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FAN ENGAGEMENT FRIDAY: NEWS FROM AROUND THE GROUNDS 10/06/2022

A weekly recap of some of the interesting stories and developments from the educational to the random in the world of fan engagement/experience, stadium/venue news, fan behaviour and psychology, customer service plus much more. Enjoy

Champions League final chaos: warning for mega event organisers

Quidich Innovation Labs Powers AR for Indian Premier League Cricket Fans

As the dust settles on chaotic A-Leagues seasons, what needs to be addressed ahead of 2022/23?

Hungary kids boo England players taking a knee before Nations League match

France’s twisted attitude to fans led to Champions League chaos

Topgolf has arrived at Penn State’s Beaver Stadium. Here’s a look and what to know

As Golden State seeks another title, the Warriors push revenue higher with an ever-evolving business strategy

Why Experience-First Entrepreneurs Win Consumers

Father, daughter end 17-year MLB stadium journey at Nats Park

Big-market Cubs and small-market Cardinals treat their fans differently. Guess which team keeps winning?

Driving Consumer Engagement Through Sports Sponsorship Activation

Augmented Reality Eagle Takes The IPL 2022 Final To A New High

Fanatics Is Coming To Play, But When, Where, And How?

Liverpool offer support to fans over Champions League final trouble

WATCH: Fan makes wild one-handed catch on home run ball while holding baby during Mets game

We knew things at the Coliseum were bad, but the A’s say they’re worse

KC esports team collaborates with Populous to produce NFT fan experience

Flowers to be planted under latest Munich 2022 fan-engagement project

Indian Tech Companies Revamping International Sports Viewing And Fan Engagement

LaLiga Tech Launches Startup Competition for Fan Engagement

YES Network Looks To Deepen Fan Engagement With ‘Pick-N-Play Live’ Single-Screen Watch-and-Play Experience

How to Use Emotional Intelligence to Provide Exceptional Customer Service

A Graphic Designer (and Mets Fan) Is Keeping Shea Stadium’s Neon Alive

Sports tops leaderboard for livestreamed video content

ESPN Celebrating NBA Finals from Airwaves to Locker Room

Why has there been a downturn in AFL crowds this season? It’s not just Covid to blame

Chicago Cubs dive into the metaverse with Web3 marketing platform Valence

Red Sox First MLB Team With In-Market Streaming Service

Even sponsors are riled by Uefa’s Champions League final fiasco

Uefa, the police, French ministers… all peddled gross lies. Only fans prevented disaster

Tech Mahindra to provide digital fans platform for chess Olympiad

Burglars break into Plymouth’s stadium and plough through pitch on tractor

Growth of women’s soccer reaching new levels

How F1 teams went from £1 rejects to billion-dollar forecasts

Charlotte FC Ramps Up Fan Experience With Mixed-Reality Graphics for Local Broadcast, Videoboard Show

ABBA’s temporary, transportable arena hosts the iconic band’s virtual reunion tour

How to Elevate Customer Service by Design

What Can Be Done About the Decline of Customer Service?

Three Steps To Turn Digital Experiences Into Superior Customer Service

3 Customer Experience Breakdowns That Buyers Hate

The A0K1VERSE, NFTs, and the Future of Fan Engagement 

How sports clubs achieve a slam dunk in loyalty with data

To get closer to their idols, music fans are ready to fork out

San Antonio’s ‘Spurs Lady’ a true fan of the Silver and Black NBA team through all seasons

What Can Be Done About the Decline of Customer Service?

4 Ways To Getting More Creative With Your Customer Service

How To Be A Customer-Obsessed Company

Mark Davis blames high no-show rate in 2021 on vaccination requirement

Stadiums of tomorrow: Franchises across leagues look to build new homes

Customer Experience Is Getting Worse

Chelsea Pushing Ahead With Plan to Charge More for Top Seats

The Female College Sports Fan: Who is She?

The Clippers’ ‘halo’ scoreboard inside their new arena looks like every sports fan’s dream

Too expensive? Just a fad? Fans don’t care? Debunking myths in sports sustainability

This AI-powered Jack Nicklaus ‘twin’ will allow fans to interact with the golf legend

Aussies keep it cool in Qatar for play-off – News on the FIFA World Cup air-conditioning set up in Qatar stadiums

Air-conditioned Qatar stadiums ‘set perfect temperature for football!’ – Duke

WITHOUT FANS, FOOTBALL IS NOTHING – LET’S GET THIS GAME RIGHT

First event set for new Sydney Football Stadium

SL Benfica becomes first Portuguese club to launch Socios fan tokens

Dutch clubs to deploy ‘smart technology’ to fight fan racism

Sydney L!VE – Behind the Australian Open’s NFT and metaverse success

NFL to Host First Official Developmental Camp and Fan Event in Africa

How Cricket Australia plans to use NFTs to deepen engagement

Fan Engagement Friday: News from around the grounds 29/4/2022

A weekly recap of some of the interesting stories and developments from the educational to the random in the world of fan engagement/experience, stadium/venue news, fan behaviour and psychology and customer service plus much more. Enjoy

Scran? No scran? The new food culture at football grounds

What’s new in Major League ballparks in 2022

Bengals’ $455m stadium is in such great shape it only needs $493m in upgrades, says architect

Dad things: Reds fan makes amazing catch while feeding baby

T-Mobile Park set to be first ballpark in MLB to open a store powered by both Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology and Amazon One

New York Islanders Integrate BlueJeans by Verizon to Elevate HOMEICE Fan Experience

How sports fans use data analytics to increase their enjoyment and understanding of sport

AFL Mint to release limited edition moments across AFL and AFLW

Melbourne Victory launch Victory Burger for fans!

NHL tech showcase focuses on fan experience

Player announcement drawings by @1fcn

Bolton Wanderers Jon Daddi Bavardsson playing penalties with young fan outside stadium.

Chelsea FC tackles food waste with new venue program for unused food

Populous and Kansas City Pioneers unveil “The Arena” NFT collection

Gamers get chance to play on Kauffman Stadium’s jumbotron ahead of tournament

The Miami Marlins have an amazing deal on the world’s saddest tacos

3 Top Tips You Can Implement Today To Maintain Great Customer Service!

Seattle Mariners to use Amazon’s ‘Just Walk Out’ and palm-scanning tech in new stadium market

Turkish sports stadium takes Guinness World Records title for solar output

Boston’s Fenway Park opens contactless food and drink stores

Ejected: What happens when a fan is banned from a stadium?

The Atlanta Hawks’ State Farm Arena takes world-leading step towards sustainability

Statement on the Fan Led Review of Football Governance

NBA offers more free ‘The Association’ NFTs to fans after minting mishap

Six Major Steps To Improving Your Team’s Customer Service Skills

Hockey lover wins a luxury vacation. Atlanta pro team backs out of deal.

Fan Experiences Startup Vaunt Raises $5M, Investors Include Justin Tuck, Michele Roberts, Dodgers’ Elysian Park Ventures

Technology is saving the live sports experience

Celtic latest to launch digital cards via Sorare

Liverpool Could Become The First Premier League Club To Have Cryptocurrency As Main Shirt Sponsor

58% Of Customers Will Pay More For Better Customer Service

Ipswich Town Named EFL Family Club of the Year

ASM Global to deploy facial recognition technology across venues

NHL, technology partners showcase next generation of fan experience

Grimsby Town Paint the Town Proud initiative

Gold Coast Suns AFL Fan Experience at Metricon Stadium, Gold Coast, Australia 24/4/22

On a wet and chilly Sunday afternoon I hit the highway from Brisbane to head down the M1 to the Gold Coast to take in the Gold Coast Suns AFL fan experience at Metricon Stadium in Nerang.

Today’s match was to be the Suns versus the Brisbane Lions in the annual QCLASH derby as well as representing an ANZAC Day ceremony to honour our servicemen and women.

I prepped for the match day by getting my daughter Ramona all dressed up in a Gold Coast Suns dress that I bought for her to show her support for another Queensland team (her first ever dress- which she hated, the dress that is!) while I pulled out my Brisbane Bears wool guernsey, grabbed my Sherrin footy, new Lions cord cap from the Lions shop and some fresh ANZAC biscuits to share with mates and laminated my printed out match day ticket to save as my ticket memento to go into my box of 1000+ tickets from 30 years of live events – anything to keep the physical part of the event day ticking on in my opinion.

The fan journey started at 1pm with a quick 50 minute car journey via tolls from Brisbane to Nerang Railway Station. Nerang Station has ample parking and a lockable bicycle station as well as open bike racks. I made sure to park via the exits under security cameras for better safety and to get away faster at the end of the night however by 2pm the car park was filling up with Lions and Suns fans meaning that this is a safe and secure place to leave your car and head to the match due to the number of people coming through here on match days.

Once parked I made my way through the station to the bus terminal area where the game day buses were starting up at 2pm to ferry fans to Metricon Stadium. The buses were free for fans with the transport included within the ticket, as was the train from Brisbane if fans had chosen to catch the train from Brisbane to Nerang Station. However with track work today on the Gold Coast line, driving to the station and then catching this free bus seemed like the best option.

The bus driver was cheerful as Suns and Lions fans hoped on the bus and I was impressed with security greeting everyone that was getting on and asking us who would win while the bus driver was equally impressive ensuring that fans were safely picked up along the way despite there only being the one designated stop at the venue which was a helpful thing to do for those fans who were walking to the ground. The bus arrived directly outside the stadium after a short five minute journey which made it a seamless entry into the ground. It was also important to note that since my last visit here a couple of years ago, parking restrictions have gone up similar to around The Gabba and Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane meaning restrictions apply on match days and it is not advisable to try to park as you risk a fine.

Parking is also available within the stadium for only $20 via the Ticketmaster site however this does seem to sell out quickly in the week leading up to match day. Metricon also has a ride share and public pick up and drop off zone near the venue too with accessible entry and exit to the stadium.

Making our way into the stadium was seamless and we were greeted by a ‘hello’ and ‘thanks for coming’ by the venue staff. I then made my way over to the AFL Record stand and picked up a copy of the ANZAC round AFL Record which is still a bargain at $5 and a game day tradition I never miss.

This is one of my favourite AFL venues in Australia for a number of reasons. The views are great wherever you sit while the ease of access to get in and out to get food and drinks or to go to the toilets is also not a hassle. I love a venue you can walk the full distance around and here at Metricon Stadium you can walk both the inside and outside concourses to take in the full sights and smells of the match day as well as accessing all the types of food on offer and not being cut off by security or ushers.

On the food and beverage front while there were food trucks and permanent food stalls in abundance I found the food offering we sampled to be below par and quite disappointing however this was no doubt not the opinion of every fan who purchased food items at the event. The hot chips we purchased for $6.50 were flavourless (my friend had a delicious peppery salt on his while mine had nothing which was odd) and undercooked while the hot dog looked quite sad presentation wise for $6.50 and the pie for $5.75 had hard pastry like a rock. There was an assortment of options from Chipsters offering dagwood dogs and loaded fries to a Kebab stand meaning there truly was something for every fan to get around. There were also wings and chips and Hawaiian burger combos along with churros and even popcorn boxes to satisfy fans tastes and preferences for both young and old with the more substantial offerings costly $15-$17.

Prices seemed quite high compared to other venues for items such as hot dogs and chips while the beer was fresh and on par with Australian venues with a Carlton Mid tinnie (served into a plastic cup) at $8.95 while Great Northern schooners were $9.80 and craft beer from Pirate Life Brewing Co (CUB/South Australian) was $11.20 for their mid-strength or $8.50 for their 0.9% light beer which all in all represented normal pricing and a good variety for beer drinkers. Furthermore some bars did not have electronic boards displaying prices or price lists so you weren’t sure how much you were paying until it was round up at the til.

The venue has an impressive outside concourse as as well as an inside open concourse which offers plenty of space to roam, order food and drinks as well as find a space to sit and take in the event away from your actual seats. It’s one of my favourite grounds because of the open space and the flexibility you have to walk around the venue on a game day. There are multiple member’s bars (one with a live band called The Fifth Quarter) as well as a Carlton Draught bar for Suns members and fans while there are chairs and tables and plenty of green space including a massive oval only 50 metres from the stands where you can kick footies on all throughout the match day. This is a big incentive for families and young fans who who come along as they can bring in their footballs to the match and head out for a pre, mid or post game kick as we did with our own Sherrin that was a lot of fun.

The sponsor activation social spaces were impressive and included the Carlton Draught bar and a comfy couch seating area overlooking the field of play (could not see sponsor, perhaps Metricon). There were two sponsor activation set ups that really caught my eye though and these included the Metricon Homes ‘Terrace’ that was a fully fledged house within the stadium that included a balcony overlooking the field while the Plungie Pool area was also eye-catching with its pool, lifeguard and blue astroturf seating.

The toilets here were clean and spacious with no lines seen throughout the night for either the women’s or men’s with the men’s having a lot of space to walk in and out quickly with soap and tap all working fine. Hand sanitisers were available around the ground and after checking three which had sanitiser in them on my travels around the venue it was good to see them filled up unlike on recent stadium visits where they have been on show but not filled up.

