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

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

Champions League final chaos: warning for mega event organisers

Quidich Innovation Labs Powers AR for Indian Premier League Cricket Fans

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

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

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

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

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

Why Experience-First Entrepreneurs Win Consumers

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

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

Driving Consumer Engagement Through Sports Sponsorship Activation

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

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

Liverpool offer support to fans over Champions League final trouble

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

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

KC esports team collaborates with Populous to produce NFT fan experience

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

Indian Tech Companies Revamping International Sports Viewing And Fan Engagement

LaLiga Tech Launches Startup Competition for Fan Engagement

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

How to Use Emotional Intelligence to Provide Exceptional Customer Service

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

Sports tops leaderboard for livestreamed video content

ESPN Celebrating NBA Finals from Airwaves to Locker Room

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

Chicago Cubs dive into the metaverse with Web3 marketing platform Valence

Red Sox First MLB Team With In-Market Streaming Service

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

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

Tech Mahindra to provide digital fans platform for chess Olympiad

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

Growth of women’s soccer reaching new levels

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

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

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

How to Elevate Customer Service by Design

What Can Be Done About the Decline of Customer Service?

Three Steps To Turn Digital Experiences Into Superior Customer Service

3 Customer Experience Breakdowns That Buyers Hate

The A0K1VERSE, NFTs, and the Future of Fan Engagement 

How sports clubs achieve a slam dunk in loyalty with data

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

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

What Can Be Done About the Decline of Customer Service?

4 Ways To Getting More Creative With Your Customer Service

How To Be A Customer-Obsessed Company

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

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

Customer Experience Is Getting Worse

Chelsea Pushing Ahead With Plan to Charge More for Top Seats

The Female College Sports Fan: Who is She?

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

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

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

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

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

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

First event set for new Sydney Football Stadium

SL Benfica becomes first Portuguese club to launch Socios fan tokens

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

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

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

How Cricket Australia plans to use NFTs to deepen engagement

Day 1, First ASHES Test Match, The Gabba Cricket Ground, Brisbane, Australia 8/12/21

On Wednesday 8th December 2021 I ventured down to Woolloongabba in Brisbane to the Brisbane Cricket Ground (The GABBA) for day one of the first ASHES test cricket match.

From the journey in to the merchandise stand, from the food and beverage offerings to the views and from the sun to the rain and rain and rain, here is my recap from a very memorable first day ASHES test in Brisbane.

Enjoy.

THE 2019 FAN ENGAGEMENT/ FAN EXPERIENCE 100-1 RECAP

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

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

Some of the key areas of focus included:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018

2017

2016

2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

92. The Boundary Social at The Gabba, Brisbane.

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

90. Chicago Blackhawks NHL chopping board giveaway to fans.

89. NY Mets Seinfeld Night and bobblehead giveaway.

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

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

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

85. Chief Beer Officer at the LA Rams.

84. Queens Park Rangers crest collection for new members.

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

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

81. Melbourne Storm (NRL) Street Crew.

80. Commemorative yesteryear tickets from Collingwood AFLW.

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

78. AGF Children’s Day drawings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

71. This lovely story from the UT Vols.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

57. This classy note from Manchester City to fans.

56. Various LA Dodgers themed nights.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

43. Peterborough PUFC young fans guard of honor.

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

— Jake Baxter (@Jake__Baxter) February 2, 2019


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

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

40. Eredivisie Toy Toss. 

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

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

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

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

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

34. Baltimore Ravens Pop Up Shop idea.

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

32. Huggity’s scrum machine challenge. 

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

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

29. Baltimore Ravens debut mixed reality Raven in venue.

28. NBA smart jerseys.

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

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

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

24. Hertha BSC ticket bot.

23. Premier League smart shirt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14. VR work from Bayern Munich.

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

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

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

10. Bat flips at the BBL/WBBL.

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

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

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

6. Charlotte Checkers having personalised notes on fans seats.

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

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

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

 

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

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

So there you have it for 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks and have a great holiday break.

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

Cricket Australia Test Match Fan Experience at The Gabba, First Test, Australia Vs Sri Lanka, Brisbane, 24 January 2018

I have a fan experience report to follow for Australasian Leisure Management Magazine but for now here are a selection of photos from the first test in Brisbane at The Gabba between Cricket Australia and Sri Lanka.

Cricket Australia debuts The Lawn deck fan experience

Cricket Australia debuts The Lawn deck fan experience

The following article was written for Digital Sports Labs and can be found in full here.

The Lawn was a truly memorable fan experience and spectacularly well-presented entertainment space from Cricket Australia, TLA Australia and the MCG that will no doubt continue to provide fans with a chilled and relaxed vibe to take in the cricket while also seeing brands falling over themselves to sponsor this next summer.

