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AUS LEISURE MAG: The Best In The West: Bankwest Stadium Parramatta Eels NRL Fan Experience Review

The game-day fan experience continues to rapidly evolve on a daily basis with global venues going all out for sports fans through enhancements to areas such as hospitality, seating, catering, technology and accessibility all in an effort to create better fan-friendly destinations and unforgettable experiences as well as further drive new revenue opportunities.

Recent fan experience developments to venues have for instance seen the addition of a craft beer microbrewery at Tottenham Hotspur’s dazzling new stadium in London while Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles focused on a foodies experience for LAFC fans by including concession items from some of the best local chefs and restaurants in LA. Meanwhile, under construction venues such as Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas will feature a retractable roof as part of their climate-controllable venue while Hungary’s new Puskás Arena in Budapest will include a running track perched above the stands with panoramic views over the city. These impressive modern stadium designs are just a few features which highlight that it’s truly never been a more exciting time to be a sports fan as venues around the world constantly seek to improve the fan experience for spectators to get them off the couch and into venues.

Another venue putting fans and the fan experience front and centre on game day through a raft of impressive features is Australia’s latest major venue, Parramatta’s spectacular Bankwest Stadium situated on the banks of the Parramatta River in Western Sydney. In my latest fan experience review here for AUS Leisure I take a look at the impressive NSW Government funded Bankwest Stadium from a recent Parramatta Eels NRL match here to highlight both 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

The fan journey often begins with either the ticket buying experience or with transport to the game and as I began my journey to the venue via a train from Sydney’s Central Station it was instantly impressive to see integrated ticketing in effect with free public transport included as part of every match day ticket. The venue is well serviced by multiple public transport options such as trains, ferries and buses with my train only taking 25 minutes to arrive into the Parramatta Transport Interchange in the Parramatta CBD. It was then just a short walk to the ground through the bustling Church Street precinct that was heavily decorated in Parramatta Eels colours. Navigating the route to a venue can also sometimes be difficult however the addition of bright pink way-finding signage and helpful Transport for NSW support staff provided extra assistance for fans to easily locate the stadium. It was good to see that bike parking racks are also located just out the front of the gates highlighting that there’s multiple ways to access the venue on game days.

Atmosphere

After a seamless entry through the ticket gates, a thorough bag search and an unexpected but very welcome positive greeting from a jovial security guard, I made my way into the ground and was instantly blown away by the incredible views and close proximity that every seat seems to have of the field of play. As kick off approached and the venue was packed with loud and vocal NRL fans, the deafening roars and cheers elevated the noise to an unprecedented atmosphere in an Australian venue. It felt like a wall of sound had been created from the 30,000 fans packed in here so close to the immaculate turf which looked like lush emerald velvet. These thoughts were echoed by Parramatta Eels tragic and Ladies Who League founder Mary Konstantopoulos who stated to me at the match The fan experience is exceptional; you are so close to the action and the roar of the crowd sends chills down your spine. Personally though I also love how the history of the Eels is still reflected in the stadium through the Ray Price Statue and the stands named after Eels legends – it’s a nod to the past whilst providing plenty of hope for the future.”.

Architecture

Venue architect Populous, operators VenuesLive and construction company LendLease have all worked tremendously together to create an outstanding venue that has a variety of clever features such as large open dwell spaces for fans to navigate the concourses and also mingle next to colourful decor that’s still in view of the field. Walking around the venue was easy due to the clear way-finding signs and there is a good use of space inside the concourses with stroller bays for parents to easily park their prams in a secure area under the stands. Outside the stadium there is a kids playground area, basketball court and a street workout gym which all represented a smart use of venue space as well as ensuring that the local community has access to these features whenever they wish. While the venue is very much accessible for all needs, another inclusive approach has been to include unisex toilets which is just another way venues are thinking about looking after all of their spectators and making sure they feel valued on game day.

Seating

Bankwest Stadium CEO Daryl Kerry stated that “This is a stadium that was designed and built for the fans with the event experience front of mind and it’s clear that one of the many highlights of the rectangular seating design of the venue is that every spectator feels so close to the action on the field that they can almost reach out and grab the turf from their seats. It became apparent pretty quickly as I criss-crossed my way around the venue that there’s not a bad seat in the house with the views of the field simply breathtaking no matter where you are seated. The high back seats are also spacious and comfortable while the seat rake means you’re pretty much on top of the action and with the atmosphere pumping throughout the day you feel as though you’re much more apart of the spectacle than in other grounds.  

