After the conclusion of the third and final deciding State of Origin match on 28th November 2020 I did a live cross interview to BBC London to talk about the COVID restrictions at the game and how the event was managed. I did one call while still at the game as the siren had just sounded on another Queensland series win while I did another quick cross on the walk back to my house at 11pm
I was recently sent the audio to both add to my site here but also for my own personal record as it will be something interesting to look back on down the track especially considering when you think about where Australia was at this point in time compared to the rest of the world (this match was the biggest crowd since the pandemic began) and then subsequently what played out only a few months later in Australia due to the total incompetence and poor leadership of our pathetic Liberal Government. Well it’s true….
Link to blog post from the match: https://mrblairhughes.com/state-of-origin-iii-queensland-vs-nsw-suncorp-stadium-brisbane-18-11-2020/
Outstanding fan experience at the The Gabba for the Cricket Australia test match on day 1 and 5.
I took my daughter Ramona Josie along for her first ever game day on day 5 as it was free with a donation to the Movember charity. A moment I will cherish forever!
A fantastic day and a highlight of my sports calendar to head along to the test, especially on day 1 as I never miss this day.
Grateful to be able to attend and impressed by all the covid safety messaging and notices as well as the ushers and staff being helpful and well trained around these tricky new event day experiences for fans.
Well done to the stadium, staff, Stadiums Queensland, teams, Queensland Government and fans for all doing the right thing with masks and covid safety
2020. What a year!
On my walks and rides this year I decided to document life in Brisbane city and around the suburbs especially as it was so quiet out and about.
Many of the photos below are from lockdown in Brisbane from late March to May. I would cycle or walk near my home in the early morning each day and capture life as I went by to later look back on this period of life in Brisbane.
I headed out to the Brisbane Lions AFL – Australian Football League match last night at The Gabba in Brisbane and was mighty impressed by the hard working Lions and venue staff who put on a stellar show keeping fans safe during these crazy COVID times in the sports business.
I thought it’d be a good idea to document with my camera as many interesting angles of the game day fan journey back at the Gabba for a Lions game during this COVID period to look back on down the track too.
With so many folks losing their roles across the globe I also think it’s important more than ever that we give thanks to the security guards, the ticket ushers, the F&B staff, cleaners and club land folks….staying positive, saying thanks, it all goes a long way in any industry really and helps us stick together and get through this together.
Great win by the Lions too.
It’ll be good to have the Grand Final at the Gabba 😉
Here are some snaps from the game day out at the Gabba.
10,000 fans were allowed back on the night for the NRL game.
Train to the game. Chelmer station to Milton station. Free transport still on offer for fans here heading the game.
Note the clear communications around ticket conditions for the COVID19 plan on this game day.
The march to the stadium from the station. Not as vocal as usual but grateful and lucky to be back here.
Ticketing. Paper PDFs or mobile ticketing only. Gates open only from 45 minutes before kick off.
F&B. Cashless/card only. Line markings. Social distancing maintained and respected by fans. Speed was fast to be served. Staff friendly and good on them for being back too. They need this for jobs as well.
Seating. Strictly only allowed to use the 2 seats you were able to purchase and must keep 1.5m away from each other. Must remain within the zone allocated on your ticket.
Hand sanitizer stations abundant throughout the venue.
Well done to all of the staff from the Broncos membership team to the venue staff and everyone else in between who put this on for fans with only a few day’s notice. Huge respect for that team work.
A quick chat with 3AW Radio about the NRL/AFL return and fan engagement.
Footy fans are being encouraged to get creative as the codes return over the coming weeks.
Tom Elliott spoke with fan engagement specialist Blair Hughes about the matter on Thursday, ahead of the NRL’s return.
He’s set up his own stadium in his shed at home.
Click PLAY below to hear more on 3AW
Cowboys New Home Musters Community Excitement in North Queensland
It’s the dawn of a new era and the atmosphere is buzzing in Townsville as the NRL’s North Queensland Cowboys and local region hosts the inaugural sporting event at Australia’s newest major venue, Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
Built by North Queenslanders for North Queenslanders in a home-grown effort involving the Queensland and Australian Government’s, Townsville City Council and close to 500 local businesses, the $290M world-class facility represents a proud moment for the city. Having experienced rough times in recent years, the new stadium acts as a catalyst for economic rejuvenation and urban regeneration and from experiencing this first hand it is clearly revitalising the local community and surrounding regions.
