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XXXX QLD DERBY NRL Brisbane Broncos Vs. North Queensland Cowboys, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, 10.03.2023

A very good 2023 opening home game win for the Brisbane Broncos with 43,000 at Suncorp Stadium for the XXXX Derby. 28-16 to Bronx. Beer, footy cards, chip challenge, mates, all good fun. #NRL #NRLBroncosCowboys #XXXXDerby #LangPark #BronxNation

Pictures here:

What a win and first match for 2023.
The weather didn’t help but I liked the look of the new fan area.
The drums, seating and colours all looked good but I do miss the bar and TV especially to watch the first Friday game. Anyway to bring the tv back? There seemed to be limited food options too this time round. Not sure there was or will be enough seating too on dry game days. The hammock type beach chairs were great too but since gone. 


The ball pit and the faces game looked cool and I’ve not seen either at another AUS team game day so well done for something new and unique. Can’t wait to get my daughter on the slide and ball pit. Photo idea also cool. More photo opportunities. 


Bring the trading cards back! That was epic last year. 


How about a match day program. One page of stats and facts for fans, like a newsletter. Something to read on game days over a beer. I miss the old big league, rugby league week etc game day guide.
The fireworks, light show was outstanding. The dolphin used safe smoke that looked very visually effective, could they try that in our colours? 


Loved the barber shop. How do I get a beard trim future games?


Shepperd. Please never again. They do the same thing every QLD government or Stadiums QLD event and it is tiring and painful on my ears! Get Violent Soho or some other Qld bands, performers, but as was said during the week, a lot of people are over them doing EVERY bloody gig in sport, community etc. 


Posters. Great idea. 


Members tent/support. Very good comms and friendly, helpful people. Maybe more incentives or giveaways for members, show how we’re valued. More giveaways per game. A trading card collectable series each game day only members can collect? A new poster each game? 

Dolphins Inaugural NRL Game Day Vs. Sydney City Roosters, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, 05.03.2023

What an absolutely epic game day and inaugural game for Dolphins NRL at Suncorp Stadium on a gorgeous autumn Brissy Sunday arvo winning 28-18 over Sydney Roosters.

I had a great day taking dad along and loved the collectable trading cards to commemorate the first game.

Well done to the Dolphins on the first game. What a vibe it was out there at the final whistle.

Some thoughts on the game day here for the Dolphins first event at Suncorp Stadium.
The members bar downstairs, the Pod Club looked a bit lame and tacky and needed more colour and atmosphere. It just looked stale. Big lines and hard to locate. More signage. 


No staff really present around the ground inside or out to assist fans and ask questions. Didn’t even see a membership tent. 


No map in the comms mail out of activations and key etc? But good comms email. Had everything you needed to know. 


Was a bit odd walking in seeing Broncos branding everywhere along Milton Road but guess they got in first and have paid that up to have the branding on the light poles.


The trading cards was a unique idea and simple stuff. Already going for a mint on Facebook marketplace as are the red dolphin fins as headwear. Initially very dorky but it’s taken off. Good to see.


No Broncos like ‘Paddock Club’ for pre game drinking and comfy seating watching other games outside the ground outside Caxton St which was disappointing however I’ve since seen that the Broncos are not doing this either. A licensing issue? A sponsor issue? XXXX not keen to run it? The most money I’ve spent at the venue was because of this area activation and coming to the ground earlier spending more money outside and in the venue.


Kids zone looked good. Room for more sponsor activations and kids activities. 


Some of your sponsors had zero visibility. Budget Direct was front and centre yet Kings was nowhere to be seen. Where’s their adventure playground or 4WD set up etc. 


No signage for Phinnyland which is their fan zone. I think the Dolphins can really claim this fan zone for kids as something fun for fans and families but found it odd no signage.


The phins up song was really catchy. Absolutely worked. 

Brilliant to have a Sunday game day. I wish the Broncos would do more of these like the good old QEII ANZ Stadium days in the 90s!


ACDC worked well. The other songs are like ‘Sweet Caroline’ boring and tired. Thankfully they didn’t use the SC. I hope they wont be like every other club FOMO on the same game day stuff. Be more unique. I really thought with everything else they had done to date that using White Stripes/Black Keys wouldn’t have gone with those. 

Welcome to country was great and the Artie Beetson medal was a nice touch.


The safe smoke!!! Now that was brilliant need more of that. Haven’t seen an NRL team use that. The fireworks didn’t work but it was daytime. The red smoke really contrasted so well with the blue sky but at night this will look amazing.


I’m Broncos through and through and not changing but I thought that was an outstanding display yesterday and I hope they bring in 1000s of new memberships now as it’s good for the game. I’ll be back for more games. Well done Dolphins!

Loads more pictures and videos here from the game day

10,000 cans and bottles recycled!

Ramona Josie and I have just this week surpassed 10,000 cans and bottles recycled in the container deposit scheme by collecting in our suburb on our morning and afternoon walks since we started in July 2020, 6 days after she was born!

We walk between 8km to 15km a day (although I guess I do all the walking at this stage!) and we turn the recycling into our own scheme whereby 50% of the recycled funds go into toys and educational supplies for her fun and development while the other 50% goes to buying toys to donate to charities like we do each Christmas by donating 100+ Hot Wheels cars to Helen’s Haven and the QLD Children’s Hospital for kids in need.

I love our suburb and the CDS has been a great motivator for exercise, helping the environment, giving back to our community and helping kids in need, cleaning up our suburb, bonding with my daughter and giving my wife a break! (haha).

