australia

Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs NRL Fan Experience at Belmore Sports Ground, Sydney, Australia 29/05/2022

Today was a game day fan experience that I’ve been wanting to do since the mid 90’s when I watched the Canterbury Bulldogs defeat Manly in the 1995 ARL Grand Final. 


I started the fan journey with a 25-minute train ride from Central Station to Belmore station before walking around the local streets to soak up the suburb and the game-day vibe. Blue and white streamers, balloons, and posters lined the shopfronts and it was evident that the locals really get behind the Bulldogs and game days here. 


The trip out to Belmore Sports Ground was enjoyable as I talked to a few Bulldogs fans on the train about Terry Lamb and the Dogs on what was a glorious Sunday afternoon in Sydney for my third and final game day this weekend in town. 


Hopping off the train at Belmore it was a quick walk following the Bulldogs fans the short distance to the Belmore ground entrance and through Terry Lamb reserve park. The Bulldog’s street art livened up the concrete facades while gate staff were pleasant, smiling, and wished us a good day at the match. 

I had wanted to check out some of the plaques, murals, memorbillia and the Canterbury Leagues Club which is adjacent to the train station however time got away from me as I wanted to get to the ground early. I’ll endeavour to check these out next time I’m out this way as I hope to be back for another game day at Belmore down the track.


It was really exciting upon entry to just soak up this gorgeous suburban footy ground from the grassy hill to the Peter Moore scoreboard and canteen. I walked around the length and breadth of the venue taking in all the angles from the Bulldog’s front entrance to the white bench seats and the main stand.

 
The food and beverage selection consisted of local food trucks and canteens selling standard footy fare like pies and chips along with kids’ favourites in cotton candy and ice cream while gourmet food items were also on offer and looked tasty from local businesses. Prices were standard from $5-15 while mid-strength cans of beer were $8 with only one beer variety available in Great Northern for obvious reasons given the one-off event here and the planning involved for catering. As for the beer tray price watch, these were free here. It’s always interesting to see the little things like the price of beer trays. Over this weekend they’ve ranged from $1.50 to 80c to free!


The fan engagement for kids and families was quality with face painting and kids jumping castle but even more, kids were just having fun rolling down the hills and passing or kicking footies with their families which looked like an enjoyable experience.


Toilets were scattered on either side and lines were only really heavy at halftime with men and women being able to get in and out fairly quickly from what I could witness. 


The hill was absolutely packed and looked incredible today with Bulldogs, Dragons, and Illawarra Steelers fans with 16,991 fans turning out to make this a huge sell-out crowd. It was a real carnival footy vibe with fans fully engaged in the community spirit of suburban footy as well as reconciliation week and the focus of the Indigenous round. 


The Indigenous focus for NRL Indigenous Round featured a respectful welcome to country, singers, and music on the land of the Dharug, Eora & Bediagal Peoples. 


The dogs tried to come back a few times but the Dragons pulled away too quickly and ran out 34-24 winners on a sunny but very windy and chilly day at Belmore. I was very glad I brought my heavy retro Bulldogs jersey to the game as it was very chilly on the hill by 4pm.


The merchandise tent and mobile store had fans lined up as items like the indigenous jersey and retro cord Bulldogs caps went flying out the door. I really liked seeing the use of the old Bulldogs logos too around the venue and on merchandise and hope other teams start to bring these back as well.

I also thought that it was clever that some fans had brought in their own milk crates to enable their kids to get a better vantage point on the hill as well.


The exit from the match was easy with the train station right at the stadium and within a 5-8 minute walk before the 20-odd minute train ride back to the Sydney CBD. 


I was so excited today to tick off another Australian sporting venue in Belmore Sports Ground and would encourage any fan to get out here the next time they bring a game day here as it is truly something special to witness at such an iconic ground.

Cronulla Sharks NRL Fan Experience at Points Bet Stadium/Shark Park, Cronulla, Sydney, 28/05/22

It was a cool night in Sydney as I made the trek from Central station down south to Woolaware station in Cronulla for the Sharks versus Roosters (Cronulla vs Easts) NRL rugby league match at Points Bet Stadium or Shark Park (or Caltex Field) for the league aficionados. 


Taking the train for about $5 one way on the Sutherland line I left the city at about 5pm to travel the hour or so to the closest train station within walking distance to the stadium.


Arriving into Woolaware station just after 6pm, I walked the 15 minutes or so south through unlit suburban Cronulla streets to the stadium with other fans who had made the same journey. 


It’s an easy walk to the venue and you can hear the music and see the lights from the distance as you get closer but it’s also very dark along the path of the back streets to the ground so careful on your feet.


The stadium is undergoing construction all around it both for the stadium and for the buildings close by however this didn’t stop the game from being a sell-out with fans flocking to the popular indigenous round game tonight. 


This is an old-school venue without the bells and whistles, without the tech, with the lines and bottlenecks but it’s also a ground with soul, community vibes and a charm that is hard to beat. The fans bring the atmosphere and combined with the energy on the hill, the match days here are electric and pumping. 


Walking into the venue through the old turnstile hut, we were greeted with a polite welcome and asked if we knew where we were going which is 10/10 for customer service and the fan journey to have someone offer to assist you in my opinion. 


Making my way inside I grabbed a beer at the first bar I found which was charging $8.50 for middies but in tinnies and 80c for a cardboard tray. The ability to get an ice-cold tin at the footy seems to be lost in some states’ venues across Australia but in Sydney, it’s great to be able to crack a coldie and take up a view from the hill. It’s relaxed and enjoyable to stand on the grassy hill, strike up a conversation with other fans and take in the action on the field. Retro sharks jerseys were abundant tonight and you could have made about 20 full teams of players in Power’s Brewers retros or Aussie Duct kits.


I walked around the venue a couple of times to soak it all up here, from the smells of hot cinnamon donuts and spicy bratwursts cooking to the sounds of laughter from families and kids rolling down the hill and kicking footies to each other. It’s all just a really positive community vibe out here at Cronulla. 


The food and beverages ranged from the standard fare of pies and hot dogs to gourmet bratwursts (standard $12 and double bangers $20!) and buttermilk chicken burgers and crisps for $15.50. There was also ice cream, souvlaki, nachos, and the ever-popular chips on a stick. Prices were standard for footy matches with the main difference being the abundance of local gourmet food truck offerings. Lines were long at times and bottlenecks formed due to the compact size of the venue and narrow concourses however like most venues you can bring in your own snacks and it’s always best to grab food before the match kicks off plus these lines got smaller as the game got underway. 


The fan engagement (kids jumping castle) and activations from sponsors (player photo ops and giveaways to fans) as well as the half time entertainment were quality with the indigenous focus for NRL Indigenous Round being a highlight to see Australian country legend Col Hardy perform ‘I am, You Are, We Are Australian’ to a rapturous sing-along and applause from the crowd. The fireworks and music also added to the atmosphere. 


A highlight before kick-off was the exceptional welcome to country by a lovely lady whose name I missed on the night. This indigenous elder spoke so beautifully about respect, inclusion and community and summed up so perfectly the basis of the round and also what we can all do to make our country a more respectful and tolerant place to live in.


