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FAN ENGAGEMENT FRIDAY: NEWS FROM AROUND THE GROUNDS 24/06/2022

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.

How the St. Louis Blues are turning to startups to bring new technologies to fans

FIFA Announces 16 Host Cities for 2026 World Cup

MLB News: Rob Manfred Wants Fans to Be Able to Watch More Games

What fans want to see from MLS’ new partnership with Apple

Product spotlight: Sports, venue and entertainment security

Customer service seems to belong to a bygone age

NHL Launches AR Replica of Stanley Cup Trophy for Fans to Experience

Sports fans beware: Counterfeit NHL merchandise on the rise during 2022 Stanley Cup Final

Why Avalanche fans sing Blink-182’s ‘All the Small Things’ during every home game at Ball Arena

DOES MARVEL STADIUM PROVIDE A BETTER FAN EXPERIENCE THAN THE MCG?

PPG Paints Arena to implement analytics for smart cameras to monitor fan experience

Drive to Survive’s reach goes beyond F1 fans. Now, other sports want to copy show’s success

How New York Mets Enhanced Fan Experience at Citi Field

F1 Teams Deploy APIs for Edge on Track, in Stands

Sports Fans Twice as Likely to Buy Bitcoin, Ethereum, NFTs

The ever-evolving IPL Fan is looking for more inclusion and skin in the game

The story behind Sevilla’s technology-driven mission in Indian football

Finance expert gives first-hand account after experiencing Spurs’ premium virtual tour

Not Metal Enough – A Psychological Perspective on Gatekeeping Read More: Not Metal Enough – A Psychological Perspective on Gatekeeping

NFL aims to reduce messages to fans from over 4 billion in the past year

National Rugby League Could Introduce Ball-Tracking Technology in 2023 Following Successful Trial

“IPL will become No.1 sports league”: Lalit Modi believes investment in digital will make IPL the best sports league in the world

Reformation is bringing sustainability to the $400 million market for concert merch

Put your fans first and entertain always: Jesse and Emily Cole spent months chasing customers after buying an independent-league ball club in Savannah, Georgia. It didn’t go well until they started doing the opposite of normal

Jessie Ware champions wearable tech making live music accessible for Deaf fans following successful trial stage

Biggest stadium ever? Artist shows what a 1,000,000-seater arena would look like

NFL: Ranking every stadium from ‘Cream Of The Crop’ to ‘Bulldoze And Start Again’

Milwaukee Brewers launch new fan engagement chat experience with AI technology

Security Lessons From Protecting Live Events

From New York to Mumbai, Fanatics to Dream Sports, and NFTs to connected fitness… breaking down the sports tech investment scene

5 Ways Technology is Revolutionizing Customer Service 

3 In 4 Consumers Walk Away If Customer Service Is Poor

Football clubs slammed for taking advantage of fans after hiking season ticket prices

Fans Promised 50% Refund For Cancelled 5th T20I But People Are Pissed With ‘Shameless’ BCCI

American Express creates bespoke experiences at Wimbledon

NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins to Enhance Fan Experience with Smart Camera Applications from Azena

2022 Kantar Fan Engagement Study

Wimbledon, IBM Launch Digital Platform for Player Insights

Women’s State of Origin at Canberra Stadium is more than a game

Champions League: Disabled fans treated like animals – French Senate told

AC MILAN CELEBRATES 60 YEARS OF THE ROLLING STONES WITH A SPECIAL CAPSULE COLLECTION

RANKING NFL STADIUMS BY BEST PREGAME FAN EXPERIENCE

Wimbledon hoping big data will improve fan experience

CHEQ IN: FRIENDS OUTSIDE VENUE CAN ORDER CONCESSIONS FOR FANS AT EVENTS

About half of the UAE’s sports fans prefer watching women’s sports to men’s

The growing relationship between crypto and sport

LaLiga Tech Launches Startup Competition for Fan Engagement

Opinion | Which moments matter most to a sports fan?

Women’s football fans enjoy WSL but unhappy with refereeing, survey finds

6 customer service experience trends to watch in 2022

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.

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 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.

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!

 

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some better explanations of the two chips too:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks

Sport Techie Articles #5: DROPIT Partners With Phoenix Suns On In-Arena Reverse Auctions

DROPIT

DROPIT

Fans love being able to use their smartphones at live sporting events to access vital game day content, take and post photos and videos as well as interact with fellow fans through social media. While this rise of the mobile tech-tator super fan means a more personalized fan experience, it also represents a distinct problem for sponsors as fans on their phones are disengaged and distracted from screen advertising — meaning that these messages are failing to deliver on their full potential.

However, one technology company looking to improve this space is DROPIT, which has have 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 startup announced Wednesday a partnership with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns that 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.

To read my full report head to Sport Techie’s website here: DROPIT Partners With Phoenix Suns On In-Arena Reverse Auctions

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

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

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

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

Ticketing

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

Transportation

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

Uber Tailgate

Uber Tailgate

Uber Tailgate

Uber Tailgate

Uber Tailgate

Uber Tailgate

Security

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

Seating

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

Way-Finding

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

Lighting

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

Architecture

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

Food and Drink

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

IMG_4481

In Seat Ordering at Levis Stadium

In Seat Ordering at Levis Stadium

Rest Rooms

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

Toilet app at Levis Stadium

Toilet app at Levis Stadium

Audio-Visual

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

MetLife Stadium

MetLife Stadium

VR-AR

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

VR at Australian Open 2016

VR at Australian Open 2016

Connectivity

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

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

 

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100+ Fan Engagement and Fan Experience Articles From November 2016

Here’s a quick round up of 100+ interesting fan engagement and fan experience reads from the sports business world from the month of November 2016.