Standing on the Wulgurukaba traditional owners land in the heart of the Townsville CBD, here is my latest review where I highlight the impressive features of Queensland Country Bank Stadium and the Cowboys game day fan experience on what was a rollercoaster ride day for the nation and sports fans alike due to the unprecedented Coronavirus concerns that very nearly saw this opening event called off.
Arriving early at the venue on a scorching hot Friday afternoon to do a pre-game walk around, it was clear from first impressions that the venue exudes a uniquely North Queensland identity which has been designed with the fan experience at the forefront.
The North Queensland Cowboys fan first approach starts well before the match as I joined hundreds of fans in the first ever ‘Cowboys Stampede’ march to the stadium from the Cowboys Leagues club which was an exciting experience on the night and a tradition that looks set to continue on game days into the future.
The pre-game fan engagement continues outside the ground as fans can experience the ‘Captain’s Walk’ where names of Cowboys legends and supporters are etched into pavers while fans were also instantly captivated by the chance to get photos with the life-size bronze statue of Cowboys legend Johnathan Thurston that was designed by local artist Jane Hawkins to honour his contribution to North Queensland sport.
Impressive screen content, engaging performances and promotions and at last count seven mascots kept fans entertained all night long inside while outside fans of all ages enjoyed a dedicated fan engagement zone as well as receiving a free Cowboys flag on entry to commemorative the opening game here.
Transport was a seamless experience from the CBD with free game day express event buses organized to transport fans around while multiple park and ride or walk options made it simple for those fans wishing to park the car nearby and access the venue with free parking also available after 2pm in the CBD. Ride share and taxi zones as well as accessible pick up and drop off areas ensured every patron can easily access the venue however with the stadium centrally located in the heart of the city, walking was also seen by the majority of fans to be the easiest way to get to and from the stadium.
Designed by Cox Architecture and constructed by WATPAC on the banks of Townsville’s Ross River, the centrally located stadium was delivered on schedule and to budget and has a host of smart architectural features that add to its iconic North Queensland design.
A horseshoe shaped cantilever roof with plates inspired by the native tropical Pandanus plant forms the centerpiece of the stadium design and makes the venue instantly recognizable to global audiences. This unique design also provides the strength to resist North Queensland’s cyclonic winds as well as allowing the roof to expand and contract to the city’s tropical temperatures.
Green spaces are abundant with over 100 trees and 30,000 plants spread throughout the venue while a lush grassed parkland and plaza at the northern end of the venue provided a family friendly atmosphere for fans to meet and mingle in before entering the venue.
The stadium has also been specifically positioned to face north in order to catch the breezes while it’s spacious open design showcases the stunning panoramic views of the city and Castle Hill which now instantly makes it one of the most picturesque stadiums in Australia to visit.
Audio-visual capabilities are state of the art and delivered an immersive experience through a lighting set up which made the field vibrantly pop with colour while the sound system pumped out team announcements, music and a hype reel countdown in clear and crisp audio.
An imposing 200sqm HD scoreboard at the northern end is strategically positioned to be viewed by all spectators while the multicoloured LED lights incorporated into both the roof and translucent kites showcased an exciting and memorable pre-game light show with Cowboys themed lighting displays switching between strobe, flash and still which amplified the crowd atmosphere.
The free QCB Stadium and Cowboys app’s both provided an informative and effective user experience that highlighted important game day information for fans such as F&B offerings, news, transport guidance, seating maps, the ability to purchase tickets and merchandise, accessibility information as well as the ability to connect to the venues WiFi which was fast and reliable when speed tested throughout various moments of the game day.
There is not a bad view in the house with 25,000 Cowboys coloured seats highlighting a contemporary stadium design that puts every fan within close proximity to the lush field to ensure an edge of your seat pulsating experience.
The configuration of the stadium sees four primary seating areas with roof shades covering 75% of the ground while a unique part of the design in the northern end features open standing areas where fans can enjoy breathtaking sightlines of the try line in a relaxed and informal setting next to bars and food outlets. Cup holders also compliment seating in the western grandstand while multiple disability seating options and family rooms with showers and change tables all highlight what an inclusive, comfortable and accessible venue this is.
An extensive selection of food and beverage choices are available to suit all tastes with Pandanus Catering putting a key focus on ensuring the majority of produce is locally sourced from the North Queensland region to ensure a truly home grown experience.