Cricket Australia Test Match vs South Africa, SCG, Sydney, Australia 03/01/2023

Ramona and I visited the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney for day one of the first test match and what was her first visit to this historic ground.

I took great delight in buying her her first cricket bat, albeit a tiny one for player autographs.

A big hit with her was the automatic sunscreen station too which was a clever idea.

Cricket Australia Test Match, Australia vs South Africa, The Gabba, Brisbane, Australia, 17/12/2022

First Cricket Test Match.

Australia vs South Africa.

Day One. Brisbane, Queensland.

An annual tradition that is important to me.

Great as always to take dad along each year and pack my cricket snack pack.

Gotta have good snacks.

Simply The Best: Allianz Stadium Fan Experience Review, Sydney, Australia 02/09/2022

The post-COVID19 game-day fan experience continues to evolve for sports fans with global venues new and established adding exciting enhancements to drive fan-first smart stadiums that provide positive experiences and memorable moments for fans.

Recent global developments to enhance the match-day experience of fans has seen venues such as Manchester’s Etihad Stadium introducing self-service beer taps for convenience, New York’s Citi Field trialling biometric facial recognition ticketing for entry into the ballpark and Seattle’s T-Mobile Park adding palm scanning technology at their “Walk-Off Market” snack bars to eliminate lines. Further developments have seen trials of in-seat hot dog drone deliveries, weapons detection gunshot localisers and sustainability initiatives like tower gardens, which produce stadium-grown food for use in venue concessions. These are just some of the developments that illustrate the lengths that venues are going to in order to enhance the fan experience and get fans off the couch at home and back into venues in the post-pandemic sports world.

Sydney’s spectacular new state of the art Allianz Stadium is Australia’s latest major venue that has this fan first thinking and the fan experience at it’s core with a raft of impressive modern features providing an exceptional game day experience for fans. In my latest fan experience review here for AUS Leisure, I take a look at the impressive features of the redeveloped Allianz Stadium from the grand opening on September 2nd at the Sydney Roosters rugby league match day to highlight how they are achieving best practice fan experience and the lessons that other venues can learn to improve and enhance their own venue fan experiences.

Transport

Starting the fan journey from the CBD to Allianz Stadium in the Moore Park entertainment precinct was a seamless and quick experience via the brand new Sydney Light Rail network that took less than 15 minutes and was free with game day tickets. This free match-day travel to and from the venue could also be used on other public transport modes such as nearby trains and buses while the venue itself features dedicated new electric car charging stations and bike racks as well as only being a short and easy 25-minute walk from the city.

Accessibility

One of the reasons for the redevelopment was that the previous venue provided a poor spectator experience by not being able to cater for different user groups as well as not meeting modern amenity standards around accessibility. It was good then to see that this is certainly a stadium for everyone as there has been significant increases (2300%) to space and seating for wheelchair and companion areas, the addition of gender neutral toilets as well as a 170% increase in female toilets to 600. This represents a commitment to improving facilities for fans in terms of minimising wait times but is also good to see that all fans are being equally catered for especially with the rise of both women’s sport and female attendances at venues.

Welcome and Way-Finding

Arriving early to soak up the atmosphere outside the ground it was evident that a focus on designing clear way-finding solutions had been implemented to enable fans to see where their entrance was. There are detailed, easy-to-understand maps located throughout the outside concourse area, clear signage for gate numbers across each stand along with engaging customer service staff acting as backpack billboards featuring gate entrance and venue information. Heading through the turnstiles into the venue (or when getting a pass out to exit) was seamless and efficient by simply scanning the QR-coded ticket however what really stood out on entry was the pleasant greeting, positive attitude and smile from the staff which has long been identified by fans as one of the most important factors in creating a positive match day experience.

Seating

One of the clever features of the stadium redevelopment that fans will appreciate inside the venue is the 360° open concourse. The 300% increase in the public area concourse enables fans to walk around the venue while always staying connected to the game even while grabbing F&B items or accessing toilets or just wanting to see the game from another angle. The four levels of seating that comprise the 42,500 seats are set on a thrilling steep rake, offer clear sightlines of the pitch no matter where you’re seated and are positioned closer to the field of play than the previous seating plan to maximise the atmosphere and fan experience. The noise that was created from fans seemed to reflect back into the seating bowl as a result of the stadium design, which in turn added to a louder and more intense experience for spectators.

The vibrant and unique art design of the seats by Indigenous artist Tony Albert is titled ‘Two Worlds Colliding’ and really makes you feel like you’re sitting right on top of the action while the innovative design of the diagrid roof also sees 100% of the seating area now undercover (up from only 30% previously) to offer weather protection for spectators which again illustrates a commitment to the fan-first vision of the venue. Rooster’s member Alan Katzmann agreed and added, “The stadium is terrific. I sat in the members stand on level 4 west and found it easy to get around with great viewing areas to mingle with friends and I felt very comfortable throughout” while Easts diehard Jane Cook also stated that “the atmosphere was phenomenal as I felt so close to the turf from my seats in the Chookpen members area”.

Architecture and Design

Designed by Cox Architecture and constructed by John Holland on the site of the original Sydney Football Stadium, the $874m venue transformation was delivered on time and features a host of innovative architectural design elements, exciting active spaces and art for spectators and the local community to engage with that highlight the venue’s iconic architectural identity.

The precinct around the stadium features an accessible open-air fitness space with gym equipment and a basketball court on a visually striking sports surface while there are also sculptures, audio art, a wind-screen and seating areas with historic moments from the ground carved into them that add to the fan experience on game days as well as also being a creative use of public space for the community to utilise all year round. A signature of the architecture are the 980 bronze coloured fins that form an elegant curtain wall surrounding the external façade of the venue while native vegetation has been used to increase shade and reflective roofing has been installed to add a heat mitigation solution to keep fans cool and comfortable inside the venue which further highlights a focus on putting fans and the environment first.