  1. IS OUR OBSESSION WITH TECHNOLOGY DAMAGING THE MATCH-GOING EXPERIENCE?
  2. American fan engagement would not work in the Premier League
  3. Milwaukee Bucks Give Back With ‘Engineer The Future’ Event As Students Build Arena Replicas
  4. Sports Geek: 33 sports teams doing the Mannequin Challenge
  5. Inside The Cronulla Sharks Digital Marketing Play
  6. Renovations to Stabler Arena enhance fan experience
  7. Al Thawadi: Qatar 2022 will showcase region
  8. Driving fan engagement in the digital age: what digital disruption really means for sport
  9. Responsible Fans Rewarded at Homestead-Miami Speedway
  10. YOUNG FAN EXPERIENCES DREAM JOB WITH MAN CITY
  11. The 6 Uses Of Technology In Sports We Are Thankful For This Thanksgiving
  12. Check out the 15 restaurants opening in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta
  13. Minnesota Wild First NHL Team To Debut Snapchat Spectacles
  14. How The NBA Sees A Future Filled With Live Virtual Reality Broadcasts Of Games
  15. The NBA is now creating a weekly Snapchat Discover channel
  16. Aston Villa fans to get the chance to sit with Dr Tony Xia
  17. National Hockey League Team Leverages SAP HANA to Better Understand Their Fans Through Data
  18. EY teams with MetLife Stadium, New York Jets and New York Football Giants to create premier fan experience through the EY Coaches Club
  19. GlobalLogic and LA Galaxy Partner to Build Next-Generation Digital Platform for Enhanced Fan Experience
  20. Experience NBA and NFL in a new way as VR Goes Mainstream
  21. San Jose Sharks Launch New Video App With DeskSite
  22. TRIPLEPLAY DELIVERS NEXT GEN FAN EXPERIENCE AT ICONIC FOOTBALL CLUB
  23. Alpha Video Scores Big with Tech Expo at U.S. Bank Stadium
  24. HOW TO MANAGE DIRECT-TO-FAN RELATIONSHIPS IN 2016
  25. Bournemouth launch predictor game app with Deliveroo prizes
  26. Virtual reality will transport you to F1 races — and bring fan excitement back to Formula One
  27. Cardiff City beat off competition from Everton and Leicester City to land prestigious match day experience award
  28. Five things you must do on a matchday to build your brand, increase engagement and monetise your social audience
  29. Chicago Cubs fans can buy championship gear on the Uber app and have it delivered in minutes
  30. With Wi-Fi Stadium Upgrade, Could Augmented Reality Be Next For New England Patriots?
  31. Why USMNT Coach Jürgen Klinsmann Regularly Chats With Fans On Facebook Live
  32. Jonathan Key: Titans Bud Light NFL Super Fan
  33. Responsible Fans Rewarded at Phoenix Raceway
  34. Next stop Kuala Lumpur for LFC World fan experience
  35. Everton on pace to break Goodison Park attendance record
  36. National Hockey League Team Leverages SAP HANA to Better Understand Their Fans Through Data
  37. World Rugby Competition gives Fans the Chance to Pitch Match Experience Ideas
  38. Teams, Leagues Enlist Content Creators
  39. NBA 2K partners with Fitbit to get gamers off couch
  40. Paris Saint-Germain Partners With Ericsson For Digital Experience, Data Solutions
  41. Dallas Mavericks Are Now On Digital Streaming Platforms Roku, Live.ly, Musical.ly
  42. Tagboard, Snapchat Partner With NFL Teams, Samurai Japan
  43. Fitbit, NBA 2K17 Partner To Promote Healthy Living With Gamers
  44. FAN ENGAGEMENT INTERVIEW: DUNCAN DRASDO, MANCHESTER UNITED SUPPORTERS TRUST
  45. Safe Standing: The view of the Bundesliga
  46. For Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center, a Rising Tide Raises All Ships
  47. Five Ways To Keep Ratings, Attendance Up At NFL Games
  48. Hyper-Telling Of Sports: The Next Frontier For Immersive Experiences
  49. Pro Teams Look To Score Big By Improving Fan Experience
  50. How the cloud, infused with analytic insights, impacts athletes and sports fans
  51. Canucks partner with SAP to create engaging fan experiences using social media
  52. NBA Audio Aims To Enhance Experience for Fans at Home and in Venue
  53. ATP, Sony, and Infosys Bring ATP World Tour Finals VR Experience to PlayStationVR
  54. Venue Q&A: MSG’s Bauman Talks Fan-Engagement Strategy, Teases Nov. 29 Event
  55. 3 Sports Marketing Strategies To Engage Fans With Fresh Content
  56. Barclays ATP World Tour Finals Giving Fans Immersive Virtual Reality Experience
  57. NASCAR Chairman Brian France Talks Virtual Reality, Digital Fan Experience
  58. The London experience: Fan highlights from Bengals’ first international game
  59. Grizzlies announce “Grizz’s Buzzer Beater Deals” available via the Official Grizzlies Mobile App
  60. Future of the NFL: The Virtual, Augmented, 3D, 360-Degree Football Experience
  61. Brighton & Hove Albion Opens Virtual Reality Experience In Amex Stadium Family Stand
  62. New stadium parking plan saves Dolphins fans time, money (and aggravation)
  63. Blues Secure Awards Double
  64. Cleveland Cavaliers Unveil Paper Virtual Championship Ring Due To Silicone Band ‘Flaw’
  65. What’s new at MSG in 2016-17: Drone balls, dancer balls, balls everywhere!
  66. Building a Home Court Advantage
  67. Hurdl Illuminates Fans to Lead Next Generation Entertainment Experience, Marketing
  68. Thailand lifts celebration restrictions for Socceroos fans
  69. Villanova Athletics and Key Bank Announce Exclusive Retail Banking Partnership
  70. Tackling Tech: Why Gillette Stadium Sought an Extreme Wi-Fi Upgrade for NFL Fans
  71. 5 HALLOWEEN CONTENT MARKETING WINS
  72. Big Ten Network Producing Its First Live College Football Game In Virtual Reality
  73. At Sportel Monaco, Executives Address Current State Of Virtual Reality
  74. The Washington Capitals Are Getting Creative With A Facebook Messenger Bot
  75. StubHub CIO Marty Boos Dishes On Technology’s Impact On Ticketing
  76. Wearable Technology Company Zepp Brings Its Sensor To The Links
  77. Los Angeles Lakers Looking To Lead In Use Of 3D Technology
  78. Rugby Apparel Provider Canterbury Uses Hologram To Preview New ‘Untouchable’ Jerseys
  79. Yankee Stadium Enhancements
  80. How Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust is getting a grip on fan engagement
  81. NU working to improve football fans’ comfort
  82. Jacksonville-based Fanatics signs deal with Atlanta Falcons
  83. How LAFC supporters’ groups are influencing the team’s new stadium design
  84. Manchester United fan engagement ‘akin to religion’ – managing director Ad (0:12) Loaded: 0%Progress: 0%
  85. CU Athletics signs partnership with SuperFanU
  86. WAWA AND NEW JERSEY DEVILS TEAM UP TO PROVIDE UNIQUE EXPERIENCE TO FANS ATTENDING EVENTS AT PRUDENTIAL CENTER
  87. Brisbane Heat Becomes First Australian Club To Create Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality App
  88. Everton Secure Football Business Awards Double
  89. Q&A: The Cub’s creative team on marketing ‘loveable losers’ who win
  90. The NBA Is Committed to Virtual Reality. Are Fans?
  91. U.S. Soccer taps Facebook, Instagram to hype USA-Mexico rivalry game
  92. NASCAR’s Phil Metz on the Busy Intersection of Music & Auto Racing
  93. International Hockey Club IFK Helsinki Launches eSports Team
  94. NFL, Google Expand Relationship Through Nine-Part Virtual Reality Series
  95. Greenfly Helps Brands Unlock The Collective Content Influence Of Fans
  96. Golden 1 Center Creating Inclusive Fan Experience
  97. TIMBERWOLVES & LYNX TO PROVIDE CLOSED CAPTIONING AT HOME GAMES
  98. Making the 2022 FIFA World Cup™ Qatar accessible to all
  99. Vancouver Canucks use SAP Hybris to get personal with fans
  100. KOJO Sport Signs Exclusive Five Year Deal For Game Day Production At Adelaide Oval
  101. Denver Broncos Build Fan Engagement Through Augmented Reality Activation
  102. SmartCart Technology Aims to Change Way Fans Watch Sports
  103. How MLB And New Relic Are Redefining How Cloud Apps Deliver Great Experiences
  104. Colts Invite 11-Year-Old Fan From Charleston to Thanksgiving Game
  105. New York Red Bulls GM Marc de Grandpre Discusses Power Of Live Sports, Streaming Evolution
  106. NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers to Again Feature 15 Seconds of Fame Technology
  107. The PGA Tour and ATP Launch New Fan Engagement Polling Product Built By Omnigon
  108. Holograms and smartphones – Canterbury launch British & Irish Lions kit in spectacular fashion
  109. Atlanta Hawks and City of Atlanta Announce Plans To Renovate Philips Arena
  110. MILWAUKEE BUCKS ANNOUNCE PARTNERSHIP WITH LEXUS, PROVIDING GAME NIGHT VIP VALET PARKING FOR FANS
  111. How sports execs use tech to improve fan engagement
  112. Carolina Panthers Heighten Fan Experience at Bank of America Stadium with Aruba Wi-Fi
  113. Mercedes-Benz Stadium Will House Largest LED Video Display In Sports
  114. The 11 Most Important Tech Storylines From The 2016 MLB Season
  115. Hong Kong Tennis Open Celebrated With Virtual Reality Matches Providing Skyline Views
  116. New York Islanders Barclays Center Fan Experience
  117. Virtual reality will transport you to F1 races — and bring fan excitement back to Formula One
  118. Panasonic and Sacramento Kings Debut NBA’s First 4K Ultra HD Centerhung Video Displays at Season Home Opener
  119. Why English football sucks at fan engagement – and Americans are in a different league

2016 NRL and AFL Grand Final Fan Engagement Overview

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

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

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

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

Twitter GF Emoji's

Twitter GF Emoji’s

AFL Grand Final 2016

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

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

AFL FOXTEL FOOTY FESTIVAL

AFL FOXTEL FOOTY FESTIVAL

AFL FOXTEL FOOTY FESTIVAL

AFL FOXTEL FOOTY FESTIVAL

AFL FOXTEL FOOTY FESTIVAL

AFL FOXTEL FOOTY FESTIVAL

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

Toyota AFL Grand Final Live Site

Toyota AFL Grand Final Live Site

Toyota AFL Grand Final Live Site

Toyota AFL Grand Final Live Site

Toyota AFL Grand Final Live Site

Toyota AFL Grand Final Live Site

*Update 28/9/16

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

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

AFL Grand Final Parade

AFL Grand Final Parade

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

Screen Shot 2016-09-22 at 12.58.51 pm

Tokyo Tina

Tokyo Tina

King Of Spuds

King Of Spuds

Lady Carolina

Lady Carolina

Biggie Smalls

Biggie Smalls

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

AFL Kids Zone

AFL Kids Zone

Woolworths AFL Playground

Woolworths AFL Playground

Woolworths AFL Playground

Woolworths AFL Playground

Woolworths AFL Playground

Woolworths AFL Playground

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

AFL Movie Day

AFL Movie Day

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

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

AFL Grand Final Eve Gig

AFL Grand Final Eve Gig

To get fans to the MCG on Grand Final day, Public Transport Victoria are putting on extra services and extending the free tram from the CBD to the MCG. More on the free transport here: MCG Public Transport

PTV

PTV

 

Sydney Swans

As for the teams, Sydney are holding an open training session at the SCG on Monday while galvanising their fans passion together under their #AFLGF hashtag of #ProudlySydney. Fans can also pick up their special Swans Grand Final tee’s as well.

The Swans Finals Hub has all the information fans needs to have an exceptional fan experience at the MCG and features a page where fans can leave their Fan Mail to support the team.

The Swans App also features lots of exclusive content for fans to engage with on Grand Final day including:

– LIVE scores and team/player stats direct to your device
– Player profiles for every current player
– Video on Demand allows you to watch match highlights and press conferences while you’re on the run
– Latest News & Videos from your club
– Team Selections as they are announced
– Match details for the season including Results, Ladder and team Fixture
– Team Stats including disposals, kicks, handballs, and more
– Player Stats including goals, behinds and Fantasy points, plus their season averages
– Follow your club via the official Twitter feed
– Visit the Swanshop
– Book tickets to any match

Swans Finals Hub

Swans Finals Hub

Swans Open Training Session

Swans Open Training Session

Sydney Swans GF tee

Sydney Swans GF tee

Swans Fan Letters

Swans Fan Letters

The Swans are calling on fans to get behind their ‘Proudly Sydney‘ campaign and asking them to change their profile pics on Facebook to support the team while also having a Live Site for the Grand Final in Sydney on Saturday. 

