Online Case Study: Newton's Nation

In four years, Newton’s Nation has become Australia’s largest action sports and music festival, with crowds growing tenfold from the first event in 2009.

Bathurst, the Newton’s nation festival serves up adrenalin-fuelled downhill mountain biking, skateboarding, scootering and BMX biking. At night the festival switches from sport to music. It attracted 1500 spectators in 2009, but director Michael Taylor expects 10,000 this year, and says much of that growth has come because of the festival’s digital strategy.

Newton’s Nation has a website with photo and video galleries and a Facebook page. While those are not new, the festival uses them as channels to publish high-quality content and engage fans. “Fans of action sports tend to be counter-culture,” explains Taylor. “Mainstream media rarely gives them what they want so they find it online, share it with their fans and friends and form tribes of similar-minded people.”

Newton’s Nation decided to place itself in the centre of these communities by becoming an active content provider. “Our strategy is about engagement and content. The BMX highlight reel of our last competition got 110,000 hits on YouTube. Delivering high-quality content is invaluable to us and we try to create as much as possible.”

Taylor admits the Facebook page began life under-resourced and off-tone. “Now it’s well-resourced — our social media people are pro-BMX riders and pro-skaters. We ask members their opinion on certain bands or tricks and they, in turn, help us with decisions we need to make.”

For example, Newton’s Nation saved itself a major construction project this year by asking its scootering community how it felt about competing at the bottom of Mount Panorama. “Surprisingly, they liked the idea of an exclusive scootering zone, which meant we avoided spending $28,000 on asphalting an area at the top of the mountain. It’s pretty powerful.”

TIPS FROM MICHAEL TAYLOR

  1. Create genuine dialogue. “Two-way dialogue is more powerful than a one-way monologue like a TV commercial or a billboard. Don’t moderate blog comments — answer them instead. This means you can talk about your message. Commit resources to fast response times.”
  2. Use the right tone. “Understand your audience and speak in their language. But be authentic! Don’t be a big company trying to be a cool 16 year old. It doesn’t work. If you come across as authentic your consumers trust you and tell you when something’s rubbish.”
  3. Produce quality content. “We’re constantly looking at filming and creating content for our online channels. We make sure it’s not half-arsed! It needs proper editing and grading to look good. If you commit to quality, people will pass it on. If it’s filmed on an iPhone and looks  rubbish, a couple of people will watch it but it won’t go anywhere.”
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