Warrington Wolves’ ambitious plans to engage with town’s Hong Kong community

Drew Darbyshire
Halliwell Jones Stadium Warrington Wolves

The Halliwell Jones Stadium, home of Warrington Wolves

Warrington Wolves are strengthening their connection with the town’s growing Hong Kong community, which could have ever-lasting benefits for both parties.

There are believed to be around 6,000 residents from Hong Kong who have made Warrington their home as part of a resettlement scheme, with the Wolves helping spread the rugby league gospel to the borough’s growing community.

Warrington recently welcomed around 200 Hong Kongers to the Halliwell Jones Stadium as they hosted Catalans Dragons in Super League as part of their ‘Kid 4 a Quid’ ticketing scheme, with the Super League club running social media adverts in Cantonese prior to the game.

“What we’ve done for a couple of events now is that we’ve been running ads in Cantonese,” Warrington Wolves marketing manager Liam Brown told Love Rugby League.

“We did it for our fireworks event last year which was our introduction and we saw crazy numbers – more than 10 per cent click through rates on the adverts which, in terms of Facebook ads, you never see that usually. It’s more in the region of one or two per cent that are clicking through so we’re absolutely buzzing with it.

“I knew it was a high number so we showed it to a lady called Tayler at IMG who handles all the paid media stuff and she was like ‘that is incredible, I’ve never seen a 13 or 14 per cent click through rate before’ so we thought maybe there is a little bit of a market there for us.

“We tried it with our ‘Kid 4 a Quid’ game with the low barrier entry because of the cost. It’s a little bit difficult to track because you are relying on looking at names but we estimate around 200 Hong Kongers took it up. We ran the ads in Cantonese so a lot of people came through on that and there’s an appetite there now for rugby league.”

Hong Kong has little heritage in rugby league but that’s something the Wolves want to change: they have come up with a five-year strategy to grow their fanbase via their links with the town’s Hong Kong community.

Warrington Wolves, as an organisation, is huge in the town and we see ourselves as the flag carriers for the town,” Brown added.

“We believe the more we can get Hong Kongers involved in coming and watching the club, the better the integration is going to be: both for them and us. It’s obviously great for us introducing new people to the sport.”

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Warrington Wolves come up with long-term plan to engage with town’s Hong Kong community

Warrington Wolves fans v Catalans Dragons
Warrington Wolves fans at their recent Super League fixture against Catalans Dragons (Photo courtesy of Warrington Wolves)

The Wire have a long-term vision of having 500 people of their average attendances at the Halliwell Jones Stadium to be from the town’s Hong Kong community by 2030.

The strategy plan consists of data, objectives, events, information, junior rugby, education and research:

  • Objectives – building a database for Hong Kongers
  • Events – targeting games such as Wigan and St Helens of what a big game looks and feels like, two ‘Kid 4 a Quid’ games which are low barrier entries, hosting large and no-purchase engagement events
  • Research – finding out more about the community, where they hang out and where the touch points are going to be for the community
  • Junior rugby – engagement sessions aimed at getting young players into community clubs
  • Informing – building Cantonese information and having an education strategy

Education of rugby league and the language barrier will be the biggest hurdles for the Wire to overcome in terms of getting the Hong Konger fans onboard for the long run. Some might not know what rugby league is – but the Wire are hoping to change that, slowly but surely.

“We’ve had a look at it and education is going to be the biggest thing and how we get around that,” Brown said.

“We’re coming up with a strategy now and it’s getting kids playing, getting kids interested, hosting free taster sessions so the kids can come and play, and then we can point them in the right direction of clubs once we’ve done a little bit of education on that.

“It was a little while ago that we held an open day for Hong Kongers.. We’re going to try and do that more regularly, invite them down to team run, get them to meet the players and let them see things close up.

“Something we are looking at is the language being a barrier. We’re looking to build a database of Hong Kongers that we can communicate with in Cantonese like an email list which may be a bit different from our standard email list. When you read our email list it is assumed that our readers know about the coaches and players and so on, but we are going to make it simpler for Hong Kongers and explain why it’s happened, who the teams we’ve played are and maybe do that monthly. We are going to have Hong Konger pages on our website explaining the basic rules of the game, how you get to the stadium and simple things like the Super League competition and how it works.”

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Warrington’s planning strategy is nearly complete and it will soon be up and running. It is a bold ambition from the Wire to have 500 regularly attending Hong Konger fans by 2030, but they are doing all that they can to engage with the town’s growing community.

“It’s a big ask and a massive stretch target but I assume that number is only going to grow over the years as long as the resettlement scheme is in place,” Brown added.

“So how do we make that into steps? So by the end of the season, can we say our final few games are averaging at least 50 Hong Kongers at the game? And then by the final few games of next season, can we average 100 at a game? The year after that, can it be 250? When you say 500 it sounds ridiculous, but if you say 50 by the end of the season and 100 by next season and so on, then it sounds more realistic in terms of gradual growth.

“A lot of people would agree that you don’t have to be from a rugby league area to get the sport in your blood. Once you get it in your blood you have those exciting moments and you are tied to it emotionally, and it’s in your blood forever and it never leaves.”

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