AFLGF

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.

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.

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.

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. 

Fan Engagement for the 2015 AFL and NRL Grand Finals

NRL & AFL Grand Final's 2015

NRL & AFL Grand Final’s 2015

It’s that time of the year again as the top two teams in both the AFL and NRL battle it out to see who will win their codes respective Grand Final.

On Saturday the Hawthorn Hawks take on the West Coast Eagles at the MCG while Sunday sees an all Queensland derby with the Brisbane Broncos trying to win their 7th rugby league grand final against the North Queensland Cowboys at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium.

The action on the field is set to provide two classic close battles but whats happening off the field for fans in terms of fan engagement is also something for fans of both codes to get excited about.

*I’ll continue to update this for all teams as the week goes on and more fan engagement activities come to light.

Starting with the Aussie Rules and from Wednesday the AFL and Foxtel have a free family oriented fan ‘Footy Festival’ zone happening at the MCG with the ‘Best Of Melbourne’ featuring food, movies, merch and more. The free live site will feature a huge range of interactive displays, prize giveaways and challenges for the football fan, including: try your luck kicking your own Coates goal of the year into a mini excavator bucket, take a screamer in Toyota’s Hilux – unbreakable mark experience, compare your OPSM hand/eye coordination and reaction times to AFL stars, grab a pic of yourself with the Premiership cup and try Telstra’s interactive kicking screens. More details here.http://www.mcg.org.au/things-to-do/foxtel-footy-festival

AFL Footy Festival

AFL Footy Festival

AFLGF MCG Footy Festival

AFLGF MCG Footy Festival

Australian Mint offering special one off coins for AFL GF Footy Festival

Australian Mint offering special one off coins for AFL GF Footy Festival

Free MCG AFL posters for fans at Footy Festival

Free MCG AFL posters for fans at Footy Festival

The day after the GF fans can also take part in the MCG Open Day with a host of activities like having your pic taken with a replica AFL trophy. More herehttp://www.mcg.org.au/whats-on/latest-news/2015/august/mcg-open-day-returns

MCG Open Day

MCG Open Day

Friday here in Melbourne is a public holiday for the first time and will see thousands of fans out in force for the AFL Grand Final parade through the city. The Toyota AFL Grand Final Parade takes place on the 2nd October 2015 from 12pm and provides a chance for supporters of all age groups to see their favourite players who will take to the field in the Grand Final. Marching bands, roving entertainment and many others will join the cavalcade of Toyota HiLuxs carrying the two Grand Finalist teams along the route from the Old Treasury Building to Yarra Park at the MCG.

AFL GF Parade

AFL GF Parade

Both teams are also engaging fans via social with the Hawks catch cry hashtag being #PlayYourRole while the Eagles have #TheWestIsFinals and #GoEagles

#GoEagles

#GoEagles

#PlayYourRole

#PlayYourRole

AFL Retiring AFL Legends Lap Of Honour

AFL Retiring AFL Legends Lap Of Honour

The retiring AFL legends lap of honour is happening all over Victoria too. http://m.afl.com.au/lap-of-honour

 

AFL Retiring AFL Legends Lap Of Honour

AFL Retiring AFL Legends Lap Of Honour

Not only will music stars like Bryan Adams play before the game on Grand Final day but afterwards fans will also get to go on the field for a post match gig. Fans can also attend the ultimate post-match celebration when the MCG opens its gates to the public via Gate 4, 5 and 6 from 6pm on Toyota AFL Grand Final day. Enjoy a concert from the Grand Final day artists (featuring Bryan Adams and Ellie Goulding) before the 2015 AFL Premiers are presented to the crowd.

Fans can win a golden seat at the MCG for the big match as well.

AFL GOLDEN SEAT

AFL GOLDEN SEAT

Carlton Draft are also hosting an outside bar for 3000 select fans called the Carlton Draught Grand Final Front Bar where fans can rub shoulders with AFL personalities, win giveaways and last minute tickets into the MCG.

Carlton Draft Bar

Carlton Draft Bar

 

In terms of the two teams, the Hawks have also run some pretty cool fan engagement in the lead up to the big match as star player Luke Hodge has been leaving jerseys around Melbourne for lucky fans. First in, best dressed was the call here http://m.hawthornfc.com.au/video/2015-09-26/hodges-surprise-to-fans

Hawks Jersey Hunt

Hawks Jersey Hunt

Hawks Jersey Hunt

Hawks Jersey Hunt

The Hawks have these special shirts to get fans pumped while also a lottery for fans to win what must be some of the last tix to the game.

Hawks Lottery

Hawks Lottery

Hawks Shirt

Hawks Shirt

 

Hawks FREE Training Session

Hawks FREE Training Session

Hawks FREE Training Session

Hawks FREE Training Session

 

Conversely the Eagles are having a ‘March to the G’ with supporters encouraged to don their colours on Saturday while Domain Stadium back in Western Australia will host a live site for fans to have a picnic on the field and a kick to kick as well http://m.westcoasteagles.com.au/news/2015-09-27/bankwest-live-site-at-domain-stadium?camefrom=EMCL_783800_33259721.