The views are simply breathtaking here with views on the ground level or up in the stands affording fans a cracking close up view of the action no matter the seating rake. Behind the goals at the scoreboard is also a place worth sitting and while not undercover affords fans a close up view of the action. Sitting high up in section 216 we did still get slightly wet as the rain permeated through the worn roof tarps with the roof, rails and shades all looking like they need a thorough clean. The way-finding in the stadium was not too difficult to see where to go for food, seating sections or toilets but I thought it could be made a bit more clearer and in larger text to make it more visible. I saw a few ushers on the night cheerfully helping fans however there was not one in our stand or the one adjacent, however it seemed that fans made their way to their seats easily with the night running very smoothly as well for stadium staff. Accessible seating is clearly marked and available for those fans needing it while outside the concourses there are merchandise stands offering both Suns and away fans the option of securing a piece of merch.

The Suns fan engagement really stands out and is underrated in my opinion both for AFL teams and in other Australian sporting teams. The Suns really cater well for families and kids with a big feature being their Suns ‘Little Legends’ train that runs around the venue picking up young fans and families and taking them on a fun casual train ride around the outside of the stadium concourse. The Suns do a lot for their members with the social spaces previously listed however they also have a member raise their Suns flag up the flagpole each game while they also have a junior reporter, Suns photo wall, face painting, a kids zone out the back and a member’s guard of honour. Screen activations like Air Guitar and the on-field kick the footy into the Plungie Pool were also fun to watch – I reckon I could have nailed the kick into the footy easily (It’s all about wearing the right shoes for on field fan engagement if you’re ever selected to participate!).

It was also good to see the way the Suns acknowledge their members with big plaques inside the venue honouring those fans who have shown their dedication as members along with history charts across the seating bowl that highlight the Suns formation and history on the Gold Coast over the past decade.

The Suns ANZAC Day ceremony was handled respectfully and included a marching band, the last post and the national anthems and it was good to see everyone take their hats off and stand in silence to appreciate the ANZACs and what this day means to so many Australian and New Zealander’s.

While it was an entertaining game in the rain, the Lions ended up running away with the win 132-80 before the final siren sounded and fans made their exits. I found it easy to leave the venue and the signage for the buses back to Nerang Station or to Broadbeach were easily identifiable with bus staff also speaking to fans to ensure they were headed in the right direction. Within five minutes of lining up we were on a bus and on our way back to the train station which again only took five minutes journey before heading back to the cars and home within an hour to Brisbane.

A Gold Coast Suns AFL game day at Metricon Stadium is a very worthy event day visit in my opinion, either as a Suns fan or as in my case travelling for an away day as a Lions fan. From the views and the big oval for a kick to the Suns fan engagement andd the ease of the fan journey both in and out, it really represents an enjoyable AFL match day for Aussie Rules fans. There is so much on here for families and fans with the Suns clearly going the extra mile to create lasting memories for their members and fans and I could not more highly rate the Suns fan experience as an event worth checking out.

Hawthorn Hawks Vs St Kilda Saints AFL Fan Experience at MCG, Melbourne, Australia 10/4/22

On Sunday 10th April I finally had the chance to do something I have been looking forward to for such a long time.

I finally got to be back in Melbourne after three years away and I got to take my daughter Ramona Josie along to her first ever AFL match and her first ever visit to the hallowed Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).

Ramona and I started our fan journey on a gorgeous blue sky day by walking (well she got an easy ride in the stroller!) the short distance from the city along the back inner suburban Melbourne streets of the MCG.

We had a fun little play in the grassy area outside the G where we kicked the football and had cuddles under this amazing stadium that is in my opinion one of the best to visit in the world for any event. That event today turned out to be a classic old school Aussie Rules battle between Hawthorn Hawks and St Kilda Saints which the Saints would eventually run away with in the end 142-73.

After a play we picked up a copy of the AFL Record which is always a must on an AFL game day and a bargain still at $5.

It was great to see a few things by looking up at the MCG and these included the solar panels out the front of gate 3 and the water station and solar powered CCTV and lights which all together has made the MCG run on 100% renewable energy which is spectacular to see from a major Australian venue. The ‘G-TRAIN’ was also a good sight to see for inclusion and accessibility as it carried less mobile fans around the G to their gates.

Today thanks to a friend we were lucky enough to sit in the MCC area which I had never been in to before. We were greeted and welcomed in by friendly MCG staff who waved and made RJ feel safe and welcome. I was even so surprised at how much Ramona enjoyed the atmosphere of a pumping MCG crowd from the people to the sirens, she was beaming ear to ear which made the day all the more memorable.

After walking in we did a big lap of the area taking in the F&B outlets, getting some photos, looking at the facilities and also going on a nice walk along the concourse. We had a look in the MCG shop which is stocked full of AFL and cricket items to buy with the retro range standing out as some very cool merch items. We walked out to then come back into another section and got a special Member’s Reserve pass which felt like something from the old days. The COVID check in process was also seamless and easy with security and gate staff helpful and efficient.

There were many new F&B stands with the addition of Royal Stacks burgers a welcome surprise and the prices were ok too from $12.50-$15.50. I remember when these guys had just opened in Brunswick when we lived here in 2015 so to see them in the stadium was pretty cool for fans, especially with their bright concession stand. There was also a brisket/BBQ outlet selling brisket rolls for $15.50, sweet crepes for $11 and southern fried chicken at the Cleaver and Coop outlet for $12.

Prices for some items were very affordable with water ($3.40) and coke varieties ($4.70) probably the cheapest in an Australian venue while the WAIT TIMES boards were helpful in showing fans which outlets had shortest lines and the distance to each outlet. Beer was priced at $9.50 for Carlton Draught while $11 for Mountain Goat craft beer which did absolutely taste that little bit nicer in flavour.

Power banks, water refill stations and plenty of helpful staff were also present inside the stadium on this event day. I found that the baby change and toilet facilities were also top notch here. I also had a check of some hand sanitisers and they all worked and had been filled prior to the event.

Ramona and I had an absolutely outstanding day at the MCG for her first visit and first AFL game with staff, affordable F&B and the views of the ground being the highlights of visiting this historic venue.

AFL Game Day Brisbane Lions Vs West Coast Eagles, The Gabba, Brisbane, Australia, 21/8/21

The view from the AFL Brisbane Lions Vs West Coast Eagles match day at the Gabba on Saturday 21/8/21.

Score was 19.11.125 to 13.9.87.

 

Brisbane Lions vs Gold Coast Suns AFL Game Day, The Gabba, Brisbane, Australia 24/07/2021

The Brisbane Lions AFL match day from the Gabba in Brisbane on 24/07/21.

The Lions 17.18.120 defeated Gold Coast 10.11.71

THE 2019 FAN ENGAGEMENT/ FAN EXPERIENCE 100-1 RECAP

Hello and welcome to my annual 100-1 fan engagement/experience year in review where I take a look back on the creative, innovative, exciting and tailored strategies from teams, venues, sports marketing agencies and sponsors which in my opinion greatly captivated fans across the globe in 2019.

There is a customary heavy focus on Australia and New Zealand as I am based here and please do keep in mind that this is a very subjective list based on my own personal experiences at games, what I saw from colleagues around the globe and what fans have suggested. There will, of course, be ideas and activations that I have missed so please feel free to tag them and add to the discussion here or on social. 

Some of the key areas of focus included:

  • Technology innovations from augmented reality to smart jerseys.
  • F&B incentives were again a trending area with more venues offering early bird offers, family-friendly deals, kids combo meal deals as well as catering for dietary needs and craft beer. 
  • Innovative social seating experiences such as pools, couches, and beaches in venues to offer fans unique fan experiences that can’t be had at home.
  • Inclusive approaches that offer better access and representation to fans with diverse needs to enjoy the same fan experiences as every other fan both in the community and on game day.
  • Harnessing the power of fan-generated content. Find out what skills your fans have by listening to them and then utilize these skills. Fellow fans love this while the fan feels a genuine sense of appreciation that they’re being rewarded for their contribution. I’m a big fan of this area.
  • Sustainable environmental approaches as fans care about their local communities and the environment around the team and society.
  • More political and social justice concerns from fans and teams that put inclusion and communities first.
  • Seamless, tech-driven, fan-friendly venues.

When it comes to fan engagement strategies and improving the fan experience there are few thoughts that I’ll leave you with before starting the 100-1 recap:

Thinking like kids: We must never forget to think like fans, families and in particular junior fans. The ability to continually put ourselves in the shoes of kids and get on their level as well as remember the importance and feeling of those first moments of fandom that we had as kids when we were enthralled and excited by our favourite team or player.

Listening and responding with authenticity: Constantly listening to fans is vital but it is not enough. Responding with empathy and authenticity goes such a long way in driving lifetime fan loyalty.

Keeping it simple: The greatest fan engagement is often the simplest stuff. While I’m constantly road testing the latest tech on my game day travels because I’m a huge fan of the way technology is enhancing our game days I do believe that stripping it all back to the purest and most honest form of fan engagement ends up having the most significant impact on fans. There are a number of outstanding examples of this below.

Inclusion: More than ever thinking about fans as people and not customers and looking at what we can do to better listen and engage them for the benefit of all. 

Personalisation: Never underestimate what it means to a fan to know that you have put them first by directly targeting them.

I trust that this educational summary provides you with some basis for thinking about how you can both improve your fan experience and better engage your fans on both a grassroots or global level while at the same time marvelling at the creativity on show here.

Finally, a huge round of applause to all of the hard-working, creative and talented front office team and venue crews, sports agencies, sponsors and other stakeholders out there who continually create these outstanding experiences for fans across the globe each year. 

If you would like to peruse the previous 100-1 annual summaries then you can find them here:

2018

2017

2016

2015

100. Craft beer and sports team and venue partnerships continued to pour in this year with the establishment of new partnerships with local breweries and venues in an effort to bring fans, local businesses, and the community closer together by offering local and better quality beer options on game days. 

I’ve written a fair bit about this area with my articles well worth a read to understand what teams, venues, and craft breweries are getting out of these partnerships. More info here.

Some of the craft beer and some of the other interesting beer developments from Australia and overseas included:

  • Melbourne Storm and Brick Lane Brewing
  • South Sydney Rabbitohs and Young Henry’s
  • Brisbane Bullets and Newstead Brewing Co
  • Melbourne Demons and Brewanity
  • Port Adelaide and Pirate Life Brewing Co
  • Newcastle Jets and Murray’s Brewing Co

99. Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) post-game kick to kick.  

98. NBL Brisbane Bullets post-game on-court autograph session.

97. @MijnVitesse  launched a pay per month ticketing model.

96. Wimbledon offering vegan strawberries and cream for the first time. A theme emerging of inclusive F&B offerings around the global grounds. 

95. The hilarious New Zealand Warriors (NRL) ‘Bush Shirt’ that took social by storm and will be debuted in the 2020 season. A clever idea to tap into the random side of fans and a nation’s culture. 

 

94. Weetbix and BBL/WBBL personalized backyard cricket bats.

93. Coventry City music themed ‘Specials’ kit for Kick It Out campaign round. Also special mention to West Ham United and their collab with Iron Maiden. Will there be more of these music/team kit collabs?

92. The Boundary Social at The Gabba, Brisbane.

91. F&B prices at Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII.

90. Chicago Blackhawks NHL chopping board giveaway to fans.

89. NY Mets Seinfeld Night and bobblehead giveaway.

88. Australian Women’s Cricket team trading cards. It’s been so good to see the rise of more women’s sport athletes being featured on cricket trading cards for fans of all ages to collect. Also Super Netball, WBBL and AFLW as well. 

87. Brisbane Lions (AFL) umpired youth games in the community. You should also check out the review I wrote of the Brisbane Lions and Gabba’s Verandah fan experience. 

86. Win an Adelaide Giants (ABL) contract for a day.

85. Chief Beer Officer at the LA Rams.

84. Queens Park Rangers crest collection for new members.

83. AFLX at Marvel Stadium. Light up goal posts, free trading cards and loads of kids activities. Another impressive event for 2019 at the venue. A lot of AFLX got blasted by the media and fans who weren’t the target market.

82. Kensington Oval beach cricket party atmosphere complete with jet ski chairs.

81. Melbourne Storm (NRL) Street Crew.

80. Commemorative yesteryear tickets from Collingwood AFLW.

79. Adelaide Crows (AFL) and Borussia Dortmund replying to fans with personalised kit wallpapers.

78. AGF Children’s Day drawings.

77. AIK Fotboll selling pre-signed jerseys for fans.

76Manchester United and Marriot launched the ‘Seat of Dreams’ at Old Trafford. 

75. New Zealand Warriors (NRL) and Auckland Blues (Super Rugby) ‘Codes of Auckland’ partnership and the Sydney Kings (NBL) and Sydney FC (A-League) partnership.

74. At Pollock FC in Scotland a big football fan – a dog called ‘Yardley’ – is allowed to watch games from the stands at Newlandsfield Park. Now that’s inclusion. Also, #74 just a bit of a laugh in the list. Also, lets put the Dallas Cowboys cat here too. That was very responsive from the AT&T Stadium and team to add the cat to the lineup. 

73. Reuseable cups from Rylands FC and free hot drinks to those who bring their own reusable cup along on match days.

72. @OU_Football launched a website with content and profiles of each signee. They made each of them their own logo and announced the athletes on the site.

