Richmond Tigers chief executive Brendon Gale is set to share what he’s learnt about building connections with members at the 2018 FEAL Fund Executives Forum.

Connections are the theme for this year’s FEAL Fund Executives Forum, to be held at The Melbourne Business School, Carlton on Thursday, March 1.

The program includes thought-leaders from within the superannuation industry and outside it, and dedicates time to exploring how fund executives can best connect with their brands, boards, members and contributing employers.

Richmond Tigers chief executive Brendon Gale will deliver a keynote presentation on how his club has built strong and lasting relationships with its members.

Ahead of that, he previewed some thoughts in a Q&A with Investment Magazine.

Investment Magazine: How has the sense of connection between Richmond Tigers and its members changed since you started as a player in the ’90s?

Brendon Gale: It is a richer and deeper connection today for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the proliferation of digital media has enabled us to tell stories and connect members to their club, not only more immediately, but in a far more personal way. There was no such thing as a digital team when I was a player, now we have a team of 10. We have always been in a content-rich environment, but we now have so many ways to use it as an engagement tool.

Secondly, members are no longer seen simply as a revenue stream. They are more central to every decision we make as a club than they have ever been. The question we always ask ourselves is ‘How do we make being a member of Richmond Football Club an enriching experience?’ That can extend to match days, fan events or merchandise offers. We don’t always get that right but it is always our starting point.

Thirdly, that sense of connection now extends well beyond football. We want them connected to a club that stands for things that matter to their community. We invest heavily in supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth. Our preferred charity partner is the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, which works to protect children from violence and bullying. We developed the Anzac Eve game, where [members] can stand as one and pay tribute to those who have served this country. These are all things that matter and build a connection.

When you became chief executive, what was the biggest challenge the club faced in terms of connecting with members?

We needed to build trust with our members. We needed to give them clarity about our direction. We had to tell them what we were going to do and how we were going to do it.

So what did you do differently?

Importantly, we were clear we needed them shoulder-to-shoulder with us if we were to succeed and that is where the ambition of 3-0-75 was established. (Three finals, zero debt, 75,000 members). It was ambitious, and some external to the club laughed at us, but what it did was establish something strong and bold that aligned with our brand identity. Our members embraced it and have been the cornerstone of what we achieved in 2017.

What have been the results?

The results have been astounding. We have the most engaged membership base in the AFL, have delivered seven consecutive membership records and will this year, quite possibly, break the record for the highest club membership in the game’s history.

What is the most valuable thing you’ve learned about building connections via online platforms?

The commitment to telling stories is critical. Take your fans where they can’t go and have some fun with it. Connect fans with the personalities of the players they support every week. Do that well and you will not only continue to build an unbreakable bond, but also generate enormous reach, and that is where the rubber hits the road from a commercial perspective.

Brendon Gale will talk about these issues and more at the 2018 Fund Executives Association Ltd (FEAL) Forum, to be held at Melbourne Business School, Carlton on March 1. For more information, or to register for the event, please visit the FEAL website.

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