F&B

Upon checking out the concession outlets and kiosks inside the venue, it was evident that Bankwest Stadium has listened to sports fans as there are a host of clever catering additions and incentives here that already have fans singing the venue’s praises. For instance, game day essentials like sauce and beer trays are free, Bankwest cardholders get 10% off concession items while fan first pricing is in effect with seven key food items like pies and hot chips available for under $5. Moreover, the cost of beer here is closest to the cheapest in any Australian sporting venue starting at $6.50 and even includes craft options such as Furphy and Little Creatures brews which will appease beer drinkers

It was positive to see a focus on sustainability to reduce waste with biodegradable cutlery available instead of plastic and that the venue had researched and identified the changing consumer habits and needs of fans with both quality vegan and gluten free food options all available for fans to purchase. As stadium F&B options continue to improve globally for fans it was exciting to see the focus on flavours that reflected the diversity of the local Western Sydney community as all fans tastes have been catered for through the addition of the ‘High Street’ speciality concession outlets that featured everything from Chinese and BBQ meals to seafood and health food dishes which all looked substantial and delicious when I surveyed the outlets before kick off.

Technology

From the crisp and vocal sound coming through the new PA system to the super fast free Wi-Fi, Bankwest Stadium utilises an impressive array of modern technology that’s both interactive and immersive for fans to experience.

The first things to notice when entering the grandstands is how much clearer the sound is from the speakers while the eye-catching and colourful LED ribbons and HD screens create a thrilling tribal atmosphere as they flash out team hype reels and sponsor content across the stands. Sports business leaders TLA Australia and Game Changer MVP have been responsible for revolutionising the match day experience at BankWest Stadium through the in-game fan engagement and entertainment with TLA Australia Head of Events and Consultancy, James Ward, saying “Through our collaboration with Game Changer MVP we are combining global expertise with local knowledge and experience to deliver some amazing content for fans at Bankwest Stadium’.

Across the day I used close to 5GB of data with ease on the stadium network with no drop outs or re-sign while the Parramatta’s screen content and entertainment was electrifying and had the fans in the stands pumped up throughout the match. The Sport LED lighting is also going to be impressive to see here as the lights can be turned on and off with ease for synchronised light and sound shows.

Fan Engagement

With just three games in for the venue, hirers are still finding their feet with how to make use of the space however the Parramatta Eels put on a first class display for fan engagement by providing activities for fans like a photo booth, face painting and even a living statue artist dressed in Eels colours which was a new one to the fan engagement photo opportunity ideas book. The Eels members bar was also a highlight of the venue where Blue and Gold Army Eels members were able to mingle together in their own dedicated fan space that was decorated in Parra livery.

Hospitality

Having canvassed the concourse and general seating areas, I made my way around to the Western Stand to inspect the corporate hospitality facilities of which on first look seemed there appeared to be an abundance of diverse premium options for guests. While there are indeed plenty of quality lounges, suites and clubs providing both private and premium experiences for networking and dining with gourmet F&B and spectacular views right on top of the field, the jewel in the hospitality crown at Bankwest Stadium is the exclusive and exciting ‘Field Club’. This ‘money cant buy experience’ located at the edge of the playing field allows guests to see the players warming up before they walk through the Field Club and onto the ground which combined with the outstanding views brings patrons so incredibly close to the action like never before.

From the diversity in F&B and the smart architectural design to the unique hospitality and the immersive tech, Bankwest Stadium is a spectacular venue that sets a very high bar for the sports fan experience. This is a world class fan first venue and all stakeholders from the NSW Government down should be applauded for the attention to detail that has gone into its creation as well as the focus on going the extra mile for fans with all the little touches. A Bankwest Stadium game day is an essential bucket list visit for any sports fan and one can only hope that Australian venues continue to put fans and improvements to the fan experience front of mind and look to this venue when creating new event spaces.

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.

ABC Radio Interview: Fun Police Curbing Sport Fan Behaviour? (21/6/19)

A riveting chat with security personnel and fans from across Australia.

Talking about the current AFL fan and crowd issues, security, behaviour awareness officers and more.

Listen in here: https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/overnights/fun-police-curbing-sport-fan-behaviour/11233648

The Top Aussie Craft Brewery Beer Gear List and Top Tips For Craft Beer Merchandising

If it’s one thing I enjoy most about the global craft beer community, it’s getting out on the open road and checking out our breweries across the country and overseas. I’ve had the opportunity to take in craft breweries in places like India, USA, England, Japan and all over Australia and the one thing that never lets them down is their emphasis on supporting their local communities and the fact that they all seem to love what they do too as they seem to come across as positive people always up for a chat.