Global venues and sporting organisations are continuing to ramp up their efforts to enhance the game day fan experience and acquire new fans by providing unique, innovative and creative experiences that offer a much more memorable and enjoyable game day experience than what sports fans have had to deal with in the past.

New developments are constantly being rolled out by venues whether it be from providing gourmet local food and beverage options, gender neutral toilets or way-finding to adding inclusive nursing or sensory rooms and using technology such as chat-bots and geo-fencing in an effort to provide fans with access to important messages and promotions. Make no mistake, while it’s important to remember the match in the middle comes first and foremost, every major global venue is in an arms race to get more bums on seats through providing new money can’t buy experiences.

However, a trending area in the fan experience space from venues has been to develop fun and unique social spaces that offer fans unique seating and viewing options. In recent times this has included Jacksonville’s EverBank Field and Brisbane’s The Gabba roll out impressive pool decks, Sydney’s SCG adding a beach while Yankee Stadium created the ‘Judge’s Chambers’ and GMHBA Stadium and the Geelong Cats introduced their immersive fan portal room with retractable floor overlooking the team warm-up area that allows fans to feel the intensity as the team warms up before a match.

Cricket Australia is another such organization who are pushing the boundaries in this area with their new social entertainment experience The Lawn debuting on Sunday at the MCG for the first One Day International match. The Lawn was designed to reset the perceptions of a typical day at the cricket with the space being billed as providing a tailored food and beverage menu, comfortable seating options and a stunning view of the field.

I went along on Sunday to check out the launch of the TLA Australia created The Lawn and was impressed and overwhelmed by the beautifully designed exclusive deck area and outstanding attention to detail.

The Lawn experience started with lucky fans being granted a fancy invite to a ‘summer garden party’ themed event with registration taking place outside the MCG in a marquee featuring well-presented staff. Immediately after collecting an envelope with tickets and a $10 drinks voucher there was helpful staff holding ‘This Way To The Lawn’ signs all the way to Gate 6, upon entering the stadium and then at the entrance to The Lawn at Bay 11-13 which made it very easy to find the exclusive area.

This way to The Lawn

The first impression upon walking into The Lawn was that every little touch had been taken care of. The cool summer vibe décor and seating options ranged from sun beds and couches to tables and chairs while the colourful flower backdrop and astroturfed floor made the tiered deck come alive with vibrant colour and a party atmosphere overlooking the best view in the stadium.

Quality Australian wines and beers were part of the bar service while switched on staff supplied an endless array of gourmet food over the course of the day which included a delicious and diverse menu of cucumber sandwiches, sliders, beef croquettes, vegan salads and fish and chips. Each table also included a container of lollies and it was nice to see random strangers interacting with each other and making new friends while passing around these sweets over the course of the day.

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 The Lawn also featured a roving Polaroid camera photographer, an Instagram filter, photo opportunities with a cricket big bat as well as social games for people to play like Jenga all while still watching the cricket.  The little touches were evident from the funky straws, re-usable cups and free visors being handed out to the coasters, large umbrellas and hosts who were going out of their way to ensure fans were getting the most out of the experience. Furthermore, as the sun went down, blankets were even brought out for those starting to feel the cold while staff came around again with ice creams.

The Lawn was a truly memorable fan experience and spectacularly well-presented entertainment space from Cricket Australia, TLA Australia and the MCG that will no doubt continue to provide fans with a chilled and relaxed vibe to take in the cricket while also seeing brands falling over themselves to sponsor this next summer.

Cricket Australia Fan Engagement Review: Australia Vs India Test Match Series 2014/15 (Gabba/MCG/SCG)

The MCG in full swing for Australia Vs India. Boxing Day 2014.

The MCG in full swing for Australia Vs India. Boxing Day 2014.

It’s summer in Australia and summer down under means BBQ’s, the beach and cricket and often all three at the same time. The annual cricket test match series is a big feature of the Australian sporting calendar and in December and January featured the Indian cricket team who played four games around the country in Adelaide (Adelaide Oval, South Australia), Brisbane (The Gabba, Queensland), Melbourne (MCG, Victoria) and Sydney (SCG, New South Wales).

The Outfield at MCG

The Outfield at MCG

While the Australian cricket team were winning on the field, fans were certainly winning off it with an impressive array of fan engagement activations and freebies on offer which gave fans something extra special at each stadium.

While I was unable to attend the first test in Adelaide, I managed to get to day one (for those unfamiliar with cricket, test matches can go up to five days of play) of the 2nd Gabba, 3rd MCG and 4th SCG tests and was very impressed with the fan engagement that Cricket Australia and the stadiums had organized for cricket fans.

