Why the NRL advertisement has no theme song, no commentary and was filmed by fans - 26 February 2016

Johnathan Thurston's premiership-winning field goal in last year's grand final is like Cathy Freeman winning the gold medal at the Sydney Olympics and John Aloisi's penalty to put the Socceroos into the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Anyone who witnessed it has a story about where they were at the time and there are probably more people now claiming to have been at ANZ Stadium when Thurston piloted the ball between the posts in extra time to snatch an historic 17-16 victory for the Cowboys than the 82,758 crowd for the NRL's first all-Queensland grand final.

It is for that reason the NRL has decided to save costs on an unconventional marketing campaign for the upcoming season with the simple catchcry of "Be There When History Happens". Compiled from footage taken by fans at games last season, the NRL's advertisement has no voice-over from the Channel Nine or Fox Sports commentary teams and no theme song. The money saved from paying a big name artist like Bon Jovi or Tom Jones to perform the game's latest anthem, believed to have cost up to $500,000 in previous years, will instead be used for promotions during the season to entice more fans to attend matches.

While rugby league arguably boasts more memorable game-changing moments than any other sport, most people see them on television as attendance figures have dropped in recent seasons - forcing the NRL to abandon its target of 20,000 average crowds by 2017. With matches to be played from Thursday night to Monday night, beginning next week, it is uncertain how fans will react to the feast of football on offer so the purpose of the NRL's advertising campaign is to encourage them to get to games to experience the excitement and energy you only get from being there.

Each club was asked to nominate its own magical moment from 2015 for use in the marketing campaign - created by Archibald/Williams - and crowd-sourced video taken by fans at games last season was compiled for the advertisement, which reaches its climax with Thurston's dramatic field goal against Brisbane. Some of the vision is raw, shaky and blurred but ARLC chairman John Grant said the footage exudes more excitement and emotion than the slick advertising campaigns the NRL usually opts for.

"Over the next 30 weeks I can absolutely guarantee history will happen and our message to all of the game's fans is to make sure you are there when history happens," Grant told guests at the 2016 NRL season launch in Sydney on Thursday. "Unashamedly, the theme of 'Be There When History Happens' was inspired by that magical moment at 9.40pm on Sunday, October 4 2015 when JT kicked the Cowboys to victory in one of the best - if not the best - grand finals of all time. "We've all seen it many times, most likely, but it never fails to send a tingle up the spine. I can guarantee you that there will be many more of those memorable moments when history happens in 2016."

Like the advertising campaign, the NRL launch also broke from tradition as guests sweltered under a marquee in the Botanical Gardens as temperatures in the city approached 40 degrees. After the captains of the 16 clubs were introduced, it was left to Thurston to launch the season with a simple speech in which he said he was "humbled" to have been given the responsibility.

"To have the honour of co-captaining my team in a grand final, and to win on the night, is something I will never forget," Thurston said. "It's why every player goes through what they do, both in the pre-season and in-season. It's why we make the sacrifices we make. "But I also know that there are 15 players beside me who are feeling exactly the same emotions on the eve of the season, desperate to write their own piece of history on the same stage

Initially published in www.smh.com.au on February 2016. Author is Brad Walters. http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-league/league-news/why-the-nrl-advertisement-has-no-theme-song-no-commentary-and-was-filmed-by-fans-20160225-gn3qy0.html