The Kurranulla Sharks got flogged from the get-go by the Gadigal Roosters in this one-sided match with Easts running out 36-16 winners in a dissapointing night for local fans and a score I didn’t predict and which ruined my tips. All was not lost though as we and many others had a fantastic time at Shark Park with local fans. 


The exit home from Shark Park was a brisk 15-minute walk back to the train station at Woolaware and then a 50-minute train ride home to Central station. The only downside was that the toilets were locked at Woolaware station which frustrated some fans and even police who were annoyed that they couldn’t use them. 


Overall a quality night out at Cronulla’s home venue of Points Bet/Shark Park stadium with much to enjoy about the fan experience here on a moving indigenous round night. 

Penrith Panthers NRL Fan Experience at BlueBet Stadium/Panthers Stadium, Penrith, 27/05/22

It was a chilly but clear afternoon in Sydney when I made my way from Town Hall Station in the Sydney CBD out west to Penrith’s BlueBet Stadium for the NRL rugby league top of the table clash between reigning premiers Penrith Panthers and the North Queensland Cowboys.


Arriving in Penrith after a solid one-hour train journey for the sum of around $4.50 on my public transport OPAL card, I made my way through the city centre out to the stadium in what was an easy flat 20-minute or 1.5km walk passing through the local streets with other fans, flags in hand, marching to the game.


Once I arrived outside the ground, I walked around all angles of this classic space taking in the scoreboard and the old beauty of these classic suburban rugby league grounds such as the hill, scoreboard, ticket booths, and entrances that are all timeless and part of the game day architecture here.


Entering through the turnstiles we were greeted with a lively hello from security and a happy welcome from gate staff. Passing through the entrance is the merch area along in a shed with the member’s wall plaque that details the names of members who stuck by the club in 2020’s pandemic COVID season.


Kids and fans alike were able to get free TRY banners and there was a crypto giveaway while the panther claw prints in the bars acting as 1.5m social distancing and line markers looked effective with TVs playing the games too so you didn’t miss the action when getting a drink. 


The food and beverage on offer here ranged from snack bars to drinks bars along with a multitude of local food trucks. The $5 cheese toasties are a bargain while other items along with drinks are about $1 cheaper for members which is a great incentive to see. Beers are probably (Moreton Daily Stadium slightly cheaper) the cheapest in an Australian sporting venue at $5-8 while even if not a member it’s still very affordable. The beer trays were $1.50 here tonight and made of plastic. I had what I think is the best pie at a rugby league game in the Garlo’s Pies steak variety and paired it with a Iron Jack for $10.80 which was very good value in my opinion for a major sporting event.


The fan engagement KIDZ KORNER is a fun carnival atmosphere for kids and families with rides and an ice cream truck located at the back of the ground and there is plenty of space both on the hill and back here for kids and families to kick and pass the footy.


The atmosphere from Penrith fans is right up there with their ‘Stand Up, Flags Up’ call to action before kick-off really getting fans ready to go with their fans really bringing the noise to the pre-game. 


Panthers legend Royce Simmons was congratulated for his 300km charity walk for dementia while the Indigenous welcome to country and music was respectful and inclusive and had fans listening and clapping on what was a special night for the game and players.


I walked around the ground a few times soaking up my second time here by checking out different seating angles and marveling at the gorgeous, sacred hill that had fans rugged up in picnic rugs and blankets. While some lines were long to get F&B, there is a charm about these old grounds that cannot be beaten. I didn’t have to wait long to get a beer with a friendly security guard making sure everyone was having a good time at the ‘beer only’ bar.


The Panthers were too good over the Cowboys on a chilly night in Penrith running out 22-0 winners. 


Getting away at the end was seamless and efficient with the trains lined up to full time and a relatively quick one-hour train trip back into the Sydney CBD after a brisk 15 minute walk back to the station. Local streets looked to be ok to park in as well as fans were hopping into cars close by to the ground. 


A really fun rugby league matchday experience out here in Penrith that I’d encourage other rugby league fans to get out to. 

Fan Engagement Friday: News from around the grounds 27/05/2022

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

AFL, Reddit announce world’s first sports partnership for Reddit Avatars

NHL mixed reality event

Football fans, rejoice: Stadium internet speeds are set for a significant boost

NFL Fan Rankings: Washington Worst?!

The Best Customer Service Software of 2022 Has Been Revealed by End Users

Sports Business Journal names Climate Pledge Arena sports facility of the year

Ordr Keeps Fans in the Seats, All by Making Food and Merch Only a Tap of an App Away

Fans Can Now Win the Stanley Cupple by Playing the NHL’s Version of Wordle

Football fans convicted of taking cocaine at matches could face five-year stadium bans

NTT reveals new data boost to improve IndyCar fan experience

‘The end goal is to turn fan engagement into fan monetisation’: Sportradar’s data-led approach to capitalising on the US$270bn sports betting market

Arsenal corner flag: Using data to reach club’s 750m fans

Populous Projects Win Facility of the Year, Event of the Year at 2022 Sports Business Awards

WNBA Fans Criticize Coinbase Sponsorship Amid Market Crash

FA investigating pitch invasions, condemns ‘anti-social behaviour’ from fans

Nine Techniques To Keep Customer Support Conversations Productive And Positive

Tottenham’s Todd Kline talks stadium naming rights, NFTs, and thinking like a “content creation machine”

Virtual stadium developer plays in $3.2 million to up the game of e-sports in metaverse

Sports venues create quiet refuge for fans with sensory needs

Sensory rooms becoming more commonplace in sports venues

Building Long-term Loyalty Through Incentives

NBA Top Shot Reaches $1B in Sales Amid NFT Market Downturn

The Crypto Market’s Impact on Sports Sponsorships

Adam Silver Says NBA Fan Aggression Not Caused by Sports Betting

LaLiga to build official metaverse for fans and partners with TVM

Top 5 Customer Service Skills To Encourage In Your Staff

Customer Experience Trumps Even the Best Technologies

F1 trials paddock robots to help fans in hospital meet drivers

Qatar’s ‘Dr Cool’ keeps World Cup stadiums chilly with solar-powered AC

Manchester City FC Partners with Quidd to Launch New NFT Collection

Blockchain, crypto set to take sports industry beyond NFT collectibles

Drama and atmosphere should be the only metrics in Australia’s stadium wars

Japan’s pro sports teams find use for empty stadiums

Yokohama BayStars baseball team offers home stadium’s private boxes to teleworkers

In first year with fans at Allegiant Stadium, the no-show rate was 14.3 percent

Proceeds from recycling at Mercedes-Benz Stadium builds new homes on Atlanta’s Westside through new program

Is Customer Loyalty Dead?