Food and Beverage

Merivale Group is the exclusive ‘hospitality experience’ partner of the venue and has clearly brought it’s culinary expertise into the stadium with a host of interesting gourmet selections as well as the standard footy fare that is expected of fans. The inclusive design of the menu features over 350 food and beverage options for fans to chose from across 64 outlets ranging from pork belly tacos and veggie burgers to margarita seltzers and independent craft beer from local Sydney breweries while the addition of more F&B outlets, self service ordering stations, a 30% increase in the counter lengths of bars and the use of mobile backpack beer servers all saw service times sped up and queues alleviated to enable fans to get back to their seats.

A highlight of the first match day at the venue was the generous offer for fans that saw 49% off the price of all beverages while F&B prices were seen to be on par with other venues for standard stadium fare with items such as water ($5), hot chips ($5.50) and soft drinks ($4.80) actually being cheaper than other Australian venues. It was also good to see the inclusion of combo meals, non-alcoholic beer and dietary needs being taken into consideration however ‘stadium sauce’ was being sold for the outrageous price of $2.90 in one snack bar (although for research purposes I tried it and it was actually delicious!).

Overall it was clear that the quality and diversity of the stadium grub on show at Allianz Stadium is a step above and puts this on another level in terms of the stadium food and beverage that is currently available in other Australian stadiums.

Fan Engagement

The Sydney Roosters put on a spectacle on the field for the 41,906 fans in attendance winning 34-6 (NRLW) and 26-16 (NRL) while off the field their fans and members were also winning with sponsors and staff both delivering a spectacular effort in storytelling and fan engagement. Roosters Fan Engagement manager Ryan Chant highlighted that “Returning home to Allianz Stadium provides us with an array of new opportunities to engage with our members and supporters” and this was evident asoutside the ground there were relevant sponsor activations for fan of all ages plus live entertainment while the pre-game build-up featured an emotional scene of two young fans embarking on their journey home to the venue. The hype reel, player entrance and big screen visuals, amplified by the impressive JBL loudspeakers, increased the intensity of the atmosphere while all fans were given free commemorative flags and TRY cards on entry before Aussie band The Presets kicked off the pre-game show with a pumping gig that had fans up in their seats.

Conclusion

The redeveloped Sydney Football Stadium is the result of years of collaborative teamwork amid COVID lockdowns and government restrictions and is a spectacular venue that fans both deserve and should be proud of due to its forward-thinking modern facilities that elevate the atmosphere and puts them closer to the action than ever before.

Allianz Stadium’s fan-first approach has significantly raised the bar on every aspect of the fan experience from accessibility and design to seating and food and beverage and represents a new era in Sydney’s sports and entertainment stage that will create memorable moments for fans, boost the local economy and place the capital in a prime position to attract major international and local events into the future. Put it on your list of sporting game day’s to experience and you won’t be disappointed.

BIO:

Blair Hughes is an award winning, globally respected fan engagement specialist who helps clients in the sports, music and craft beer industries grow their fan bases, improve fan experiences and create new business and revenue opportunities. You can follow him on Twitter at @MrBlairHughes or at www.MrBlairHughes.com.

Brisbane Roar A-League Fan Experience, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, QLD 8/10/22

A glorious Saturday arvo game day homecoming at Suncorp Stadium for Brisbane Roar FC against Macarthur FC today.

0-0 in the end but a thoroughly enjoyable game day back at Lang Park with a big crowd and a pumping atmosphere. A real shame that there are only three games here for the 22/23 season.

Well done to the Roar for putting on $1000 bar tab for members pre-game and for the supporter groups and fans for organising the march to the stadium.

2022 NRL Grand Final Fan Experience, Penrith Vs.Parramatta, Accor Stadium, Sydney, 2/10/22

On Sunday morning at 2am I left Brisbane to head down to Sydney for the NRL Grand Final between Penrith Panthers and Parramatta Eels at Accor Stadium in Homebush, Sydney.

Leaving home at 3am I hit Brisbane Airport, parked the car and excitedly boarded my 5am flight to Sydney to head to an NRL Grand Final, my first GF since 2018 at the Olympic Stadium.

In the lead up to the big event I produced a match day fact sheet for my fellow NRL fans which went down a hit in our NRL community. I miss match day programs so tried to make it reminiscent of Big League Magazine (RIP) to have a physical keepsake from the big day.

I hit Sydney by 8am taking into account day-light savings time and made my way to my hotel, stopping to check the front covers of the local papers all promoting the major event.

By 12pm I was making my way out to the venue and here is a run down on the day from my fan experience and fan journey perspective.

Transport:

My fan journey from Central Station to Olympic Park and the game at Accor Stadium could not have been quicker or more seamless. Free travel on public transport was included with every ticket and the journey out to the venue from Central via train took under 25 minutes. From there it was such a simple walk to the venue fan precinct and entry gates. It’s always very accessible and it was good also to see the colourful NRL team bunting and presentation at Central Station and Olympic Park Station which added to the atmosphere. Staff were helpful and eager to engage with both sets of fans to ensure they all had a good day.

Unfortunately I was unable to take the gorgeous old cab or Routemaster bus out to the game but don’t they just look outstanding!