Proudly Sydney

Proudly Sydney

Proudly Sydney

Proudly Sydney

Swans Live Site

Swans Live Site

Western Bulldogs

The Western Bulldogs have plenty on for fans as well with their AFL Grand Final Live Site at Whitten Oval, their Fans MVP Vote and an open training session on Tuesday featuring a host of activities.

Quality content such as the Dogs CartoonKidszone Healthy Eating Tips and their The Pack kids activities are also sure to excite fans young and old in the lead up to the grand final.

Bulldogs AFL GF Hub

Bulldogs AFL GF Hub

Bulldogs Live Site

Bulldogs Live Site

Bulldogs GF merch

Bulldogs GF merch

Live Site

Live Site

Dogs Cartoon

Dogs Cartoon

Dogs Open Training

Dogs Open Training

The Pack

The Pack

The Pack

The Pack

The Pack Colouring Page

The Pack Colouring Page

The Bulldogs app features a heap of fan content such as:

– LIVE scores and stats for every game of the 2016 AFL Toyota Premiership Season
– Refreshed Match Centre, including new team and player stats, and in-game video highlights
– New Team Stats section showing how the club shapes up against competition averages
– Improved Player profiles with additional stats and player information
– Video on Demand to watch match highlights and press conferences while you’re on the run
– Latest News & Videos from the club
– Player profiles for every current player, including bio, related articles and video, and season stats
– Team Selections as they are announced
– Match details for the season including Results, Ladder and team Fixture
– Alerts to your phone for club news, team announcements and match starts
– Team song audio and lyrics
– Fans’ MVP
– Follow your club via the official Twitter feed
– Visit the Bulldogs Shop
– Book tickets to any match

WB App

WB App

On the Sunday after the AFL Grand Final (Sunday October 2nd, 2016) the Melbourne Cricket Ground is opening the doors to the public for the annual ‘MCG Open Day‘ where sports fans can have fun on the field as well as participate in the following activities:

-Relive your favourite sporting moments on the hallowed turf of the MCG with kick-to-kick with family and friends.
-Kids can participate in free cricket clinics courtesy of the Melbourne Stars.
-Create your own Grand Final celebration and have your photo taken with the 2016 replica AFL premiership cup (at the reduced cost of $5 per photo if you pre-registered).
-Bask in the glory of the Cricket World Cup and the Women’s Ashes Trophy.
-Don’t miss our Frozen stage shows which will take place throughout the day. You can even take a photo with Elsa, Anna and Olaf!
-Explore the inner sanctum of the MCG, from the player change rooms and cricket viewing rooms to the MCC Library and The Long Room.
-Visit the National Sports Museum at a discounted cost (only $5).
-See, hold and take photos with a variety of amazing animals at our petting zoo
-Kids can enjoy free pony rides from 11am-3pm
-Enjoy traditional footy fare – from meat pies and hot chips, to salad and sushi at family friendly prices. Don’t miss out on the Kids meal deal!
-Free face painting.
-Roaming entertainment.

MCG Open Day 2016

MCG Open Day 2016

 

National Rugby League 2016 Grand Final

The NRL is hosting a free NRL Grand Final Fan Day on Thursday 29th September at the Sydney Opera House Forecourt in Sydney which will include the following fan activations and activities:

– Virtual kick

– Kids entertainment and activities

– Player signing sessions and photo opportunities

– Team mascots

– Live entertainment

– Photo opportunities with a life size NRL Trophy

NRL Grand Final Fan Day

NRL Grand Final Fan Day

NRL Fan Day

NRL Fan Day

On Grand Final day, Sydney’s ANZ Stadium will be hosting an array of activities for fans close by in Cathy Freeman Park which will include:

– A massive pre-game Grand Final party will kick off from 11am on Sunday.

– Loads of live entertainment and gourmet food and drink options.

Megastar Keith Urban will perform LIVE pre-game as part of an electrifying build-up to the NRL Grand Final. The chart-topping ARIA and Grammy Award winner will bring home the pre-game show following a performance by multiple Grammy Award-winner Richie Sambora, a founding member of Bon Jovi, who will be joined by Australia’s own guitar goddess Orianthi.

Melbourne Storm

Melbourne are holding an Open Training Session this week for fans.

Open Training Session

Open Training Session

Melbourne through sponsor Tiger Air are offering fans 5% off their flights to the Grand Final while their app is a must download ahead of the final match of the season on Sunday and includes:

– A brand new design theme and layout optimised for the iPhone 6;
– Access to the latest team News, Videos and Photo Galleries;
– 2016 Telstra Premiership Draw and Fixtures presented in a round or calendar format;
– Ladder for the Telstra Premiership and Holden Cup;
– Full squad list with Player Profiles;
– Push Notifications to keep you updated at all times with breaking news, score alerts and match updates;
– Integrated Twitter feeds from the official team and player accounts; and
– Access to all team related sites, including Membership, Merchandise Store, Ticketing, Events Calendar and many more!

Storm

Storm

Storm App

Storm App

Cronulla Sharks

The Sharks Finals Hub has all the information that fans need to know for the big day with merch, game notes and interviews while the team are encouraging fans to use the hashtag #WhyNotUs to get them psyched up for the game.

Cronulla are hosting a fan day on Tuesday.

Cronulla Fan Day

Cronulla Fan Day

Sharks Social

Sharks Social

Sharks Fan Day

Sharks Fan Day

A pop up shop will help fans gear up for match day while they have also put together a Sharks Spotify playlist for fans to dance to ahead of the big match. You can listen in here to the Cronulla Sharks NRL Playlist.

#WhyNotUs

#WhyNotUs

Sharks Grand Final Hub

Sharks Grand Final Hub

Sharks Pop Up Shop

Sharks Pop Up Shop

Sharks Playlist

Sharks Playlist

 

Cronulla Sharks Playlist

Cronulla Sharks Playlist

 Sharks fans are able to get their hands on official Grand Final shirts 

Cronulla Sharks shirts

Cronulla Sharks shirts

There are sure to be even more activations,  content and activities for fans of both codes and teams which are set to excite and engage sports fans this weekend and showcase the best in fan engagement from both codes. 

Note: I’ll be adding in more pictures and updates as they come in across the teams social streams and websites as well as pictures of the AFL Footy Festival in Melbourne which I’ll be checking out on Wednesday. 

 

150 Fan Engagement and Fan Experience Articles for January 2016

FE Monthly Round Up Articles

FE Monthly Round Up Articles

Just in case you missed any of the key stories from the world of fan engagement and fan experience during January, sit back and have a read through some of these articles from sports business sites including Sports Geek, Sport Techie and We Play to name but a few.

Each month I’ll try to collate a list of some of the fan engagement/fan experience articles that I think are worth having a read.

There’s a whole host of interesting content in here from leagues such as the BBL and NFL to what’s happening in the area of drones, virtual reality and ibeacon tech.

Dive in and take a read.

All the best.

