Usain Bolt Is The Best Thing To Happen To The A-League In Ages

When was the last time we talked about the A-League in its off-season?

It seems not everyone is happy that Jamaican sporting superstar Usain Bolt is coming to the Central Coast. But they should be.

Since it was confirmed that Bolt would be joining the Central Coast Mariners for an indefinite training trial, plenty of pundits have piled in on the decision, calling it a ‘PR stunt’, a ‘money grab’ and a ‘gimmick’.

Such views are short sighted.

Any PR and marketing professional will tell you that the key to sustained success is to develop strong, trusting relationships with your customers and fans. But to do this, you first have to get the attention of those customers and make sure they know you exist. In Australia’s over-crowded sports market this is hard to do.

So, sports will try all sorts of tools and tactics to get you talking about their product. And so they should.

When the AFL embarked on new ventures on the Gold Coast and in Western Sydney, they stole a couple of well-known rugby league players in Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau to set tongues wagging about their brand new teams.

Karmichael Hunt training for the Gold Coast Suns. Image: Getty

The following days and weeks saw the AFL in the news and on the back pages of papers in a market that otherwise couldn’t give a damn about the game.

Neither athlete was much good at the game, but the AFL will argue the media and PR generated in introducing new fans made the punt worthwhile.

The Bolt announcement has had a similar impact. In the A-League’s off season and just weeks out from NRL and AFL finals, the A-League is front and centre of the sporting discussion. If Bolt makes the cut, the fanfare around his first game will be huge.

And let’s be honest, while football is the world game, the A-League continues to battle for the hearts and minds of Australian sports fans. There were times last year when the AFLW -- a competition in only its second season -- out rated the A-League on TV.

Usain Bolt during the friendly match between France 98 and FIFA 98 at U Arena on June 12, 2018 in Nanterre, France. Image: Getty

If Bolt can help draw new eyeballs to the League that can only be a good thing, for it’s not true that a sport, league or club is always bigger than the individual.

Australians went ga-ga when Jarryd Hayne tried his hand in the NFL. It seemed most were more mesmerized by the fact an Australian rugby league player was playing in the NFL than the actual game itself.

And if you’re still not convinced, consider this: A Forbes report last year revealed Bolt has a total of 31.1 million social media followers. Australia’s population is only 25 million. The Mariners have a social media following of around 100,000.

On average Bolt generates almost 282,000 interactions from his sponsored posts online, with each post valued at $351,000. His overall total earned media value online is estimated to be $68.1 million.

If he makes the cut he’ll be the most valuable athlete playing in an Australian domestic sports competition by the length of the Flemington straight.

The bloke is a genuine A-grade, global superstar. And he wants to play in the A-League.

This will attract new fans to game and that’s a good thing.