Gourmet, value and variety are at the core of an inclusive foodie fan experience here with affordable options ranging from 12” ‘Cowboys’ hot dogs, local reef fish and Red Rooster chicken to ‘Stockman’s’ tropical burgers, vegetarian burritos and vegan pies all available throughout the venues 29 F&B concession stands ensuring fans never have to go far to grab some quality game day grub.
Uniquely themed public bars such as the Castle Hill Bar, Long Bar and City View Bar are scattered throughout the venue offering fan favourites XXXX and Bundaberg Rum and are complimented by outstanding views of the field and local attractions. Meanwhile, Cowboys members can even enjoy their very own ‘Cowboys Castle’ craft beer from local microbrewery Tiny Mountain Brewing Co that is available in their exclusive ‘Cowboys Castle’ members bar on game days. Fans will also appreciate the ability to walk around the entire 9m wide, 600m circumference of the stadium concourse to check out the full F&B range and take in spectacular views of the field of play from different vantage points.
Located in the western grandstand, the stadium includes a diverse range of exciting hospitality experiences to suit every budget from premium offerings such as the elegantly decked out Chairman’s Club ‘Shorty’s’ with it’s unrivaled guest service and delicious delicacies to the relaxed and vibrant Sky Deck on level 4 that features breathtaking panoramic views of the pitch and city for those instant shareable social media moments. The impressive club lounge and ground level field club along with the 88 external boxes and 17 suites highlights a first class hospitality experience that is sure to be very popular on game days for those guests looking to network and enjoy premium F&B and live entertainment in comfortable surroundings.
While the opening match may have started with a tough 28-21 loss at the hands of state rivals Brisbane, it was a spectacular win for both North Queensland Cowboys fans who will continue to experience exciting game days here as well as the local region who will benefit from the positive economic and social outcomes that transpire from this marvelous new venue in tropical Townsville.
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.
106 days into 2020 and what an unimaginable and absolutely crazy year it has been within the Australian craft beer industry this year.
First the devastation of the summer bush fires and now the way the world has been flipped on its head by COVID19. It’s been an incredibly tough time for many Australian’s and small businesses out there but as I work within this industry I’ve also seen first hand how stressful, challenging and frustrating it has been for independent craft breweries (and all the associated people along the supply chain) throughout Australia.
However if it’s one thing that this industry and community of good beer fans do well, it’s pulling together and working together to support each other. From the relentless back-breaking work that organizations like the IBA, Oz Brews News, Froth Mag and Crafty Pint do for this industry to all the craft beer fans out there who have all gone to great lengths over the past few months to buy local and get behind their community craft breweries, well it’s just so bloody lovely to see. What an outstanding community of people! It just makes you feel so damn proud of how Australian’s come together to support each other in times of crisis.
Anyway, seeing as I have lost work like many others within the industry and because I now have some extra time on my hands and just can’t sit still, I have put together another handy infographic of fan engagement ideas that will come in useful to a host of businesses, breweries, and venues within our industry.
Featured below is a new fan engagement infographic that has been created from collating ideas and initiatives from what over 300 Australian craft breweries have been doing to engage their fans and local communities. I have also included all of the ideas within a bullet point list with images added below as well as including some of my own ideas. If an idea does not make sense then please feel free to reach out and I will assist.
Earlier this week I also released an infographic for the sports business titled ‘200+ Fan Engagement Ideas to Entertain, Educate and Connect Sports Fans during COVID19‘ which aims to help local grassroots and community clubs throughout the globe with ideas to engage their communities at this time. Previously I have created these resources below as well. These have been useful for the sports business but many of the ideas are interchangeable, cost-effective and simple and have also helped small businesses with the ideas presented here being quite adaptable to many businesses.
I have also previously created this resource ‘100+ Fan Engagement Ideas For Craft Breweries’ which has been a simple and effective guide for craft breweries across Australia and may come in handy down the track for other breweries to acquire new fans and drive further revenue opportunities.
If IBA members also have access to the new IBA forum and website sections then my fan engagement presentation and panel from last year’s BREWCON conference might also be a beneficial watch.
All in all this has just been something to do to stay active during this time so I hope that it comes in handy for anyone within the independent craft beer industry.
My final piece of advice is to get out there and support your local indie brewery and buy local from local indie bottle shops and venues doing take aways where you can as this will help these businesses at a time when they all need it the most.
Thanks for reading.
150+ Fan Engagement Ideas For Craft Breweries: Solutions To Entertain And Educate, Drive Revenue And Connect Beer Fans And Local Communities During COVID19