WITH the Reds hitting 30,000 members during the week, and the Tahs getting just 12,000 at their home game against the Cheetahs, the fickle nature of team support is an ever-present challenge for sporting clubs.
We follow teams for many reasons.
The primary motivating factor is geography/location/birthplace. If you live in, or come from Brisbane/Queensland, and you like rugby, you follow the Reds.
If you like league it's the Broncos. And if it's AFL, it's the Lions.
But support for sporting teams goes deeper than purely birthplace and geography.
Another very strong motivating factor is the success rate of the team. When teams are winning, they attract more support from the public (and business) and attendance at home games increases.
The other side of this coin, naturally, is that when a club is having a lean period, support will weaken.
When coaches/players/administrators say "it's all about winning," I cringe. Maybe it's the sports marketer in me, but I see a major flaw here.
Personally, I think that it has to be more about winning to ensure the long-term strength of a code.
Another important aspect to sustainable team support is playing style.In Australia, the most competitive of sporting markets, it's not just winning, but winning with style that ensures long-term sustainable support.
This is vitally important in rugby where the points structure allows (encourages even), teams to 'win ugly'.
Take the situation with the Reds and the Tahs. The Reds are leveraging their attractive wins during their 2011 Super Rugby campaign.
That's the secret to their current rude health. Should they struggle for wins over the next few years, attractive play will help sustain that level of support.
The Tahs on the other hand are suffering from what can only be described as many-a-year of losing ugly. They had their own supporters booing them last year.
That's the reality Michel Cheika and his team is encountering as they try to recover the brand, the club, and rugby in that most vital of markets.
Wins will help with their supporter numbers, but attractive wins will ensure they increase their support to tipping-point levels. Attractive wins will have all their supporters, no matter where they reside, proud to support them.
They might even find they encourage supporters who see-saw between codes to attend their games. And who knows, they might even sell more hats, scarves and beanies.
Look at the Kiwis - their silver fern and All Black merchandise is everywhere.
They are the kings of attractive wins.
When was the last time you saw someone wearing Tah merchandise?
Reds gear is everywhere, too. And they have their penchant for attractive wins to thank for it.