World Cup host, Qatar with air-conditioned stadiums to serve as a model

Dazzling But Empty Stadiums a Symbol of China’s Fading Football Dream

Prices are surging, but fans are still paying top dollar to watch live sports

Placemaking, legacy and the 2032 Games

A 2022 blueprint for customer service excellence

How to Identify the Pain Points That Make Customers Decide What They’re Going to Buy

At Your Service: How To Wow Your Customers By Creating New Revenue Streams

Case Study: Real-Time Fan Engagement Explodes With Live, Local Access to NFL Draft

USGA Announces Fan Offerings for Women’s Open

Major League soccer club Columbus Crew gains the Edge

UofL announces WiFi, gate entry upgrades to Cardinal Stadium driven by fan feedback from 2021

Manchester City on taking the ‘City DNA’ global

Eagles become 1st team to expand fan outreach efforts to Africa

‘Way cooler than standing in line’: Mariners fans get first crack at Amazon tech in new ballpark market

5G to Transform Fan Experience at Indy 500

Cavaliers on Top 25 Most Innovative Teams in Sports List

The rise of the always-on mobile user and implications for customer service and retention 

The Verdict Is In: Customer Service Isn’t Human Enough

A Golf Fan Just Got A Deal With Michelob

Deloitte 2022 Sports Industry Outlook

Avoid these common mistakes to create real customer loyalty

FC Barcelona, the world’s most innovative team according to Sports Innovation Lab

Old Trafford will have ‘fans, not corporates’ at its heart, promises architect tasked with redevelopment

NRL MAGIC ROUND 2022 Fan Experience Review, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane 13-15 May 2022

The annual NRL Magic Round event was back at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium for 2022 and despite a week when the rain across Queensland caused persistent widespread flooding the event still drew over 100,000 fans through the turnstiles across the three event days.

With the rain falling heavily across the Friday and Saturday but easing on the third day, fans made their way into the stadium precinct decked out with ponchos and umbrellas but still managed to bring all their colour and atmosphere from the thousands of retro to modern rugby league jerseys on display from fans of all ages. This is a true celebration of rugby league and league fans with supporters rocking Gold Coast Chargers and Seagulls kits to South Queensland Crushers and Western Reds jerseys amongst the smorgasbord of the current 16 NRL teams. It’s this colour, fan passion and atmosphere that is a magical component of this event off the field.

The downloadable stadium map and event guide were handy additions to kick start the planning of the fan journey at Magic Round with the map coming in handy to locate all of the activations both inside and outside the venue. The 32-page event guide had information on merchandise, activations, match-ups, key timings and more valuable information to ensure fans knew everything they needed to know to capitalise on a massive fun weekend of rugby league.

After reminiscing over some old footy cards and beers we decided to head in for the matches on Saturday at 1PM. We made our way into the stadium precinct on the train from Dutton Park station into Roma Street station in the city with the train being packed with rugby league fans in a positive vibe for the three matches being played today for day two. It was a sea of league fans of all ages walking through The Barracks centre in Milton down to Suncorp Stadium and despite the rain that lingered for most of the day and night the fans were still in a very upbeat mood with the bars along Caxton Street pumping with conversations, beers and footy food as thousands of fans commandeered the road heading down to the venue. It was also nice to see the new artwork ‘Welcome’ which featured 25 laser-cut steel hunting boomerangs with welcome greetings in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language dialects.

What’s On at the Stadium: Precinct

Making my way around the Suncorp Stadium precinct from the Caxton Street end to the Roma Street end the event offered an outstanding first impression of the event presentation that included plenty of activations for fans of all ages such as:

1. Bundy Pop Up Bar

Fans were able to grab a drink from the Bundy Pop Up Bar with the first fans to purchase a Bundy from the Bundaberg Pop Up Bar each day of NRL Magic Round receiving a double pass upgrade for a specific match into the Bundy Backyard Deck inside the stadium. This bar shed was at an entrance point of the NRL Fan Zone area and it was good to see security guards helping people by warning them to be careful entering the space as the ground was slippery and getting slightly muddy.

2. Chemist Warehouse Chill Out Zone

This was a relaxing spot for fans to kick back and chill with deck chairs and beanbags to watch the big screen during and between matches. I believe the deck chairs may have been packed up due to the rain at some point as it would not have been the best setting for them with the rain falling nonstop. Fans also received free gift bags that included chemist items like moisturiser and sunscreen along with a gym towel which for many fans, myself included is stuff I will actually use.  Mascot Wally the Chemist Warehouse Mascot (how did they come up with a mascot name for CW?) surprised fans with upgrades into the Chemist Warehouse Deck inside the venue while there was a fun reaction wall game to play. I finished on 29 which wasn’t too bad considering the top score was 37. I’ll put that down to my good skills in quick thinking and reaction time to putting out arguments amongst grade 4 students that made me go fairly well in this fun game.

3. CUB Great Northern Bar

The CUB beer garden was open between matches where fans could enjoy a drink from the Great Northern bar. The first 50 people to purchase a drink also received a stubby cooler. This was a nice set up that faced away from the venue and towards Caxton street with a live stage below featuring artists playing tunes.

4. Ampol Magic Carpet

Fans were able to experience walking down the red carpet by taking their best Ampol Magic Carpet photo. By sharing it across socials they had the chance to be upgraded into the Ampol Deck inside the stadium. We had a go of this and I even used the fuel bowser emoji in my witty caption all to no avail….must of been the Illawarra Steelers jersey I was wearing. Still a lot of fun for my friends and I to take home a few photos.

5. YOUI Magic Kick

Fans could come down to the Youi Magic Kick in the Precinct to have a go at kicking a footy through the posts!

6. Harvey Norman Photo Station

If fans visited the Harvey Norman station they could collect their FREE magic round photo as well as purchase limited edition Magic Round personalised NRL products. This was a fun activation with my mates and I getting snapped for an event pic that was free to take home. The personalised merch also looked really colourful too.

7. Letter Lights

Fans could grab a photo in front of the Giant Magic Round Letter lights to then share it on channels to #NRLMagic.

8. Swyftx Giant Human Claw

The Swyftx Giant Human Claw was giving away thousands of dollars in prizes over NRL Magic Round weekend, including $5,000 in Bitcoin every day.  Fans could come down and participate in the human-sized version of the traditional arcade game to win these prizes. I watched this for a few participants to have their go and it was actually pretty entertaining. There were obviously a lot of OWHS things to consider with this activation and the weather did not make it any easier. Watching a fan dive down to get an NRL ball and then that ball revealing a prize was quite entertaining and there was certainly enough interest from the fans who had lined up to have a go.

9. Food Trucks

There were plenty of food truck options with gourmet offerings including Eat Fresh kebabs, Chipstars, Brat Haus, Dinky D’d Doughnuts and more. $7 for a dagwood dog and $13 kebabs were affordable for a snack in this fan precinct even if you weren’t intending to go into the venue as this was a fun spot to sit, watch the games and drink and eat.

10. EISS Super Ball

Get your photo taken in front of the giant EISS Super and Steeden Inflatable football.

11. Kids Zone

Magic Round brings the festival vibes for the whole family! Kids were able to get a photo with their favourite team’s mascot, get geared up with face painting, & show off their skills with the magic pass the Ball. With the rain falling all around some fan activities were slow to get going as fans didn’t want to wait in the lines with the rain however it didn’t stop many families and kids from still participating in these free fun activities to take home some memories.

12. NRL Merchandise

Fans could grab their Magic Round mementos exclusively at the venue at the six or so merchandise outlets around the stadium! All 16 teams’ merchandise was also available for purchase like retro jerseys. I was able to pre-plan the purchase of some merch for my daughter like a football and a bucket hat for my work at school by looking through the event guide before heading in, however due to the popularity of many items, these sold out quick smart which was unfortunate but shows the popularity of fans who want to support the NRL, love rugby league and want to rep all 16 teams. Plus the designs were pretty neat too.