Ticketing:

It pays to be an NRL member. I purchased my ticket as soon as NRL members tickets went on sale. I was able to get a discount, buy first and choose where I wanted to sit. I was surprised members got a further discount which was nice to see. I purchased the cheapest tickets I could at $49 which I thought was a bargain. Many fans on social jokingly said my seat was rubbish however I beg to differ. We were front and centre with a birds eye view. Not every fan can afford to go or be close to the action and this price point was all that I could afford anyway. Entry through the gates was seamless and efficient however I did go through very early in the day so had no troubles scanning in. Bag searches were conducted and a hello and smile along with eye contact was received on entry as well which was pleasant to see.

Fan Zone/Fan Engagement:

The fan precinct was absolutely pumping when I arrived after midday with fans of both teams as well as neutral rugby league fans like myself all having a wonderful, fun, safe time together at the bars and within the outside fan zone area.

The bars were going off with live music, DJ’s and beers flowing with the sun out and the atmosphere sparkling with positivity from the fans. It was such a fun vibe and moment to be in.

The merchandise tents were doing a roaring trade with special event tees and hats as well as Penrith and Parramatta gear selling like hot cakes at the multiple merchandise sites around the venue.

The fan engagement and event presentation was top notch and included loads of fun activations for kids, families and fans of all ages such as:

  • competitions
  • pass the ball
  • face painting
  • giveaways
  • trivia
  • photo opportunities (NRL Steeden ball/NRLW)
  • size me up
  • colouring in
  • trophy photos
  • virtual kick and photo activations

Everyone was having such a brilliant time in the fan zone with the lines moving really well throughout the two hours I spent going from activity to activation….obviously, didn’t do the face painting or colouring in but I can see how much fun my daughter will have when I bring her down for a grand final in a few years time.

The event presentation looked impressive with colourful lighting, banners and bunting throughout the venue and surrounds. There was also plenty of food truck gourmet options outside the ground as well as astro turfed areas, roving entertainers (the 70’s disco crew on stilts- they were outstanding!), craft beer bars and plenty of spaces to sit and take in the festivities.

Venue:

After I had my fun in the fan zone I headed into the venue and up the ramp to my seats in section 606. I forgot how steep this venue gets and you really have to pace yourself, especially if carrying a tray of beers so I was glad I had my weetbix in the morning as when I made it to my seat I was able to take in my impressive view of the ground. For $50 I was very impressed with my seat purchase and settled in for a while with a cold bevvie to take in the NRL State Championship (Penrith defeated Norths Devils 44-10), NRLW Grand Final (Newcastle won 32-12 over Parramatta) and then the pre-game entertainment before the main match.

It was outstanding to be a part of a new Australian crowd record for the NRL Women’s competition as close to 43,000 fans set this record to watch the Grand Final. Well done to everyone for being inside the venue to watch this moment.

When I went down to get a beer and pie at 6pm the lines were unfortunately really bad with up to 100m of people waiting in lines in both directions and no real line management or idea for fans of where lines started or ended or went for food or drinks so I unfortunately gave up and didn’t get to eat anything at the venue and only bought the one beer in the end. This was probably the most disappointing thing about the fan experience as I love nothing more than getting a pie and a beer but it was just too busy and after 20 minutes in a line that wasn’t moving I decided to give up. The venue staff however should be commended because I saw how hard they were working for fans and they were smiling and being positive. It’s always hard for a venue when at capacity to service every fan efficiently and we have to remember that venues are still getting back into their groove post COVID too so while it was disappointing to not be able to get F&B I can also understand the challenges.

Beers were $10.50-10.90 and included Stone and Wood craft beer. I wasn’t able to see more of the food on show but I heard there was a special event day burger which sounded good!

Pre-Game Entertainment:

Being a huge Cold Chisel fan I was really excited for Jimmy Barnes to be performing as part of the pre-game show and he was absolutely brilliant bringing all the hits and having fans rocking out to the classics. The other performers were equally impressive and the Welcome to Country and National Anthem were also big highlights with the Indigenous man doing the WTC doing such a fine job talking about respect.

The crowd singalong’s of fan favourites like ‘Sweet Caroline’ and ‘Horses’ were quite funny to see while the multiple on field sponsor fan engagement activations at half time were run smoothly and provided some laughs. I feel for the ladies kicking the goals in that competition, it’s bloody hard in the footwear that fans bring to a game not realising how oily the turf is!

The pitch invader that ran on and tried to scale the posts was brilliantly nabbed by security and venue staff and ushered off the field. Thankfully this idiot will now be fined and banned and did not cause any player injuries. Well done to the venue staff here for quickly sorting this out. These people don’t belong in our NRL community.

Exit:

Once the game was over with Penrith winning 28-12 over Parramatta we made our way back down the ramp and out to the train station to head back into the city. Transport home could not have been more easy and seamless with the lines moving fast and free transport making it simple to get home and end the night safely. I will add that when I asked a cabbie how much it was to get to the city he remarked $150 and told me the meter was off. Very dodgy behaviour and not what fans expect or deserve to see for the fan experience. No sooner had I told him that was ridiculous and unfair for fans, he was swarmed by transport cops or transit enforcement officers (unsure who they were) who heard me talking to him and ordered him to pull over however he did not want to and continued trying to drive away which was quite dangerous as it was packed with fans around him. I commend these officers because they saw that this was wrong and not what fans expect from transport companies.

A big shout out to the National Rugby LeagueAccor Stadium and everyone involved for putting on an outstanding #NRLGF day in Sydney today.

I had such a fun day participating in all the activations, catching up with the NRL community and just being back at the venue for the first time in a few years.

Fantastic event presentation, fan journey, #FanEngagement, fan atmosphere and entertainment. Seamless free travel on public transport, craft beers, food trucks, happy, positive and helpful staff and a brilliant loud atmosphere all made for an epic day.