  1. Super Bowl party starts early with opening of downtown fan zone
  2. University of Tennessee plans renovations at Neyland Stadium
  3. The Cameras That’ll Make the Super Bowl Way More Interesting This Year
  4. Eaton’s New Ephesus LED Systems to Illuminate NHL and AHL All-Star Games
  5. ESPN set to debut ‘Virtual 3’ technology for NBA broadcasts
  6. WHAT’S THE VALUE OF LOYAL FANS? [INFOGRAPHIC]
  7. The Fan Experience is Changing as Tech is Making Game Interactive
  8. Gaming the Six Nations
  9. Silicon Valley rolls out red carpet for Super Bowl
  10. ESPN Virtual 3 Technology Is Being Introduced Today To Literally Highlight 3-Pointers In NBA Broadcasts
  11. One Step Beyond into the WBA Fanzone
  12. NHL Fan Fair presented by Bridgestone opens Jan. 28
  13. Topgolf To Reimagine Sports Entertainment For Millennials With World Golf Tour Acquisition
  14. Miami Heat take the fan experience outside the arena with digital signage
  15. Wallace and Selfeo Look to Fully Immerse Fans into NASCAR Experience with Daytona Partnership
  16. Fan Fair provides perfect start to All-Star Weekend
  17. Sacramento Company’s App At Heart Of Super Fan Chase Event
  18. The Drone Racing League Makes Its First Mainstream Play
  19. If the Raiders move to Las Vegas, we’d like to see a few of these features worked into their home games
  20. Scottish football fans unite against SPFL’s bid to bring in facial recognition cameras: ‘Plan will drive punters away’
  21. South Carolina Seahawks Fans Enjoy “Surreal” Experience at Divisional Round Playoff Game vs Panthers
  22. Cardinals’ use of virtual reality technology yields record season
  23. Sacramento Kings To Premiere NBA’s First 4K Ultra HD Center-Hung Video Board Featuring Largest Screens And Highest Resolution In The League
  24. The world’s first live VR boxing match promises to be a knockout
  25. Big Bash League 2016: How BBL is attracting kids, families and females to cricket
  26. The Australian Open is getting increasingly creative on social media
  27. Government fan plan on club strategy will be written into league rules
  28. F1 bosses want fans to vote for “driver of the day” at each race
  29. SPFL discusses face recognition system for unacceptable conduct
  30. Australian Open details data analytics improvements driving digital engagement
  31. Orlando Magic keen on UK specific partners as it looks to fuel international expansion
  32. Australian Open details data analytics improvements driving digital fan engagement
  33. Sporting Innovations has a new name
  34. Manchester United boost fan engagement in India with Adidas involvement
  35. Panthers president special message to fans: ‘Keep Pounding’
  36. Now Anyone Can Play Goalie for the New York Rangers
  37. LIVERPOOL FC PARTNERS WITH SKYPE TO BOOST FAN ENGAGEMENT
  38. Australian Open crowds aren’t all for the tennis
  39. Sports Teams Running Out of Fans
  40. Why should clubs use Snapchat?
  41. Suns Launch “Shazam with the Suns” Contest
  42. 2015 NBA World Champion Golden State Warriors Select SignalShare To Deploy Arena Wi-Fi
  43. Lucas Oil Stadium ranked first in NFL stadium experience for fifth straight year
  44. Super Bowl 50: Your Haute Guide to Nine Days of Festivities
  45. Lyon set to debut swanky new £186million stadium this weekend – see inside the Euro 2016 venue here
  46. THE KEY TRENDS SET TO SHAPE THE DIGITAL SPORTS INDUSTRY IN 2016
  47. Editorial: Team finds one more way to enhance fan experience
  48. Every Alabama And Clemson Player Will Have A Player Tracking Chip In Their Shoulder Pads Tonight
  49. The Sacramento Kings Are Building the NBA’s Techiest Arena, a ’21st Century Coliseum’
  50. How College Football Playoff Optimizes Fan Experience On Championship Game Day And Throughout The Year
  51. Kiswe Mobile Teams Up With Monumental Sports Group To Give Fans More Control When Watching Sports Broadcasts
  52. Sensoria Launches New Products To Create Full Body Wearable Platform
  53. Fans’ View: The Fans’ View experience
  54. Letters to Lambeau connects Packers fans
  55. The Whole Nine Yards: What The NFL Can Teach Marketers About Brand Engagement
  56. STRIVR Labs Launches Fan Experience and VR Production Division
  57. Report excerpt: New Wi-Fi at Ole Miss
  58. Notre Dame Stadium rated best college football experience in the country
  59. What the Minnesota Vikings’ terrible temporary home can teach Seattle, Chris Hansen
  60. Rangers adding new scoreboard, foul poles to Globe Life Park in 2016 (Photos)
  61. Miami’s Sun Life Stadium to Enhance Fan Experience and Energy Efficiency with Eaton’s Advanced Ephesus LED Lighting System
  62. English Soccer Club Manchester United to Launch 24-Hour TV Channel in China
  63. NBA Twitter is Changing the Way We Watch Sports
  64. How Periscope Is Building A Community In The Midst Of Twitter’s Turmoil
  65. Snoop Dogg On Why He’s Investing in GameOn
  66. Three Sports Technology Trends Emerged In 2015 That Will Change Sport Forever
  67. Wildcats color Memphis purple at pep rally
  68. Video: Watch the Melbourne Renegades celebrate the Indian community and culture
  69. Melbourne Stars’ import Kevin Pietersen says he is honoured to be part of BBL
  70. Washington Capitals And Wizards Owner Ted Leonsis On Big Data And The Future Of Sports
  71. Jason Guarente: Flyers alumni game will light up Reading
  72. New York Jets Add Virtual Reality Experiences For Fans
  73. NBA New York Knicks Use Ridiculous Giant Minigun-Style T-Shirt Launchers
  74. Influence Mobile geared to female sports fans
  75. Halifax Hurricanes Boxing Day Home Opener
  76. NBA And NHL Teams Use Unique Smartphone Experiences To Attract Millennials
  77. Visit Tampa Bay announces Vols fan winner of Outback Bowl VIP Experience
  78. Atlanta Hawks Eye Better Retail Customer Experience with New Partner
  79. Utah Jazz have brought the fans back with exciting players and hope for the future
  80. IBM launches consortium for sports venues
  81. Panasonic presents video featuring large-screen solutions
  82. Browns tight end Gary Barnidge rents entire theater, joins fans to see ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’
  83. Silicon Valley tech companies jump on the Super Bowl bandwagon
  84. FB as fan engagement medium
  85. Grandstand Offers Hot Take-Free Football Highlights, Bowl Season Simplicity
  86. Cowboy Stadium ranked as Southland’s top venue by Stadium Journey
  87. CSN Bay Area and CSN California to Launch “Authentic Fanuary” on New Year’s Day
  88. College Football Playoff National Championship using Super Bowl XLIX as blueprint
  89. Chelsea and England forward Eni Aluko eyes growth of women’s game
  90. U.S. Bank Stadium Setting Up for Easy Fan Navigation
  91. Fusion Sport Timing Systems Support Michael Jordan Brand For Fan Engagement Event
  92. The College Football Hall of Fame and Chick-fil-A Fan Experience Celebrates the 2015 Hall of Fame Class in Atlanta on Dec. 30
  93. Wi-Fi to the RV: Oklahoma brings Wi-Fi services to RV parking lot
  94. How The Kansas City Chiefs Use Social Media To Enhance The Fan Experience
  95. Texas Rangers Add to Visual Experience with New Daktronics LED Display
  96.  Football fans’ ‘manifesto’ launched at Scottish Parliament
  97. World Sailing taking the sport to the masses in 2016
  98. Formula E Teams Up With Gigya to Drive Fan Engagement
  99. Packers fans invited to enter Associated Bank’s “Keys to Lambeau” Sweepstakes for exclusive tour of Lambeau Field
  100. STRIVR Launches New Division To Create Virtual Reality Content And Experiences
  101. Brand our beer and name our ale!
  102. Feature: Breaking Down The Sensory Barrier
  103. The Skill Set: Loic Remy
  104. The Magic Was Real | Portland Timbers 2015 MLS Cup Champions
  105. NBA, MLB COMMISSIONERS STILL BELIEVE IN FAN EXPERIENCES AMID TECH WORLD
  106. Cascade High nominated for Statesman Journal’s Fan Experience Award
  107. Silver Spurs Arena Improves Visual Experience with Daktronics Products
  108. Cuban: Fans shouldn’t look at phones ‘while the ball is in the air’
  109. Vikings’ growing media network takes game to fans ‘365/24/7’
  110. Technology Firm From Israel Set To Upgrade Real Madrid’s Mobile App
  111. College Football Playoff Fan Central in full swing
  112. Sydney Thunder: Kids Eat Free
  113. ‘All over the UK’: NFL’s growth in Manchester ‘phenomenal’, say Inside the Huddle duo
  114. Super Bowl 50 bound Denver Broncos partner with PrimeSport as their official fan travel partner
  115. Feschuk: The future of sports will look like this
  116. Silicon Valley Is Commandeering San Francisco’s Super Bowl
  117. Broncos use technology to deepen fan support
  118. Facebook needs more friends in its new Sports Stadium
  119. Here’s what Broncos, Panthers fans will shell out for their Super Bowl experience
  120. Super Bowl 50 and fan events: Locations to know in the Bay Area
  121. Why Every Marketer Should Be Watching Virtual Reality
  122. Snapchat’s linked with the NFL to sell big-name brands for a Super Bowl Live Story
  123. Top 10 Sports Business Trends to Watch in 2016
  124. Super Bowl 50 puts tech in its starting lineup
  125. Why Australia’s Big Bash League Is Changing The Professional Sports Paradigm
  126. Baylor Enhances Fans’ Gameday Experience at the Ferrell Center
  127. A San Francisco Super Bowl Experience, With or Without a Ticket
  128. Fan experience key to fun at CareerBuilder Challenge
  129. AHL commissioner talks league, ‘Hogs, outdoor games
  130. Mark Hollis gives his take on fan engagement at MSU sporting events
  131. How to maximize your experience at Braves FanFest
  132. Islanders moving to Metro Bank Park
  133. 49er fans aren’t thrilled with the stadium that’s hosting Super Bowl 50
  134. 5 BURNING QUESTIONS THAT SPORTS MARKETERS HAVE ABOUT FAN DATA
  135. Uber gets exclusive deal to pick up and drop off passengers at Super Bowl 50
  136. Fox Sports will offer live virtual reality along with regular broadcast of Garcia-Guerrero title fight
  137. Nuggets rank 21st on Forbes list of most valuable NBA teams
  138. U.S. Bank Stadium’s High-Res Video Boards in Place
  139. Are Texans, NRG ready to go wild on Wi-Fi? Why, yes
  140. The NBA’s Least Engaged Fans
  141. Stadium Managers Are Still Learning How To Monetize Fans
  142. Are Sports Fans Ready for a Virtual NFL Experience?
  143. Lifelong fan enjoys inner sanctum experience
  144. Infosys And ATP Partnership Brings Data Analytics To The Australian Open
  145. 3 local food favorites coming to Progressive Field
  146. How the Super Bowl will handle millions of selfies
  147. Effect of time and location on sports fan engagement using mobile
  148. Fan Engagement | How to get bums on seats and keep them there
  149. Digital lens: scoring stronger fan relationships
  150. SUPER BOWL 50: WHAT CAN YOU SEE AT THE NFL EXPERIENCE

An Australasian Perspective: Fan Engagement Down Under 2014 Review

2014 Australian Fan Engagement Review

2014 Australian Fan Engagement Review

Fan engagement activations from sporting clubs and stadiums are taking the US and UK by storm but are also becoming ever more creative and exciting down in the Southern Hemisphere in Australia and New Zealand. Fans young and old are enjoying the experience of being able to watch the game on the field but also engage with the same game on their second screen and in turn fan loyalty is being rewarded with extra incentives like seat upgrades, prizes and digital media activations coming to fans from every angle. Subsequently there are impressive fan engagement lessons to be learnt from Aussie Rules to rugby league and netball to football from what is taking place in the world of fan engagement down under.