What’s On at the Stadium: In-Ground

1. Telstra Live Stage

The Telstra Live Stage hosted music entertainment, DJ’s and performances throughout the NRL Magic Round weekend and was located in the corner of the venue.

2. KFC Fry/No Fry Banners

Fans could give their viewer’s verdict with the KFC Fry/No Fry banners. KFC brand ambassadors inside the stadium handed out Fry/No Fry banners to fans. KFC was also surprising and delighting lucky fans across the weekend with KFC vouchers to redeem KFC.

3. Steeden Magic Ball

Players were throwing Steeden NRL Magic Round footies into the crowd after each match for fans to keep as well as using the tee shirt gun to fire off what I presume were jerseys or shirts from various teams.

4. KFC Bucket Catch

Two lucky fans picked from the crowd matched up against each other on the field during half-time at selected matches across NRL Magic Round weekend. Each fan had to catch as many footies as possible in their KFC bucket to WIN KFC vouchers and merchandise!

5. Telstra Fan Cam

Fans could get involved with the Telstra Fan Cam to win a signed jersey from their favourite NRL team.

6. Ampol Pump It Up Cam

Fans could show their support for their team with the Ampol Pump It Up Cam for their chance to win a $100 fuel voucher. The big screens featured hilarious kiss cams, ‘make some noise’ call outs as well as oblivious cam and a few other funny moments that got a good reception from the crowd. 

7. Telstra Tracker LED Race

Lucky fans across NRL Magic Round weekend got the chance to race against some of the fastest players in the game. The one we saw was able to beat the Telstra Tracker and was quite fast.

8. Ampol Deck

The Ampol ‘Australia’s Own’ Deck was Australian-themed and included a full food & beverage package for guests.  Fans could take their best red-carpet photo at the Ampol Magic Carpet activation in the stadium precinct and share it across socials for the chance to be upgraded into the Ampol Deck. This was a brightly blue coloured event space at the Caxton Street end inside one of the stadium corners and stood out amongst the other social spaces.

9. Bundy Backyard Deck

The Bundy Backyard Deck was the ideal spot to kick back with mates for the best seats in the house at NRL Magic Round.  Guests received full food and beverage offering and the opportunity to meet and greet with NRL legends.  Fans who were one of the first to purchase a Bundy from the Bundy Pop Up Bar in the stadium precinct each day of NRL Magic Round were lucky to receive a double pass upgrade for a specific match into the Bundy Backyard Deck inside the stadium for the best seats in the house. This was another themed social space that looked really impressive for the presentation in one of the corners of the venue.

10. Chemist Warehouse Deck

Guests to the Chemist Warehouse deck received full food and beverage offering, the opportunity to meet and greet with NRL legends and an exclusive product gift bag upon arrival. A relaxing spot in the corner of the venue.

11. Free flags for supporter bay fans

Fans who purchased a supporter bay ticket were able to collect a free supporter flag that featured all 16 club logos on a colourful flag design. They were handing these out to fans everywhere and I was lucky enough to get one for my daughter which will go nicely in her room. A really nice simple touch for a physical item that fans could take home.

12. Lighting

The light shows and themed LED lighting was vibrant and looked good both inside the stadium and on TV. The ability to switch between themes either teams or colourful light shows added to the atmosphere and created a positive vibe to make this a big-time event. The fireworks and flames at the end of the try lines also pumped up the crowd either when the teams were running out or when tries were scored.

Fan Experience Elements

While thousands of fans made for a busy stadium precinct both inside and out it was clear that venue did a very good job of keeping fans safe and ensuring the fan experience was quality. With the rain falling constantly and fans getting wet it was good to see the concourses being managed well to allow the safe and efficient flow of fans despite fans crowding along the bays to try to stay dry and still watch the game. Security and ushers were managing this as best they could under the circumstances.

The staff were really efficient and attentive as I made three enquiries and had interactions with different staff members over the course of the night for some things that I thought needed to be addressed such as glass in the concourse area, catering staff inadvertently blocking a stairwell and an aggressive fan who was throwing items onto the field and agitating other fans. In every situation, the venue and security staff were very helpful and switched on to ensure fans were having an enjoyable event experience.

Food and beverage options were plentiful and inclusive with the frozen cocktails proving to be very popular amongst fans along with Pirate Life craft beer for beverages. It was good to see the dedicated vegan stand in action along with vegan and gluten-free options available in the concession outlets while there were combo deals available as well. From pies, pizza slices and chicken wings and chips to American BBQ, fish and chips and hot dogs, there really was something here to tempt all tastebuds with many prices being affordable and expected for major event days. Beers ranged from $9-11 with most food around the $6-16 mark. I had a fairly decent salad sandwich and 600ml Coke Zero which came in at $11 and which I thought was pretty good value for a footy feed.

Toilets were clean and lines, even for female fans seemed to be moving fast. Staff were abundant around the venue and were seen cleaning constantly throughout the night. I said to one staffer that he was doing a good job and he said no one has ever said that before. It’s something I make a point of doing, especially for cleaning staff and young folks on the concession registers. They do a good job and deserve to be told they’re going well so if you’re at a venue then make sure you give them a little shout out.

The exit at the end of the night was efficient and seamless with buses, trains and taxis all flowing from the venue and making it easy for fans to get home safely. Way-finding signs as well as helpful staff directing fans also just made the exit swift and simple after a long day at the venue. 

NRL Magic Round is an event like no other. The fans are equal to the athletes in terms of the atmosphere and colourful vibe that the event brings and it’s certainly a major sporting event that I reccomend any rugby league or sports fan to go and check out.

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.

North Melbourne/Western Bulldogs AFL Fan Experience at Marvel Stadium, Melbourne, Australia 15/4/22

On a mild April day in Melbourne I set out for two games in the city with the first one taking place at Marvel Stadium in Docklands at 4pm before heading across town to AAMI Park later in the night.

I started my fan journey to Marvel Stadium in the city by catching the free 96 tram from our accommodation to within a 5 minute walk of the stadium gates. I first walked around the ground taking in the Kangaroos fan zone and members tent area with spin to win games, free GOAL cards and photo opportunities for fans young and old. I checked out the basketball court and the mural as well as some of the Marvel world entertainment like the pillar wraps and the rock climbing Spiderman wall that was not in use today. The walk from Southern Cross Station along the top concourse is always a special moment in Melbourne as thousands of fans make the pilgrimage in to the venue dressed in their guernseys and scarves.

I picked up my copy of the AFL Record and spoke to the seller who said that it’s still selling very well on game days as fans love the physical memento to take home. It’s sad in a way with QR coded digital tickets that we don’t have as many physical items to take from the game anymore like ticket stubs.

The match today was an AFL game between North Melbourne Kangaroos and Western Bulldogs that was scheduled for a 4.20pm bounce as part of the annual Good Friday Appeal match which both teams had worked well on for press all week in the city and thus resulted in a very good crowd. Tickets were well priced with myself being able to pick up a $15 Western Bulldogs ticket via a targeted Facebook post that had no extra booking fees added on as part of the deal.

