event management

Cowboys New Home Musters Community Excitement in North Queensland

Cowboys New Home Musters Community Excitement in North Queensland

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Fan Engagement:

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

Transport:

 

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

 

Architecture:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Technology:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Seating:

 

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

 

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

 

F&B:

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Hospitality:

 

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

 

Conclusion

 

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

 

BIO:

 

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

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

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

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

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

Transport

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

Event Presentation

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

Security

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

Technology

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

Fan Engagement

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

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

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

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

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

Community

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

Hospitality

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

Food and Beverage

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

The Extra Touches

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

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

BIO

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

Big Bash, Big Fun at Melbourne Stars BBL

Big Bash, Big Fun at Melbourne Stars BBL

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

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

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

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

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

Melbourne Stars' StarMoji

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

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

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

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

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

4 and 6 signs at Melbourne Stars BBL game

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

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

View image on Twitter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUS OPEN

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.

 

ALMM

ALMM

ALMM

ALMM

ALMM

ALMM

ALMM

ALMM

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. 

 

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

Scroll to top