Pie Beacon at MCG

Pie Beacon at MCG

 

It’s clear from my experience travelling the length and breadth of the country in 2014 that every sporting team and stadium in Australia and New Zealand are doing very impressive fan engagement initiatives for their supporters and have the interests of these fans right at heart as they know that this will lead to creating the ultimate spectator experience as well as get more people through the turnstiles. From the gluten free food stand at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium and Melbourne and the MCG’s immense selection of food outlets and use of iBeacon technology to Sydney’s connected free WI-FI at ANZ Stadium and Adelaide Oval’s state of the art audio and visual experience it is clear that our stadiums down here are working hard to give fans more bang for their buck and more valuable lasting memories.

 

SlideLiner at ANZ Stadium

SlideLiner at ANZ Stadium

Within my role with audioBoom I’ve been lucky enough to travel frequently around Australia and New Zealand in 2014 talking to sporting teams and stadiums about how they can use our audio platform for their fan engagement strategies. As I’m passionate about being a sports fan but also in learning what these teams and stadiums are doing with fan engagement for their supporters, I’m also very enthusiastic in promoting and showcasing the exciting things that the talented digital, marketing and fan engagement reps are doing down under for their club or stadiums fans.

2014 has been a huge year for fan engagement activations around Australia and I’ve been lucky enough to take in around 80 events here across football, AFL, rugby league, cricket, rugby, netball, hockey, motor racing as well as major events like the fan engagement overload that was both the MLB Opening Series in Sydney and the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

AUS GP Melbourne

AUS GP Melbourne

As a way of shining a light on how well I think Australia and NZ are doing in the fan engagement ranks I have listed a selection of some of the best fan engagement activations that I was able to witness in 2014. There are probably a thousand other ideas from clubs and stadiums far and wide however that are equally as good, however these are just some of the best ones from examples that I was able to witness on my travels.

In March I attended both the Australian Grand Prix Formula One in Melbourne and the Opening Game of the MLB series in Sydney at the SCG. The AUS GP is a fan engagement mecca with a multitude of activations on offer for fans from the #AUSGP twitter hashtag stand for fan photos, classic car roadshow, free Daniel Riccardio face masks, live music on festival type stages, fan zone bars with public access, free kids face painting and action zones featuring race car simulators.  At the Major League Baseball opening game at Sydney’s Cricket Ground the sheer scale of what the event organisers Moore Sports pulled off with this event from securing the correct dirt for the pitching mound to make the stadium look like an American baseball ground was incredible to witness. However it was also all of the fun fan engagement on offer for baseball fans that really was impressive and definitely enhanced the day out at the ground. Outside the ground there were photo opportunities with the MLB trophy, batting cages and pitching zones to merch tents with free giveaways. Once inside the ground there were special zones set up including the ESPN Fan Deck, which featured free merch for fans like inflatable ESPN foam hands and customized beer holder cups. The event also provided a smorgasbord of American food varieties including giant 60cm hot dogs, bacon on a stick and ice cream in baseball helmets, which definitely had fans excited.

ESPN Freebies at the SCG

ESPN Freebies at the SCG

MLB at the SCG

MLB at the SCG

The National Rugby League (NRL) had an impressive year with fan engagement activations from the Brisbane Broncos and Manly Sea Eagles giving away free flags to fans at games, to Allianz Stadium and the Kangaroos test match rewarding fans with a ‘Seat and Eat’ offer where fans could eat as much as they could during the game. The Newcastle Knights teamed up with SportsBet to feature fans twitter names on the back of their jerseys while the NSW State of Origin rugby league team changed the sponsor words of beer Victoria Bitter on the front of their jerseys to feature fans names. The North Queensland Cowboys gave out free cut out headgear masks of star player Johnathon Thurston to fans while the Broncos also developed an away day cinema room for fans at their club house and gave out a prize to all members at their final home game through a lucky dip bin. The Penrith Panthers had a novel idea by letting fans buy cheaper jerseys if they traded in their old ones which then went to a worthy charity and the Melbourne Storm held a 31 day Instagram challenge which encouraged fans to tag a photo and follow a new theme like try celebration or tickets for example. Five NRL teams also engaged fans by donning special super hero jerseys featuring Wolverine, Captain America and more that were sold to fans and worn during games.

Seat and Eat at Allianz Stadium

Seat and Eat at Allianz Stadium

Newcastle Knights

Newcastle Knights

Broncos members lucky dip

Broncos members lucky dip

Storm Instagram Challenge

Storm Instagram Challenge

 

The Australian Football League (AFL) also rolled out the fan engagement royalty for fans with the Hawthorn Hawks having a fan guard of honour and Port Adelaide Power continuing to build on their theme song by getting fans to sing the INXS classic ‘Never Tear Us Apart’  in unison at home games. The Brisbane Lions and Gold Coast Suns also had two of the best fan zones I witnessed on my travels in 2014 with Brisbane’s ‘Lions Park’ having skills and drills activities and photo stands whereas the Suns featured a live music area called the Fifth Quarter and loads of fan incentives like seat upgrades and food offers as well as allowing members to present players with their jerseys at the fan day. The Sydney Swans offered fans a 2 for 1 ‘Bring a Buddy’ deal to home games as a smart marketing tie in with their star player Buddy Franklin. Many teams emblazoned their jerseys with their members names while the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne Demons featured a women’s exhibition game before a main game and the Richmond Tigers used a photo-tagging platform to enable fans to tag their location at the match. Carlton Blues also used audioBoom to record player biographies, which were then linked to QR codes that were placed around their headquarters so that fans could tour the ground and learn and engage with the history of the club. The home of AFL, the Melbourne Cricket Ground also featured new iBeacon technology which saw roving meat pie sellers fitted with “iBeacons’’ that send messages via Bluetooth technology to supporter’s smart phones as they move around the stadium. Fans who have downloaded the MCG app have a message telling them a pie boy is nearby and are then handed a free Four’N Twenty meat pie when they show their mobile notification message. The MCG also encourages fans to ‘tweet the crowd’ whereby the fan that is closest to the correct crowd figure wins a special rewards. As can be seen from these examples in fan engagement, the AFL and its teams are enhancing the spectator experience of fans.

Gold Coast Suns

Gold Coast Suns

Australia’s domestic football competition, the A-League also featured many diverse fan engagement activations which included giveaways like free shoelaces for fans, digital activations like trivia at the A-League All Stars game and double header matches featuring the women’s teams playing before the men’s at plenty of stadiums around the country which was a good way to build support and engagement with the women’s game in Australia.

The Football United tour of New Zealand featuring West Ham and Newcastle United at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium showcased a tantalizing range of food and beverages at their newly opened fans public bar that would rival some of the member’s bars at stadiums around the world. The Football United App and use of TagBoard at the ground were also good digital activations in Wellington that got fans engaging on their second screens at the double-header match.

Football United Tour of NZ

Football United Tour of NZ

Perth Glory utilized QR codes to have fans vote for their man of the match while the Western Sydney Wanderers encouraged fans to share the footage they record at games to the teams Instagram and Twitter accounts as a way of bringing fans closer to the club. Brisbane Roar held a group fitness day for fans and the Central Coast Mariners constructed a beach bar at one end of their ground where fans could swim behind the goals and take in quality food and drinks all while the main game was taking place. The Mariners also held a Superhero Saturday, which encouraged fans to dress up as their favourite superhero on game day. The Australian national team, The Socceroo’s teamed up with Twitter to show their appreciation to fans with a personalized and signed team photo in the lead up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The Socceroo’s also published a ‘leave pass’ for fans to give to their bosses in the hope of getting off work early to see the team play some of their games in 2014.

Mariners beach bar

Mariners beach bar

Perth Glory

Perth Glory

 

Socceroos Leave Pass

Socceroos Leave Pass

 

But it’s not just the AFL and NRL leading the way with the Australian Rugby Union using the innovative experience of the SlideLiner at both ANZ Stadium and Suncorp Stadium. The SlideLiner was a four-person fan bench structure that sat on an 80-metre track near the pitch and moved along the field, following the game as it happened. The SlideLiner was equipped with Samsung technology so fans can share images through social media. The Queensland Reds Super Rugby team also featured personalied player mascots and enrolled the services of a cute red heeler puppy which were both a big hit with fans young and old. The National Rugby Championship (NRC) competition also featured match day programs,which could be downloaded via QR code direct to fans phones or tablets.

NRC Rugby QR Code program

NRC Rugby QR Code program

The SlideLiner

The SlideLiner

QLD Reds mascots

QLD Reds mascots

 

The Australian Baseball League (ABL) also offered fans some very appealing activities with the Brisbane Bandits and Melbourne Aces leading the way. The Aces have set up a dedicated fan zone at their stadium while the Bandits have incorporated food trucks on game nights as well as all you can eat incentives for fans. Another interesting activation by the Bandits was their speed dating ‘singles’ night which could possibly now give Tinder a run for its money for single sports fans to meet that special someone over an authentic ballpark hot dog!