Tasting the diverse selection of beers, meeting the staff, learning about their local community and then grabbing some merchandise to take home and promote these breweries is what I and I bet you love to do too. There’s something special and valuable about supporting local businesses and being loyal to your local community and by buying some beers or in this case beer gear it goes a long way to promoting and spreading the good gospel of that brewery, having some nice gear to wear or use as well as supporting that particular local community.

This article was one I’ve been thinking about doing for a while. Whenever I travel to breweries I always love checking out the merch or gift shop to see the tee designs, the interesting accessories and the take home beer selections. I mean who doesn’t like a good gift shop anywhere right!

However I’m often let down by poor designs, run of the mill logos on black tee’s, same old same old accessories and of course…..stock standard logos on stubby coolers. Unfortunately it’s quite often boring, poorly designed without a graphic designer, doesn’t fit with their audience, unoriginal, doesn’t work with the logo or colours and just looks like it could be a heck of a lot better. It’s important to note that merch is always a secondary thing as these are local businesses with staff doing a thousand jobs all subject to budgets and resources and of course demand from consumers. However for breweries it is also important to keep in mind that there’s craft beer geeks out there who want to buy your beer merch, want to buy quality designs and want to buy creative and unique items to be able to promote you. Harness the power of these craft beer fans and put the effort and quality into your craft beer merchandise. Beer geeks and brewery visitors will love it and it will result in sales.

Here are some simple tips for craft beer merchandising:

  • Use a qualified graphic designer.
  • Understand your audience and craft brewery demographics and target those audiences.
  • Use a graphic designer working or who has experience working with craft beer/breweries/beer world
  • Think about artist collaborations especially with local artists in your community.
  • Seasonal merch ranges are important. Think winter/summer.
  • Get creative with merch. Think funky, unique, creative design and merch ideas.
  • Always have a gift voucher option available. Did you know Blockbuster RIP invented the gift card too? Read more about the benefits and history of gift vouchers here and here.
  • Think about your female fans and ensure you get items like tee’s in female sizes.
  • Don’t discount kids/baby merch. Parents will grab these as will others to use as gifts.
  • Think local. Who can you get involved in your local community to work with.
  • Think about what beer fans/consumers actually need or want as merchandise.
  • Have an online ecommerce merch shop. You’re missing out on 24/7 sales otherwise. Top shelf website design and UX is an absolute must as well.
  • Have the merch visible and well presented in a stand in your brewery.
  • Have stickers available to either give out or to sell to people.

Take the topic of stickers for instance. Every brewery I go to I always ask to grab a sticker to slap on my LandCruiser and promote the breweries wherever I go. Now when breweries don’t have one available for free or to even sell me as part of their merch range, I think to myself you’ve just missed a huge opportunity for someone to promote you for free.

Case in point, a few months back I was in the Gold Coast region and went into one new brewery to try their brews. At the end of the pour in a taproom with no one else in it I politely asked if I could have a sticker and was rudely and aggressively denied one because they weren’t for sale (also the oddest customer service brewery experience in 2019 so far!). That’s totally fine but that brewery is missing out on an opportunity to allow people to easily promote them….FOR FREE! A roll of quality stickers are inexpensive and can be used as merch, as giveaways at festivals and for all manner of other purposes to promote your brewery.

In a country of 550 competing breweries where having a point of difference and standing out has become even more vital (especially in crowded markets) there has never been a more important time to understand your audiences, highlight and up-sell your USP’s to customers and simply give your beer fans what they’re after. Having a sticker is something so simple to create that will go a long way in terms of promotion and marketing, positive engagement with beer geeks as well as being an easy revenue opportunity. Don’t overthink it, just do it.

So while recently scanning about 200 odd of the 500+ craft breweries in Australia I decided to do an analysis of their merch stores and was surprised by a heap of genius merch ideas and quality designs.

Here’s my selection (in no particular order) for what are some of the smartest, most creative, useful and interesting merchandise ideas from Australia’s craft breweries (well about half of them anyway!).

  1. Balter Lorikeet cap, beer opener and beer duffle.

2. Capital Brewing Cap

3. Newstead Brewing Co Beer Money gift voucher

4. BeerFarm Mug 

5. Hop Nation beer glasses

6. Stomping Ground Beer Dealer Cooler/Koozie 

7. Philter Brewing ‘Seductively Beer’ cap

8. Fixation Hop Tee 

9. Kaiju Beer Women’s Meta Hop tee, beach towel and ‘Hip Hops’ trading cards!

10. Young Henry’s enamel pins

11. Black Hops crew socks

12. Gage Roads x Jamie Browne collab hat/tee

13. Land & Sea Brewery ‘The Canimal’….ok so it’s a tinnie but their designs are damn fine and I had to include a beer on this list as we all take one of them home from our brewery visits!