The COVID check in process was seamless and easy with multiple friendly staff on hand to assist fans. I received a hello and welcome to the venue on entry and found it impressive to see the back of the staff shirts saying ‘Can we help you?’ as well as the IPTV screens displaying similar information about talking to staff if you need anything. I went around to the Customer Service Centre to ask some questions about the game day and found that the staffer here was very well educated on the game day and venue facilities. The hand sanitisers around the ground were mostly filled with one either not working properly or out of sanitiser. The toilets were clean and staff were seen to be doing a really good job of cleaning the venue as the game went on and of ensuring patrons were kept safe especially with the cordoned off roped area when the coaches were making their way back to the stands.

The joint banner and legends kick to kick were clever fan engagement ideas to bring people together for a laugh and a positive moment at the game and there was no doubt that a lot of funds were raised for the Good Friday Appeal.

The F&B options were plentiful with the standard fare of chips ($4.50), pie ($4.50) and hot dog ($6) however the best feature here is the free sauce! Not 30c, not 50c, not even a $1 for sauce but FREE! This might seem small but these things, these little things go a long way for the fan experience not least family budgets when it comes to things like buying food and drinks at a game. I really liked how the IPTV screens displayed the time til bounce and also how you can just pull up and drink a beer or have a bite on the concourse benches that run along the venue facing the field without being ushered on my staff.

There are many quality options to choose from and the pricing is quite affordable too including Smoke and Smouler BBQ, GAMI Chicken and Sweeter Life which was a hit with kids selling lolly bags and popcorn. It was good to see vegan options in burgers as well as gluten free pies making Marvel quite an inclusive venue when it comes to food options.

It was good to see the work the stadium does for accessibility and inclusion with their kids Stadium Sensory Room with sensory bags for kids including noise cancelling headphones, fidget tools, visual cue cards.

I loved the KEG Room I passed which when I ventured further around I thought could be a decent fan social space if you knocked out a window from the inside of it as it had an epic view of the field from up here. On the topic of beers, Great Northern’s were $10.50 while 4 Pines craft beer was $12.50.

Crews were collecting for the appeal while they were also giving out free hot cross buns to fans which was a welcome surprise.

I found it interesting that the inside of the venue had so much Marvel theming around the venue from life size statues to wall wraps and even height charts and photo ops yet they were branded with Marvel characters and not AFL players/themes. Maybe all kids like Marvel characters but I’d love to see an AFL all team character compare your height chart or an AFL footy photo opp booth. I know that the venues name has a lot to do with this but even the fan engagement on field was ‘pose like a superhero’ and not really AFL related.

The atmosphere was really pumping for this Good Friday Appeal AFL match and I was really impressed by the quality F&B on offer, fan engagement from North Melbourne, the team work from both teams media and marketing teams in the lead up to the game, the focus on inclusion and the venues focus on helping fans have the best fan experience they possibly can.

Melbourne Rebels Super Rugby Fan Experience at AAMI Park, Melbourne, Australia 15/4/22

For my second game of today I skipped across town after the AFL game at Marvel Stadium back to AAMI Park to take in the Melbourne Rebels Super Rugby match.

Making the fan journey from Southern Cross Station to AAMI Park I hopped on a free tram and then walked from the free tram boundary in the city to the venue which only took about 20 minutes (10 tram and 10 walk). I made my way down to the stadium and took some pictures along the outside concourse of the set up with the flags and LED screen having changed to represent tonights match and hirer in the Rebels.

Once again I found that the staff and COVID check in process was easy and staff were helpful and kind with greeting fans for the game. I made my way into the ground noticing a massive decrease in the presence of Victorian Police for this match compared to Tuesday night’s A-League game.

My review of the F&B can be found on the recent Melbourne Victory fan experience recap in these blogs however I did try a beer for the first time this trip having had wisdom teeth taken out while down here on holiday and unable to drink and despite the price at $11.80 for a craft beer, it was delicious and fresh and hit the spot on another mild night in Melbourne. I also liked the look of the FAT YAK beer bar outlet that was branded in all FAT YAK related livery.

I’m not quite sure what the #BURNCITYREBELS means, maybe Mel-BURN but I did like the branding and design that they are using for it which is different to what a lot of other clubs are using.

The fan engagement and crowd energy was good with a fun HT kick comp for young fans while the crowd MC and music kept the atmosphere moving along in the venue. It wasn’t the most spectacular turn out but this is an AFL city and even factoring in COVID issues and the reasons that fans are staying away it makes it hard for any team anywhere in the world to go back to what crowds were like in 2019. I think the Rebels are doing a very good job and know for a fact that they have made some really smart hires in recent times, people with good creative minds who will add to this business and bring some of their own quality experiences to the team.

The game was a solid contest too with it going back and forth but eventually getting away from the Rebels who went down to the Reds 36-32.

Ticket prices were very affordable too ranging from $9 kids to $24 adults.

It was also great to see a female ref out there as well but of course we still have a long way to go for all women in sport.

When I made my way around the venue again for photos and to talk to staff I checked on the toilets and hand sanitisers and they were all working and clean.

It was a very enjoyable night at the Rebels match in Melbourne and I’d encourage anyone, even die-hard AFL fans to give it a go and take in a Super Rugby match here at AAMI Park.

Melbourne Victory A-League Fan Experience at AAMI Park, Melbourne, Australia 12/4/22

On a chilly Melbourne night I hit the ground and ventured out to Melbourne Victory’s mid week Tuesday night A-League match against the Brisbane Roar at AAMI Park.

While the game finished in a 0-0 draw, it was still a very entertaining match.

It’s always a nice quick walk or tram ride to the ground here and takes about 15-20 minutes from the top end of the city by foot or about 10-15 minutes on the tram from Flinders Street Station. It is just outside the free tram network so it’s advisable to walk or cycle if you can. There is motorcycle and cycle parking around however while be careful, while walking into the stadium outside concourses, a motorcycle mounted the kerb and nearly crashed into me while trying to park without looking and without any stadium management of these motorcycles. I asked a staffer about this and they said that the bikes just come up and park at will. I had not seen them park like this before so will keep my eyes peeled next time while walking along the outside concourse.

I had a really nice chat with a stadium staffer called Catherine/Katherine outside the ground who was so jovial and had superb customer service skills as she helped fans with information on the match one on one and also over her loudspeaker. I mentioned I was down from Brisbane and she said that they had multiple QR vaccination and check in posters who those who needed them so that sounded like they had prepared well for all events.

The check in and vaccination process was easy and seamless and the staff were also kind, helpful and respectful and it appeared that fans were also being respectful back to them. I checked the hand sanitiser stations around the ground and every one I tried worked and had sanitiser in them as well. The toilets were also spotless and well maintained throughout the night.

Many F&B outlets were closed however since last visiting it did seem that there had been some good improvements with craft beer from 4 Pines (CUB non IBA) and a fish and chip stand that looked like it was offering really decent sized portions of quality items. The usual other items were also on sale with items including hot chips ($6), pie ($5) and hot dogs ($5.50) while beers were priced from $8.20 (light beer 375ml Cascade Light poured into a schooner 425ml) to $9.80 Great Northern and $11.80 for a Balter Captain Sensible (mid strength) or a 4 Pines Pacific Ale (full strength – unsure or if mid version of this SKU). I did the maths and it does appear that it is cheaper to buy mid/full strength beers than it is to buy the light beer by only a few cents and I did think that it was slightly cheeky that the light beer was only 375ml and not a schooner 425ml.