Well done Penrith Panthers and Newcastle Knights and Parramatta Eels National Rugby League Club fans too.

NRLGF Match Day Fact Sheet 2022

I deeply miss physical match day programs at the NRL so I produced this one-off free NRL grand final fact sheet for myself and fellow fans for the big day. Sadly print media is dying a slow death and soon there won’t be any match day programs from the English football to the cherished AFL Record….hopefully that time is still some time away.

It went down such a hit with fans in our NRL community and I ended up running out of the 50 copies I printed, all of which was just for a bit of a laugh, to have a physical keepsake memory to take away from the game.

Dolphins Vs. Broncos: The Battle of Brisbane!

As a rugby league fan I can’t wait for the Dolphins to enter the NRL competition in 2023 as the league expands to 17 teams.

I really hope that the Dolphins are successful on and off the field with wins across the board for fans next year and I can’t wait to attend the derby with Brisbane, a ‘North vs South’ Cowboys clash, a ‘Coast to Coast’ battle with the Titans and the Arthur Beetson Trophy clash against Easts. Whatever the marketing magicians name the derby (The Brown Snake derby/Surf N Turf derby/Battle of Brisbane derby) it will no doubt be thrilling to watch with a packed out Lang Park featuring 52,000 rugby league fans in attendance.

The game days at Redcliffe will be sold out and look spectacular in person and on TV at the recently redeveloped Moreton Daily Stadium (please keep the fan-first pricing including cheap beers and lolly bags out there on game days!) while the seven games at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium and one to two tipped to be on the Sunny Coast represent an exciting time for league fans across these areas to see more NRL live in their backyard. It’s truly an exciting time for rugby league fans in Queensland as this will be the fourth QLD team playing in the NRL and no matter who you support you can’t deny that it is good for the game of rugby league in Australia to have more rugby league reaching more people in more communities.

I believe that the Dolphins have got a lot of things right from the outset such as player (plus coaching staff) and sponsor signings (Adventure Kings, XXXX) to membership package price points (cheapest adult NRL season pass $105 for 7 games at SS) and merchandising (Classic Sportswear). They’ve also done well to sign a lot of former Broncos staff and smart sports business creatives who I think have greatly helped the club get going and will no doubt come in handy around all areas of the business as the first season gets underway. It’s all looking really positive and exciting for the Dolphins.

However, the Dolphins are jumping around rough seas too. This is still Broncos territory right? How will the flippers go around driving fan/member acquisition? How will they differentiate themselves from the Broncos in marketing, media, game days/event presentation across the three venues, fan engagement, social media, community? How will they stand out and attract different demographics of female fans, Central QLD fans (newly announced CQ Capras partnership and one trial game per year in Rocky) kids, ex-Broncos fans, new rugby league fans, fans without a team, other sports fans? How will the game days/fan experiences be consistent across multiple stadia? What will the team do in the community (schools/charities) to spread the good word about our Dolphins? And many more intriguing questions….

I’m curious and inquisitive and these are the questions that keep me up early in the morning when trying to wrestle my toddler back to sleep with the help of the sweet dulcet white noise sounds of classic 1992-96 NSWRL/ARL matches.

I’m a die-hard passionate Broncos member and fan since dad first took me to games in 1993 so I’ll forever be loyal to the Broncos. It’s who I am. It’s etched in my memories and it’s part of my life like so many other Broncos fans. In the past two years I’ve also started the fan journey to Broncos games with my daughter Ramona, taking her to one game a year to start our traditions and instil in her the emotional loyalty, positive memories and passion that my dad instilled in me 30 years ago to the Broncos and their match day fan experiences. Apart from religion, sport is one of the only things people stay loyal to for their whole life and it’s why I’m so passionate about the fundamentals of fan engagement (effective communication, active listening, personalisation, empathy, authenticity, storytelling and much more) because if you do these things right, you will build and have positive relationships with fans for life.

Here are some of my thoughts which are in no particular order (mostly because I have written this over several mornings at 2am while telling my daughter to go back to sleep and she just smiles at me and laughs ‘no’):

  • Storytelling: Play on their long rich history (storytelling) of the club
  • Social media: Be authentic and ensure the content continues to be exceptional
  • Access: All access documentary on the first season (look to the success of Arsenal: All or Nothing and F1: Drive to Survive) and what it took to get to the first game in 2023.
  • Content: Harness the power of their existing fan base to drive authentic fan engagement (fan generated content creators) and get these fans on-side as brand ambassadors.
  • Communication: Listening to fans and go where they are. Social, fan forums and more. Work with fans for a fan code of conduct for game days.
  • Inclusion: Develop a inclusion, equality and diversity strategy for all stakeholders.
  • Kids/Families: School visits/workshops for kids and community family fun fan days. Go to where kids are (Minecraft, Roblox, Pokemon – what can be done here to attract kids as lifelong members). Don’t just do stuff because of FOMO. Do fans really want NFT’s, the team to be on the metaverse or paying for merch with ‘RugbaLeagueCoin’? Plus mascots….have a mascot for every freaking sponsor! The Cowboys have about 15 and kids love them (that’s a lot of costumes to dry clean though)
  • Community: Work with community groups, charities etc throughout Rocky, Bundy, Sunny Coast all the way down to Brisbane to get them and their businesses on board.
  • Sponsors: Communicate why they are sponsors and what they’re doing for fans/members rather than just $$$ into the team for brand exposure. I continually ask sponsors at game days why they sponsor the team and most just kind of shrug their shoulders as if they don’t actually understand why they’re fully doing it or want to understand the fans but can’t we be doing this better in 2023 to drive real connections between sponsors and fans?
  • Focus on evolving sports business tech. Tap into Brisbane start-ups who can add to the fan experience and more areas of the business.
  • Fan Experience and Game days. Focus on diverse offerings. Kids and families fun zones to party atmospheres and quality corporate hospitality that is different from the rest. Unique social seating spaces- how can SS be transformed? Look at what Everton FC have done here with their new venue plans. Ensure that venue staff are well equipped with information, knowledge and passion to assist fans on game days across the three venues to give fans the best, positive and most seamless event day welcome and experience. Look to how US venues run their game day pep-talk briefings. Fans at the centre of the game day. Match day first game certificates, fan of the game, community group of the game, Junior MC, guards of honour etc etc endless fan activations to reward fan/member loyalty.
  • Merchandise. Bring in a retro range of Dolphins gear (how good were those retro BRL kits a few years back) plus partnerships with cool brands including New Era for instance. A focus on kids merch too like with Ashtabula’s range of kids gear as well as ensuring cheaper options are stocked in Best and Less to cater for fans of all budgets.