14. Moon Dog Summer Survival Pack that includes Old Mate Pale Ale, Love Tap Lager, Beer Can, sunnies, stubby holder and some sweet sweatbands!

15. Stone and Wood Ingredients Tee. The old faithful. I’ve had about 3 of these over the last 10 years or so.

16. 3 Ravens ‘Juicy Tee’. Just hot! 

17. Boat Rocker RamJet gift set. Smart idea at a good price!

 

So there you have a very one sided, beer geek biased, personally chosen list of what I think are some clever merch ideas from our great Aussie craft breweries. It might not be to everyone’s liking but there’s lots of ideas to like here and plenty to get colleagues thinking about what might work for their audiences and beer fans at their brewery. However, as always with my work if you have seen something that should be added to the list or something that’s worth talking about then please touch base and I’ll take a squizz and give it a shout out. 

Thanks for reading.

Blair Hughes

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 here at
www.MrBlairHughes.com (I’m also brand ambassador at Two Bays Brewing Co running events and sales- come say hi at an event or the taproom sometime!)

 

Putting Fan Engagement to the Test: Blair Hughes Experiences how Cricket Australia put fans first during the 2019 Sri Lanka Cricket Test at the Gabba Brisbane’

Across the globe the sports business continues to face many challenges to get bums back into stadium seats both as a result of the competition from the at-home TV experience and new leisure activities combined with the fact that audiences have evolved and are seeking more bang for their buck on game days.

To combat this, teams and venues are constantly creating innovative fan engagement solutions that are seeing positive outcomes for all stakeholders. Whether it be technological advancements such as Manchester City’s augmented reality game day program, the proliferation of craft beer amongst venues concession offerings or Celtic FC initiating the inclusive approach of providing female fans with free sanitary products at Celtic Park, the in-venue fan experience globally continues to be rapidly transformed and enhanced for supporters on match day.

One example of a sporting organization who are reaping the rewards of following a fan first approach is Cricket Australia whose events have consistently demonstrated best practice fan engagement which has afforded cricket fans with exceptional experiences that go above and beyond, particularly with regards to unique money can’t buy activations. This fan experience review of the recent first test match from Brisbane will therefore provide an insight into Cricket Australia’s approach to fan engagement and explore the lessons that other sporting organisations and venues can learn to ensure that all patrons have a positive game day fan experience.

Transport

Starting and ending the fan journey seamlessly is integral to a positive fan experience and it’s something that Cricket Australia and Stadiums Queensland, through The Gabba, do very well as all fans are entitled to free public transport to and from the ground on Cricket Australia match days. Taking advantage of this I boarded a Council bus at 11am from the suburban outskirts of Brisbane that took me all the way up to the front gates of the famous cricket ground in turn saving $5.80 on transport costs. As a result of this integrated transport ticket offer, fans were able to enjoy a clean, air-conditioned and fast ride to and from the ground with ease while also saving some money which is always a quality way to start any match day.

Event Presentation

Arriving at the Gabba 90 minutes before the first ball on what was a typically hot and humid Brisbane summer’s day it was instantly impressive to see the fan zone set up complete with it’s pumping atmosphere and colourful event presentation that featured Cricket Australia branded test match banners that were adorning the Gabba gates.

Security

Security personnel are often the first match day event staff that fans interact with when entering the venue so it is vital that a positive interaction sets the tone for a fan having an enjoyable experience and this was evident at The Gabba on this occasion. In this heightened security climate it was good to see that the event was well aware of not making this feel like a ‘security event’ as fans were greeted with a friendly smile, welcome and hello from security staff who were present at the gates wanding down patrons and checking fans bags before entry.

Technology

On the technology front both Cricket Australia’s ‘Matchday’ app and Stadiums Queensland’s ‘MegaFan’ app provided fans coming to the game with all the information they needed with handy fan experience features including venue maps, live transport timetables and seating views to video replays of key moments and score updates from the game all of which helped to ensure a positive experience for every fan.

Fan Engagement

Cricket Australia places a large emphasis on fan engagement with regular quirky trivia questions on the big screens as well as a sideline-seating feature, which sees a roving group of lucky fans selected to sit in their own exclusive section on the field behind the boundary ropes. The addition of the roving face painting ‘Colour Crew’ was also a clever feature of the game day fan engagement offering that enabled them to move around the ground and paint the faces of Australian and Sri Lankan fans throughout the day.

The centerpiece of the fan engagement offering here however is the impressively presented “Cricket Australia Pool Deck” which represents a unique fan experience in terms of the atmosphere and excitement that it generates for fans.