71. This lovely story from the UT Vols.

70. Cousin Eddie hat giveaway from M State. One of the best random giveaways of the year.

69. This barbershop and barbershop singing girls at the V8 Supercars at Sandown Raceway in Victoria.

68. New Jersey Devils (NHL) had kids draw pictures of their favourite players and then put them up on the screen.

67. Seattle Sounders (MLS) calling out racism and fascism and in the process showing how inclusive they are to their community. 

66. Coventry City FC’s family zone but in particular their ‘lucky dip’ idea which I thought was simple and effective.

65. The Lawn at the MCG and in particular the caricature part of this. A simple and effective idea for hospitality guests and for kids in a fan zone. Here’s also a review I review of The Lawn fan experience that I wrote for Digital Sports Labs. 

64. Brisbane Roar (A-League) CEO shouting fans drinks at away games.

63. Montrose FC got fans together to road test the pies for the venue. Possibly the best fan engagement all year for food lovers.

62. Reading Fightin Phils had a gender reveal fireworks night.

61. The Holden mini-trucks race circuit at the State of Origin match at Optus Stadium in Perth, Western Australia.

60. Family-Friendly Sunday’s at the SCG. Discounted F&B prices for fans. What other venues are doing similar things?

59. Gender-Neutral toilets at Whitten Oval for the Western Bulldogs AFLW match. A very inclusive way for all fans to be made to feel welcome on game days.

58. Freebies for kids at Marvel Stadium over summer 2019/20 BBL/WBBL matches. 

57. This classy note from Manchester City to fans.

56. Various LA Dodgers themed nights.

55. DB Cooper CSI themed night at the Portland Pickles.

54. Pink Beer for the Pink Test at the SCG.

53. The Pool and Boundary Beach Club at Optus Stadium, Perth, Western Australia.

52. New Zealand All Blacks ‘Black Laundry’. “Running until the start of November, and open ahead of every All Blacks match, Steinlager wants to inspire Kiwis to show their true colours by sacrificing an item of clothing and dying it black  – with one Auckland woman already having dyed her wedding dress.”

51. Fans First free shipping. Savannah Bananas removed merch shipping fees.

50. San Francisco 49er’s ‘All You Can Eat’ tickets. 

49. State of Origin Light Show at Optus Stadium, Perth.

48. The Queensland Maroons visited the Brisbane Police Watch House.

47. Parramatta Eels (NRL) moving statue at Bankwest Stadium. Check out Bankwest Stadium too. I wrote a fan experience review for Aus Leisure Mag which can be found here.

46. This stubby cooler sweater from Cricket Australia as a hospitality piece of merch. Had to include something merchandise related and this was one of the best pieces I picked up this year. More on Brisbane’s The Gabba and Cricket Australia fan experience can be found here.

45. Sydney Roosters (NRL) members names on the LED ribbon at the SCG. Nice way to made to be feel welcome.

44. Brisbane Broncos (NRL) hackathon. What other teams did these well in 2019?

43. Peterborough PUFC young fans guard of honor.

Great to see so many first time fans at the game today – the looks on their faces when they see the players is priceless! Big ‘fans for the future’ initiative as alluded to by @JasonDavidNeale earlier is coming soon to get these back and ultimately season ticket holders.#pufc pic.twitter.com/KyuVypQRew

— Jake Baxter (@Jake__Baxter) February 2, 2019


42. These incredible kit reveal videos from Arsenal (Adidas) and Chelsea (Nike).

41. Free iconic Tayla Harris kick AFLW badges handed out at AFLW games.

40. Eredivisie Toy Toss. 

39. Manchester City became the first sports club to launch with YouTube Kids.

38. Royal Antwerp FC launched a special section for their vision impaired fans.

37. The @ThunderbirdsAHL‘s celebrated the 30th anniversary of the animated comedy series “The Simpsons.” with these Ice-O-Topes jerseys.

36. Kombucha coming into F&B offerings more and more like at Seattle Seahawks for foodies as healthier stadium concession products gain deeper traction with fans. 

35. Iranian women were allowed to attend a national team game for the first time in 40 years.

34. Baltimore Ravens Pop Up Shop idea.

33. LinkedIn sponsors Grimsby Town FC to help community score jobs. They launched the ‘LinkedIn Lounge’ – a permanent matchday fixture throughout the season, where match goers will be able to see current vacancies in the area, along with details of how to apply.

32. Huggity’s scrum machine challenge. 

31. For the Raptors 25th-anniversary, @PizzaPizzaLtd created an interactive GameBox to offer a tabletop gaming experience. 

30. Tottenham Hotspur’s fast pour beers at the new venue in London. Tech has been around for a while but it seemed to take off this year with the launch of the new stadium. 

29. Baltimore Ravens debut mixed reality Raven in venue.

28. NBA smart jerseys.

27. PSV helps a young fan enjoy a matchday experience like no other.

26. Chelsea FC unveiled a new ‘shirt holders’ Nike kit designed by fans.

25. Penn State Football’s creative poster that transforms into a helmet.

24. Hertha BSC ticket bot.

23. Premier League smart shirt.

22. FC Midtjylland hired a bagpipes player to greet Rangers fans.

21. FC Union Berlin made these posters up for their recently deceased fans. 

20. Feyenoord and Opel offer each away game a clubcar for four fans to travel to away games. 

19. Everton FC. Treats on seats for first time under 11 Season Ticket members to welcome them to Goodison Park for 2019/20.

18. Paris Saint-Germain partnered with Deliveroo for in-seat ordering at Parc des Princes.

17. Swindon Town FC Junior Takeover Day. Also another good example of this below from Brentford FC.

16. Brilliant work from Watford FC for those fans wanting to know costs, first time attendance and every detail for the match. This makes it so easy for fans to better understand the game day.

15. Andres Iniesta’s Farewell Jersey idea from beIN Sports.

14. VR work from Bayern Munich.

13. These ushers at Fiserv Forum for the Bucks game. 

12. GWS (AFL) ahead of the 2019 AFL Grand Final.

11. Dallas Cowboys/AT&T Stadium AR ‘Pose With The Pro’s’ activation. Also another fine example from Wolverhampton Wanderers too below.

10. Bat flips at the BBL/WBBL.

9. Swindon Town FC taking fans to their seats on their first game days.

8. DC United getting the local music community involved in game days.

7. FC Utrecht galvanising fans to donate their warm clothes to their supporters who live below the poverty line.

6. Charlotte Checkers having personalised notes on fans seats.

5. The Washington Capitals announcing their official team dog of the team. 

4. The warm welcoming work from Brentford FC’s team to create personalised welcome emails to fans coming to Griffin Park for the first time. A delightful way to ensure fans feel welcome and have all the information they need to be able to get the most out of their first experience. 

3. The work of teams like Melbourne Rebels (Super Rugby), Penrith Panthers (NRL) and Newcastle Knights (NRL) listening to their fans to lower the prices on their jerseys to $99 from the original costs of upwards of $170. 

 

2. The amazing work the Gold Coast Titans (NRL) and other organisations did to create a rugby league physical disability competition so that these young players could play the game they love. Watch Leagueability on ABC here. “A heart-warming, inspirational story about a bunch of young blokes who live for the game but have never been allowed to play and start a physical disability rugby league competition in regional Australia.”

1. AS Roma’s new recruits and missing persons campaign. There are just no words for how brilliant this was. 

So there you have it for 2019.

A pretty impressive list of fan engagement strategies and fan experience insights from across the globe highlighting the outstanding work being done to entertain and delight fans in various parts of the world.

100 (actually there’s well over that as I’ve combined a few here and there) truly exceptional strategies but what have I missed? What was happening for you as a fan in your neck of the woods?

Thanks also to my colleagues and the people I look up to in the industry and this space such as but not limited to:

Be sure to also scroll back through the 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015 countdowns too to see what’s been happening over the past few years (found at the top of this post).

Let me know at @MrBlairHughes on Twitter or on LinkedIn.

Thanks and have a great holiday break.

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.

2018 AFL Grand Final Footy Festival Fan Experience, Yarra Park (MCG), Melbourne, Australia

On what started out as a wet, cold and rainy start to the day in Melbourne for the AFL Grand Final day I made the trek into the MCG a few hours before the first bounce at 10am for a look at the impressive AFL Footy Festival fan engagement set up which is free for all fans to check out during the AFL Grand Final week and on Grand Final day.

Walking in to the MCG I grabbed a copy of the special limited edition AFL Record which in my opinion is one of the best game day programs you can buy in Australian sport however I was not aware until today that there is actually this silver limited edition which is different to the one that you can pick up during the week from newsagencies. Same price too at $15.

The atmosphere was building as soon as I made my way into the Footy Festival and only continued as I made my way around the ground pre-game chatting to fans both those heading into the game and those seeking tickets of which there were many of the latter. The Footy Festival comprises a host of exciting spaces for fans to hang out in and features the ‘Taste of Football’ food truck area, the MILO Kids Zone with loads of activities to keep families happ along with the Toyota AFL Grand Final Live Site.

The fan engagement is next level with so many new, well presented and exciting sponsor activities for kids and fans young and old to try out both with a fitness and fun factor.

This is a truly superb best practice fan engagement spectacle which has a key inclusive focus on kids and families and featured a host of impressive, fun and colourful sponsor activations which included:

  • Scream A Meter
  • Family zone
  • Ball pit
  • Kicking challenges
  • Fitness challenges
  • Giveaways
  • Kids activities in the MILO zone
  • Inflatables fun
  • The Dunkinator
  • Ultimate Handball Challenge
  • Free hot pies
  • Tower of Torp
  • Ferris Wheel
  • Outside broadcasts
  • Toyota chill out zone
  • As the day progressed and the sun came out in Melbourne, it was also good to see the MCG’s Buggy Transfer Service which has been a clever inclusive addition to the fan experience here at the G for less mobile fans and those needing assistance around the ground on game days.

    The ‘Taste Of Football’ food truck area and bars were keeping fans well fed with a range of local gourmet food and beverage options from Melbourne staples like Biggie Smalls. A really good thing to see that the AFL have continued to keep it local with these Melbourne F&B institutions to show off the best of Melbourne’s foodie culture.

    All in all, the AFL Grand Final Footy Festival is an outstanding sporting fan experience at the MCG which in my opinion is right up there with NFL Experience at the Super Bowl,  the Australian Open, Australian F1 Grand Prix and the Denver Broncos as one of the best global fan zones. A quality inclusive family and fan fun spectacle from the AFL.

    Here’s a quick video recap of the Footy Festival.

The 2017 Fan Engagement/Experience 100-1 Recap

Hello and welcome to the 2017 fan engagement/experience year in review countdown-recap-innovation-spectacular where I’ll again be showcasing 100-1 ideas from this space across the sports business landscape. Of course this is all in my honest opinion so if you have seen something else that should of made it into the list please join the discussion on Twitter @MrBlairHughes or comment below with your thoughts as this is all about sharing and showcasing ideas with the sports business community.

Firstly, well done to the whole industry and in particular the hard working fan engagement/customer experience reps across the globe for once again going above and beyond for sports fans to not only listen to them but provide them with memorable experiences.

This year I’ll also be providing a quirky, random and fun take on some of the weird and wonderful things I’ve seen in this area from across my travels throughout Australia, USA, UK, Japan and India over the course of the year. You’ll be able to follow that on Twitter under the hashtag #25DaysOfFE.

The previous 100-1 countdowns can also be found below:

2016: Fan Engagement 2016 Year In Review: 100 Global Fan Engagement/Experience Activations

2015: Fan Engagement 2015 Year In Review: 100 Global Fan Engagement Activations

In 2017 I also added over 2000 ideas to my 6000+ fan engagement/experience Pinterest board which has again proven to be a valuable educational resource to leagues, clubs, stadiums and sponsors from across the globe as well as small businesses and university sports business courses. It’s great to know that a simple fun resource I started over four years ago has become so useful to so many colleagues all over the world from Russia and India to right here in Australia. 

On a personal level, 2017 has been an outstanding year of career development for myself. I took the risk to leave a hectic full time role and backed myself to jump straight into consulting picking up clients including the Portuguese Football League, Denver Broncos, Chelsea FC, Gage Roads Brewing Company, Sydney Cricket Ground Trust, TechFront, Sydney Swans and Kojo amongst a host of consulting for sports tech start-up’s, small businesses, craft breweries and clients within the music business. I also visited a bunch of new venues and attended close to 80 matches across India, Japan, USA, England and Australia with some of the experiences in Asia proving to be valuable in observing fan sociology and fan engagement in these parts of the world.

So what’s next in this space for sports fans then? How will fan engagement/experience continue to evolve?

My predictions for 2018 are that we’ll see more developments in the following areas:

  • Chat-bots
  • Continued rise of women’s sport from broadcasting to attendances resulting in more female fans and higher female sport participation numbers
  • More fan created content being harnessed by teams 
  • Focus on more illustrations and animations for content
  • Augmented reality viewing opportunities 
  • Athlete led content and more athlete voiced media
  • NFC/RFID tag/chips coming into more sports applications 
  • Holograms, drones, robots although in small doses
  • More inclusive venues with a focus on more ‘social spaces’ in venues displacing traditional seats
  • Facial recognition and biometrics technology 
  • Use of smart home devices in venues
  • iBeacons and geo-fences
  • More teams signing on ESports players, tapping into leagues and setting up training centres
  • Incredible out of this world stadium visual and audio shows
  • Fan led control over camera angles/viewing
  • More fan-first pricing options at venues
  • Ticketing companies to improve their technology to stop bots/scalpers
  • Interactive LIVE content from teams and media entities
  • Subscription passes becoming a popular form of ticketing
  • More gourmet, local and specialty food options available at venues
  • Getting fans into venues for non-team events and finding new ways to monetise venues year-round

What else would you add?