Lines were moving fast and staff were helpful and working fast for fans while there was also a coffee cart selling snacks like hot jam doughnuts. There was a point of difference in the quality of the food servings as well with buttermilk chicken tenders and chicken schnitzel burgers as well as fresh sandwiches on offer all ranging from $9.50- $17.

The entrance into the ground through the gates with my QR code ticket was seamless and I was greeted with a hello and welcome which always gets the night off to a good start. Now with 2-3-4 waves of entry with security screening, wanding, vax and check-in checks plus ticket entry its so important that staff are trained in not only their role but also in offering superb customer service. They are often the first point of contact for game day on the fans journey to the event so a nice welcome goes a long way for fans to get the night off to a positive start.

The concourses were clean and staff were friendly and helpful when I asked questions about the venue on my way around taking in the game day vibes. The Melbourne Victory fans really built up the atmosphere with their songs, chants and enthusiasm and it was a credit to them for the atmosphere and noise they created on the night. The players also made sure to come round to the fans after the 0-0 result to thank them which was good to see.

I thought that the community partnership with the TAC was a good idea and offered fans some fan engagement through a good community message around avoiding drink driving and planning their exit from the game. They had these cards that you could scratch off to win prizes and were giving them out to families plus merchandise to young fans.

The high police presence was very off putting and confronting. I asked Police and stadium reps why the large presence, especially on a Tuesday night during school holidays and while staff were friendly and positive about it being due to previous incidents, VIC Police were rude and came across as unhelpful and agitated, which in terms of first impressions for a fan is really not the best look.

Overall, for a Tuesday night mid week match it was really good to get back to AAMI Park and take in a Victory game. I highly recommend coming down here to check it out.

Brisbane Roar A-League Fan Experience, Moreton Daily Stadium, Redcliffe, 3/4/22

On a gorgeous blue sky sunny day in Brisbane I headed out to Redcliffe to take in the Brisbane Roar A-League match versus Newcastle Jets at the boutique and impressive Moreton Daily Stadium.

Driving from Brisbane today as public transport can be tricky with the closest train station to the stadium 2km away, it was very nice to be able to get free parking and walk 50m to the venue gates.

Before the match I went on the Moreton Daily Stadium website to plan my visit and while the website has had a good refresh especially with the hype reel video, it was disappointing to see that the events page had not been updated since February with no mention or information whatsoever on the match today. Some suggestions I have made to the venue include:

  • Security/COVID measures
  • Is there an ASB line/information on what fans can do if needing help
  • Parking options around venue
  • Information on F&B offerings/menu
  • Ride share options? pick up/drop off?
  • Map could be better instead of a small rectangular image that is difficult to navigate
  • FAQ section
  • Seating maps for various events

First impressions were not the best at the gate as they opened at 3pm with the ticketing line being divided into two lines however then diverting back into one. Everyone in the right lane who had signed into the venue and showed their vaccination pass then had to divert back in to the two people scanning tickets rather than those two gate staffers separating into scanning one line of fans each. Security were welcoming and said hello while gate staff also were helpful and while annoying this ticketing process still moved fans in quickly and the line kept moving. There was a map at the start of the venue along with the standard check in’s required by fans however it did not appear that the ticket scanners knew how to work the scanner as we were not scanned in and just allowed to walk in and witnessed other fans doing the same or just walking through without being scanned due to the crowd build up at the gates. Ticket scanners were doing a good job in the sun and these scanners can be tricky to pick up the QR codes so they did a good job to scan people in under the pressure of fans all coming in at the same time.

I said hello to the ticket scanner and they were kind and helpful and wished us a good day which was a positive start on entry to the venue. As I mentioned security here were really positive and I had some good chats to staff as I made my way around the ground. Good communication and positive staff make for a positive visit and from the F&B catering staff to the security you could see that the staff here were very hard working, attentive and offered good customer service skills.

There is so much to like about this venue with some of the cheapest food and beverages in an Australian venue and includes $6 beers, $4.70 chips and $2.50 lolly bags for kids and families which was a nice touch. They even have potato scallops while the meals are of a substantial serving and lines moved quickly from what I observed. The sauce is even free and while a small thing to some people, is the type of little touch that goes a long way especially when some venues charge $1.50 for sauce.

There are no bad views in this venue with each stand affording spectacular views of the field of play. The tall trees that stand behind the Eastern Grandstand just add a gorgeous touch to the charming styling of this boutique venue. Today I was in the Western Grandstand area which for $65 represented outstanding value with a full roast and ice-cream plus cash bar (with $6 beers and $3.50 soft drinks) and amazing views of the field. The best thing about the views in this venue are that you can watch the game from down on the sidelines and be right up close to the corners and nets and when I mean close, I mean close. The players are literally 5 metres away from you or less which just represents such an incredible experience. Accessible seating views are also impressive while on that front there are now lifts in the venue which means access and inclusion is even more at the forefront of what this great venue can provide to fans on event days.

It was great to see both the male and female Brisbane Roar mascots out and about as well as the merch stand in full swing. The Roar did a great job on the fan engagement front with kids games, cross bar challenges and their local community partner on the day doing a fantastic service for fans.

While no doubt that OWHS standards are high here I did witness a couple of incidents that made me question if it could be better. On my walk around the ground I saw a fan taking photographs of the players. As she bent down to lean on the fence she fell through it as this particular gate part was not locked or did not have the pin through it meaning she fell through and this could have been a lot worse for her falling on the LED boards or the pitch. Fans must also watch out for balls flying past the net as you make your way from side to side. I was surprised that there was not safety netting or security guards and signs at ether side of the nets warning fans to be aware of flying balls potentially hitting them pre-game as the players practiced their shots. You’d hate to lose your beer or hot chips here when walking past and I don’t think it’s fair that fans would know to be aware of this as they are pre-occupied on walking through to their seating area as well as the fact that the game has not started so they are not paying close attention to the field.

The way-finding signage is good here after some venue upgrades with clear signage and information displayed however the hand sanitiser stations scattered around the venue were empty which seemed like just one of those small things that was forgotten about from time to time on event days. When entering the Western Grandstand corporate area for our seating we had to get a wristband and as the staffer ripped the piece of paper off to stick the wristband on my arm he let the scrap paper just fly away. I said ‘someone needs to get you a bag for the rubbish’ and he said ‘nah fuck it, its just rubbish’. To some who litter or don’t care about the environment that’s fine but for someone like myself who is conscious of and cares about sustainability this was not good optics, especially in the corporate area with people watching. However, for sustainability it was good to see all the standard recycling bins but also a dedicated can and bottle bin for recycling.

Overall this was a fantastic fan experience with the views, affordable food and beverage and accessibility being the major highlights not to mention the last two goals from Brisbane Roar to seal a stunning 2-0 victory. Every fan should add Moreton Daily Stadium to their game day bucket list as it’s well worth the visit.