The ANZ Netball Championship also saw plenty of exciting fan engagement with free giveaways at games but one of the more impressive things I noticed was the free healthy and nutritious raw food recipes being published by the Queensland Firebirds team which was certainly a refreshing thing to see in terms of healthy living education. Hockey Australia also engaged fans with their #12daysofhockey campaign which was run across the Hockey Australia, Hockeyroos and Kookaburras social media channels, website and digital platforms and saw fans engage with the national teams via platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and audioBoom in order to win prizes.

Netball Fan Engagement

Netball Fan Engagement

12 Days of Hockey Fan Engagement

12 Days of Hockey Fan Engagement

 

Fan engagement is on the rise in Australia and New Zealand with teams and stadiums constantly looking to improve the match day experience for fans. This review has only touched the surface of all the impressive activations that are taking place down here however there are many valuable and creative fan engagement ideas which can be learned from what the hard working club and stadium sports business marketing and digital media reps are doing to get fans back into the stadium and create these lifelong memories for sporting fans.

 

14 Games in 22 Days: A USA Sports Fan Engagement Road Trip

USA Fan Engagement 2014

USA Fan Engagement 2014

If you’re a keen sports fan like I am, there is no doubt you’ve noticed that stadiums and teams are working hard to improve and enhance the match day experience for fans.

The reason for this change over the past few years is obvious to me.  With so much competition for our time and money from other leisure activities, as well as the cultural movement of sports fans converting their spare rooms into sports caves, venues and clubs have been prompted to look at the best ways to engage fans and get bums back in seats.  To do that, stadiums are quickly incorporating creative and interesting elements into the game day equation, from craft beers and gourmet grub to fan party zones and cabana pools that overlook an NFL field.  Some stadiums even have an app that lets you see which toilet line is the least busy.

Improving the digital experience for fans at these venues is one of the key things that forward thinking stadiums are doing to bring fans closer to the action.  Free high-speed Internet access, for example, is enabling fans to engage on their second screens and connect to a world of exclusive perks, prizes and benefits.  In some venues, those benefits include controllable instant replays, rewards like seat upgrades, and in-seat food ordering through beacon technology.

I live and breathe fan engagement.  My background in the field comes from my days working in the music industry, touring with bands around the world.  Back then, I would regularly meet people in the music business that inspired me and I was lucky enough to learn from them while I was in their territory.  Years later, I found myself using that experience to teach event management, social media marketing and fan engagement to passionate high schoolers. Today, I’m lucky to be in a line of work that allows me to network on a daily basis with stadiums and clubs throughout Australia.  As someone with a passion for learning, I regularly travel to stadiums far and wide in order to capture and showcase unique and creative fan engagement ideas.  These ideas help inspire the digital fan experience at our venues back in Australia so we can continue putting fans first and help create lasting memories.

I’ve attended just over 100 live sporting events in 2014 across the EPL, NFL, NRL, AFL, A-League, MLS and NHL, from London to Melbourne and New York to Wellington.  Those events have exposed me to some absolutely brilliant digital fan engagement activations. They’ve also shown me that some stadiums and teams haven’t caught on to this trend yet, or perhaps they just haven’t had the resources to pull them off.

In October I took a trip to the United States so I could learn about what U.S. stadiums and teams are doing on the digital front to engage their supporters.  My stops included Dallas, Columbus, Chicago and New York, where I took in 14 NFL, NBA, MLS, NCAA and NHL games in a little over three weeks.  By the time I got back to Australia, it was these 8 game day experiences that really left a lasting memory.  

Here’s what happened:  

NEW YORK

My 2014 USA fan engagement journey started off with a New York Red Bulls Major League Soccer game on a glorious blue-sky day at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.

The NYRB fan engagement was extremely impressive due to the BULLevard fan zone area that sees fans of all ages enter a closed off street with multiple partner activations, autograph sessions, cage games and activities for kids, as well as the fact that everyone attending this match got a free NYRB bobblehead and flag.

Bullevard New York Red Bulls

The impressive digital part of this sees each fan that enters the BULLevard area either sign up or check in with their personalized BULLevard card, which gives them a range of sponsor and club benefits, along with incentives for participating in fan area activities.  I have seen some fantastic fan zones in 2014 but the NYRB BULLevard is really on another level and deserves a lot of credit, not least due to the amount of kids running around with massive smiles on their faces collecting points in the BULLevard.

On Monday, October 20th, I headed over to Brooklyn and the Barclays Centre to take in an NBA preseason Brooklyn Nets game against the Philadelphia 76ers.  Walking through TSA type security and metal detectors, I was immediately impressed with the DJ in his upper court DJ booth area using social media to ask fans to tweet in song requests over the course of the night.

Brooklyn Nets DJ Fan Engagement Free WiFi

I was able to quickly log on to the venues free WiFi without any password, forced viewing of ads or gated access, and found the Barclays Center app quite impressive as it delivered live enhanced video viewing to my phone.  Through the in-seat ordering function, it enabled me to order a tasty gourmet ‘Brooklyn Burger’ and Brooklyn Brewery Brown Ale craft beer, which were both ready for me to collect at the end of the first quarter, meaning I didn’t need to line up in a queue.

BKFood

The use of social media within the venue was also first class, with the in-game app featuring the ability to send photos and messages to the scoreboard and report incidents to arena security.

Next up was another NBA pre season game, with the New York Knicks up against the Philadelphia 76ers at Madison Square Garden.  I found the ‘Oblivious Cam’ impressive, where they shine a camera on an unsuspecting fan and time their reaction to being caught out.  The tic tac toe fan shoot off and t-shirt gun were good too, but two two stand out initiatives had to be the easy to use FreeMSG WIFI in the venue and the Virtual Venue application.  Virtual Venue let me choose my seats and then order some merch and food to pick up at half time.

MSG Oblivious Cam

On Sunday, I went back to New Jersey again for my first NFL experience, with the New York Jets up against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium.

I was instantly impressed with the high speed WiFi and constant digital fan engagement activations offered. The NFL Fan Style Truck included a virtual dressing room to try on merch and live Madden 15 NFL gaming.  I was also able to register my Twitter account, which then collated my digital movements at the stadium that day. Plus, I got a cool NFL wristband as a keepsake!

From the moment I walked into the Jets game I was blown away by the fan engagement and customer service. 80,000 free flags were given away to fans, complemented by digital activations like the Jets Instagram board, fun film and music trivia on the big screens.  On top of all that, skills tests around the ground took place, where fans could earn points via the Jets Rewards program and redeem them for unique experiences and memorabilia.

NY Jets Engagement

JETS AND BILLS FANS LINE UP TO KICK FIELD GOALS AS PART OF THE METLIFE STADIUM FAN ENGAGEMENT PROGRAM.

The Jets Rewards program is also used to grant fans access to MetLife Stadium WiFi on game day.

Blair Hughes at the New York Jets Game

Once inside, I made my way up to my seats, turned around and felt like I was in sports heaven.

Jets Metlife Stadium Inside

THE VIEW FROM MY SEATS AT THE JETS VS. BILLS GAME ON SUNDAY, OCTOBER 26 AT METLIFE STADIUM.

Then I logged on to the NY Jets app on the free MetLife Stadium WiFi.  The NY Jets app let me watch extra live video content from different angles of play, which definitely added to my in-stadium experience…even if they ended up being flogged by the Bills and most fans left at the end of the third quarter.  The Jets Pocket Pass also let me enter prize draws for interacting with the team and the app enabled me to report any “unsportsmanlike conduct” between rival fans.   Even though Bills and Jets fans were sitting next to each other, everyone got along pretty well (to my surprise) considering what I had read took place at NFL games earlier in the season.

After the Jets game I took a quick nap before leaving for a 4am flight from La Guardia Airport to Dallas, Texas. Despite two stop overs in Detroit and Atlanta, I made it to Arlington, Texas just in time for my second NFL game in 48 hours.  It was Monday Night Football, and the Dallas Cowboys were going against the Washington Redskins at AT&T Stadium.

TEXAS

Dallas Cowboys Stadium Fan Engagement and WiFi

BEFORE THE COWBOYS GAME STARTS, A RALLY TOWEL IS PUT ON EVERY SEAT IN AT&T STADIUM TO ENGAGE FANS DURING THE GAME.

I encountered another impressive digital fan engagement sight at the Cowboys game.  The AT&T Stadium app has a cool augmented reality function that enabled me to point my phone’s camera at certain parts of the stadium and unlock unique content.  As I moved the camera around, I heard a beep from my phone speaker when I hovered over certain sections. If I held my phone there, it unlocked interesting content related to the team and what I was looking at.  The app also has interactive fan functionality for Cowboys home games, such as Unite This House, Cowboys IQ, Fan-Cam and Post-A-Pic digital capabilities.  I was even able to use the app to find my seat location and then order a beer to pick up in the first quarter.

cowboys

The free WiFi was a breeze to access and tweeting out pics seemed faster than on my normal cellular network. The huge video screen that hangs above the field displays all manner of digital fan engagement fun, from the fan cam to the noise reader, which encourages fans to scream as loud as they can to break the sound record inside the stadium.  The AT&T Stadium is really a fantastic fan-powered digital experience. During the game, huge screens at either end of the field displayed game stats and fan photos.  Around the stadium concourse, giant high resolution touch screens, flashing videos and still images of players and cheerleaders exist for fans to interact with while walking around.  My Dallas Cowboysgame experience showed that they were really leading the way with state-of-the-art technology when it came to creating memorable experiences that engaged their network of fans through digital media.