Let’s get started on the count down.

100. The Seattle Mariners installed the Amazon Alexa smart home device in each of their 59 suites to enable fans to use their voices to order food, change TV channels and play music all adding to the fan experience at Safeco Field. 


99. MLS team Philadelphia Union signed on a CTO. That’s right a Chief Tattoo Officer. A creative way to galvanise the local community and provide a new outlet for the team to acquire new fans. While the idea was originally designed just for players to get inked they’ve been able to host days like a ‘mini-tattoo-and-team fest’ that’s brought fans and players closer.


98. The Judge’s Chambers. Yankee Stadium and the NY Yankees added this special seating section to honour player Aaron Judge with faux wood paneling to resemble a courtroom’s jury box situated in three rows in section 104 of the stadium. Will we see future stadiums creating more of these type of areas within venue areas that can be reconfigured into new and creative spaces?

97. In my recent travels back and forth to London I’ve seen a few teams such as West Ham at the Olympic Stadium offer early bird incentive offers on food and beverage items in an attempt to get fans into the ground earlier which means more eyeballs on sponsors branding, more overall spend on merchandise and F&B and more chances for collecting data from fans as they interact with all of the fan engagement initiatives on display. I was lucky enough to hang out at Stamford Bridge a couple of times this season for Chelsea FC games and to take in their very good fan engagement activations but I also noted how they offer fans this early bird beer incentive for the first 30 minutes after gates open and then for a further 30 minutes if they use the club app to express order. Chelsea really have stepped up their offerings for fans and is one of the best fan zones I’ve checked out in recent UK football ground visits so if you get the chance stop by and check it out.

Chelsea FC Stamford Bridge

96. Of all the team, stadium and sports start up tech apps I played around with this year, the NRL Brisbane Broncos FanTribe gamification app was easily the most engaging, enjoyable and addictive. From earning points by participating in polls, quizzes and activities fans were able to use those and be rewarded with money can’t buy prizes and experiences. The exclusive insider content as well as the UX of the app were also key highlights here too.

Brisbane Broncos FanTribe

95. Chatbots. While there were an abundance of chat bots this year from across the sports business spectrum some of the key ones for me that stood out were right here in Australia with the Australian Kangaroos, Adelaide Crows and Perth Wildcats all delivering exceptional added opportunities for fans to engage with the teams via this AI tech. I tried hard to trip these chat bots up with mundane and hard questions but they were really well prepared and thought out. I also found it really cool and easy to be able to buy tickets to a game through Facebook Messenger as well. I expect to see more teams and venues jumping straight into this space in 2018 as it clearly represents an opportunity to continue to globally engage with fans 24/7 while offering potential new revenue streams for ticketing and merchandise.

94. While at NRG Stadium for Super Bowl 51 in Houston, Texas this year I participated in this ‘Fan Mail’ activation whereby fans could send a personalised postcard of their day at the Super Bowl to anyone in the world. I filled out one for my girlfriend back in Melbourne, my folks in Brisbane and a die-hard NFL mate in London. I didn’t hold out much hope that these would actually be sent internationally as I was thinking that they would only have stamps to cover internal US domestic postage but to my surprise and delight about a week after I got back from the US it arrived in my letterbox here in Melbourne.

93. While walking around the fan zone precinct for game 2 of the State of Origin at ANZ Stadium this year I had a quick go of the ‘Quick Shaves’ Schick Hydro sponsor activation where I got a little bit of a beard trim before the game. A nice little touch and a clever sponsor tie in to get ‘game ready’ for the big match.

Quick Shaves at SOO

92. Toy Toss. Hopefully a growing trend but there were a few good ones this year like the Hershey Bears toy toss on to the ice and the Charleroi one on to the pitch in Belgium. An idea that looks great on video and does a lot of good but probably makes all the OWHS, security and venue managers out there a little bit anxious. 

 

 

91. One trend I’ve seen this year is something that is far from a new thing but something which I don’t think clubs have effectively showcased to the public in the past. It’s not flashy, it’s not enabled by tech and it doesn’t take much effort. It’s the simple act of players giving their time after a performance to say thank you to fans, to sign autographs and even to give hugs to young fans who are desperate to meet their idols. Look at some of these kids faces. They are now hardcore loyal members for life of these teams and players because of these simple acts. Anyone whose worked in club land knows that these athletes do more community work and give up more of their time than most of us and along with these simple efforts after the game I think it goes a long way to adding to fan satisfaction both for the young fan and for the families who cough up the cash to attend. More of this in 2018 and more of teams showcasing the good they are doing for fans. Promoting the good stories and the positive experiences with fans, especially on social drives the ability to acquire new fans and galvanise existing supporters.

90. AFL Rookie Passport. I’ve seen some high quality educational team passports like from the Socceroos and Chelsea in the past but while attending the 2017 AFL Grand Final Footy Festival outside the MCG I picked up a copy of the AFL Rookie Passport and was very impressed with the content for junior fans. With an extensive spread of activities and engaging content this was one of the best I’ve seen for these formats. Kids were able to plan their day, do colouring in, complete quizzes and games all while learning healthy eating tips and other educational insights into both the life of an athlete and Aussie Rules.

 

89. A trend I’m seeing within stadium design is venues bringing in local artists or design studios to contribute artworks and design installations to liven up the often bland concrete walls and spaces inside venues. One team and venue that did this in 2017 was Southampton with the work they did at their stadium, St Mary’s. On my trek to Hard Rock Stadium for the Miami Dolphins last year I also noticed how they’ve linked up with local street artists to bring some colour and vibrancy to fans on match day.

 

88. While in Bangalore, India for the Royal Challengers Bangalore IPL match I thought that these ‘Ask Me Anything’ event staffed seats were a bright and beneficial addition to the match day to help fans understand what was happening on game day, where to enter the M Chinnaswamy Stadium and how to access transport. Being set high up at various points around the stadium certainly helped fans be able to see and access this supporter liaison officer.

87. Scarf The City. Orlando Pride scattered 1000 free scarves across Florida for fans to pick up and keep as part of a thank you to fans campaign.

Orlando City MLS

86. Atlanta Braves Glove Experience. At SunTrust Park fans are able to hire out a baseball glove for the day through sponsor Mizuno. Fans can take a glove for a $1 deposit and can use it to try to catch foul balls and home runs.

85. North Queensland Cowboys mascots. In March I ventured up to the tropics in Townsville, North Queensland to take in my first North Queensland Cowboys NRL game day experience. While the crowd went wild when the Cowboys won in golden point, the other thing that sent the kids in the crowd nuts was the addition of no less than 10 different mascots. It may have actually been even more than 10. They had a mascot for every sponsor as well as the team mascots and the kids were running round the touchline like mad trying to get autographs, photos and high 5’s from these costumed characters. Some were downright hilarious though like the coffee sponsor giraffe that took 20 minutes to get down the stairs even with a minder to the kind of scary looking steak house mascot. All in all it was an interesting observation to watch how the kids interacted with these mascots as well as another creative and fun idea to get the sponsors involved.

 

84. Northern Premier League Division One team Prescott Cables FC gave their fans the chance to ‘Own and Loan’ a team jersey whereby fans could purchase a kit, loan it to the player to wear for the season and then at the end of the season the fan would get the jersey back fully signed by the team.

Prescott Cables 'Own and Loan' jersey

83. MLS team San Jose Earthquakes held a Lego Build day event for young fans to make replica stadiums and forge stronger connections with the team.

82. The Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs and the Fresno Tacos held the ‘Ultimate Food Fight’ and ‘Bacon Vs Tacos’ match which saws fans vote on various topics with the losing team having to wear their opponents hat in a game. The fan engagement and social media work on the microsite here is worth a look to see what they did for this campaign and I’m sure you’ll agree its as random, quirky, fun and brilliant as the merchandise range.

81. Cricket Australia and KFC Buckethead Army. Thousands of these KFC bucket caps are handed out to fans at the BBL (few pics below from back in January at the MCG) and as part of the current summer of cricket campaign with myself grabbing one at the first Ashes test match at the Gabba in Brisbane last week. A clever way to keep fans cool and stay sun smart while also giving the sponsor maximum branding in the crowd.


80. The Winnipeg Jets announced their new security team member signing. Meet Lenny, a high performance sniffer dog whose joined the NHL team’s venue security detail and was named by supporters in memory of a long time fan.

Winnipeg Jets Security Dog Lenny

79. The Baltimore Ravens debuted Faceware Interactive and Image Metric’s AR Face Kit technology which sees fans have access to a photo real, virtual, face painting experience that seamlessly integrates into the Raven’s mobile app. With around a dozen augmented reality face paints to try on this has proven popular with fans with other teams such as the Chicago Bears also jumping in here too.

Baltimore Ravens AR Face Kit

78. Cricket Australia recently debut their ‘Matchday App‘ which is accessed by their brilliant Live Pass app (if you want an example of an outstanding sports app that does everything from streaming live games to quality content then you have to check theirs out). The Matchday App only works when you’re in close proximity to the game and pops up to show you important event information such as what fan engagement activities are on as well as venue maps, match replays and how to get to the ground. A really impressive little addition to help fans out on the day of a match to show them how to get the most out of their day at the cricket.

77. While many game day giveaways end up scattered outside the stadium such is the poor quality or irrelevance to fans, this growth chart idea from Super Rugby’s Wellington Hurricanes is a prime example of a sponsor branded giveaway that could quite possibly stay hanging up inside a young fans room for years.

Wellington Hurricanes Growth Chart

76. For the 2017/18 NBA season, Nike has released special edition connected jerseys featuring NFC tag technology where fans can tap their jersey to access exclusive player content like stats and player playlists. Soon enough you’ll probably be able to tap your jersey and pay for food and beverage items inside the venue. 

NBA connected jerseys

75. Five of the Western Sydney Wanderers played a match against 50 kids as part of a new partnership. The commentary is as good as the footage here. 


74. Football League two side Notts County in England announced a creative jersey sponsorship deal whereby there would be 10 unique sponsors for each month of the season. A clever way to attract new fans especially with the month of November which featured music star and mega fan Jake Bugg sponsoring the team kit.

73. Fan First Pricing. A common theme at the moment for many mega stadiums is to reduce the cost of F&B items for fans. Some venues to put fans first with cheaper options to ease the cost of a day out included Atlanta’s Mercedes Benz Arena which had $2 soft drinks, $5 beers, $2 hot dogs and $5 burgers.

72. The AFL team Geelong Cats debuted their ‘Fan Portal‘ which sees fans enter a private room with a select group of fellow fans, don special socks and gather round to reveal the floor retract to reveal the players below them. Fans are able to watch the team warm up, hear the noise and build up in the sheds before and after the game all from this special money can’t buy vantage point. 

 

71. Dutch football team RKC Waalwijk decided to switch up the traditional player’s entrance by substituting kids for elderly fans as a clever way to draw awareness to the loneliness often felt among older fans and members of society. Sydney FC also had older fans as mascots in an A-League game this year too. 

70. Not to be outdone, Chilean football team Colo-Colo took the field in their game this year with rescue dogs as their mascots to raise dog adoption awareness.

69. Way-Finding. How many times have you been to a venue this year and just wanted to easily be able to get to the loo, see the fan engagement activations or grab some food and drinks but have had to either wait in long lines or dodge around fellow fans just to try to find what you’re looking for? Well this year I’ve been able to see two way-finding set ups that attempt to solve this issue. The first one was at the Sydney Swans huge fan zone outside the Sydney Cricket Ground where there simple sign directs fans to all of the fan activities while the second example is Wait-Time’s way-finding screens which were recently installed at the Melbourne Cricket Ground but which have been a feature in US venues for a while now. I’ve only been able to utilise WaitTime at a match with a relatively smaller crowd than usual however found it to be an impressive addition to navigating the MCG. More venues across Australia and the globe will start to see this tech being rolled out for fans soon.

 

68. Cricket Australia’s ‘Cricket Hosts’. A fine addition this summer from CA has been the introduction of the Cricket Hosts who are very much like SLO’s (Supporter Liaison Officer’s) or game day helpers in the US who are on hand to provide game day advice and information to fans as well as answer their questions and get them pumped up for the day’s play. I had a chat to a few of these hosts at The Gabba for the first test and found them very helpful when it came to asking about the fan zone, seating and what else to expect from the day. A really effective solution to have positive smiling people on the ground representing and promoting the brand so that fans have everything they need for the match before they enter the venue.

67. The NFL’s Minnesota Vikings signed a ‘Generation Z’ consultant to help the organization better connect with young people. 18-year-old author and public speaker Jonah Stillman was drafted in with the aim of connecting to the team’s younger audiences through social and other digital means. A clever idea from the Vikings which I know a few other clubs and venues here in Australia are looking at replicating in some capacity.