Brisbane Broncos NRL Fan Experience, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Australia, 27/03/2022

On Sunday 27th March 2022 I headed out to Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane for the Brisbane Broncos NRL match against the North Queensland Cowboys. The Broncos went down to the Cowboys 38-12.

Along with the men’s games there were also two NRL Women’s matches with the Broncos winning convincingly here in their game.

It was good to see a new F&B outlet in section 305 selling vegan food options which is a new inclusive option for fans on game days.

I checked out the impressive Paddock Club pre-game where there was a kids carnival with rides, food trucks with big sized gourmet food options and live screens with comfy furniture to relax pre-game. Drinks of XXXX Gold were $8.80 per can which was cheaper than inside and quite affordable but this space did run out of beer 90 minutes out from the game which was not the best look for XXXX. The prices for F&B here were also quite high ($18 loaded chips) but is to be expected. It was one of the biggest Broncos crowds in recent memory yet lines and staffing were very good. It took me less than a minute to get a beer at half time within the stadium and even less in the Paddock Club. I never like getting a beer that’s been poured minutes before the rush and like to take a fresh one and these were plentiful and fresh at the bars in section 711 when I quickly got some beers (3 Golds were $27.45).

Fans were able to get free posters which had both the mens and women’s team images on them and was a simple and inclusive giveaway while it was also good to see the return of the old Broncos font and logo on merchandise like caps.

Beers inside ranged from $9.15-$11.65 with food also seeing an increase on previous seasons but once again is to be expected in these times. The F&B options have increased as well so that is also a positive.

I was impressed with the positive greeting at the gate by the attendant saying ‘hello, have a good day and thanks for coming’. Simple gesture that goes a long way for fans.

Free hand sanitisers were handed out pre game as well as TRY cards for kids.

All in all a brilliant day out at one of Australia’s top venues.

Cowboys New Home Musters Community Excitement in North Queensland

Cowboys New Home Musters Community Excitement in North Queensland

 

It’s the dawn of a new era and the atmosphere is buzzing in Townsville as the NRL’s North Queensland Cowboys and local region hosts the inaugural sporting event at Australia’s newest major venue, Queensland Country Bank Stadium.

 

Built by North Queenslanders for North Queenslanders in a home-grown effort involving the Queensland and Australian Government’s, Townsville City Council and close to 500 local businesses, the $290M world-class facility represents a proud moment for the city. Having experienced rough times in recent years, the new stadium acts as a catalyst for economic rejuvenation and urban regeneration and from experiencing this first hand it is clearly revitalising the local community and surrounding regions.

 

Standing on the Wulgurukaba traditional owners land in the heart of the Townsville CBD, here is my latest review where I highlight the impressive features of Queensland Country Bank Stadium and the Cowboys game day fan experience on what was a rollercoaster ride day for the nation and sports fans alike due to the unprecedented Coronavirus concerns that very nearly saw this opening event called off.

 

Fan Engagement:

Arriving early at the venue on a scorching hot Friday afternoon to do a pre-game walk around, it was clear from first impressions that the venue exudes a uniquely North Queensland identity which has been designed with the fan experience at the forefront.

The North Queensland Cowboys fan first approach starts well before the match as I joined hundreds of fans in the first ever ‘Cowboys Stampede’ march to the stadium from the Cowboys Leagues club which was an exciting experience on the night and a tradition that looks set to continue on game days into the future.

 

The pre-game fan engagement continues outside the ground as fans can experience the ‘Captain’s Walk’ where names of Cowboys legends and supporters are etched into pavers while fans were also instantly captivated by the chance to get photos with the life-size bronze statue of Cowboys legend Johnathan Thurston that was designed by local artist Jane Hawkins to honour his contribution to North Queensland sport.

 

Impressive screen content, engaging performances and promotions and at last count seven mascots kept fans entertained all night long inside while outside fans of all ages enjoyed a dedicated fan engagement zone as well as receiving a free Cowboys flag on entry to commemorative the opening game here.

 

Transport:

 

Transport was a seamless experience from the CBD with free game day express event buses organized to transport fans around while multiple park and ride or walk options made it simple for those fans wishing to park the car nearby and access the venue with free parking also available after 2pm in the CBD. Ride share and taxi zones as well as accessible pick up and drop off areas ensured every patron can easily access the venue however with the stadium centrally located in the heart of the city, walking was also seen by the majority of fans to be the easiest way to get to and from the stadium.

 

Architecture:

 

Designed by Cox Architecture and constructed by WATPAC on the banks of Townsville’s Ross River, the centrally located stadium was delivered on schedule and to budget and has a host of smart architectural features that add to its iconic North Queensland design.

 

A horseshoe shaped cantilever roof with plates inspired by the native tropical Pandanus plant forms the centerpiece of the stadium design and makes the venue instantly recognizable to global audiences. This unique design also provides the strength to resist North Queensland’s cyclonic winds as well as allowing the roof to expand and contract to the city’s tropical temperatures.

 

Green spaces are abundant with over 100 trees and 30,000 plants spread throughout the venue while a lush grassed parkland and plaza at the northern end of the venue provided a family friendly atmosphere for fans to meet and mingle in before entering the venue.

 

The stadium has also been specifically positioned to face north in order to catch the breezes while it’s spacious open design showcases the stunning panoramic views of the city and Castle Hill which now instantly makes it one of the most picturesque stadiums in Australia to visit.

 

Technology:

 

Audio-visual capabilities are state of the art and delivered an immersive experience through a lighting set up which made the field vibrantly pop with colour while the sound system pumped out team announcements, music and a hype reel countdown in clear and crisp audio.

 

An imposing 200sqm HD scoreboard at the northern end is strategically positioned to be viewed by all spectators while the multicoloured LED lights incorporated into both the roof and translucent kites showcased an exciting and memorable pre-game light show with Cowboys themed lighting displays switching between strobe, flash and still which amplified the crowd atmosphere.

 

The free QCB Stadium and Cowboys app’s both provided an informative and effective user experience that highlighted important game day information for fans such as F&B offerings, news, transport guidance, seating maps, the ability to purchase tickets and merchandise, accessibility information as well as the ability to connect to the venues WiFi which was fast and reliable when speed tested throughout various moments of the game day.

 

Seating:

 

There is not a bad view in the house with 25,000 Cowboys coloured seats highlighting a contemporary stadium design that puts every fan within close proximity to the lush field to ensure an edge of your seat pulsating experience.

 

The configuration of the stadium sees four primary seating areas with roof shades covering 75% of the ground while a unique part of the design in the northern end features open standing areas where fans can enjoy breathtaking sightlines of the try line in a relaxed and informal setting next to bars and food outlets. Cup holders also compliment seating in the western grandstand while multiple disability seating options and family rooms with showers and change tables all highlight what an inclusive, comfortable and accessible venue this is.

 

F&B:

 

An extensive selection of food and beverage choices are available to suit all tastes with Pandanus Catering putting a key focus on ensuring the majority of produce is locally sourced from the North Queensland region to ensure a truly home grown experience.

 

Gourmet, value and variety are at the core of an inclusive foodie fan experience here with affordable options ranging from 12” ‘Cowboys’ hot dogs, local reef fish and Red Rooster chicken to ‘Stockman’s’ tropical burgers, vegetarian burritos and vegan pies all available throughout the venues 29 F&B concession stands ensuring fans never have to go far to grab some quality game day grub.

