The 2018 NRL season has come and gone faster than a $2.50 NRL match day chiko roll at ANZ Stadium but what a year it has been for rugby league fans and members who have been well looked after and rewarded by their respective teams.

Whether it be venue fan first pricing offers for members on food and beverages, a focus on emerging technologies or the inclusive approach of introducing a female mascot, 2018 has seen an outstanding array of quality fan engagement initiatives for NRL fans. With the main decider taking place on Sunday, this recap featuring 250+ images shines a light on some of the 200+creative and compelling strategies, ideas and incentives that NRL club members and league fans were rewarded with over the course of the season by teams, venues and sponsors.

Having compiled this summary it is evident that some of the trends within the global fan engagement space have worked their way into the NRL and down to club level such as:

  • Fan first pricing at venues on F&B
  • Craft beer partnerships
  • Mini-documentaries 
  • Podcasting
  • Unique venue sponsor social seating spaces
  • Female mascots
  • Venue art works
  • Incorporation of Facebook Live for team TV shows
  • Game day light and sound shows 
  • Fan/member councils

While the latest and greatest in technology is often seen as a major focus within fan engagement, it is important to note that the types of fan engagement that are consistently highly regarded and well received by fans are the simple and authentic things which go such a long way in building that lifelong loyalty to the club as put simply, fan engagement can never be manufactured.

From a free flag and a surprise and delight gift under a members seat to guards of honour, members of the week or just having a player call a fan personally, there are so many simple, cost effective and creative ideas here which the NRL clubs have implemented for their fans this year. The RT’s and fan comments on social around these fan engagement activations and initiatives speak for themselves as NRL members and fans are positive about the game and about what their club is doing for them.

The summary below is by no means the definitive list of every NRL clubs’ fan engagement ideas or strategies however it certainly touches on a vast array of ideas from the tried and tested, quirky and interesting to some really creative, effective and exciting developments in fan engagement.

Thanks to the NRL fans who helped with suggestions for this article as well as the club and venue reps who provided me with some more information for activations and ideas that I wasn’t aware of.

Did you see something else out there that should be included too? Join the conversation on Twitter here or comment below.

I hope you enjoy this read fellow NRL fans and if you do enjoy this then feel free to read my monthly fan engagement publication FANS HQ or continue reading my blog which features close to 200 diverse global game day fan experience reviews along with many of my other published writing efforts.

Ok, lets get started…..

BRISBANE BRONCOS

  • The Paddock Club outside set up at Suncorp Stadium with food trucks, live bands and more

Further reading: Broncos game day review in FANS HQ #5

CANBERRA RAIDERS

  • Unveiling of the Canberra Raiders new female mascot Velda the Valkyrie and Valkyrie brand
  • Behind The Limelight Podcast
  • Dance School Competition for young fans to dance on game days at GIO Stadium
  • Viking clap continued going from strength to strength in 2018
  • Members Appreciation Round thanking fans for reaching 20,000 members for the first time in the clubs history
  • Lucky door prizes for members in the West Members lounge
  • Autograph Alley – 10 Junior Members invited to meet the team pre-game
  • Coin Toss 
  • Spin and Win half time activation where one fan won 50K this season
  • Warm-Up to watch the team warm-up
  • 40 Members lined up in the tunnel as the team ran out during the Viking clap and when the team took to the field after half time
  • 17 lucky members got a signed football from a player at full-time
  • Members could feature on a bottle of sponsor Canberra Milk’s choc mint bottles plus collect the player ones as well
  • ‘The Forever Green’ match that sees 60 old boys come back to the club for a guard of honour and to mingle with fans