66. Photo printing backpacks. The NY Mets and marketing technology firm M-ND introduced these ‘interactive, social-media curating- and photo-printing backpacks’ at Citi Field this year that saw fans able to upload a photo to social media and then track down one of the backpack wearing staff to be able to have their photo printed out as a keepsake. 

65. Bayern Munich hosted a press conference of a different kind with their one for the Audi Cup featuring the coaches coming in via hologram for the presser. With musicians like Roy Orbison already touring again in hologram form and the potential for hologram sports matches to be played as part of new broadcasting opportunities in places outside where the real match is taking place, this is sure to be a space to watch in the coming years for fans.


64. The NBA’s Sacramento Kings and Golden One Centre’s augmented reality app in partnership with Zappar and Nike enabled fans this year to give fans a 360-degree look at its new jersey when it was unveiled. The app lets fans personalize Sacramento Kings uniforms and virtually photograph themselves with star players.


63. Quiet sensory room spaces. This year both Liverpool FC and Cleveland Cavaliers debuted quiet spaces and sensory rooms at their venues. The basis for these rooms was to improve accessibility and inclusion for fans with sensory sensitivities such as autism and PTSD. The Cavs Quicken Loans room features calming paint tones, a textured wall, special seating and privacy away from loud noises and crowds. Over at Liverpool’s Anfield, the space includes a sensory portable bubble tube and light unit, fibre optic carpet, a projector and an LED bean bag. A clever idea here from both venues and teams to ensure that all fans, regardless of their diverse needs, are made to feel included and comfortable on match day.

62. Craft Beer. A common feature for teams and venues in recent times has been to jump on the craft beer wagon and provide a better beer experience for their fans who wish to sample local and independent brews. 2017 has been no different with many clubs and stadiums collaborating with craft breweries to establish partnerships with the local community and provide craft beer on match days or for other events in specialised craft beer bars. While below touches on some of these developments from my part of the world in Australia and New Zealand there have also been many others across the globe who have listened to their supporters to supply craft beer. Some of the developments include:

  • Essendon Bombers AFL: Partnership with CBCO
  • Westpac Stadium, NZ: Garage Project and NZ All Whites collab beer plus Wellington Phoenix sideline bar
  • The Precinct: Suncorp Stadium’s new bar featuring Little Creatures/Rogers (Yes not technically craft beer anymore)
  • Lords Cricket Ground: Craft beers on tap in general bar areas. Got to try a few of these back in April thanks to some very positive but bored public bar staff during a rain break between Essex and Middlesex.
  • Harrowgate Town FC: Collab craft beer
  • Melbourne Aces ABL: American craft beers on tap at the Victorian Baseball and Softball Centre
  • Melbourne City A-League: Partnership with Stomping Ground Brewing
  • West Ham United: The Olympic Stadium features a variety of craft beers on tap including Boleyn Bitter and West Ham Iron Ale
  • Central Coast Mariners A-League: Coastie Lager collab with 6 String Brewing
  • Canberra Raiders: Bentspoke Brewing on tap at Canberra Stadium
  • North Sydney Oval: Craft beers on tap in main stand bar
  • South Sydney NRL: Craft beers on tap
  • Adelaide Oval: Little Creatures/Rogers on tap- again purists will argue this is not craft

 

61. Pitch-side beds. Two of the stand outs this year for pitch-side experiences were the partnership that Allianz Arena and AirBNB did for the Audi Cup and also Old Trafford‘s partnership with Hilton Hotel.

Allianz Arena enabled some lucky fans to stay overnight in the stadium for two days and one night during the Audi Cup 2017. The modern and spacious accommodation was built directly on the sideline of the field, so fans could watch four games of world-class football from the most comfortable couch during the tournament.

Meanwhile at the Emirates Old Trafford a Hilton Hotel opened up that included 80 odd pitch-side rooms that provided cricket fans with a unique vantage point to take in the days play. Taking it one step further they rolled out some beds for another creative pitch-side viewing experience.

60. DROPIT developed an interactive app which connects teams and sponsors with their fans via in-game, 60-second drop auctions aiming to generate heightened excitement inside the venue. The app aims to deliver on both fan and brand engagement with immersive, digitally connected social experiences that combine the pace of a video game and the excitement of a live auction. I wrote a bit about this start up earlier in the year having been impressed with what I saw. They have since gone on to sign with an NBA team and other venues are also interested in adding this to the game day. Tech start ups come and go so it will be interesting to see how this goes in 2018 and beyond. What do you think though?


59. All the times teams listened to their fans in 2017. Below is obviously a small snapshot of some of the stories that went viral this year but certainly show the value of both players and teams listening to their fans. Whether it be a kid who writes to a player as part of his school work and then has the player visit to a player who offered to have a kick around with young fans in the park to going door to door with pizza to rally fans to get out to support the team nothing shows you value your fans more than listening to them and interacting in creative and positive ways for them. What else did you see this year?

58. Was this 2017’s best game day giveaway? 5000 cricket bats with player Rachael Heyhoe Flint’s signature on them were given out to every child attending the ICC Women’s World Cup final at Lord’s in July. What good game day giveaways did you see this year?

57. A-League team the Wellington Phoenix established a new diversity program in partnership with the Human Rights Commission, Red Cross, ChangeMakers Refugee Forum and Multicultural New Zealand. As part of the inclusion program, former refugees in the region were offered a season ticket for the 2017/18 season in recognition of the important role sport plays in building bridges between individuals and across communities. An inclusive way from the Phoenix and stakeholders here to acquire new life long members and bring the community closer together.

56. Wells Fargo Center and the Philadelphia 76ers announced a new addition to their concession stands by adding the Australian meat pie to honour Australian player Ben Simmons in what was the first international commercial arrangement for the team. The 76ers ‘Australia Heritage Night’ plans also sound like a creative way to highlight Australia, Simmons and the Four and Twenty partnership. A clever idea to provide something unique here to fans on match days in the venue which they certainly can’t get anywhere else in Philadelphia or the US.

55. Atlanta’s Mercedes Benz Stadium. After all the hype over the past couple of years the stadium finally opened this year and fans were not left disappointed by the fan experience features of the new venue. From the impressive halo screen and the fan first pricing on a range of F&B items to the state of the art retractable roof and the mega LED screen column this was the stadium that made the most noise in the industry this year. Looking forward to attending a game there soon. Optus Perth Stadium to step it up in 2018!


54. These ‘XXXX Gold Bay’ seat covers at the Brisbane Cricket Ground (Gabba) for the first ASHES cricket test match were a nice idea for fans to store their phones, sunnies and any other items. The fan section seat covers also came with small personalised fans which when plugged into your phone’s power socket provided some much needed fresh air.  In the back of the seats was also a bandana which when taken to the XXXX Gold staff could be exchanged for an ice cold one from an esky which was no doubt keeping fans cool.

53. Hiroshima Carp’s wearables cheer wristband. Fans of the Japanese baseball team Hiroshima Toyo Carp were able to add to their fan experience with this new wristband from Sharp this year. The device displays the current scores of games of the team with a built-in motion sensor sensing the movements of the arms of the carp fans wearing the band which is then interpreted as a “cheering action” that causes the smart-band to vibrate and the LEDs to illuminate to support the cheering. Fans are able to accumulate the “cheering action” as “cheering points” and use it to vote for player’s of the match as well as to interact with other fans.

52. AS Roma’s farewell to Totti and fan controlled videos. While AS Roma partnered with SmartReplay in 2017 to become the first football club to roll out a video experience which enables fans to control what they wanted to watch they also executed a social first content and media strategy to use Facebook Live to stream Totti’s farewell to a global audience and share the emotion in the stadium with fans all over the world. This resulted in over 12M views for the farewell speech and 73M views overall.


51. Sunderland AFC’s kit launch. The Sunderland kit launch featured a Facebook Live stream with two amateur football teams (Dawdon Welfare Park FC and Hall Farm Glasshus FC) taking to the field at Ashbrooke Cricket Club, one of Sunderland’s former homes, to play in a match to both promote the new jersey and get fans passionate about the club’s heritage. The campaign was so successful it even won a Football Business award.


50. These inflatable foam team and sponsor logos here from Atlanta based company Atlanta Special FX. Used on match day at Atlanta’s Mercedes Benz Stadium these Cloudvertise eco friendly ‘Helium Soap’ 3D Logo Bubloon Clouds are certainly something new and exciting for fans on match day this year.


49. Never one to do things by the book, the Newtown Jet’s have continued to put on some very good events  for fans at Henson Park in Sydney over the past few years with their Hipster’s Day again proving to be a roaring success this year in attracting new fans and families. Featuring kids activities, food vans and craft beer, a day on the hill here is a must here especially to see the rise in attendances especially amongst families and females fans.

48. Brighton Hove and Albion FC’s personalised emails to fans. This year BHAFC sent out these personalised emails to every member at the end of the season showing them how many miles they had covered in the season as well as games attended and the special moments of the past season which saw the team promoted to the Premier League. An impressive albeit time consuming CRM effort that resulted in plenty of fan admiration for the Brighton digital, membership and fan engagement team.

47. Cricket Australia announced plans to enable fans the ability to live stream all of the 2017-18 summer of cricket action on Qantas planes in Australia which are fitted with Wi-Fi.  Most people like to be able to switch off from Wi-Fi while 10-30,000 feet up in the air however this announcement and partnership will no doubt delight many cricket mad fans who can now ensure they don’t miss any of the action.

46. The NBA Augmented Reality app. The ability to set up a team personalised set of hoops anywhere in the world and then tap your phone as if you’re taking a shot to play basketball was another impressive jump into AR for the NBA this year. The successful launch of the NBA AR app in October with this game that sees fans shoot three pointers in their own unique court set up is just another way the NBA and other major sports leagues are getting deeper into engaging fans with new technologies like augmented reality. 

45. Blatchy’s Blues SMARTWiG’s. The story of the State of Origin Blatchy’s Blues fan group is a success story in itself having been started and grown by a fan into a massive fan group that was then sold on to the NSWRL. The sheer fact that this group could get 10-15K fans to wear a blue wig at matches is credit to the team behind Blatchy’s but this year they stepped it up another level with STAR’s involvement to allow fans to have these SMARTWiG’s to include an LED antenna which lit up bright blue at ANZ Stadium back in June which created an incredible atmosphere. The SMARTWiG’s also enabled fans at the game to be able to listen in to 6 hours of Blatchy’s Blues Radio as well as receive exclusive radio access to the Blues’ dressing sheds with coach Laurie Daley and players talking directly to the Blues’ most loyal fans.

44. NFL Experience at Houston Super Bowl 51. If there was ever the ultimate fan engagement theme park, the NFL Experience in Houston earlier this year would be close to epitomising what it could be. This was an incredible spectacle of activations, sponsor activities, tech wonders and giveaways worthy of the greatest showbag you’ve ever picked up. I spent about 7 hours here wandering around and checking out all of the activities such as making an NFL helmet, viewing the latest in female fan gear, playing video games and sampling loads of American foods and drinks from sponsors. Thousands of fans ventured through the Houston Convention Centre for a week leading up to the Super Bowl and for abour $35USD they were able to visit the 100+ stalls here and participate in all of these fun activities. This has easily been the greatest fan engagement fan zone spectacle I have seen in all my time venturing across the globe to check and it is a must visit if you want to learn about best practice fan engagement. Sure the Super Bowl was fantastic to go to but in my opinion this was better!

 

43. Sometimes (and it’s actually more often than not) its just the simple and small things that can go a long way to improving fan satisfaction, increase loyalty and provide some quality fan engagement along the way. This was the case this year as can be seen below where FC Schalke played one of Ajax fans’ favourite tunes over the tannoy’s after their loss to Schalke. A nice and simple thing to do for travelling fans after a heavy loss.

42. Perth Glory have consistently been one of the most well performing teams in the A-League when it comes to fan engagement. From their petting zoo, free fruit flavoured water station and member’s fan wall the Glory have gone above and beyond for fans in recent times to show that they are listening to them. One activation that stood out this year was this smoothie station which allowed fans to pedal a stationary bicycle which in turn created a smoothie for themselves while they watched the game at NIB Stadium. 

41. In what was one of the most uplifting fan engagement stories from 2017, the work of the Iowa Hawkeyes whose fans, players and game officials all turn and wave to sick children in the hospital adjacent to their 70k capacity Kinnick stadium made many people smile at what is such a simple but moving gesture. The Hawkeyes said of the tradition: “What started as a fan suggestion on an Iowa Facebook fan page has turned into a full-blown movement: Iowa fans collectively waving to the top floor of the hospital, where the children and their families gather to watch Iowa, at the end of the first quarter during Hawkeye home games.”


40. The Australian Baseball League’s Melbourne Aces gave fans the chance to have a dinner date with one of their star players at a game this season and judging by the image it looks like a pretty fun and simple concept following the completion of the match. 

39. The NHL’s New York Rangers rode the subway in full gear earlier in December to a fan day and outdoor practice in Central Park. The players snapped selfies with fans on the journey into the city and found time to chat with young fans as part of this simple bit of fun by the team. 