 

Uniquely themed public bars such as the Castle Hill Bar, Long Bar and City View Bar are scattered throughout the venue offering fan favourites XXXX and Bundaberg Rum and are complimented by outstanding views of the field and local attractions. Meanwhile, Cowboys members can even enjoy their very own ‘Cowboys Castle’ craft beer from local microbrewery Tiny Mountain Brewing Co that is available in their exclusive ‘Cowboys Castle’ members bar on game days. Fans will also appreciate the ability to walk around the entire 9m wide, 600m circumference of the stadium concourse to check out the full F&B range and take in spectacular views of the field of play from different vantage points.

 

 

Hospitality:

 

Located in the western grandstand, the stadium includes a diverse range of exciting hospitality experiences to suit every budget from premium offerings such as the elegantly decked out Chairman’s Club ‘Shorty’s’ with it’s unrivaled guest service and delicious delicacies to the relaxed and vibrant Sky Deck on level 4 that features breathtaking panoramic views of the pitch and city for those instant shareable social media moments. The impressive club lounge and ground level field club along with the 88 external boxes and 17 suites highlights a first class hospitality experience that is sure to be very popular on game days for those guests looking to network and enjoy premium F&B and live entertainment in comfortable surroundings.

 

Conclusion

 

While the opening match may have started with a tough 28-21 loss at the hands of state rivals Brisbane, it was a spectacular win for both North Queensland Cowboys fans who will continue to experience exciting game days here as well as the local region who will benefit from the positive economic and social outcomes that transpire from this marvelous new venue in tropical Townsville.

 

BIO:

 

Blair Hughes is an award winning, globally respected fan engagement specialist who helps clients in the sports, music and craft beer industries grow their fan bases, improve fan experiences and create new business and revenue opportunities. You can follow him on Twitter at @MrBlairHughes or at www.MrBlairHughes.com.

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

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

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

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

Transport

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

Event Presentation

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

Security

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

Technology

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

Fan Engagement

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

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

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

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

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

Community

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

Hospitality

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

Food and Beverage

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

The Extra Touches

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

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

BIO

Blair Hughes is an award winning, globally respected fan engagement specialist who helps clients in the sports, music and craft beer industries grow their fan bases, improve fan experiences and create new business and revenue opportunities. You can follow him on Twitter at @MrBlairHughes or at www.MrBlairHughes.com

Big Bash, Big Fun at Melbourne Stars BBL

Big Bash, Big Fun at Melbourne Stars BBL

The following article appeared in Digital Sports Labs and can be found in full here.

There’s an entertainment extravaganza taking place in the fan zone outside the Melbourne Cricket Ground as the Big Bash League’s Melbourne Stars play host to the Sydney Thunder on a hot and humid night in Melbourne.

At first glance, it appears the Melbourne Stars team have thought of all the standard game day fan engagement touches that we’ve come to see around our Australian venues, but have then added a few surprisingly creative additions that represented an added highlight for kids and families.

Having taken the tram today, it was good to instantly view prominent way-finding signs directing fans to transport and stadium access points while the atmosphere and vibrancy was loud and vocal on the approach to the fan zone.

Before the game, fans were able to create and customise their own ‘Starmoji’ character on the Stars’ website which was a hit with the kids (and this writer’s fiancé!) as well as download their augmented reality app to scan AR markers on murals around the venue.

Melbourne Stars' StarMoji

This was a clever activity for families to partake in as the AR app enabled fans to collect the full series of markers thus creating a type of scavenger hunt around the venue and making blank concrete spaces come alive. It’s going to be very interesting to watch the AR space develop as venues and teams turn previously unused stadium spaces into new and exciting opportunities for fans to engage with.

The crowd is pumping outside the ground an hour before the first ball with a colourful song and dance area, colouring-in stations and face painting all providing a plethora of activities and ways to pass the time before heading into the ground. An impressive feature outside gate 4 was also the ‘first timer’s’ stand where fans could pick up a scorecard showing how cricket works and other game day information.

‘First Timer’s’ stand at Melbourne Stars BBL game

The kids zone seemed endless with both a Nickelodeon site on the Yarra Park side of the G while another area with inflatables, slides and kids activities featured on the other side of the ground that kept families entertained while the ground stickers featuring team member names of both the WBBL and BBL players scattered around the stadium added more colour and design to spaces rarely used on game days.

Photo opportunities seemed endless with a variety of options such as a size me up stand, a chance for fans to have flames appear in their pic with the stadium background and a hashtag ‘S_ARS’ team green cut out where fans were able to use their arms to make the ‘T’ for the photo. A further walk around the MCG saw skills drills stations with bowling and batting practice and the addition of a bubble machine.

4 and 6 signs at Melbourne Stars BBL game

Upon entering the MCG all fans were able to grab a few freebies like ‘boom boom’ inflatable sticks, a pair of Stars butterfly wings as well as 4, 6 and dot ball cards (a clever idea for when the team is fielding) which were keeping families and kids smiling ear to ear.

The quality event presentation aside, the game day production and screen content inside the G was an eye catcher as the hype reel countdown, oblivious cam and the inclusive way that they had a person doing sign language on the screens for the game day announcer were all very impressive to witness throughout the match. A dance crew roamed the outside of the boundary rope jumping up to perform after every big moment while the pyrotechnics lit up the crowd, especially those in the unique party deck seating in Bay 13.

View image on Twitter

The fast-paced fan engagement ripped through three sponsor’s activities in about 15 minutes with a dash for cash and crowd chant ‘noise off’ getting many laughs however the t-shirt gun operator might need some more training based on the fact one tee was fired into an empty stand and another hit sponsor signage before plummeting to the stand below, however, both shots still generated good-natured laughs from the crowd.

While every major venue across the globe are working on ways to get fans into venues earlier with creative incentives that drive further revenue and more eyeball time on sponsors there can be no denying that the BBL and BBL teams like the Stars go above and beyond to create impressive action-packed fan zones that offer quality and quantity in terms of fan engagement activations. This emphasis on variety actively encourages more families to attend well in advance of the match start time simply due to the overwhelming array of fun to be had pre-game.

A spectacular set up from the Stars that focuses on the little things fans want, a dash of technology and then some added surprises to light up the game day adventure.

Sport Techie Articles #11: Siri, Tell Me Some Australian Open Tennis Information

Smart home devices and artificial intelligent voice activation area areas that show a lot of potential in the sports industry as a way for fans to get closer to teams and leagues that look to drive new revenue opportunities in ticketing and merchandise.

With the 2018 Australian Open tennis competition having started in Melbourne and the PGA Tour also underway, both tennis and golf fans are able to have access to live and past tournament results, individual player stats and performance data from past tournaments by simply asking Apple’s Siri for updates.

For instance with tennis, the ATP and WTA are supported for Siri, meaning that fans are able to access information on the 2016-2018 Grand Slams whereas the PGA and LPGA are also supported with all historical facts for Grand Slams from 2007 to the present as well as tournament information for 2017 and 2018.

To read the full report please head over to Sport Techie here….

AUS OPEN

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!