Designed in conjunction with sports agency TLA Worldwide, the “Pool Deck” activation allows close to 500 fans over the course of the day to cool off in the pool and sees fans first sign a safety waiver at the registration desk where they are presented with a free tropical towel to use as well as a wristband before they enter the pool’s sparkling water to cool off and enjoy an unrivalled view to take in the action on the field.

TLA’s senior account manager Cameron McFarlane noted that “Cricket Australia’s plan with the pool was to appeal to new and existing fans, giving them another reason to attend matches at the Gabba, creating an exceptional experience that would reward the existing fan base as well as creating memorable experiences for new audiences at the cricket. The tiered seating and shaded lounge chairs result in the best seats in the house, aligning with Cricket Australia’s strategy to facilitate social interaction for fans to enjoy throughout their day at the cricket in an accessible environment.”

The little touches were also evident everywhere in the “Pool Deck” with exquisite event presentation and fan experience features including abundant shaded areas and tables, deckchairs, tropical plants and colourful cushions, sunscreen, phone charging and most importantly the incredible views from the deck which are quite simply right up there as the best spot to watch a game from in at any Australian stadium.

Community

As a result of a devastating dought affecting many parts of the country especially in Queensland it was inspiring to see the focus that Cricket Australia put on raising awareness and vital funds for drought stricken farmers especially as the annual Brisbane test match attracts so many people from the bush. The rural focus included volunteers collecting donations for Rural Aid, a mechanical bull ride for kids of all ages to have a ride on as well as a live site that featured a giant TV screen and numerous hay bales for fans to sit on all of which made for a pleasant family friendly feel outside the ground. Even more impressive to hear after the test match was that Cricket Australia repurposed 25,000L of water from the pool to a Queensland dairy farm that had been affected by severe drought.

Hospitality

Cricket Australia’s test match hospitality offering at the Gabba leaves other sporting codes in its wake with a variety of options available to entertain fans at the match. An example of this is ‘The Century Lounge’ fan experience in the Gabba’s Legends Room which was an exceptional experience not least for its delectable culinary offering but also because of the creative and useful gifts that each attendee received. In a sporting world where sponsor’s fan engagement activations are often cheap and useless items that are given away to fans it was impressive to see that the focus on quality and creativity with fans here receiving wood framed sunglasses, a test match wool kit stubby cooler as well as a Cricket Australia branded USB phone battery charger all of which were both memorable and bound to be reused again and again by these cricket fans.

Food and Beverage

While the Gabba faces increasing pressure from fans to upgrade its facilities to rival other Australian venues, it was positive to see the new additions and diverse range of gourmet food and beverages which were on sale some of which included an Asian food cart selling dim sims and pork buns as well as the new Gourmet Grill that offered vegetarian curries, pork belly burgers and loaded fries. Chilled slushies and fruit smoothies kept fans cool while the ‘Parma for a Farmer’ chicken parmigiana meal deal was a creative and effective community minded approach to raise funds for Queensland’s drought affected farmers.

The Extra Touches

With sunscreen often being expensive, forgotten to be brought in to the stadium or even applied by fans in the first place it was good to see that both Cricket Australia and the Gabba are always putting its fans first as free sunscreen stations were scattered throughout the ground to ensure that fans were protected from the sun’s harsh over a long hot day one at this test match.

Cricket Australia’s test match experience at The Gabba highlights an exceptional example of best practice fan experience that delivers consistency, value and quality in every facet not least as a result of it’s creative fan engagement activations, community initiatives, hospitality options, addition of smart extra touches as well as simply providing fans with the key information that they need to have a positive experience at the venue on match days.

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 Lions and The Gabba’s ‘The Verandah’ Fan Experience

Across the globe major venues and sporting teams are constantly working on enhancing the fan experience for sports fans to deliver them extra bang for their hard-earned buck on game day. Whether it be from gourmet food options at MetLife Stadium, sensory rooms at Watford FC’s Vicarage Road or Celtic Park providing free sanitary products for female fans, the fan experience is an integral part of major events that these stakeholders are focussing more deeply on improving.

It’s an arms race between venues as areas like food and beverage, technology, fan engagement and amenities improve in an effort to better service fans at the venue, increase revenue through unique new opportunities and overall make fans feel more valued. One particular area of the fan experience that has seen a large focus in recent times has been the addition of social seating spaces that provide fans with incredible views, gourmet food and drink options and unique experiences with examples ranging from Yankee Stadium’s ‘Judge’s Chambers’, The SCG beach, TIAA Bank Field’s cabana pool and The MCG’s ‘The Lawn’. A recent addition to this list is also the Brisbane Lions’ outstanding ‘The Verandah presented by Hyundai’ exclusive space which is back for it’s second year at The Gabba.