38. eSports/Esports/ESports/esports. The proliferation of teams jumping into the esports space in 2017 showed no slowing down with global teams continuing to invest in either pro gamers and individual teams as well as set up high performance centres in venues. In 2017 esports was questioned as to whether or not it was actually a sport, was considered for the Olympics, had players buying into it and leaving traditional sports to become gamers and filled out 80,000 seat stadiums in China with events. The ability for sports stakeholders to tap into esports represents a new opportunity to win new fans and audiences to increase attendances, presents new revenue opportunities and is a broadcasting delight for media. Oh and by the way according to AP the correct spelling is ‘esports’. 

Some of the big esports developments from the sports business world this year included:

  • Sacramento Kings unveiling a new esports facility inside their venue.
  • The SCG established a high performance centre. 
  • Essendon FC bought the Abyss team.
  • Adelaide Crows acquired the Legacy esports team. 
  • Melbourne City signed an esports player. 
  • Seattle Sounders set up an esports gaming fan zone at their stadium. 
  • West Ham United ran a training session with their player to help other FIFA gamers up their skills.
  • The rise of esports fan groups continued, namely Hashtag United. 
  • QPRFC launched their own esports team. 
  • Adelaide United FC ran tutorials for fans.
  • In the MLS, NYCFC signed the first esports player. 
  • The FA Cup Gamers Tournament continued it’s successful run. 
  • Dutch side Eredivisie were the first to launch a league-wide esports competition.
  • Puskas winner Wendall quit football to become a pro-gamer. 

Another of the more intriguing spaces to watch in the coming years to see how teams and leagues fill stadiums for combined matches of esports and traditional sports where teams will battle each other in both worlds. 

37. . Rafa Nadal surprising fans in virtual reality (kind of) was a fun idea from this sponsor.

36. Cricket had a big year when it came to introducing interesting new content but so too did Twitter who in partnership with the ICC and IPL debuted a host of interesting content. The Indian Premier League debuted player emoji’s which were a hit with fans across the tournament. At the ICC Champions Trophy there was a host of new features such as the #AskCaptain series where fans could tweet in a question to the captains while fans could also opt in to receive personalised direct messages featuring score updates and video content. There was also a live commentary box stream on Twitter and the debut of the first female cricket emoji’s too.

35. freeD Technology VisionWith fans crying out for more diverse and unique camera angles to play back and view game plays and live action this new freeD virtual reality technology offers a pretty cool new viewing perspective for fans. With more than thirty 5K cameras surrounding each venue, the Intel® freeD™ technology delivers the clearest high-def images possible. This technology uses voxels (pixels with volume) to render replays in spectacular 3D, creating a multi-perspective view of key moments. The NFL used this tech this season to deliver new viewing experiences to fans with the use of VR and their 360 degree replay technology. 

34. Hackathons. There’s been a trend in the past year for sports business stakeholders to engage their fans and in particular those with data skills to help them do a deeper dive into the team data to improve their processes. Teams like Bayern Munich are “collaborating in teams to work on technical, business and design problems and develop innovative and creative software to build prototypes and come up with new ideas and approaches” to improve the fan experience. The NRL cracked open its stats to data experts and held a DataJam to “identify new trends and ways to visualise game play, participation levels, entertainment value and more” while MCFC collaborated with Google to hold their second hackathon event called #HackManCity which was designed to unlock new fan engagement ideas and ways of doing more innovative business.

33. The Brisbane Cricket Ground (Gabba) Pool Deck. Jacksonville’s Everbank Field has a pool and now the Gabba has one too. When I did the 2016 100-1 compilation last year I touched on this briefly however the final product was not yet ready. However last month I was able to visit the pool deck area at the Gabba for the first ASHES cricket test match and was blown away at what a unique, fun and slightly random fan experience this was for fans. The pool deck sits in an open area of the ground directly facing the pitch so fans are able to either sit at nice tables or on deckchairs or if they fancy they can take a dip in the pool and sit with fellow fans to take in all the action. Fans are allowed to take drinks into the area and are given a free towel to dry off with after a swim. The area provides free sunscreen and is patrolled by experienced lifeguards as well as being cleaned after every two hour session making it one of the cleanest pools in Australia. If you didn’t have any togs on you then they were also selling pairs to fans to change into before a swim. To think back to being a kid and watching cricket at the Gabba that one day I would be able to watch Steve Smith score his 21st century from a stadium pool is a crazy thought but it again shows how venues are pulling out all the stops to create unique seating and viewing experiences for patrons. To see more of the pool deck in action be sure to follow the BBL Brisbane Heat this summer as the pool will be in action again at the Gabba during those games.

32. NFC and RFID Chips. Finding their way into more and more of the sports world over the past year, these two different but related types of chips, NFC (Near Field Communication) and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) are adding more insights for fans from broadcasters in terms of statistics and player data.

Some better explanations of the two chips too:

NFC: A short-range wireless connectivity standard that uses magnetic field induction to enable communication between devices.

RFID: A method of wireless communication that utilizes radio waves to identify and track objects.

Some of the developments with these chips and tags over the past year have included:

  • NFL installing RFID chips in every match ball to provide statistics for broadcasters and in turn fans.
  • NBA’s connected jerseys. Mentioned previously in this list. 
  • MLB enabling faster seamless access to venues by tapping their phone on ticket scanners. 
  • PROVA preventing the fraudulent sale of sports merch through NFC authentic tracking tags. 
  • Levis Stadium speeding up sales via NFC payments.
  • The unveiling of the new FIFA World Cup 2018 ball that features an NFC chip that fans can engage with to access exclusive content and information. 
  • These smart connected winter gloves for payments at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics which allow fans to use their gloves and keep warm to make payments at the venues next year.
  • Catapult Sports provided these new RFID player tracking devices for the 2017 NRL State Of Origin series.  

31. Trophy Tour. Welsh Premier League team Prestatyn Town FC took their trophy on a tour of the town and of the local businesses that supported them in the past season as a thank you. While there’s trophy tours for fans this was a novel approach to reward sponsors and fans of the team in the town who had helped out over the course of the season. 
30. Altrincham FC‏ asked local children to design a jersey that celebrated the diversity in the community an were overwhelmed with the response. There were also some other impressive work for fans here such as how they set up a WhatsApp broadcast list to keep fans connected straight to their mobiles as well as launching their own 5-a-side fantasy sports platform. A team well worth checking out as they’re putting fans at the forefront of all their activations here. 
29. Premier League side Southampton FC created this 80’s style animation with Under Armour to launch their 2017/18 kit design. The #MadeForHeroes cartoon was both a clever way to showcase Southampton’s digital prowess as well as launch the new kit and target young fans at the same time. 


28. Meet and Greet. Fans often complain that they’re never listened to or that their views are not taken seriously because clubs and leagues simply just don’t want to engage with them. The truth is that this couldn’t be further from reality in the majority of cases as many sports teams often host fan forums where fans can express their views in a constructive manner but also have systems in place to allow dialogue between fans and the club. One such team that did this well this year was the NBA’s Denver Nuggets who held a fan meet and greet with their President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly at a Denver beer pub. While some fans were also lucky enough to grab some tickets it also represented an opportunity for them to ask questions of the business. 

27. The Los Angeles Angels hosted an introductory press conference for fans by the home plate gate entrance of Angel Stadium to showcase their new player Shohei Ohtani. #ShoheiDay came complete with a red carpet entrance and merch for sale right there and then for fans. 

26. The Baltimore Ravens offered fans the chance to have their cars stencilled in bright purple colours as a way for them to rep the team in the lead up to the new NFL season. 

 

25. The fan engagement at AZ Alkmaar. One of the most impressive fan engagement experts around is Bas Schnater who with his team runs the fan engagement and CRM ship at Dutch professional football club AZ Alkmaar and who deeply understands the importance of listening and engaging with fans. Bas and his team’s work for fans here is up there with some of the best practice fan engagement seen this year. From baby photo day’s, junior press conferences and a golden seat to the first fan who renews their membership to listening to fan feedback to change the stadium speaker system and even allowing a section of hardcore fans to light flares in a designated zone this is fan engagement done superbly well and which continues to reap rewards for the team with increased attendances. Everyone should keep this team on your radar as they continue to push the boundaries of creativity and put fans first in every aspect of the club’s business both on and off the field. 

24. Accessible inclusive all gender rest rooms and nursing rooms. Many venues across the sporting globe are improving the fan experience by ensuring that every fan feels welcome and can attend a game and feel safe. There has been the rise of venues such as Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center adding accessible all gender toilets which has received high praise from the LGBT community for building the world’s first entertainment and sports arena to fully accommodate transgender fans. Furthermore Fenway Park and Avaya Stadium have also installed Mamava nursing suites which provide fans with a private safe area for breastfeeding and baby changing because why should any fan miss attending a game. Expect to see more of these throughout global sporting venues through 2018 as venues continue to go above and beyond to provide the best experience for attendees.

23. ASK FRED. The Wimbledon chat bot ‘Fred’ was a big hit for fans this year as it guided tennis fans around England’s historic lawn tennis competition earlier in 2017. The Fred bot gave ticket holders information about dining options, featured a natural language interface and also included an interactive map of the venue.

22. Detroit Pistons allowing fans to take a shot on the court after the game. Kids sign up pre-game and are allowed one shot at the completion of the game. A nice and simple way to collect data via the kids club sign up and then give these young fans a moment to remember. Why is this not done in other sports for just 30 minutes after a game? Kick the ball through the net? Kick a place kick etc? Would be good to see more of this in other sports. 

21. Valentines Day cards. There’s always an opportunity to have some fun with fans on social and while some teams have these Valentines Day cards for that special day, some teams even send out the mascots to go visit girls and guys all over town which is a good use of the mascot outside game day and a revenue opportunity that is not utilised enough.

 

20. NCAA Volleyball projected tweets on court. A clever idea here for game day and to showcase the best fan tweets.

19. Everton FC’s kit consultation. A good way to show fans that the team is listening to them by having fans have their say on what the kit should look like.

18. CLEAR fast access biometric security screening. This tech continues to be rolled out at venues across the US and allows fans to scan their fingerprint to gain faster priority entry to the venue. While fans could be alarmed with the personal data and privacy issues and the fact that the tech tracks fans’ behavior and purchasing habits it’s ‘clear’ that many fans see no issue with this and are happy to use these priority lines to scan their iris or fingerprint as it’s enables them to avoid long lines and skip the queues.

17. Snapchat Specs. I wrote earlier in the year about the Snap Specs and how teams were using these after picking up a pair in NYC in January and enjoying them throughout much of the year for various activities plus lending them to teams and players down here in Australia. Everyone in the industry raved about them and I loved using them but they just didn’t catch on and were a spectacular failure for Snap. A few of the points I raised in my blog here back in March proved accurate however like 2016’s Pokemon Go craze the Specs did represent another fun period where teams and digital managers all jumped in and created some pretty cool perspectives and content with them. It goes to show that the quality and passion that team digital managers have when it comes to creating interesting content and jumping on new technologies is something more fans should be appreciative of. There were plenty of cool ideas for what teams did with Specs this year and it’s still worthwhile checking out the creativity and ideas here from this short lived fad.

16. BVB #BedForAwayFans. In the lead up to the BVB vs AS.Monaco Champions League match the Borussia Dortmund bus was bombed. The match was postponed to the next day meaning that AS.Monaco fans needed to find accommodation. Therefore in a show of what the global football community and spirit is all about the BVB fans and team started the hashtag #BedForAwayFans which brought fans from both sides closer together to house those fans before the match could be played.

15. NZ Warriors Stadium Live app. The Stadium Live for Vodafone Warriors App took fans at Vodafone Warriors home games right into the thick of game day action, with exclusive access to eight SKY camera angles to stream footage, replays and highlights LIVE from their mobile device. Fans are crying out to be able to see diverse and interesting camera angles and replays while at matches and with the new developments in AR in the MLB and with FreeD tech this is going to be a big area for fans in the coming months.

14. The Vegas Golden Knights embedded inaugural season ticket holders names on the ice at TMobile Arena. The NHL’s 33rd team also had players go door to door to deliver tickets and while the venue is mobile only for ticketing they ensured that all fans got a commemorative ticket on the opening night. Fans were even able to receive a free jersey as part of their membership which they collected at a special ‘Jersey Night’ at the venue.

13. The NFL Experience in Times Square, NYC. A sports fans museum/ playground/theme park in the centre of New York showcasing all the latest in innovative technology from the NFL.

12. Social media bingo. A nice way for fans to play along at home with these two good examples from the BBL’s Hobart Hurricanes and the NBA’s Washington Wizards.

11. Philadelphia Eagles NFL Football Festival For Women. The Eagles are just one of a plethora of teams across the US who do these female festivals really well. In 2017 the Eagles football festival for female fans was one that stood out due to the sheer scale and range of activities for this important set of fans. Some other great examples of what US teams are doing for their female supporters include football training camps, fantasy camps, wine/dine events, football health and safety events for mums and fitness and health sessions which is highlighting that many of these teams are listening more to their fans and moving away from the ‘shrinking and pinking’ idea to actually provide more worthwhile events that female fans want, especially that relate to the game. It was also good to see at the Super Bowl this year the dedicated NFL female fans merch tent while other sports across the globe are now offering female cuts of player jerseys for the first time such as the BBL in Australia. 

10. Mascots can be quite tame most of the time but this one from Japan’s Pacific Baseball League caused a few headlines this year. Chiba Lotte Marines introduced the “mystery fish” which spits out a human during games this year. Taking mascots to another level…..