Next up, I spent two consecutive nights at Dallas’ American Airlines Centre for a Dallas StarsNHL game and then a Dallas Mavericks NBA game.

Dallas Mavericks Fan Engagement and free WiFi

On both occasions, the fan engagement on the digital and non-digital level was exceptional. Apart from the ease of the free WiFi, which let me tweet pics and interact with both teams, the Stars game featured fans tweets and pics on the big screen, the chance to win a seatdowngrade, as well as performance based food incentives.

Dallas Stars Seat Downgrade

I got free tacos because the Stars scored more than 2 goals that night.  I also thought the fact that they play Pantera – Puck Off (Dallas Stars Fight Song) throughout the game was also a pretty awesome way to pump fans up as well.

I was fortunate enough to be at the Dallas Mavericks game for their NBA season home opener.  They gave all 20,000 fans free shirts and the venue also featured a kiss cam and fan-o-meter (to measure fans screams). Other digital engagement activations let fans win seat upgrades, while special fan zones like the Slam Dunk Zone kept people active between quarters.  The Mavs ManiAACs dance crew of fat old dudes was also pretty hilarious for fans to engage with.  The Dallas American Airlines venue has a few brilliant things going for it in terms of what fans want.  There are Texas craft beer stations and a multitude of diverse food stands, not to mention a variety of unique bars which cater for all types of hard-core sports fans, including a Jack Daniels bar and another area that looked like a nightclub within the venue.

OH – IO

On November 1st, I left Dallas Fort-Worth at 2am for my next destination…a high stakes NCAA college football night game between THE Ohio State University and Illinois in Columbus, Ohio.

Once I made it to the 107,000 capacity stadium, also known as ‘The Shoe’, I walked around the ground for an hour or so to explore.  Despite the freezing temperatures, tens of thousands of Ohio State (OSU) fans were participating in various fan activities and tailgate distractions. Diverse food trucks and sponsor stalls lined the fan zone, giving out OSU branded merch like lanyard and pens as fans made their way into the massive stadium.

The coolest digital activation I witnessed was the sponsor led AT&T ‘FlatBrutus– Make him, Take him, Tag him’ campaign, which encouraged fans to pick up a Brutus (OSU mascot) cut out, have it personalized with their name and then take a selfie with it.  In turn, those pics would be shared on the stadium’s screens throughout the game.  The stadium experience for fans was enhanced with the use of the Twitter hashtags, #TheShoe and #GoBucks, which showcased fans tweets on the big screens.  Furthermore, the ‘BBQ Cam’ showcased fans enjoying the various BBQ food delights of the stadium as well.  The BUCKEYESConnect app also allows fans to have a personalized FanID, which means fans get rewarded with behind the scenes access, exclusive perks, prizes and benefits on match days just by checking into the stadium or posting photos and using the hash tag at the game.  The way OSU honored it’s fans who were military, Ohio State Guard and police at nearly every break was interesting to see.  The OSU screens would show a BUCKEYES FOREVER pic, with a picture and fact file of a past serviceman or woman showing their years of service in the defense forces as well as years as an OSU member.

From a college perspective, OSU certainly put on an impressive digital fan experience.

With digital consumption always on the rise amongst fans and the problem of stadium seats not always being filled, it’s clear that improving the stadium experience and rewarding fan loyalty is important for a number of reasons.  The stadium experience needs to be memorable, and personalized, with a focus on digital engagement that actually excites fans while on-site.

As I witnessed first hand from this brief trip, stadiums and teams in the United States are doing just that.

 

 

How the live sporting experience is being redefined through fan engagement.

When is the last time those attending a live sporting event at your venue or within your sport truly felt valued, empowered and engaged as fans? Disregard if their team won or lost on the field and think about what’s happening off it and everything else that happened at the venue on the day. Was there a diverse selection of quality food like gourmet pulled pork sandwiches at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium? Was the entertainment exciting like Manchester City’s ‘City Square’ fan zone? Were they able to access free in-stadium wifi on your second screen to connect with the team and other fans during the game like Sporting Kansas’ multi-angle replays and live stats app? Overall, did the fans feel that the club, sport and stadium created a positive relationship through delivering a memorable experience. Hopefully your club, sport or stadium are doing things right and you cheered yes to all of those questions but if not then this is where the sports business ‘buzz’ term of the moment, fan engagement or fan experience has become so prevalent in recent years among leagues, clubs, stadiums and ultimately sports fans.

It’s been well documented that sporting teams across all codes are fighting a battle off the pitch to get more fans through the gates with the reasons often attributed to a challenging financial climate; competition from new leisure activities; a crowded sporting calendar with multiple teams in the same city; as well as the convergence of digital media and sports over the last few years which has seen more and more fans viewing the game from the comfort of their home theatre sports caves on large LCD 3D HD main screens. Fan engagement then is seen as a crucial way that sporting teams can bring their fans closer and at the same time get more bums on seats.

It’s interesting when you actually stop to think about the idea of fan engagement being a new craze when clubs have always been creatively connecting with fans for many years. However, with the advent of the second screen and social media, clubs, stadiums and fans are embracing new technologies which now allow much faster connection on a more intimate level. As a result, a recent study into stadium fan engagement many fans noted that if fans had to choose between leaving their wallet or smart phone at home they would leave their wallet! How then did it get to a point where fans were crying out for a better match day experience and value for their hard earned cash? Surely the game that’s being played on the pitch is enough value for money and the main reason why fans actually attend the game? For some purist sports fans the idea of fan engagement is absurd as they see it taking away from the main reason why everyone has come to the game in the first place. Get these supporters the customary stadium pie, beer and decent seat and that’s all they need to be able to enjoy the match. However, times have changed and for a growing majority, sports fans now have higher expectations for the match day experience and are seeking more options, incentives, entertainment and engagement from clubs and stadiums.

Thankfully for both local and international fans these teams are now rapidly realising the benefits of using creative fan engagement strategies to connect with their fans. The league, club and stadium stakeholders are increasingly finding ways to collect data and create revenue streams from these fan engagement initiatives. There is healthy competition among these stakeholders to have a distinguished fan engagement selling point that separates them from other clubs with not a day going by without an exciting new idea for fans.

It’s important to understand that fan engagement is about creating a special positive relationship with fans through a two-way conversation between them and their club. It’s about reaching out to fans whether they are in the stands at the game or watching for instance via a digital membership in a foreign country in order to make them aware that they are connected and involved in the club through various creative strategies.

Fan engagement is about pulling the fan in closer to the club rather than reducing them to just a membership number in the stands. It encompasses many aspects such as creative merchandise like Queensland Red’s ‘Baby Red’ membership that includes a baby sized jersey; responsive cross platform social and digital media initiatives like West Ham United’s social media match where the team wore T-shirts with fans tweets on them; the Newcastle Knights having fans twitter names on the back of players jerseys. Match day experiences like Tottenham Hotspurs ‘Linesman for a Day’ or the Oakland Raider’s ‘Fanicure’ experience for female fans are also examples of how fan engagement is being used by sporting teams around the world.

Clubs and stadiums also see the benefit of maximising fan engagement by providing quality stadium food options, such as Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium gluten free stand or Sydney’s Allianz Stadium ‘Seat & Eat Free’ deal, as well as providing fans with dedicated fan zones like Queens Park Ranger’s Matchday Activity Zone for youth supporters and ESPN’s Fan Deck seen recently at the Opening Series of the Major League Baseball in Sydney. While these are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of best practice initiatives for fan engagement in 2014, what sets fan engagement apart is that many of these ideas are very inexpensive and easy to facilitate and in turn can generate significant added revenue into a club by attaching memberships, merchandise, corporate hospitality and commercial offers or incentives to these fan engagement strategies that means the brand can now also be marketed towards newer markets of international supporters.

Global innovations in fan engagement are taking place on a daily basis with recent additions including the FIFA World Cup 2014 rolling out a second screen social and mobile heavy experience called Global Stadium which lets football fans from around the world connect during the 64 games. Atletico Madrid have also recently announced plans to install a massive 4000m2 fan zone around their stadium by 2016 and the AFL has teamed up with wearable technology company Wearable Experiments (We:eX) to develop ‘Alert Shirts’ which allow fans to experience what the players feel through a technology-enabled jersey.

It’s not hard to see why sporting clubs and stadiums around the world are investing more and more resources into fan engagement initiatives as it gives their supporters more bang for their buck, increases fan loyalty and enhances the game day experience which in turn creates lasting memorable moments for fans.

Interning in the Sports Business: A case study of my time at Queens Park Rangers Football Club (Sport Business International June 2014)

Australian Blair Hughes turned his back on teaching and the music industry to pursue a career in the sports industry. He gives his account of travelling across the world to intern at a London based football club.

FROM A YOUNG age I was always the one in my group of friends to plan days out at a sporting match or think up creative entrepreneurial ideas to make pocket money. I think, therefore, that sports event management and fan engagement have been in my blood before I
even knew what those two skills were.

