a Dare-themed version of the club song? The club also needs to pay marketing people to tell them to play music after goals to enhance the experience of being at a Concrete Dome (which is now a Disney store, so I guess they can save some cash there) because the experience of being in the crowd and watching the Saints isn’t enough. They also need to pay someone to write about how great the crowd noise was, and then to pay the marketing people to tell them to keep the music going for a couple of months, and then to turf the idea later in the season.

The point is: all this shit costs money, and they need some more money from me this season, and they need some more from you.

Well, guess fucking what? Of course I had my membership on the auto-rollover thing. Would I have signed up again even if I didn’t have the money automatically taken out of my account in the four seconds we have left in the year in which we’re able to forget about footy? Of course I would have. I always do. Now let’s dissect some tripe, and I’ll start off with a stupid theory about how the ad was made. I thought about this because this actually was my experience of watching the ad for the first time:
Short version I think the way that this was made is supposed to leave you looking at your own face appearing on the screen after the faces of Long, Burke, Clark, Winmar et al.
Long version This theory assumes that whoever/whichever team of humans made this ad assumed that a lot of people would watch it on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter, whatever; but importantly, they would most probably watch it on their phone. And if you do that holding the phone towards your face as you normally would, as it cycles through the faces of Long/Burke/Clark et al and then Winmar, it quickly fades an almost entirely-black screen at the end that will be showing the reflection of your own face as the narrator says “I will stand with St Kilda / When I am called upon”. Don’t fuck it up.

 The first thing that really stood out in this commercial – and was genuinely surprising – was a very, very brazen acknowledgement of the 2009 and 2010 Grand Finals. Given this ad came in the same week as a media blitz that has included Andrew Bassat’s rightfully and refreshingly harsh comments about the decision to move to Seaford and the player recruitment over recent years (that may well have been forced perhaps subconsciously with a PR element), as well as Richo’s “punch in the face” line about feedback that should have been given to him six months earlier, it suggests a couple of things.

(Before I get to those, Richo’s revelation about having feedback sent to him to open in the US rather than just said to his face quietly completed a full-circle over 20 years. Like the ad, the media blitz has seen the club look to show empathy and contrition, but has ended with the communications between key personnel at the club – namely the coach and captain – being publicly questioned by Tim Watson, who two decades ago was about to start a two-year reign as coach that arguably triggered the entire GT-into-Ross era and the Riewoldt generation.)

OK cool, so the club is publicly acknowledging not just the management mistakes but the lasting effect that the Grand Finals have had on the club and its supporters. It uses the word “landmark” for the Hayes and Goddard moments in 2010, and they were, but really they were in an awful sense. They effectively represented the end of an era that began with the drafting of Riewoldt and Koschitzke with picks 1 and 2 in the 2000 draft, and a what wasn’t achieved throughout it.

The acknowledgement itself quietly marks the passing of time and how those times are now a part of our history. It is 10 years since the club was about to embark on the 2009 and 2010 campaigns. They, and the several years that came before it are history. That’s what was written. And as a St Kilda supporter it’s been fucking shithouse living it then and since.

In a curious case of revisionism, the club made us all aware on the socials this week that it had put up a large image of Nick Riewoldt on a wall within the Moorabbin facilities. That in itself isn’t strange – if anything it would be strange if they didn’t – but there were some odd decisions made around exactly what they put up and how they promoted it. The thing is, the photo is of him just after kicking a goal in the third quarter of the 2011 2nd Elimination Final (a screenshot from the Channel 10 coverage of that celebration is at the top of this post – you can watch the goal and the celebration here). While the thick black collar and cuffs of the jumper that year are retained in the image (we had them in 2011 and 2012, and then again in 2016 with a slightly different ISC template), the Centrebet logo has been neatly photoshopped to be the white Jeld-Wen logo worn on the front of the jumper in both 2009 and 2010. I would suggest there are a couple of things at play, namely to remind us of better times (if photoshopping was the only possible course of action in this instance, and not finding an actual photo from 2009 or 2010, they could have photoshopped the black collar and cuffs into white as well as the Jeld-Wen logo, and you would have the 2010 home jumper); and it was also a convenient way to edit out the logo of a betting company.

That the club posted it on the social media channels with Dennis Commetti’s line from the 2009 Preliminary Final, “It’s only fitting” felt a little bit cynical – anyone who makes that connection is actively being led to think that the image is from one of the better moments of the Riewoldt era, rather than a trying moment of a losing Elimination Final that ended an awful come down of a year and one of the most remarkable eras in the club’s history.

Already, the relationship between the supporters and the club is revealed to be something peculiar. Bassat is saying everything right that he possibly could have said in his short time officially at the top. But we’ve just come out of an alienating year season when all the parts that make up going the footy were difficult – barely an attachment to the team or the game they were paying, the song was changed to a bad cover version, and the club itself sapped any genuine atmosphere the fans brought by playing music after goals. We didn’t get hundreds and thousands of dollars a year and media careers out of what the club wasn’t able to achieve since 2000. Indeed, to experience it all, we paid a lot of our money and gave up a lot of our time. And now a supporter base that is rightfully bored, pissed off, anxious and depressed as fuck is being called upon to do it again.