9. Toronto Wolfpack fan engagement. The rise of the Wolfpack’s massive attendances, celebrated game day set up and overall quality fan experience was one of the highlights of 2017’s year in fan engagement. From their beer cans with fixtures on them to their cruise and the way they rewarded fans by constantly bringing them closer to the action this year was outstanding to see. Their after party events at the ground where players from both Toronto and the opposing team were invited in and they could drink with Toronto locals and away fans that had made the trip was a nice touch too.

8. The NRL’s Canberra Raiders have greatly improved their attendances on the back of bringing fans more of a united atmosphere on game days. The work of their Viking Clap has been so good that this year they unveiled a viking horn or ‘Gjallarhorn‘ at their stadium in Canberra to add to this game day atmosphere before kick off.


7. Steve Waugh augmented reality experience at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust has partnered with Steve Waugh and Avanade to create an augmented reality experience to celebrate 15 years since Steve Waugh’s famous last-ball century at the Sydney Cricket Ground. In a first of its kind by any Australian stadium or sports body, the Steve Waugh AR experience allows fans to immerse themselves into one of Australian Test cricket’s most memorable innings.
The experience features commentary by Steve Waugh, an animated simulation of his shots recreated in the Avanade studio and short grabs of footage of his innings provided by the Nine Network’s Wide World of Sports.


6. Sports subscription boxes. The subscription box industry has exploded in 2017 with everything from craft beer to household goods now being able to be added to a subscription box service that sees buyers get a special mystery box of goods every month. The sports business has been quick to jump into this space too with the work of SportsCrate standing out in 2017. SportsCrate  is a fan-centered box launching with items targeting ten MLB teams. It’s also the league’s exclusive licensed subscription box. Expect to see more of this merchandise option in 2018 and beyond.

5. Arsenal FC held a Junior Gunners night  which saw a number of young members take on various roles in the stadium and with the team over the course of the match. Junior Gunner fans were able to hang out with a photographer, grounds person, media team and take on various roles with their buddy. 

4. Golden State Warriors replica trophy night. In terms of game day giveaways for fans this replica trophy from the GSW after their 2017 NBA Finals success certainly represented a collectable for fans and one that wouldn’t be thrown away when leaving the venue. 

3. The continued rise of subscription passes which are becoming a popular new form of ticketing. An example of this in 2017 was the work that the Oakland A’s did with their June-September $19.99 monthly pass. For only $19.99 per month, the Athletics Ballpark Pass includes mobile access to every 2017 regular season home game with the benefits including:

  • Guaranteed access to every game*, including high-demand and weekend games
  • Ease of delivery via the MLB.com Ballpark app – scan your personal mobile barcode directly from your phone
  • Auto-renews each month
  • Pass holders had access to enjoy all the great new features of the Coliseum during the game including Championship Plaza and Shibe Park Tavern.

Will we start to see more teams and venues go down this path in the coming years?

2. The nice gesture from A-League’s Melbourne Victory giving out $10 to every fan travelling to the A-League Grand Final in Sydney back in May. A small and simple outlay with a nicely personalised letter that went a long way for fans. 

1. WWE and KidZania launched a new fan experience in London which is the first-ever WWE Academy and an exciting new activity designed to entertain young WWE fans in the United Kingdom. The WWE Academy is a fully-branded experiential space within the city of KidZania London, where children can transform into a WWE Superstar. The area is designed to promote creative thinking and imagination where kids can become their favourite WWE Superstars and with the help of a KidZania referee, kids can choose from a range of WWE props and ring gear, practice their own catchphrases, develop a persona and create a promo video.

This brings an end to my 2017 fan engagement/experience 100-1 recap for 2017. What a year it has been for fans across the globe and for all the hard working teams providing these initiatives and ideas for their supporters.  As always there’s probably a good 100 odd ideas I’ve missed which could have also made the cut so this list is to be taken as a very general run down on some of the work which I thought really got people talking this year, were creative and innovative ideas or which I saw on my travels and thought they needed to be highlighted.  

I hope you enjoyed reading this and found it useful and I hope that you have a relaxing holiday season and time with your friends and family. 

Thanks

2017 AFLGF and NRLGF Fan Engagement/Experience Overview

With the 2017 AFL (Adelaide Crows Vs. Richmond Tigers) and NRL (Melbourne Storm Vs. North Queensland Cowboys) grand finals happening in Melbourne and Sydney this weekend respectively here’s a quick snapshot of what fans can look forward to in the lead up and on the day at both of these major Australian sporting events. 

AFL

Starting with the AFL and the league has done a tremendous job down in Yarra Park outside the MCG with the massive free AFL Footy Festival which has been put on for big and small Aussie Rules fans. Featuring a fan engagement extravaganza of authentic sponsor activations, photo opportunities and giveaways, the free footy festival is a young fans paradise.

The focus on fan engagement for kids here is impressive with the AFL Rookie Passport standing out along with the ‘Dunkinator’, ‘Tower of Torp’ and countless skills drills workshops involving the Sherrin footies bouncing all over the park. The new UberEATS partnership allows fans to skip the queues at an exclusive VIP area while there’s loads of gourmet F&B offerings from local food trucks like Biggie Smalls and Gelato Messina. If you’re in Melbourne it’s well worth getting down here to check it all out and take in the AFL Grand Final atmosphere.

Doughnut Time has some special Dustin Martin and Tex Walker styled doughnuts for fans to try while there are endless photo opportunities, bars and food stands that deserve a look in. This is one impressive set up outside the G!

Here’s a walk through of the event I did on Wednesday when it first opened. 

Uber is also giving fans in Melbourne $20 in free credit (with no catches) to enable them to get to or from the game at the MCG. There is also a dedicated Uber pick up and drop off zone outside the MCG on Clarendon Street where fans will no doubt be given a code to wait for their driver to arrive as has been the case with my experiences outside NBA and NFL venues with Uber partnerships. The Melbourne free tram zone has also been extended to allow fans more access to get to and from the venue for a cheaper price and relieve congestion. 

The Adelaide Crows have held an open training session and also updated their impressive club app to include ‘Facepaint’ which allows fans to paint their faces within the app. 

The Richmond Tigers have also put on a live site on Saturday for fans without AFL Grand Final tickets but this is sure to sell out. 

My tip: Adelaide Crows by 26.

 

NRL

The NRL put on a fan fest on Thursday for rugby league fans at Luna Park which featured rides, player appearances and a family zone. Fans were able to grab some photos with players, see the grand final teams be presented and see all the mascots in a mascot parade. 

At Sydney’s ANZ Stadium on Sunday fans are able to secure a free cap from sponsor 47 Brand who are giving away 60,000 free caps with the NRL and NRLGF logo on them to fans. The venue is also giving fans the chance to grab a special limited edition grand final cup inside the stadium too but no doubt these and the caps will go quickly. 

The Storm and Cowboys each have grand finals tees which fans can buy while Storm fans can go on a cruise and to get to the game which sounds like a fun idea out on the Sydney harbour. Fans also get free transport included with their ticket to the match. 

NRL fans have the chance to be picked up in a Golden Holden by booking with Uber for their ride to ANZ Stadium on Sunday while the Cowboys held an open training session and put on a grand final parade in Townsville to send the team off. 

My tip: North Queensland Cowboys by 8.

Future Stadiums: How Technology Is Revolutionizing The In-Stadium Fan Experience

Here’s a recent article I wrote for Australasian Leisure Management Magazine 

In a stadium near you right now the battle for the fan is on in the sports world to improve and enhance the fan experience. With stadiums across the globe racing each other to become the most technologically advanced theatre for live sports, an arms race is on to get fans out from their home sports caves and back into the stadium. From bio-metric finger print security screening, AI ticketing and vibrating seats to rest room app’s, virtual reality streaming and in-seat food ordering, global stadiums are continuing to innovate through technology in an effort to create exciting and immersive experiences off the field for fans to drive revenue and create long lasting memories and added value for sports fans.

Through looking at the recent global developments in stadium innovations into the fan experience, the following journey through the stadium of the future will look at and highlight the key stadium innovations that are revolutionizing the revenue options for stadiums and enhancing the fan experience for sports fans around the world.

Ticketing

With the stadium fan experience starting long before the actual event takes place, ticketing is often the first point of call for fans with the innovations taking place in this area being heavily influenced by mobile technology. While resale ticketing firm StubHub and Washington’s National’s Park Stadium allows fans to don a virtual reality headset to check out the view of their seats before buying them, Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium features ‘loaded tickets’ where fans can pre-load money onto their tickets which can then be used for food, drink and merchandise. Elsewhere the Dallas Mavericks listened to their fans and launched a new app that features the ability to view a 360º angle of the seats as well as purchase tickets seamlessly via the app while ticketing platform ReplyBuy is brining artificial intelligence to the fan ticket buying experience by allowing fans the opportunity to purchase tickets by sending a ‘buy’ test message to the service and having chatbots respond with questions asking how many tickets the fan is after.

Transportation

A constant gripe amongst sports fans has been the costs and hassle associated with getting to and from the stadium on game day be that from traffic congestion to parking, however now some stadiums are using creative inducements to inspire fans to more easily get out to the venue. At Florida’s Hard Rock Stadium, the Miami Dolphins have partnered with Uber to create a hassle free tailgate experience with a dedicated pick up and drop off point and the ability to book a ride to the game and have a private tailgate section complete with game day supplies. Across to the west coast and the 49ers are working with Amazon’s PrimeNow service to offer fans the fast delivery of game day tailgate items like hot dog buns, and ice which are then shipped to the fans in the Levi’s Stadium tailgate for only $8.

Uber Tailgate

Uber Tailgate

Uber Tailgate

Uber Tailgate

Uber Tailgate

Uber Tailgate

Security

As a result of Daesh having stated their intention to target global stadiums as well as the recent bomb explosions at France’s Stade de France and a Baghdad soccer stadium it is clear that there is a growing terrorism challenge for major sporting events and stadiums. However while teams and venues are always looking for cutting-edge technology to enhance safety they also have to ensure an exceptional first class fan experience. With this in mind the Colorado Rockies Coors Field has deployed CLEAR fast access technology that enables fans to gain faster access to the stadium by having their finger scanned by a biometric fingerprint reader at designated entry lanes. With stadiums like AT&T Stadium in Dallas and Yankee Stadium in New York doing away with PDF tickets, mobile technology is also increasing stadium security and eliminating fraud as tickets are now increasingly being linked to the identity and mobile device of the person entering the stadium which means security agencies can cross check watch lists and see who is coming into the stadium.

Seating

Having made your way inside the stadium, the next step is to find your seat and while some stadiums have incorporated cushioned seats and cup holders the new Atlanta Falcons Mercedes Benz Stadium has stepped it up a notch with vibrating seats that enable fans to feel the impacts of each big hit. Not to be outdone the Jacksonville Jaguars Everbank Field have swimming pools overlooking the field but which come at a cost of 12K per game whereas Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium recently installed ‘smart seats’ which feature pop up HD TV’s into some of their seating. It’s clear that stadiums are looking to offer more and more of these unique seating and viewing options as a way of enticing fans into the ground as well as generating revenue from new premium seating solutions.

Way-Finding

Finding your way around both the outside and inside concourses of the stadium is also an area that stadiums are revolutionizing with tournaments like Wimbledon developing an app that enables fans to plan their visit which enhances the individual fan experience while Canada’s New Mosaic Stadium has developed an interactive map to help fans get around the venue. Perth’s nib Stadium has also undergone a make over which has provided a distinctive visual environment for fan circulation that has included electronic touch screen maps of the venue’s concession stands and toilets.

Lighting

A major upgrade that stadiums such as Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans and Globe Life Park in Texas are undertaking has been to install sophisticated energy saving LED lighting systems that can instantly be turned on and off as well as create a vibrant fan experience that enhances visibility around the venue for players, fans and broadcasters while also improving the entertainment offering.

Architecture

Ensuring that the fan experience is a comfortable one, stadium architecture design is an exciting area in the sports business with venues now having interesting design aspects like cross-laminated timber and undulating fiberglass roofing that amplifies the noise for fans at Olympique Lyonnais to size convertible structures like West Ham’s take over of the Olympic Stadium. The brand new US Bank Stadium in Minnesota installed giant pivoting glass doors and used a special plastic called ETFE that opens the field to natural light while providing protection from the snow, rain and winter weather.

Food and Drink

Grabbing some stadium grub on game day has not often been a pleasant experience with food and drink options being limited in terms of variety, quality and quantity. However many stadiums are now hearing fans concerns by offering creative and delicious dishes which are giving fans more reason to attend. Multiple stadiums like Atlanta’s Mercedes Benz Stadium and Melbourne’s MCG have lowered food prices to remove the back pocket sting from a day out while Levi’s Stadium in California has an app that allows in-seat ordering so fans never have to leave their seat to grab a bite to eat. I road tested this in 2015 and from app download to hot dog delivery the total time was only 16 minutes. On the beverage front, New Zealand’s Westpac Stadium has recently partnered with a local independent Wellington brewer to have craft beer on tap during A-League matches while the Minnesota Twins Target Park offers self serve beer machines and Dodger Stadium has a frozen beer foam that sits on top of beer cups keeping fans beers colder for longer.