I took in the Lions match against West Coast Eagles and ‘The Verandah’ experience on Saturday night and was very impressed with this authentically Queensland space that is offering fans a unique new way to watch a Lions game in an unrivalled position on a purpose built veranda at the base of the eastern end of the ground’s goal posts.

First impressions are extremely vital however the well-presented area exceeded my expectations and was alive with tropical Queensland vibes and colour as soon as I entered. The addition of comfy bean bags, sun lounges and chairs all enabled fans to grab a front row spot with superior views of the action as the Lions ran away with the match in the opening round.

The atmosphere in The Verandah was pumping throughout the night as people protected their cups of ice-cold beverages when the goals continued to rain in from the Lions. It’s a very relaxed vibe too so while it attracts the Instagram crowd of people who want to be seen, jerseys are also encouraged, as are shorts, as it was a particularly humid night in Brisbane so this is certainly an inclusive space where every fan is made to feel welcome.

A distinctively styled open air space like this is another example of how to both attract new fans to a Lions game at the Gabba as well as delight and entertain existing Lions in a fun social space with the best seats in the house. This is truly a fan experience that is worth taking in at a Lions game and represents exceptional value for money for fans, as it’s only $70 per ticket or $40 for a member upgrade.

At the end of the day a happy fan is a fan who has had a seamless and enjoyable fan journey and feels valued by stakeholders for attending the match day, therefore venues and teams are consistently applying positive and exciting new approaches that puts the fan and the fan experience front and centre. The Lions and the Gabba have created a fun, entertaining and colourful space here to attract new fans which other venues and teams should take a closer look at in an effort to attract new audiences and delight existing fans.

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.

Macquarie Sports Radio Interview: Does Blair Hughes Have The Best Job In The World? (16/3/2019)

Radio interview with the Macquarie Sports Radio team back in March.

No I don’t have the best job in the world or in sport but I’m happy and have put myself out there over the years to create experiences, learn new skills and meet people all over the world. Everything I’ve done in my life across sport, education, digital and the music industry to now loving life working in craft beer has been about experiences, learning, networking and trying new things.

Anyone can get out and do what I’ve done. It’s nothing special. I’m nothing special. I’m lucky with what I’ve been able to achieve and there’s still a lot more I want to do. I love meeting people, learning and trying to challenge myself. My legacy is that I want to be able to sit down with heaps of grandkids one day and recite all the amazing experiences I’ve had and be proud of that. If people like what I do or learn something small from me then thats a bonus. 

Thanks for listening and supporting me.

Interview here: https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/overnights/fun-police-curbing-sport-fan-behaviour/11233648

 

Froth Beer Magazine: Fanning The Flames

Previously in Froth Magazine I have highlighted the emergence of commercial partnerships between Australian craft breweries and the sports business to illustrate how this particular fan engagement initiative is driving deeper emotional loyalty between sports fans, craft breweries and our local communities along with enhancing the game day fan experience across the country. Collaborations for instance between Newstead Brewing and the NBL’s Brisbane Bullets with their ‘Ale-y Oop’ beer along with the increasing availability of craft beer in our sporting venues such as Gage Roads brews now at Optus Stadium in Perth emphasize the positive outcomes and benefits that can be achieved for all stakeholders when a focus on fan engagement is applied.

With the ever expanding and competitive market place of the Australian craft beer industry it is now more than ever vitally important that craft breweries understand and engage their fans and local communities with creative, memorable and authentic marketing strategies in order to secure their long term success. This article will therefore look at a cross section of Australian craft breweries to showcase the successful fan engagement strategies that some are using to turn craft beer fans into hardcore brand ambassadors and what other craft breweries around Australia can learn from these initiatives to acquire new fans.

The term ‘fan engagement’ is a buzz marketing phrase that’s become synonymous within the sports business as a result of a number of current global challenges it faces such as from the increasing competition from other leisure activities and the rising costs of attending matches. Consequently, teams and venues have put an emphasis on putting ‘fans first’ by implementing fan engagement strategies that involve everything from offering cheaper pricing on food and beverages, creating innovative tech driven fan zone activations to more simply improving customer service to ensure that fans are given more bang for their buck on game days.

Best practice fan engagement involves being consistent, effectively listening to your fans needs as well as providing them with a sense of ownership so that they can express their love for a brand and it’s these principles of fan engagement which are readily transferable to a number of industries especially the craft beer world. It’s clear from the brief snapshot of the craft breweries showcased below that while the Australian craft beer industry faces it’s own issues, breweries are successfully implementing impressive fan engagement initiatives around their local communities that are helping to win over new fans.

