It’s a freezing late Saturday morning in London as I traverse the Piccadilly and District lines from Kings Cross tube station to Fulham Broadway for today’s English Premier League clash between Chelsea and Norwich City at Stamford Bridge.
Exiting the station I make my way around to the Fulham Road entrance and instantly see a big focus on fan engagement with fan photo opportunities and a brass band entertaining fans as they stream into ‘The Bridge’.
While there’s no doubt that the Premier League teams have been slow to improve the match day fan experience compared to other major sporting leagues around the world it is clear from these first impressions of walking around the stadium that Chelsea have a big emphasis on ensuring fans come first at Stamford Bridge. Moreover the Visit Football initiatives and the work teams like Sunderland, West Brom and Manchester City have all done with their fan zones highlights that fan engagement has been a higher priority over the past two seasons for English football teams.
There’s plenty of fun fan activations around the stadium forecourt such as an old time brass band, photo opportunities like a team photo where the fan is in the shot and an astro turfed CFC logo photo spot that both have fans lining up to grab that special memorable picture of their visit. The club have a photo booth with collectable print outs, an EA Sports gaming zone complete with comfy couches and theres both male and female Chelsea mascots (Stamford & Bridget) greeting fans and being snapped for photos.
If its one thing that English stadiums need to improve on its the food offering as typically the fare is of a very poor quality or typical stadium slop with limited options such as stale flavourless hamburgers as a prime example (although Fulham’s Craven Cottage brioche cheeseburger is outstanding!) however it was good to see the gourmet, vegan and healthy food options here which ranged from chilli cheese dogs and burgers to salad wraps and noodle pots. The stadium also features Barclays Contactless payment which was rolled out across the whole stadium this season.
It was also good to see that fans can select their match day food up to 48 hours before the match with the CFC Express app that allows fans to click and collect food at the game either before kick off or at half time to avoid the long queues. More on this here CFC Express
Moving into the stadium I make my way to the Family Stand that has height charts, a ‘Run as fast as Eden’ activity, a wall with player pictures from The Chelsea Annual as well as a bench and shed area called ‘The Blue Bench’ that has team facts and TV’s showing highlights. Moreover, while more and more stadiums are putting in prayer rooms inside their stadium’s, I found it interesting to see that there is a daycare creche room at Stamford Bridge for families.
Stamford Bridge is also the first club in the Premier League to launch new LED floodlights bathes the pitch in glare free daylight so teams, the ref and fans get better quality light for late or night kick offs. Listen to the CFC team being called out here before the match
I caught up with Chelsea’s marketing manager Jon Scammell a couple of hours before the match to talk fan engagement and was impressed to hear about all the things they are doing to improve the fan experience at Stamford Bridge (a lot of which can be found here in their match day guide that is well worth a read Chelsea FC Match Day Guide To Stamford Bridge).
Jon highlights that Chelsea are committed to giving fans more bang for their buck and doing everything they can at Stamford Bridge to reward fans for their support. While the family stand and outside activations were evidence of this, it was also impressive to note all of the other fan experience offerings that CFC do on match days and for fans to increase fans emotional loyalty and make them feel more apart of the team. Some of these marketing initiatives include:
- The Chelsea Museum is also a highlight for fans on match day or throughout the week. More on this can be found here Chelsea FC Museum
- CFC Playlist initiative which offers supporters the chance to submit and vote for the songs they want played on the PA before KO
- Regular fans forums and junior fans forums on match days.
- Junior birthday and First Time Visitor initiative that offers kids a special welcome letter from John Terry and a badge when coming to a match on their birthday or for the first time.
- Pre-match coaching in a local park with Foundation coaches for kids for two hours before every weekend match.
- BridgeKids Passport The passport features all 19 Premier League opponents, academy, ladies, soccer schools and stadium tours; presented in a stylish passport-sized booklet.
- Match Attax (trading cards) sampling at every match
- Themed matches such as diverse catering options, fancy dress, giveaways and more
Jon pointed out that the pre-game entertainment is also a highlight and this was true with the countdown and rev up from English rockers BLUR. Listen here
The fans were also in fine voice before and during the game. Listen to the CFC fans signing here
The half time entertainment often includes regular kids penalty shoot-outs, football freestylers, presentations of club legends and famous fans, zorb ball racing and partner activations that have featured giveaways of 10,000 free ice creams and posters, Oculus Rift activations, stell drummers and a ‘shoot for a holiday’ promotion.
The match also paid tribute to the Paris attack victims before play commenced. Listen here
With Chelsea recently partnering with Wipro to improve the digital fan experience, there is no doubt that they are thinking of their millennial and 500M global fans in order to tap into and add value to these fans watching thousands of kilometres away as well as those in the stadium. As they embark on this technological transformation that is very mobile motivated it’s good to see that the Chelsea and Stamford Bridge match day fan experience is one English Premier League fan experience that is leading the way for fan engagement and putting fans at the core of what they do on match day. There are some exciting things happening in this space in England as well as with Chelsea so it will be interesting to follow the fan engagement movement not only with CFC but other teams here in England as well in the coming years.