Andrea Vale was the lead producer for the National Rugby League (NRL) Grand Final for over a decade. However, the 2017 event became something more. Australia was in the midst of a heated debate over Marriage Equality.
As the NRL Grand Final approached, American Artist, Macklemore was chosen as the preferred Headline Talent for the pre-game entertainment. The deal memo was negotiated with a 5-song option to be performed in the 14-minute live broadcast. Macklemore initially did not want to perform his Marriage Equality Anthem, ‘Same Love’ as he envisioned a very high energy show.
Andrea Vale then shared some press articles with Macklemore about the Marriage Equality debate. He personally called and said he would perform the full track and would invite the soloist, Mary Lambert who features on the track, to join him for the live performance.
The media asked if he would sing ‘Same Love,’ and he confirmed he absolutely would. The controversy surrounding Macklemore’s performance and the NRL’s stance on Marriage Equality quickly became the number one news article in Australia and reached the USA, remaining a hot topic until the show delivery.
The CEO of the NRL made a stand for Marriage Equality, calling for every Australian to vote yes in the plebiscite. This led to other CEOs in the sports industry to do the same.
The Grand Final sold out, and as Macklemore and Mary Lambert performed, the words ‘We Stand for Equality,’ ‘We Stand for Unity,’ ‘We Stand for Love,’ and ‘We Stand for Change’ emblazoned the screens with the NRL Logo, turning the tide of the plebiscite vote. One month later, Australia voted YES to Marriage Equality.
The show itself was spectacular, with a mass cast of 2,500, including a full band, backup singers, and dancers onstage, two guest appearances, and 30 mopeds lapping the stadium and a mass dance ensemble on field. The show had 9 minutes to set up and 4 minutes to strike, ahead of the sporting match.
Sport and art can come together and use their global platforms to advocate for positive change. The NRL Grand Final 2017 was more than just a sporting event. It was an opportunity to promote love, equality, and unity, and it became a significant moment in Australian history.