From diverse sponsorship and community initiatives to loyalty programs and creative content marketing, craft breweries across Australia are engaging fans in clever and outstanding ways that deserve to be showcased so here’s a round up of what’s happening at a brewery near you across the country.

Starting with Queensland craft breweries and Black Hops are going the extra mile for their fans by producing a podcast and book as well as having established a successful crowd funding campaign that led to their ambassador group growing to over 1,000 members. Putting their fans well and truly first Black Hops are even making a beer this month that is a collaboration brewed with some of their most hardcore customers. Meanwhile Burleigh Brewing have set up a huge outdoor cinema to screen classic films over summer while Range Brewing ran a non-perishable food drive over Christmas to help out their community.

There’s plenty happening in New South Wales with Stone and Wood finding great success with their inGrained Foundation that supports grassroots environmental and social charities in the local areas where their fans live and work while they took a fan first approach with their brewery as it was inspired by the idea of creating a village brewery that would be a meeting place to bring people together. Stone and Wood’s marketing manager Jasmin Daly further highlights that ‘meeting the people behind the brewery can give people a new level of depth and appreciation. For us it also allows us to receive feedback and personally connect. Having these real and authentic experiences humanises the brand or business.’

In Sydney Batch Brewing have brewed beers inspired by the local community such as the ‘Marrickville Pork Roll’ beer which was brewed with ingredients from a famous pork roll shop in the area while Canberra’s Bentspoke Brewing are conscious that it’s not just about the paying customer with their marketing coordinator Tash Shan stating that ‘their brewpub is an important place for beer drinkers to road test new brews and grow the connection and engagement between our fans, brand and reach new craft beer lovers’. Bentspoke like many other Australian craft breweries have also both partnered with major sporting teams and donate their spent grain back to farmers in an effort to further engage with their community.

Another craft brewer that’s huge on fan and community engagement is Wayward Brewing with initiatives such as ‘Craft for a Cause ’ raising funds for a local charity through the brewing of a special beer while their love for their fans furry friends extends to allowing pups on the premises with their #DogsOfWayward also haven taken on a life of it’s own amongst Wayward fans as it showcases fans and their dogs from the local community. Wayward’s creative director Faye White explains further “We love thinking up fresh and exciting ways to engage our fans at Wayward. It is also so important to us that we give back to the community that gives us so much loyalty and support”. 

 Down in Victoria and Venom Brewing add an element of fun to their marketing by running games like tinnie toss and having a prize wheel to entertain fans at their promotional events while Burnley Brewing host events such as trivia nights, offer weekly merchandise giveaways on social and also run free brewery tours and tastings every Monday which is a brilliant way to showcase their beers to local residents. Another brewing company who greatly understand the importance of listening to and engaging with their fans is Two Birds Brewing who as co-founder Danielle Allen states “We’ve had many fans from all over Australia who have supported us from the get go and are a part of our story. We’ll never forget that, and in turn we do our best to keep them engaged by offering giveaways, a loyalty program at our tasting room The Two Birds Nest (we call them Frequent Flyers!), and we listen to suggestions on new beers and what they want from us. It’s actually how Taco became part of our permanent lineup – our fans asked and we listened!”.

Stomping Ground are another Victorian brewery who have done plenty of good things in the community with their Pridelweiss and Movember brew initiatives having collectively raised close to $200,000 and they’ve also put a big focus on catering for families at their beer hall by creating a cubby house and colouring in menu to keep kids and families entertained. Lastly, Hop Nation continues to grow their fan base through local community initiatives by sponsoring local sports teams, schools and kindergartens and recently made a collaboration beer ‘The Patron’ with the Footscray Historical Society.

The focus on engaging with the local community continues further south with Tasmania’s Moo Brew sponsoring a range of events including charity balls, local art exhibitions and live music because as marketing manager Tim Dudgeon notes ‘supporting our local community is key in developing our grass roots following. Doing so helps to build equity in the brand and familiarity with our product range. It also is a form of inspiration for us, enabling us to stay in touch with our core customers and learn from their experiences with our products.Skipping north west across to South Australia and Prancing Pony are also big supporters of emerging local artists and showcase live music and exhibitions at their brewery with CEO and co-founder Corinna Steeb stating that by ‘working closely with the local community we can make sure that we’re building a healthy and prosperous community for everyone around us’.

Finally over to Western Australia and Black Brewing have recently launched their new venue ‘Caves Road Collective’ where they’ve brought together their partners Dune Distilling and Ground to Cloud Wines all under one roof to showcase the three disciplines of brewing, distilling and winemaking combined with the amazing food from the gorgeous Margaret River region. Fellow West Australian brewer, Gage Roads is also supportive of their community’s grass roots events and has sponsored local art shows, concerts, musicians and films and recently sponsored a group of local surfers to create a surf documentary about their pilgrimage to a secret spot in Western Australia’s north-west.