But what do I know right? I’m just a fan. I want them to succeed even if I am a Broncos fan.

I asked a snapshot of 20 global sports business executives from Australia and overseas as well as 20 sports fans (across different sporting codes) for their thoughts on the topic of how the Dolphins can stand out from the Broncos, acquire new fans and members and be successful on and off the field to drive loyalty across social media, marketing, media, fan engagement and more.

Names redacted.

Responses:

  1. “Well by the looks of things they’ve got one of the best setups in regards to admin staff. Many familiar former Broncos faces circa 2015-18. They’ll be one of the best run clubs off the park. I haven’t checked recently, but I saw initially they had signed up a number of former/current Broncos sponsors. Many of the things the Broncos have done well in recent seasons they’ll likely emulate in their own way. They’ll go hard in the media market once their playing roster is finalised for their debut season.”
  2. “I am really excited to see what the Dolphins can acheive in the next 5 years. They have an abundance of knowledge and experience within their admin staff, many who were decision makers at the Broncos over the last decade. After being granted their NRL licence they’ve brought on board a number of exciting commercial partners who will look to engage with fans and the club in unique ways. From a fan-engagement perspective I am confident they’ll have excellent game-day experiences and membership offerings. They’ve already shown that they’re engaging the local community and this will continue to grow once their NRL playing roster is confirmed.”
  3. “It seems to me that the key is not too dissimilar to any other business. Be good at what you do. If you play well, and hopefully win, then people will get behind you. They are doing the opposite of the Crushers so far which is good. The crushers’ mistake was old players and a less experienced coach. Hopefully the dolphins can pair their experienced coach with a vibrant squad to give them the best chance of success.”
  4. “I like what the lions are proposing for Springfield and womens games. Turn game day into a market day, festival, family fun day. Also their culture should be very inclusive and focus on diversity, the broncos seem quite silent on that and I reckon a socially progressive culture would pick up a lot of fans. And win games ….that will set them apart from the broncos”
  5. “Digital first and content! Behind the scene content on all elements of what it takes to launch a new club. Lean into what’s so different and so unique about their position. The good, the bad, the special. Record everything.”
  6. “I’ll be switching allegiances to the Dolphins based on the fact I grew up in the area. So there’s a bit of brand loyalty on my part. I think that’s something that they have over the Broncos – a much longer history, so a lot of nostalgia they can draw upon. By extension, tapping into that suburban footy vibe. The Broncos are a city town, for all intents and purposes, whereas the Dolphins reflect a suburban corridor. Leaning into this is a strong starting point. They’re not a city club like the Broncos or Roosters, they’re a suburban club, like Wests, Manly or the Sharks.”
  7. “Depends on how the fans feel about the other ‘local’ team. Some will never make the switch due to loyalties through their families. Others fed up with the incumbent will jump right away. Popularity of management, coaches and players can play a part as well. Nicer venue could have an influence. Proximity to fans home/work could also come into play. Media is another thing – I think the Dolphins could really differentiate themselves by targeting a younger demographic, game presentation with a youthful twist or more digital interactivity.”
  8. “They need to be authentic and honour their history QLD’s don’t like fake. It’s a saturated market in my opinion so they need to play the long game, target the next generation the kids. Smart use of data and digital like LAFC in America they could really take some ideas from them on how to build a fan base authentically from zero.”
  9. Take a leaf out of the teal wave book and get volunteers to door knock too a genuine human conversation could quite easily be a convertion to that club. Also corporate support. Apparently a tech alley in Brisbane and surrounds get them on board to do some clever tech based fan initiatives.”
  10. “Gotta go to the Sunshine Coast and cement themselves in that region up to Bundaberg. Almost try and position themselves as a country side/underdog.”
  11. “What they need to do is win games. Wayne is the master of media exposure so they will have no issues there. Win games and they will win plenty of fans. Sign Munster and they win plenty of fans. Play a good brand of footy and be competitive and they win fans. Ensure their jersey is good and supporter gear and they will go okay.Everyone loves a winner. What we don’t need is another Gold Coast titans or wests tigers.”
  12. “My first thought to your message was.. win..and don’t be dickheads. From left field … have lots of mascots. (As broncos used to do in their ANZ Stadium days)… Coverbands for music .. just good singalongs. Fan experience prizes on game day. A junior team as guests of honour at every match … they form guard of honour for run on.”
  13. “I really just think they get into schools and do heaps of community based stuff like GWS did prior to Covid. Get the kids interested, give out free tickets and get families along. Good game day activations, prizes, even stuff like petting zoos and things like that which GWS did really well. Realistically everyone in Brisbane (and Qld) has a team, predominantly the Broncos but also plenty of Sydney teams as well. So I wonder who they are targeting for their fan base? And like Port Adelaide in the SANFL, it’s my understanding that if you’re not a Redcliffe fan you probably hate them so I can’t see many Norths Devils or Wynnum fans or whoever making the switch. So like Port they might just be pigeonholed as a niche side with a traditional following and no room for growth. If they struggle early (and they will because their squad sucks at the moment) it’s going to be a hard road for them because nobody will go watch at Suncorp. I don’t exactly think it will be Crushers Mk II but imagine if we had stuck with them 25 years ago, where might they be now?
