Jonathan Lees - Community and Fan Engagement Specialist with the Sydney Thunder
I get asked a lot about community engagement and fan engagement. With our fan engagement, it is about being active in the community. This includes our mobile activation, the Mazda Thunder Bus, plus our Fan Days, Junior Super Clinics and our school holiday programs and offerings. Fan engagement is very much about our brand awareness and marketing within the community. Our community engagement programs are about giving back genuinely to the community and we are giving back philanthropically. We believe that with sports and through cricket and our brand, we can make a real difference in society. This point of difference allows us to have clarity in our day to day operations at the Thunder. The fan engagement aspect is very crucial for us growing as a club and bringing people to our games. Our purpose is to be a loved club that inspires and unites our Thunder Nation. The community work that we undertake is an extension of this purpose. All the programs that we do are about bringing communities together, celebrating culture and really making a difference.
We are not experts in any of this space and we do not claim to be. Therefore, to achieve outcomes in the community engagement space, and to increase scale, we need to work alongside like-minded not for profit organizations and charities because they are the real experts. With our platform and a captive audience and very supportive fan-base, we can make a difference.
A couple of the organizations that we teamed up last year were OzHarvest and Barnardos Australia. OzHarvest is a charity that addresses issues with food sustainability and food insecurities. Sydney Thunder and OzHarvest worked together to raise awareness and raise much-needed funds to provide meals to those in need across the Thunder Nation. We raised enough funds to provide 63,297 meals to those in need across our region. The greatest achievement was the shifting of the communities’ attitudes and the positive influence on people’s behaviours that was evident through our platform. Barnardos Australia is an organization that provides care for vulnerable children and kids in care across Australia. In association with Sydney Thunder, a toy drive was held at one of the Sydney Thunder BBL games to help the kids campaign. Our members and fan base were encouraged to bring a gift or a toy along to the game for donation, which would be distributed to the children in the region. We were uncertain about the expectations, but we were blown away by the response. Over $7,000 worth of toys were donated. It is really encouraging to see that the fan base has aligned with our purpose of giving back to the community.
Sports philanthropy is a new concept in Australia. It is quite common in the US and Europe. Change is inevitable and I can see it mostly for the positive. The icing on the cake would be for all clubs to adopt similar programs across the state and nation. There are already some great initiatives out there. By working collaboratively and engaging the community we are part of, will lay the foundation of a better future.