CANTERBURY-BANKSTOWN BULLDOGS

  • Bulldogs $5 Fan Club ticket offer that let 2 adults and 2 kids in for $5 during one of the final rounds
  • Ticketing incentives like member’s being allowed to bring two mates along for free to experience a Bulldogs game
  • Coach’s Game Plan checklist
  • Bulldogs Family Zone including player post, blue member’s carpet, rides and inflatables
  • Fans First Initiatives at ANZ Stadium on F&B, ticket prices, free transport
  • Giveaways that included Metro thunder sticks, Justice league bars, chupa chups and chocolate
  • KIA Car VR driving experience, KIA Inflatable goal posts, KIA sideline experience
  • Kindi Farm (Petting Zoo)
  • McDonalds face painting
  • Roaming balloonist
  • Dream street Dance clinic
  • Pre-game Sapphires cheerleaders performances
  • Player farewell cards at Member Appreciation Round
  • 18 jersey presentation
  • Match ball delivered by a member
  • Pre-game jersey reveal
  • KIA Car giveaway at HALF-TIME
  • Members guard of honour
  • Members given the opportunity to watch team warm up on field
  • Players fathers guard of honour
  • Members guard of honour
  • Interview a Bulldog from young fans
  • First Year Members Function
  • #BeBrave.…this was outstanding from the club and this fan
  • Players like Aiden Tolman wishing fans happy birthdays
  • Member’s free pie and water offers on game day
  • Mystery packs for kids
  • ‘We Win, You Win’ sponsor deals
  • Simple to read and understand maps and game day guides for fans to get the most out of the day

Further reading: Bulldogs game day review from FANS HQ #7

CRONULLA-SUTHERLAND SHARKS

  • Thank You to Emergency Services workers with free entry for these community legends
  • The Ultimate Upgrade Experience seating area 
  •  venue art work of this fierce shark at Allianz Stadium during the finals
  • Sharks TV Facebook Live show
  • Ticketing incentives- Bring a mate for $15
  • Members and fans invited onto the field after a win to join the players in singing the team song
  • Collectable pins for 2018 members
  • Trivia Night
  • F&B game day combos
  • Fan of the Week

Further reading: Sharks game day review from FANS HQ #8

GOLD COAST TITANS

  • Use of NightLife’s CrowdDJ platform to enable fans to select the game day playlist
  • Fans guard of honour
  • Free caps when fans buy a round of drinks
  • Player social takeovers
  • Free signed Deadly Choices jerseys from Preston Campbell when fans signed up for a health check
  • NAIDOC Event
  • F&B ticketing incentives
  • Two For One So Bring Mum ticketing deal for Women In League round
  • Holiday Clinics
  • Titans Talent Time

MANLY-WARRINGAH SEA-EAGLES

  • ‘Member of the month
  • Ticketing incentives such as two for one general admission
  • Sit in the ute on the hill and watch the game
  • Bird Gang match day helpers
  • SeaEagles Member Council
  • Beer & Pie F&B combo deals
  • Inflatables and kids activities
  • ’18th Man for NZ’
  • Thank you sign upon exiting is a nice touch as fans exit the venue
  • Guard of Honour for NRL players by fans with a female only fans for the Women In League round
  • 2018 Member of the Year
  • Members baby race
  • Surprise and Delight’ Member seat visits
  • $3 Mrs Mac’s Pie Vouchers for the first 300 fans to take advantage of at the Member Appreciation Round game
  • ‘Member Lawn’ area on season launch day where members were given direct access to the stars of the club
  • ‘Legend Of The Week’
  • Member Experiences
  • Post match laps of honour
  • Also pretty much the only club I’ve seen who consistently asked for fan feedback after every round on the match day experience in an effort to continually improve the game day for fans. Other teams did end of season surveys however it was just good to see this being a visible focus from the Sea-Eagles week in week out this year.

Further reading: Sea Eagles game day review from FANS HQ #3

MELBOURNE STORM

  • Projections on the AAMI Park roof and ‘Stadium Black Out’ with an electrifying pre-game featuring light shows, Billy & Hoffy tribute packages and roof projections
  • ‘Storm Man’, roving ‘Blimp Cam’ and ‘Oblivious Cam’ screen content fun
  • Colourful fan zone with VR activities and football skills drills
  • Free skills clinics
  • Ticketing incentives such as $3 tickets for first 300 fans for Billy Slater’s 300th game, bring the kids for free and Tight-arse Tuesday where fans got 50% tickets
  • Brick Lane craft beer partnership…not a bad drop at all and available in Edwin’s Cafe under the ground pre-game
  • Free TRY signs for fans
  • Nova Casanovas and NOVA DJs
  • Live pre-game concerts hosted by Molly Meldrum
  • Big Purple Splash with celebrities and the CEO dunked into purple water in the middle of AAMI Park
  • Multicultural Festival with food trucks
  • Cheerleader clinic for young fans
  • Open training sessions for fans young and old. 
  • Player meet and greets
  • ‘Kick on the Field’ at AAMI Park after the game
  • Billy’s Buddies membership for kids. One of the best kids memberships in the NRL
  • Half-time activations like a random schnitzel eating comp in partnership with fast food company Schnitz

NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS

  • Inner sanctum pre-game on-field experiences
  • Inflatables and kids activities inside and out of McDonald Jones Stadium
  • Member’s entry line
  • Great family friendly activities at home games for the kids like face painting, balloons, petting zoos and jumping castles.
  • The Knights put a call out for fans to send their photos for Members Appreciation Round and a bunch were placed in the tunnel for the team to see during training and game day. Thanks to Knights member for this information and some of the pics below 
  • ‘Surprise and Delight’ for fans with game day giveaways and surprises
  • NIB Fortress social space
  • Free pins and posters for fans
  • Female fans names on back of players kits during Women In League round
  • Kalyn Ponga going out of his way for this young fan
  • The ‘Kick For a Car’ comp which saw this fan win the car after a cracking 40m kick. 

Further reading: Knights game day review from FANS HQ #7

NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS

  • Choose your own ticket price for the final home game. Tickets started at $5 but fans could pay whatever they wanted to
  • Vodafone and Mt Smart match day App. Some good fan experience ideas here.
  • Half time activation that was linked to an awareness campaign against drinking and driving. Two teams of fans competed on a relay obstacle race but with alcohol goggles on
  • Creation of only 100 exclusive ‘Mannering 300’ tees that fans could only buy during the game. These proved so successful that the fans asked for more quantity and the club agreed to doing pre-orders
  • Operation ‘Bring your banners for Manners which saw the club ask the fans to bring along their personalised banners. Thanks to @LGruffat for some tips here.
  • All Girls Football Clinic
  • Season ticket reductions. The Warriors announced that all 2019 reserved seat full season memberships have been reduced to just $199 in an effort to sell out every game in 2019. A huge win for fans this year.
  • They held the ‘Great Charity Day’ where fans raised tens of thousands of dollars
  • Be The Band music comp launched to find the house band at Mt Smart Stadium game days
  • They play other NRL games in the ground before the main game on the big screen
  • Quality kids membership packs
  • Mannering art work around the venue
  • Womens NRLW trial match and fan engagement
  • Member’s Appreciation Round
  • The creative and cheeky digital work on social from the Warriors digital team
  • There is also a fantastic fan experience review of the NZ Warriors here from Fan Striker

NORTH QUEENSLAND COWBOYS


 

PARRAMATTA EELS

  • Eels Member’s Council
  • Eels Fan Experience game day helpers team
  • Fans First Initiatives at ANZ Stadium on F&B, ticket prices, free transport
  • Member’s Lounge 47 with live entertainment, complimentary finger food & player appearances
  • Member Appreciation Round with FREE Rd 25 Flag Saturday Flag for the first 2000 fans
  • Members of the Month
  • 100% Attendance Winners joined the clubs 40 year + Members in the Guard of Honour
  • The Eels hid special giveaways and thank you plaques to fans in between seats at ANZ Stadium
  • Their ‘Game Day Guide’ is one of the best in the NRL and clearly shows fans the map of the venue as well as whats going on around the ground
  • Super Flag Saturday’s where the first 2000 fans received a flag on entry for Saturday games

PENRITH PANTHERS

  • Member’s pricing on F&B with the cheapest game day beer in Australia at $5.50
  • The Stand Up! Flags Up! campaign. The club’s call to arms where fans were encouraged to make their own Panthers flag, bring one from home or buy one from the Panther Shop. The main thing was to get involved and it worked incredibly well. Here’s some vision of when I attended in round one.