Over the past seven years I have worked as a high school teacher and as a venue, tour and
artist manager in the music industry, where I ran a successful PR and events business.
Postgraduate study in sports management – or any field for that matter – should be applauded
as it demonstrates a person’s ability to be a lifelong learner and invest in their career.
The approach I have taken – to proactively trek across the globe seeking out practical experience through internships – has proved to be very beneficial for my own career.

Let me set the scene for you. It’s early 2013, I’m a year away from turning 30 and I’m in
a teaching job in Australia that I’ve become disillusioned with. I knew due to the stress I was feeling after seven years as a teacher that I needed to change paths, follow my dreams and
find my true passion. I knew that my diverse life experience and unique skills developed
from years of working in the education and music industries would hold me in good stead
heading into the sports industry, but it would still be a very big challenge to secure a job.

Progress through Persistence
In 2013, I sent e-mails and letters and made calls to London at 1am from Australia to over 40 football clubs across the UK – including West Ham, Tottenham and Chelsea – and set up
meetings with 17 of them. This kind of proactive enthusiasm has got me everywhere over the years and is what I continually teach my students: if you want to reach a goal, you can’t just sit back and wait for it to happen. You need to get off your butt, put yourself out there, never stop
learning, market yourself as the best in the game and search out who you want to professionally emulate. Discover what your passion is and do everything you can to reach your career goals.At the end of a meeting with QPR (Queens Park Rangers), I asked about the possibility of an internship, and to my astonishment they agreed to take a punt and have me come back at the end of the year to learn from them.

While at QPR I was able to work on some exciting fan engagement and operations projects ranging from helping design new incentives for membership packages, investigating e-cigarette and vaping policies in the English Football League as well as researching ticketing and loyalty schemes. I was also able to sit in on the action in the control room on matchdays against Leicester City, Doncaster Rovers and Huddersfield Town to learn from the experienced football police squad about serious crowd management issues such as hooliganism and flares. I participated in pre- and post-game briefings with key stakeholders such as stadium operations, and a Hammersmith and Fulham Council safety meeting that looked at all the factors that go into creating a successful and safe matchday.

The English Premier League gave me an insight into the issue of pyrotechnics, and I learnt about the current awareness campaigns and dangers around the use of flares and smoke
bombs, including how women and children are being used as flare mules in grounds across the UK. Along with this, I had a chance to learn a deeper understanding of hooliganism from chief superintendents of the Metropolitan Police Service’s football division.Last but by no means least, I was privileged to be able to spend a couple of days with the QPR Community Trust, helping teach football to kids with Down’s syndrome and meeting the players as they signed merchandise for charities.

All through the QPR internship I tried to be the first into the office and the last to leave, talked to everyone from the cleaners to the owner Tony Fernandes, and networked with clubs back in Australia, mentioning that I was talking up their initiatives…all to get my name in their minds.The internship, though, was not without its challenges or anxious moments. For instance, there was a financial risk in taking the internship in the first place, and I had to save up enough money to last me a few months in London as I wasn’t being paid. Getting a UK visa was also a hassle, and I had to pay an immigration lawyer to sort it out.Then there were other anxieties. Would I be out of my depth, or too old for the internship, given it would usually be reserved for a high school graduate? Would there be a structured programme for me? How much freedom would I get at the club to develop? Would I actually learn what it was like to work in fan engagement? Would I make good contacts?

As it turned out, everyone at QPR gave me their time, experience, advice and ideas and the placement greatly helped guide my understanding of exactly where I wanted to go with my career in the sports industry. I also networked every day I was in the UK, attending over 20 Premier League and Championship matches and having meetings with key fan engagement staff at these clubs along the way.

The rest, as they say, is history. Fast forward to mid-2014 and I’ve completed an internship
at QPR and now currently work in fan engagement for a London start-up, whilst also running the social media for a major sports conference and teaching event management and marketing to teens one day a week. I will also be gaining some US experience at the end of 2014 with some high-profile sporting teams over there, and would like to return to QPR to work full-time in fan engagement or operations somewhere down the line.

In many ways I’m living the dream, but I didn’t get there overnight; the last nine months have been long days of calculated risks, relentless networking and seeking out practical experience in the sports industry through internships.

This story appeared in the June 2014 edition of Sports Business International

More Than The Game: Fan Engagement

Sporting teams are fighting a battle off the pitch to get more fans through the gates.

The challenging financial climate, competition from new leisure activities, as well as the convergence of digital media and sports over the last few years has seen more and more fans viewing the game from the comfort of their man (or woman) home theatre caves.

Sports fans these days have higher expectations of the live stadium experience. While the football purists proudly still exist, long gone are the days when it was only about the 90-minute game on the pitch. For many fans the game alone is now simply not enough value for their hard-earned money. Therefore sporting clubs around the world are investing more and more resources into fan engagement initiatives in order to give their supporters more bang for their buck, increase fan loyalty and enhance the game day experience in order to create lasting memorable moments for their fans.

In late 2013 I interned at English Championship side Queens Park Rangers football club in London, where I was able to work alongside highly experienced marketing, operations and fan engagement representatives at this famous football club.

My main aim was to explore how global sporting teams – I visited 16 UK teams such as West Ham United, Southampton, Everton, Manchester City and Fulham – engaged and actively communicated with their fans to bring them closer to the match day experience both at the ground as well as in their home via social media.

Two of the leading resources into fan engagement in the football world include the Football League Fan Engagement Guide as well as the Quality Assurance Stadium Scheme Visit Football Checklist.

The Football League Fan Engagement Guide is designed to help clubs grow their fan bases and provides a comprehensive list of ideas and initiatives that aim to improve supporter experiences for existing, lapsed or potential fans. The guide was designed to recognise supporter needs, deliver or add value to existing engagement strategies and create memorable match day experiences.

The Quality Assurance Stadium Scheme Visit Football Checklist developed by enjoy.england.com is designed to reflect the changing match day expectations of fans. It’s a checklist, conducted via a mystery shopper-style assessment, which addresses the supporters experience at every stage of the journey from pre-visit to inside the match and leaving the stadium. Moreover, this handbook looks at pricing, retailing, transport, amenities and much more. The assessment has been developed in order to ensure that fans have the best possible experience at the game as well as ensuring that football is attractive to all sectors of society.

These fan engagement resources feature ideas that had been well executed such as Portsmouth’s stadium sleep over, Cardiff City’s away fan zones (where bar staff wore the away team jerseys) and creative food ideas like Middleborough’s famous ‘Parmo burgers’ and Morecombe FC’s pies – which were so successful that they are now being stocked in Harrods.

The fan engagement initiatives currently taking place in England draw heavily from these resources and include Manchester City’s ‘City Zone’ that includes live bands, picnic tables, food carts and free Wi-Fi throughout the stadium. An hour west away by train, Everton turns the Goodison Park car park into a fan zone on match days that includes FIFA 14 gaming stations, the use of Tag Board as well as having various themed days such as their retro day where fans are encouraged to wear vintage kits. Everton caters to and engages with their older fans by bringing them in on non-match days to play bingo and have a pie and pint in the stadium.

At Arsenal there is a dedicated sponsor driven fan zone outside the Emirates called The Carlsberg Corner. Across town, Fulham has created a post box in their kids zone where young supporters can leave a note about their thoughts on the match.

Not to be outdone, QPR has created a ‘My Match Day Experience’ card for kids to fill out as well as a Matchday Activity Zone for kids in the stadium that is complete with gaming systems, fussball tables, TV screens and activity worksheets for kids to fill out with the community trust staff and their parents.

Ipswich Town has also just installed a kids activity zone room in Portman Road, so it seems likely that more teams will also follow suit.

The importance of valuing fan-generated content via social media was also highlighted by these clubs, who spoke about the increasing need to back fans who create their own content for the club. A simple retweet on Twitter of a tweet from a fan who has created a design can do wonders in bringing that fan closer to the team, as well as showing the greater fan community that their participation is highly valued.

While the majority of fan engagement strategies are aimed at children in order to build lifetime supporters, it was interesting to note from all of these meetings that many clubs were realizing the importance of catering for different demographics. Improving the match day experience for the elderly fans, the purists and the tech savvy millennials is integral to creating lasting memorable experiences for fans at the game as well as in the online world by creating genuine human conversations via social media that connect fans away from the stadium.

Fan engagement is taking off in the sports business. While A-League teams have some creative initiatives such as Perth Glory’s man of the match QR code app, Brisbane Roar’s photographic experience in partnership with CameraPro and Central Coast Mariner’s Superhero themed match, more can be done to continue to make the A-League leaders in terms of fan engagement amongst sporting codes in Australia. The establishment of a fan engagement checklist or stadium quality assurance scheme is vital in taking the A-League match day experience to the next level in Australia.

Words and photos by Blair Hughes.

This article originally appeared in Thin White Line

More than the game: fan engagement

A-League Social Media Stats October 2013-May 2014

In October 2013 I put together an infographic to showcase the social media stats of the A-League across Facebook and Twitter.

 

Social Media Statistics A-league 2013 Season

Social Media Statistics A-league 2013 Season

On the 10th May I went back after the completion of the 2013/14 season and had another look at the social media statistics to see how the competition is rising among fans online.

Social Media Statistics 2014 A-League

Social Media Statistics 2014 A-League

Some very interesting statistics here but it’s just great to see how far the A-League continues to come both on the field and off it. The FFA deserve a lot of credit for all the hard work they have put in however

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