WCE March to the G

WCE March to the G

WCE Domain Stadium Live Site

WCE Domain Stadium Live Site

WCE Domain Stadium Live Site

WCE Domain Stadium Live Site

On Monday the team has a free opening training day in Perth for fans to cheer on the team with face paining and temporary tats for young fans.

WCE Open Training

WCE Open Training

http://m.westcoasteagles.com.au/news/2015-09-27/open-training-tomorrow?camefrom=EMCL_783800_33259718

The Eagles also have a fan gallery here as well where fans can contribute their pics. http://m.westcoasteagles.com.au/finals/finals-fan-gallery

WCE FAN GALLERY

WCE FAN GALLERY

West Coast are using SnapChat to engage fans with press conferences and player chats as well.

WCE Snapchat

WCE Snapchat

10,000 fans flocked to Domain Stadium on Monday for the free opening training session.

WCE Training Session

WCE Training Session

 

NRL GF ANZ Stadium

NRL GF ANZ Stadium

As for the the NRL, ANZ Stadium in Sydney has fans covered with team bars, a special gig by Aussie legends Cold Chisel, giant merch tents, family-friendly activities and food stalls.

NRL GF

NRL GF

The NRL also has the launch of NRL Nation, an interactive fan site at Darling Harbour, on Thursday with a special appearance from the two Grand Final Teams and Cold Chisel.

NRL NATION

NRL NATION

NRL Nation will feature unique interactive experiences including an NRL National Stadium, while there will be meet-and-greet opportunities with NRL stars and legends, skills tests and other free entertainment.

NRL Nation runs through to Saturday with loads of free entertainment, player and legend appearances and activities. More here http://m.nrl.com/nrl-nation-at-darling-harbour/tabid/10874/newsid/89075/default.aspx

NRL NATION FIT SESSION

NRL NATION

A healthy part of this is also a free fitness NRL based session for fans to participate in. NRL FIT Sessions will be a unique opportunity to participate in a training session with former NRL stars.  Led by one-time Canberra Raiders Captain and current NRL Community Ambassador – Alan Tongue – the NRL FIT Session is a group-based outdoor workout session which will get the blood pumping at any fitness level. More here https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1mB5ztp0Ug32607G4gvo-gqAydMhhXE0xlvALnW_Fdes/viewform?c=0&w=1

NRL NATION FIT SESSION

NRL NATION FIT SESSION

NRL Australian Minted coins

NRL Australian Minted coins at NRL Nation for fans

The NRL are launching Periscope TV at the Dally M Medal night too.

NRL Periscope

NRL Periscope

The teams will also participate in Grand Final  Community Fan EventsThroughout the week where there will be a chances for fans and members of the two teams to get up close to the players before the 2015 NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final.

The NRL are showing the game live on NINE and for the first time in HD so fans will be in for a treat here. http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/rugby-league/nrl-grand-final-to-be-shown-on-channel-nine-in-hd-20150928-gjwleo.html

HD NRL

HD NRL

On social the Cowboys are galvanising support under the hashtag of #RideEmCowboys while the Broncos have #BronxNation. The NRL also have their own with #NRLGF. All have the team logos and the trophy as well.

NRLGF

NRLGF

#RIDEEMCOWBOYS

#RIDEEMCOWBOYS

#BRONXNATION

#BRONXNATION

As for the teams, the Broncos are getting fans to show their true colours by asking them to join the #BronxNation and ‘Bronco-ify’ their profile pic. More here http://www.broncos.com.au/info/join_the_bronxnation.html

Broncos-ify Facebook Pic

Broncos-ify Facebook Pic

Broncos-ify Facebook Pic

Broncos-ify Facebook Pic

The Cowboys unveiled this fan banner at last weeks finals game and due to its success, it should make a comeback for the Grand Final.  A good idea for fans to leave their message of support.

NQ Cowboys Fan Banner

NQ Cowboys Fan Banner

NQ Cowboys Fan Banner

NQ Cowboys Fan Banner

 

NQ Cowboys Fan Banner

NQ Cowboys Fan Banner

More info here on the Cowboys banner and how fans are being asked to be involved.

NQ Banner

NQ Banner

The Cowboys are also hosting a free open training session for fans too.

NQ Cowboys open training session

NQ Cowboys open training session

NQ Cowboys GF March

NQ Cowboys GF March

 

The team are getting fans behind them on social.

NQ Cowboys social media

NQ Cowboys social media

 

Cowboys fans can even get their hands on these special NFLGF shirts

Cowboys NRLGF shirts

Cowboys NRLGF shirts

Away from Sydney, the Cowboys Leagues Club will be hosting a free live site.

NQ Cowboys Live Site

NQ Cowboys Live Site

NQ Cowboys Live Site

NQ Cowboys Live Site

The week is shaping up as a big one for classic footy encounters but also a big week for whats happening off the field in fan experiences for the crowds.

I’ll keep updating this as more fan engagement activations come in over the course of the week.

But for now, who are you tipping between Cowboys and Broncos and Hawthorn and West Coast?

Thanks for reading.

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