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In Seat Ordering at Levis Stadium

In Seat Ordering at Levis Stadium

Rest Rooms

Highlighting the fact that no area is off limits for stadium innovation, rest rooms throughout venues are now being upgraded to enhance the amenity experience for fans as well as provide sponsors with a new way to drive brand awareness. In California, the Levis Stadium app features a function that allows fans to see which toilets have the shortest queues while sensing an opportunity to improve the rest room experience, the Tailgating Sports Marketing Group have deployed toilet trailers that feature HD monitors that include interactive gaming and sponsored content.

Toilet app at Levis Stadium

Toilet app at Levis Stadium

Audio-Visual

Venues are increasingly updating their audio-visual infrastructure by incorporating cutting edge technology into their screens and sound systems as a way of improving the fan experience for the senses. New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium has installed huge programming boards that act as a delivery service for fans with information on fantasy sports and fan tweets while Mercedes Benz Stadium has added 2000 video display screens and a 360° 63,000ft HD halo video board in a new partnership with Daktronics. In the UK, Norwich City have revolutionized screen technology by becoming the first team in English football to install a 360° revolving LED stadium screen that switches between portrait and landscape while for Perth’s new stadium plans are to have 240sqm mega screens installed at both ends of the ground.

MetLife Stadium

MetLife Stadium

VR-AR

Racing each other to be the most technologically advanced stadium in the world through the use of virtual and augmented reality, stadiums are looking to offer new unique viewing experiences to bring fans in closer to the action and change how they consume content. The NBA’s Warriors recently broadcast the first live streamed game in VR that incorporated 360° cameras being installed around Oracle Arena with fans wearing VR headsets to see a new perspective of the game. Manchester’s Etihad Stadium in conjunction with Melbourne’s AAMI Park and New York’s Yankee Stadium also enabled fans to trial viewing a Manchester City match in VR in an effort to promote more fan involvement. Elsewhere there are rumours that the new City of Champions stadium in Los Angeles will feature on field projections using VR.

VR at Australian Open 2016

VR at Australian Open 2016

Connectivity

Enabling fans to have seamless in stadium connectivity to fast and free high density Wi-Fi has become the norm amongst leading stadiums who have understood the importance of ensuring fans have no impediment to mobile access. Venues such as US Bank Stadium have 1300 Wi-Fi hot spots while Levis Stadium features over 600KM of Wi-Fi cabling and one access point to every 100 seats in the bowl. Throughout Australia many of the leading stadiums now feature free Wi-Fi which have enabled fans to enjoy a better fan experience through interacting with team and stadium content, uploading pictures as well as receiving targeted ads for food, beverage and merchandise offers.

The stadium of the future has arrived and fans should be excited. While global stadiums show no signs of slowing down as they continue to innovate and revolutionize with smart technologies, it is evident from these ten areas that the stadium fan experience is being improved in every single aspect to ensure that fans are put first and provided with more reasons to attend.

 

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2016 AFL and NRL Grand Final Fan Engagement Recap

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The 2016 AFL and NRL Grand Finals have come and gone with the Western Bulldogs at the MCG and the Cronulla Sharks at ANZ Stadium taking out the titles in each of the codes. While the two matches were quality spectacles in Melbourne and Sydney over the weekend of October 1st and 2nd what was also quality was the level of fan engagement activations seen throughout each stadium and the overall fan experience which was an exceptional sight for the senses. From kicking a ball off a roof into a giant trophy to green screen fun and a virtual kicking activity to endless photo opportunities here’s a brief recap of the fan engagement from Grand Final weekend in Australia. 

I travelled to both the MCG for the AFL Grand Final and ANZ Stadium for the NRL Grand Final to soak up the awesome Aussie Rules and Rugby League fan experience that both codes had on offer for sporting fans. The continuing innovation in game day enhancements and entertainment seen at both stadiums continues to promote the quality in Australian fan engagement best practice and delivers exciting additional benefits and value to these Aussie sporting fans. Putting fans first and creating last memories for fans are certainly high on the agenda of both codes and from the varying array of interactive activities on offer it was clear to see that the AFL, NRL and stadiums are investing in creating a superior game day experience. 

On Saturday 1st October I headed out to the AFL Grand Final at the MCG which was contested between the Western Bulldogs and Sydney Swans. The journey from the city to the stadium was made easy due to free public transport tram stops being extended to the G for the big match. Upon leaving Jolimont station to walk the short distance to the MCG it felt like walking into an NFL stadium as we were handed no less than four free items ranging from footballs to inflatable merch and drinks to chocolates from sponsors Mars, Metro, Lift and NAB.

The free Foxtel Footy Festival that was held at the adjacent Yarra Park and which had been running throughout the week of the Grand Final had scores of sponsor tents running activations and gourmet food and drink stands serving localised and footy themed food creations. The activations around the footy festival included a green screen activation where you were filmed celebrating kicking a goal kick, endless free giveaways from sponsors and a stand where you could film your own press conference. There were roving Instagram photo boards for priceless picture opportunities, a huge kids zone and a stand from NAB where bank customers could pay pass their card for a free football. Along with this there was an art station where kids and parents could decorate a Sherrin football, face painting, autograph stations and the ‘Tower of Torp’ where fans could punt a football off a 30m high platform and try to land it in the massive AFL trophy for a chance to win tickets to the game.

The footy festival in the large green grassy open space of Yarra Park was an amazing endless sports fan expo of selfie competitions, showbags and free drinks and food giveaways that saw kids, families and friends all smiling, kicking footies and racing around this enormous sponsor led activation site from the AFL. With free WiFi hot spots from Telstra, there were countless photo opportunities to upload to social for instance the Coates Hire digger, the Toyota 4WD’s and the AFL trophy cabinet. The Carlton Draft pop up bar and the beer horses were also a welcome watering hole and interesting sight for fans.

The gourmet food options and pop up bars in the Footy Festival were interesting in that they featured creative footy inspired dishes like a ‘Meat Pie Taco’ and ‘Footy Kebab’ while at the same time featuring some of the stars of Melbourne’s culinary scene. 

Inside the ground, the fan engagement was no different. There was the 100K kick for cash, a year of beer giveaway, SnapChat filter’s, the pre-game and half time entertainment action but the best piece of fan engagement had to be when three fans ran around the MCG boundary rope fence in a relay passing a baton to each other against a Carlton Draft horse which was running alongside them on the LED screens. It was quick, it was hilarious, it was creative, it was simple. They beat the horse and won a prize and everyone was laughing as their hearts pumped for these fans to make it round the G before the horse. 

The pictures attached in this AFL recap don’t do the AFL Footy Festival and Grand Final justice as it was an exceptional fan experience and as like always at these big events where it’s fan engagement overload you just don’t seem to have enough time to take it all in as there is so much going on and so much to do. Credit to the MCG, AFL and sponsors for continuing to create these exciting new experiences off the field for fans to enjoy. 


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After a few hours sleep on Saturday night I quickly boarded a plane on Sunday morning up to Sydney to take in the NRL Grand Final on what was a hot day compared to the chill of Melbourne on Saturday. Hitting the ground running to take in the NRL fan engagement on Grand Final day I caught a free train out to ANZ Stadium which was included in the ticket price. Walking through the ANZ Stadium NRL fan zone was another impressive spectacle that featured local gourmet food stands, an array of photo opportunities along with an NRL member’s lounge where fans could get free massages, free ice cream and free newspapers.

The NRL fan day earlier in the week at Sydney’s Darling Harbour featured an exciting mix of fan engagement activities including player signing sessions, mascots, member activations and a host of kids activities while today’s fan zone also featured innovative ideas from The Creative Shop including ‘The Virtual Boot’ where fans could kick a virtual football off a tee and see how many conversions they could score (I scored 1/3 but the 6 year old boy behind me got all 3!), the fitness inspired ‘Race The Stars’ where you can time yourself against the best in the NRL and the ‘Reaction Station’ where fans could test their abilities against NRL players on this electronic board.

There were photo opportunities with a giant NRL trophy and Twitter #NRLGF hashtag, SnapChat filters and a ‘Make Your Play’ area where skills drills were taking place. Along with giveaways galore like free pins and Z-Programs from the RLWC17 Instagram there were also roving instagram cut out’s to capture the special moment of being at the stadium for grand final day. Inside the ground and the fan engagement kept rolling with the decibel reader and ‘KFC Dance Cam’ which encouraged fans to have a dance and feature on the big screens. 

On NRL Grand Final day, the NRL and ANZ Stadium again showcased their passion of putting fans first, continued to improve and reinvent the fan engagement while also creating an innovative fan experience that drives loyalty for rugby league fans. 

This concludes a brief recap of the NRL and AFL Grand Final fan engagement for 2016. If you’re thinking which event was better or who won the Grand Final fan engagement battle the truth is that they’re both winners. Both codes and stadiums through their hard working teams and sponsor support are continuing to update, transform and improve the fan experience in every possible way. While there are plenty of impressive, expensive and elaborate digital and technology driven activations that require a large amount of time to set up and run what is also so important to acknowledge is that so much of this fan engagement can be done on a small budget where creativity is the only key to unlocking this potential. It’s exciting times in this space for all parties but most importantly the sporting fans who are now being given access to a greater innovative and revolutionary fan experience. 

2016 NRL and AFL Grand Final Fan Engagement Overview

It’s that time of the year again as the AFL and NRL Grand Final’s are on this coming weekend in Melbourne and Sydney respectively.

With the action set to be electric on the field at both Sydney’s ANZ Stadium and Melbourne’s Melbourne Cricket Ground there are also a fantastic selection of fan engagement activations happening in each city from these national sporting codes as well as the competing teams that will be sure to keep fans entertained, engaged and having a world class fan experience at each stadium and online. 

While Melbourne’s MCG plays host to the Western Bulldogs versus the Sydney Swans in the AFL, Sydney’s ANZ Stadium will see Melbourne Storm take on the Cronulla Sharks in the NRL. 

Twitter has already jumped in to add special Grand Final emoji’s for both the #NRLGF and #AFLGF as well as the teams.

Twitter GF Emoji's

Twitter GF Emoji’s

AFL Grand Final 2016

Taking a look at the AFL first and that code will be holding the Foxtel AFL Footy Festival in Yarra Park outside Gate 3 of the MCG. The free festival will be showcasing the best of what Melbourne has to offer in food, music, movies, and of course, footy.

The event is open to the general public and will be running for four days from Wednesday, September 28 until Grand Final day, Saturday, October 1.

AFL FOXTEL FOOTY FESTIVAL

AFL FOXTEL FOOTY FESTIVAL

AFL FOXTEL FOOTY FESTIVAL

AFL FOXTEL FOOTY FESTIVAL

AFL FOXTEL FOOTY FESTIVAL

AFL FOXTEL FOOTY FESTIVAL

The AFL Live Site has 20+ activities on offer for fans over the four days with plenty of photo opportunities for those lasting memorable moments. Here is the full list:

Toyota AFL Grand Final Live Site

Toyota AFL Grand Final Live Site

Toyota AFL Grand Final Live Site

Toyota AFL Grand Final Live Site

Toyota AFL Grand Final Live Site

Toyota AFL Grand Final Live Site

*Update 28/9/16

I’ve just been through the AFL Footy Festival site and it is spectacular. From 30+ sponsor led fan engagement activation stands to gourmet food and drink this place has everything fans young and old could want in the lead up to the Grand Final. Pics below. 

A tradition on grand final eve, the AFL Grand Final Parade provides a chance for supporters of all ages to see the players taking part in the 2016 Toyota AFL Grand Final. Marching bands and roving entertainers will join the cavalcade of Toyota HiLuxes parading the Grand Final teams, from the Old Treasury Building to the Live Site at Yarra Park at the MCG on Melbourne’s public holiday Friday 30th September from 12-1pm.

AFL Grand Final Parade

AFL Grand Final Parade

Showcasing gourmet food options at sporting events is all part of the new wave of stadium advancements and the Lifestyle Taste of Footy event will be sure to showcase some of Melbourne’s best food options. With gourmet kebabs from Biggie Smalls Kebabs and Mexican fare from Lady Carolina to the yummy fries of King of Spuds and modern Japanese flavours of Tokyo Tina there is sure to be an option for every tastebud at this AFL footy food festival.

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Tokyo Tina

Tokyo Tina

King Of Spuds

King Of Spuds

Lady Carolina

Lady Carolina

Biggie Smalls

Biggie Smalls

Adding to the AFL Grand Final fan experience is the AFL Kids Zone which will include a range of activities for young AFL fans including the ever popular Woolworths AFL Playground, AFL Bounce, Ben 10 Drone Zone and NAB lounge.

AFL Kids Zone

AFL Kids Zone

Woolworths AFL Playground

Woolworths AFL Playground

Woolworths AFL Playground

Woolworths AFL Playground

Woolworths AFL Playground

Woolworths AFL Playground

The kids zone at the AFL Footy Festival also includes the Presto Movies at the MCG which will include a free public screening of the popular film Minions.

AFL Movie Day

AFL Movie Day

To keep fans connected, Telstra is also providing free wi-fi hotspots throughout the Foxtel Footy festival. Fans can connect to the ‘Free Telstra Wi-Fi’ when they arrive and share their photos and videos from each day of the event.

The AFL Grand Final Eve Party featuring Australian hip hop supremo Illy is a free gig for fans at Yarra Park on September 30.