  • Panthers Local Hero recognized the local legends in the Panthers community
  • Player Playlist Takeover
  • ‘Play Like a Panther’ Clinic
  • Josh Mansour player resigning announcement played on the big screen at a home game in May
  •  venue art work featuring this mean looking Panther during the finals game at Allianz Stadium
  • $10 away game Panthers Bus to take fans to other matches around NSW
  • Old Boys Day
  • FREE Panthers Banger Sticks and Try Banners
  • Tooheys New Members Badge Draw. One fan below walked away with 12K on game day just for being in attendance
  • Kidz Korner with carnival rides including The Ferris Wheel, Pirate Ship, Swinging Chair Ride, Tiger Castle and The Storm which are all FREE for kids of all ages.
  • Free face painting and hair spray station for kids

Further reading: Panthers game day review from FANS HQ #3

SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS

ST.GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS

 

  • Family Hill featured great activities for the kids with a jumping castle, green screen fun, face painters and the Dragons ‘pass the ball’ board.
  • ‘Sing To Win’ match day competition which gave fans the chance to win a $250 EFTPOS gift card thanks to Coca-Cola. To participate fans had to purchase a Coca-Cola product at the stadium and when the announcer asked them to stand up and sing they then showed the crowd their karaoke skills by singing into the Coca-Cola product.
  • Flag giveaways. 2000 free flags for fans
  • Regional game in Mudgee, NSW and member’s events
  • NRLW Player meet and greet with fans
  • ‘Fired Up’ Dance Cam
  • Signing Sessions
  • ‘Win a Spot’ in the team photo
  • Toowoomba Member’s Event
  • The heart warming story of the work that @TheNRLRoast and the Dragons player Jeremy Latinate did by trying to get a family with a child suffering from cerebral palsy into a training session before the Anzac Day game. The player helped the family get from Sydney and into a closed training session. All the players came up and got photos with the young fan and signed all his merch.

Further reading: Dragons game day review from FANS HQ #7

SYDNEY ROOSTERS

  • Rocky Run experience
  • Ticketing incentives like 30% off tix to celebrate 30 years at Allianz Stadium
  • Stand Up For a Jersey. Bisley WorkWear Make Yourself Visable competition to win a 2018 Roosters jersey
  • Ball Kid of the Game
  • World First jersey exchange with the team on the look out to upgrade old Roosters fans jerseys with a brand new 2018 jersey
  • Free popcorn on game days and row upgrades from sponsor Hoyts
  • The Roosters players featured the names of their mums in place of the sponsor logo on their jerseys in the Women In League round
  • Meet the NRLW Roosters players
  • Anniversary members lap of honour. Fans with 10, 20 etc year memberships got to walk around the ground pre-game
  •  stunning Roosters art work
  • Member’s BBQ

Further reading: Roosters game day review from FANS HQ #8

WESTS TIGERS

  • This Day Forward. The superb documentary series from the Tigers digital team. A must watch for all rugby league fans. They played this on the big screen before a game as well which was a nice idea to get fans into the ground earlier
  • Wests Tigers won the 2018 NRL Club Community Program of the Year for the club’s Varying Abilities Program
  • Free weekly wallpapers for fans mobiles and desktops from the digital team- a simple and nice touch for fans
  • Free TRY signs at games
  • Benji signing and giving away his boots to the young fan below
  • Fans First Initiatives at ANZ Stadium on F&B, ticket prices, free transport
  • KIA photo booth
  • Face Painting
  • Holiday clinics
  • Indigenous Round initiatives and activities for fans including: Traditional painting and didgeridoo lessons, Indigenous performances, Smoke ceremony performed by Muggera Dance Group, Clontarf Academy indigenous rugby league team game, Traditional Gift Exchange, Dance performances by Muggera Dance Group, Boot collection for regional communities. Additional pics from  and 
  • Wests Tigers fan bus #OnTheBus

Final note: 99% of the images here are mine having been taken on game days this year while traversing the grounds. I have however used images sourced from fans, venues and teams across their websites and social. Having previously worked in the music industry with photographers I am very conscious of respecting photographers copyright and work whether they be fan or professional. I have used some images under ‘fair use’ simply to highlight these fan engagement initiatives and have tried to credit everyone where possible. This article is also free and does not have any commercial gain attached to it. If you would like to be credited or have your photo removed please let me know and I will be happy to oblige with your demands. Thanks

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