It’s evident from the examples listed above that these craft breweries along with the vast majority of Australia’s craft brewers are successfully finding positive outcomes that are driving deeper connections between their fans and local areas by implementing fan engagement strategies and ‘fan first’ approaches to their marketing. Now all that’s left to do as craft beer fans ourselves is to continue getting out and about to support our local craft breweries to continue this positive success for the craft beer industry.

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 Lions and The Gabba’s ‘The Verandah’ Fan Experience

Brisbane Lions and The Gabba’s ‘The Verandah’ Fan Experience

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Across the globe major venues and sporting teams are constantly working on enhancing the fan experience for sports fans to deliver them extra bang for their hard-earned buck on game day. Whether it be from gourmet food options at MetLife Stadium, sensory rooms at Watford FC’s Vicarage Road or Celtic Park providing free sanitary products for female fans, the fan experience is an integral part of major events that these stakeholders are focussing more deeply on improving.

It’s an arms race between venues as areas like food and beverage, technology, fan engagement and amenities improve in an effort to better service fans at the venue, increase revenue through unique new opportunities and overall make fans feel more valued. One particular area of the fan experience that has seen a large focus in recent times has been the addition of social seating spaces that provide fans with incredible views, gourmet food and drink options and unique experiences with examples ranging from Yankee Stadium’s ‘Judge’s Chambers’, The SCG beach, TIAA Bank Field’s cabana pool and The MCG’s ‘The Lawn’. A recent addition to this list is also the Brisbane Lions’ outstanding ‘The Verandah presented by Hyundai’ exclusive space which is back for it’s second year at The Gabba.

I took in the Lions match against West Coast Eagles and ‘The Verandah’ experience on Saturday night and was very impressed with this authentically Queensland space that is offering fans a unique new way to watch a Lions game in an unrivalled position on a purpose built veranda at the base of the eastern end of the ground’s goal posts.

First impressions are extremely vital however the well-presented area exceeded my expectations and was alive with tropical Queensland vibes and colour as soon as I entered. The addition of comfy bean bags, sun lounges and chairs all enabled fans to grab a front row spot with superior views of the action as the Lions ran away with the match in the opening round.

The atmosphere in The Verandah was pumping throughout the night as people protected their cups of ice-cold beverages when the goals continued to rain in from the Lions. It’s a very relaxed vibe too so while it attracts the Instagram crowd of people who want to be seen, jerseys are also encouraged, as are shorts, as it was a particularly humid night in Brisbane so this is certainly an inclusive space where every fan is made to feel welcome.

A distinctively styled open air space like this is another example of how to both attract new fans to a Lions game at the Gabba as well as delight and entertain existing Lions in a fun social space with the best seats in the house. This is truly a fan experience that is worth taking in at a Lions game and represents exceptional value for money for fans, as it’s only $70 per ticket or $40 for a member upgrade.

At the end of the day a happy fan is a fan who has had a seamless and enjoyable fan journey and feels valued by stakeholders for attending the match day, therefore venues and teams are consistently applying positive and exciting new approaches that puts the fan and the fan experience front and centre. The Lions and the Gabba have created a fun, entertaining and colourful space here to attract new fans which other venues and teams should take a closer look at in an effort to attract new audiences and delight existing fans.

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.

The F&B Fan Experience: 100+ Ideas and Incentives To Improve The Game Day Fan Experience

G’day, 

Please find another one of my latest resources with this one touching on some ideas, trends, strategies, innovations and incentives that teams and stadiums can use to enhance the food and beverage (F&B) fan experience on game day. 

The list provides 100+ tips, tricks, ideas and incentives that will be useful to grassroots and global teams and of which have already proven successful for many stakeholders in this space. 

If you would like a hand understanding any of these concepts or ideas please feel free to touch base and I will be happy to assist you or point you in the right direction for more information.

As always this is about education in the sports business so feel free to download, print and share with your colleagues and please also let me know if you tried something and saw a successful outcome as I would love to hear that and be able to showcase those outcomes for you.

The list ranges from ideas and incentives that are across the spectrum of areas during and before the fan journey starts and range from F&B incentives to the changing diets and tastes of sports fans and even some quirky random ideas in between too.

Remember that it’s always important to look outside the box and get a bit creative when it comes to the food and beverage fan experience.

All the best and touch base if you need anything as I’m always happy to assist.

Please find a downloadable PDF file here: THE F&B FAN EXPERIENCE

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