Day One at the SCG

Day One at the SCG

The Gabba: Second Test

The Gabba: Second Test

At each test match there was an area outside the stadium dubbed ‘The Outfield’ which was entered via three massive blow-up Cricket Australia stumps. The Outfield fan zone was open to those with tickets and those without and had a good variety of activations for fans both young and old as well as tables and chairs for fans to get some fresh air and food away from the crowds.

The Outfield at the SCG

The Outfield at the SCG

CWC15 Bus at the MCG

CWC15 Bus at the MCG

SCG CommBank Nets

SCG CommBank Nets

Young fans were able to participate in skills tests such as bowling and batting nets, get an autograph with a player and get their photo with the Cricket World Cup 2015 bus while older fans could have a cold beer in the fan ‘Tailgate’ bar outside the SCG. The Outfield also featured a MILO tent where fans could get a free cup of cold Milo and photo opportunities with the double decker Cricket World Cup bus. At the SCG for the #PinkTest, the McGrath Foundation let fans have their picture (for a worthy donation!) taken with pink bats, wigs, stumps, balls and pads and afterwards a picture was printed out for fans. The #PinkTest also saw fans nab a pink scarf for a donation to the McGrath Foundation. Inside the grounds fans were given free green and gold headbands to wipe away the hot Aussie summer sweat while giveaways and offers surrounded the concourses in the stadiums.

The Outfield Zone at the MCG

The Outfield Zone at the MCG

SCG photo opportunity for fans with the 'team'

SCG photo opportunity for fans with the ‘team’

McGrath Foundation scarf and headband

McGrath Foundation scarf and headband

MILO Tent at the SCG.

MILO Tent at the SCG.

Fans line up to grab their free sunnies and radios

Fans line up to grab their free sunnies and radios

 

CWC 2015 Bus

CWC 2015 Bus

Pink Stumps Day McGrath Foundation Tent at the SCG

Pink Stumps Day McGrath Foundation Tent at the SCG

Pink Stumps Day McGrath Foundation at the SCG

Pink Stumps Day McGrath Foundation at the SCG

Cricket Australia comps inside the SCG

Cricket Australia comps inside the SCG

Fans who were Commonwealth Bank account holders could also pick up a pair of yellow wayfarer style sunglasses and an in-ear radio if they showed their bank card to the promo kids walking around the ground. The in-ear radio was an impressive piece of tech that let fans listen to the TV and radio coverage while at the game. Fans also had the chance to win cash from the bank for showing their mug and free sunnies on the big screen.

Free sunglasses and in ear radios for fans at each Test match

Free sunglasses and in ear radios for fans at each Test match

Sunnies comp at The Gabba, Brisbane

Sunnies comp at The Gabba, Brisbane

 

In Brisbane there were a few ground competitions for fans where they had to hit a cricket ball into a big blow up space on the Gabba field and just like in the other cities each Big Bash League team had their own tent giving away freebies while signing up new members. At the MCG for day one of the third test, Cricket Australia even let fans trial the Cricket Australia LIVE app which let fans watch the Channel Nine coverage on their smartphone or tablet anywhere in Australia but also at the ground. Every ground also had Victoria Bitter and Carlton Mid Strength deals and free lanyards that were given out at the gates. The Sydney test even had a clubhouse like area called the CommBank Cricket Clubhouse for fans who had been chosen to upgrade into the ‘best seats in the house’. Each stadium’s social media engagement plan encouraged fans to tweet or post in a picture of themselves with the Toyota sponsor #Ohwhatafeeling. The REDFROGS crew at the Sydney test also have to be applauded for coming round every 30 minutes and spraying fans with fresh water to keep them cool. The OPSM tent gave away free sunglass wipes while also offering to wipe away the gunk on your own sunnies.

Cricket Australia LIVE app

Cricket Australia LIVE app

The #ohwhatafeeling social media fun at each ground

The #ohwhatafeeling social media fun at each ground

SCG CommBank Club House

SCG CommBank Club House

Watching Day 5 of the MCG test on the Cricket Australia LIVE app

Watching Day 5 of the MCG test on the Cricket Australia LIVE app

Beer sponsor deals with lanyard at the gates to each match

Beer sponsor deals with lanyard at the gates to each match

Free sunglass wipes from OPSM and sunglass wipe down

Free sunglass wipes from OPSM and sunglass wipe down

OPSM Tent staff wiping down fans sunnies at the SCG

OPSM Tent staff wiping down fans sunnies at the SCG

Red Frogs spraying the crowd with water

Red Frogs spraying the crowd with water

Melbourne Renegades BBL Tent at the MCG

Melbourne Renegades BBL Tent at the MCG

On field competition at the Gabba

On field competition at the Gabba

Cricket Australia, their sponsors and the stadiums all did a very good job of engaging fans during the Test series against India this summer and there can be a lot of ideas learned from these activations that other sporting teams and stadiums can use.

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