  14. Best case scenario I reckon is to be people’s second team for now – cheaper tickets than the Broncos, more family friendly time slots (Sunday arvo?) and give off the community based team vibe as opposed to the corporate Brisbane. Will Broncos fans have a hatred of them or sense a genuine rivalry? Who knows. They don’t really have it with the Titans and they’re as close as they’ve had to a neighbour. My mate up in Brisbane is a lifetime Souths fan (lived in Sydney til he was 40) and his young bloke loves them as well but I feel they’d be more likely to go watch the Dolphins play Parra or whatever than they would to watch the broncos, so maybe that’s what they’re banking on until they can develop a generation of fans? Either way it’s weird to me that they went with an existing entity rather than a new team with no Q Cup ties. Or Perth but that’s another matter entirely!”
  15. “I’d be looking to do things entirely differently to any other team on socials, not the same cookie cutter stuff”
  16. I think they already have fans via their long history, so I think they’d want to make sure that’s all integrated in well. And people who don’t like the Broncos might just support them by default too. I think if they can win a few games, that’ll go a long way, as for game day etc, though not sure what they can do to really draw people. Will be interesting to see!”
  17. “I think it’s going to be difficult to create a consistent fan experience at different venues (suncorp vs Redcliffe have different vibes). I think one thing they have done well is promote their signings which started with Redcliffe as juniors – as they have an entire pathway to elite I hope this is something they promote into the future. I also hope they create a community and family atmosphere at games – kids zones and activities, family days to meet players, open training sessions etc. I think it all starts with being genuine to their community, need to win people over.”
  18. Community engagement (working with local clubs and schools), community appearances (winning over those who aren’t inclined to be Dolphins fans) and doing loca media to the marketThat stretches into Gameday, media, brand etc What is genuine to their community? You can’t pretend you’re Broncos 2.0 it won’t workI’d have a minimum commitment for all staff to do community hours – from players and coaches to the commercial and marketing team. Share the resources at all levels.”
  19. “Has to come from a place of brand clarity. What makes them inherently different? Who are their people?The long term is all about the kids as they’ll grow up in a world where the dolphins aren’t the new team but on equal footing with broncos titans and cowboys.”
  20. “Rugby league, in my view, is extremely reluctant towards change, so I’m not expecting anything significant from the Dolphins.
  21. “The Broncos are such a super power. I’d hate to go up against them. Also from what I’ve seen, the Dolphins haven’t recruited a side that’s going to really excite existing fans. So maybe you target the untapped markets? Cold Community’s , people who have no loyalty to anyone in rugby league, recently arrived migrants, refugees, WOMEN! I’d also probably case study Toronto Wolfpack game day and see what could be learned from their success. Different circumstances they didn’t have a competitor, but they had amazing engagement with fans that didn’t even know what RL was. A bit like Newtown do, they had craft beer festivals, and post match parties with a DJ on the field etc. made the players really accessible.
  22. More women business networks, and maybe even a female focused charity partner or respectful relationships flagship Community program, targeted female recruitment strategies for staffing, go real bold and have a family planning policy (recently raised by the Federal Minister for sport would be the first in the NRL) or all of the above. Oh and of course massive investment in female pathways from playing, officiating and administering. From day 1!”
  23. “They still haven’t claimed an identity. That’s a start. The fact that Bennett is coaching a foundation club against a club he won many premierships with is intriguing. Brisbane isn’t the club they were, and I think the Dolphins, as a new club, can entice supporters. The fact they are a new club is enough to give interest to supporters who don’t support Brisbane. The Bennett factor is enormous, and if they happen to get Munster, even more so. I think it will come down to who they sign. They will need to be competitive, at least to acquire a decent fan base.”
  24. “1. True two-way social media engagement. Don’t just post messages, respond to good quality fan input. 2. Show the team “behind the scenes” – membership team, guy who puts the jerseys out each game day, groundskeeper preparing the field. US teams do a great job of this with little docos. 3. Try and take some ideas from MiLB – Cap Days , bobble-heads, etc 4. Have the game day atmosphere start outside the stadium, food trucks, bands playing, mascot greeting fans before they enter the ground 5. Don’t assume people will know or seek out match info- I think the Dolphins need to promote themselves on radio, posters, buses, billboards with a distinctive ‘brand’ that’s not a cookie cutter NRL style 6. Really engage with supporters group(s). Work with them to harness their passion in the stadium. Work to give them priority seating, materials etc. 7. Run a competition for young kids- design a Dolphins t-shirt Winner is produced and sold at the team store. Proceeds to charity.”
  25. “As many others have said, I think they’re making a huge mistake not embracing their local community (ie. Redcliffe, Moreton Bay, even Sunny Coast) and representing them, forming a connection with them…Media wise, they’ll need to be extremely smart (and progressive). So in summary, they have a lot of work to do. All comes down to finding their real identity and investing their energy into developing that. They’ll need to take risks, they’ll need to think outside the box. Time will tell if they can do that.”
  26. “It’s a hard one to answer but when I look at the Dolphins, the way the have done things in in relation to their branding has been pretty front foot forward, bold and impressive. Not associating a particular suburb or city with their name as an example. Selling good looking merchandise such as snap backs you’d see in culture kings or street wear stores, everything down to the font screams ‘Expensive, Luxury’ team. It almost screams NFL or NBA.”
  27. “A team that understands current culture, wants to be modern, fresh and up-to-date. If they continue doing things that in my opinion continue to target the demographic they have by staying in trend, people will just follow.”
  28. “Merch! People want to wear a jersey to support their team, but they want to wear a good looking one. One that tells people around them the type of person they are.”
  29. “They should potentially look at merchandise outside of what typical NRL teams do.. jerseys, cheap produced hats, best and less looking gear.Have a look at the fashion trends around and continue to be a leader in the market. Show other teams that NRL these days is more than just tradies, Lowes gear and sinking xxxx (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But the NRL to me is about families, friends and culture. People want to represent their teams, but they also want to represent who they are. A lot of the teams just go for low hanging fruit in their advertising and are scared to be bold and make a statement saying ‘we’re different’. It’s too easy to sign an NRL mass produced cookie cutter merch deal and let the NRL look after it.”
  30. “Advice from my time working at REDACTED as a new club: generic but hopefully helpful, figure out your Audience and go hard on attracting those types (don’t try to be everything to everybody, try and build traditions from day 1, they all won’t land but some things will, it’s a unique opportunity to track fan milestones from the start, first game certificates and data tracking, don’t do things because the broncos do that, make membership really, really affordable or attractive in year 1 to drive data growth, leverage the derby to help define who you are (WSW and Sydney fc did this really well in year 1, a hero is only as good as the villain type story). They also need to have a name other than the dolphins in my honest opinion”
  31. “The broncos are who they are and all that it encapsulates – friday nights at suncorp, flashy, pressure etc. Having games on saturday or sunday will help. I think they should really embrace being a community club – by embracing those that already are on board. Example: highlight the NRL physio – he is 1000% a dolphins man already and they should make it seem like he is part of a place. The place where we all want to be.”
  32. “For one – more Saturday afternoon or Sunday afternoon games. We usually have magnificent winter days, and people love going to day games. I’m a bit tired of the drunk bogans on a Friday night tbh. Affiliations with junior clubs, reasonably priced family tickets. Really push the family atmosphere mate (I think). I see the peanuts acting up at Broncos games and think I don’t want my kids witnessing this rubbish.”
  33. “I think them having a well known coach and building an impressive roster of team players. I think having a long time until they officially start in the NRL gives time to promote for members. Media exposure has been sparse of late but when Wayne Bennett was announced as coach, it was a buzz for the team and a reason for people to take them seriously.”
  34. “I think the best thing that they can do (that has no cost) is involve fans in the creative process – Jerseys, apparel, social media templates ect. Get fans involved and invested in the club straight away by letting them decide how the club is going to look. First impressions are everything, and if they do it themselves and get it wrong it will be hard to recover. The broncos have such a strangle on Brisbane and the surrounds and the Titans have made good inroads in NSW, so it will be interesting to see how they market to those areas. As I said I think it all comes back to showing that the club offers a unique experience for fans where they can be involved in some decision making”
  35. “Social media playbook. First step is defining your voice. Who are you, what do you stand for, how do you communicate. – If I were them, I’d be taking an edgy, aggressive, upstart tone. Broncos are established. You need to get attention. Think a youngest child mentality. Be the smartass, the one who gets into trouble, the one who is goading their siblings because they want attention. – IMPORTANT to get senior management, coaching staff and players fully on board with this. – Get the players into the community as much as possible. Schools, charity, local business etc. – Set the bar for elite digital content. A new club has the advantage of being new and interesting. Fans of OTHER teams are going to follow them because they want to see how they announce themselves. So bespoke illustration, memes, high quality graphics etc. Be a leader in this space. – Set up “sister” teams/clubs/sports. I don’t know culturally/regionally how this will work, but for example, if you find out Patty Mills is a Dolphins fan, align with Brooklyn and make them your NBA team. They probably won’t have much interest in spending much time on that, but nothing stopping the Dolphins from doing a special graphic for key games, or a graphic jersey concept, or a merchandise collab. – Find ways to needle the Broncos. Think about it….. your fans are going to be Dolphins diehards, or non-Broncos NRL fans who want to see some banter.”
  36. “But some of the things I’d look at doing (based on what clubs are doing overseas) are: – consider e-sports – NRLW team ASAP – Wheelchair team ASAP – No pokies – youth engagement: well publicised event days to engage with local youth – have a clear, demonstrated policy around sustainability/environment – good F&B offering (including appropriate pricing) – active engagement with local charities – good apparel partner: making the kit something that people want to wear, with push into ‘fashion’ Aim is to make the club more than about sport, that people support regardless of the results.”
  37. “I think Dolphins need to come out winning, which is going to be tough on them and they are going to have to be consistent. I think broncos fans have had enough of the up and down of team and getting their hopes up. Although I think 2023 will be a different year for them. If the dolphins come out strong and consistent, I think they will turn a lot of SE QLD sports fans heads.”

Plenty of good thoughts here around identity, brand, fan engagement with a lot more to think about as well.

At the end of the day the most important thing is what happens on the field.

Win games and the fans will come!

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