A weekly recap of some of the interesting stories and developments from the educational to the random in the world of fan engagement/experience, stadium/venue news, fan behaviour and psychology and customer service plus much more. Enjoy
A weekly recap of some of the interesting stories and developments from the educational to the random in the world of fan engagement/experience, stadium/venue news, fan behaviour and psychology and customer service plus much more. Enjoy
The annual NRL Magic Round event was back at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium for 2022 and despite a week when the rain across Queensland caused persistent widespread flooding the event still drew over 100,000 fans through the turnstiles across the three event days.
With the rain falling heavily across the Friday and Saturday but easing on the third day, fans made their way into the stadium precinct decked out with ponchos and umbrellas but still managed to bring all their colour and atmosphere from the thousands of retro to modern rugby league jerseys on display from fans of all ages. This is a true celebration of rugby league and league fans with supporters rocking Gold Coast Chargers and Seagulls kits to South Queensland Crushers and Western Reds jerseys amongst the smorgasbord of the current 16 NRL teams. It’s this colour, fan passion and atmosphere that is a magical component of this event off the field.
The downloadable stadium map and event guide were handy additions to kick start the planning of the fan journey at Magic Round with the map coming in handy to locate all of the activations both inside and outside the venue. The 32-page event guide had information on merchandise, activations, match-ups, key timings and more valuable information to ensure fans knew everything they needed to know to capitalise on a massive fun weekend of rugby league.
After reminiscing over some old footy cards and beers we decided to head in for the matches on Saturday at 1PM. We made our way into the stadium precinct on the train from Dutton Park station into Roma Street station in the city with the train being packed with rugby league fans in a positive vibe for the three matches being played today for day two. It was a sea of league fans of all ages walking through The Barracks centre in Milton down to Suncorp Stadium and despite the rain that lingered for most of the day and night the fans were still in a very upbeat mood with the bars along Caxton Street pumping with conversations, beers and footy food as thousands of fans commandeered the road heading down to the venue. It was also nice to see the new artwork ‘Welcome’ which featured 25 laser-cut steel hunting boomerangs with welcome greetings in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander language dialects.
Making my way around the Suncorp Stadium precinct from the Caxton Street end to the Roma Street end the event offered an outstanding first impression of the event presentation that included plenty of activations for fans of all ages such as:
Fans were able to grab a drink from the Bundy Pop Up Bar with the first fans to purchase a Bundy from the Bundaberg Pop Up Bar each day of NRL Magic Round receiving a double pass upgrade for a specific match into the Bundy Backyard Deck inside the stadium. This bar shed was at an entrance point of the NRL Fan Zone area and it was good to see security guards helping people by warning them to be careful entering the space as the ground was slippery and getting slightly muddy.
This was a relaxing spot for fans to kick back and chill with deck chairs and beanbags to watch the big screen during and between matches. I believe the deck chairs may have been packed up due to the rain at some point as it would not have been the best setting for them with the rain falling nonstop. Fans also received free gift bags that included chemist items like moisturiser and sunscreen along with a gym towel which for many fans, myself included is stuff I will actually use. Mascot Wally the Chemist Warehouse Mascot (how did they come up with a mascot name for CW?) surprised fans with upgrades into the Chemist Warehouse Deck inside the venue while there was a fun reaction wall game to play. I finished on 29 which wasn’t too bad considering the top score was 37. I’ll put that down to my good skills in quick thinking and reaction time to putting out arguments amongst grade 4 students that made me go fairly well in this fun game.
The CUB beer garden was open between matches where fans could enjoy a drink from the Great Northern bar. The first 50 people to purchase a drink also received a stubby cooler. This was a nice set up that faced away from the venue and towards Caxton street with a live stage below featuring artists playing tunes.
Fans were able to experience walking down the red carpet by taking their best Ampol Magic Carpet photo. By sharing it across socials they had the chance to be upgraded into the Ampol Deck inside the stadium. We had a go of this and I even used the fuel bowser emoji in my witty caption all to no avail….must of been the Illawarra Steelers jersey I was wearing. Still a lot of fun for my friends and I to take home a few photos.
Fans could come down to the Youi Magic Kick in the Precinct to have a go at kicking a footy through the posts!
If fans visited the Harvey Norman station they could collect their FREE magic round photo as well as purchase limited edition Magic Round personalised NRL products. This was a fun activation with my mates and I getting snapped for an event pic that was free to take home. The personalised merch also looked really colourful too.
Fans could grab a photo in front of the Giant Magic Round Letter lights to then share it on channels to #NRLMagic.
The Swyftx Giant Human Claw was giving away thousands of dollars in prizes over NRL Magic Round weekend, including $5,000 in Bitcoin every day. Fans could come down and participate in the human-sized version of the traditional arcade game to win these prizes. I watched this for a few participants to have their go and it was actually pretty entertaining. There were obviously a lot of OWHS things to consider with this activation and the weather did not make it any easier. Watching a fan dive down to get an NRL ball and then that ball revealing a prize was quite entertaining and there was certainly enough interest from the fans who had lined up to have a go.
9. Food Trucks
There were plenty of food truck options with gourmet offerings including Eat Fresh kebabs, Chipstars, Brat Haus, Dinky D’d Doughnuts and more. $7 for a dagwood dog and $13 kebabs were affordable for a snack in this fan precinct even if you weren’t intending to go into the venue as this was a fun spot to sit, watch the games and drink and eat.
10. EISS Super Ball
Get your photo taken in front of the giant EISS Super and Steeden Inflatable football.
11. Kids Zone
Magic Round brings the festival vibes for the whole family! Kids were able to get a photo with their favourite team’s mascot, get geared up with face painting, & show off their skills with the magic pass the Ball. With the rain falling all around some fan activities were slow to get going as fans didn’t want to wait in the lines with the rain however it didn’t stop many families and kids from still participating in these free fun activities to take home some memories.
12. NRL Merchandise
Fans could grab their Magic Round mementos exclusively at the venue at the six or so merchandise outlets around the stadium! All 16 teams’ merchandise was also available for purchase like retro jerseys. I was able to pre-plan the purchase of some merch for my daughter like a football and a bucket hat for my work at school by looking through the event guide before heading in, however due to the popularity of many items, these sold out quick smart which was unfortunate but shows the popularity of fans who want to support the NRL, love rugby league and want to rep all 16 teams. Plus the designs were pretty neat too.
The Telstra Live Stage hosted music entertainment, DJ’s and performances throughout the NRL Magic Round weekend and was located in the corner of the venue.
Fans could give their viewer’s verdict with the KFC Fry/No Fry banners. KFC brand ambassadors inside the stadium handed out Fry/No Fry banners to fans. KFC was also surprising and delighting lucky fans across the weekend with KFC vouchers to redeem KFC.
Players were throwing Steeden NRL Magic Round footies into the crowd after each match for fans to keep as well as using the tee shirt gun to fire off what I presume were jerseys or shirts from various teams.
Two lucky fans picked from the crowd matched up against each other on the field during half-time at selected matches across NRL Magic Round weekend. Each fan had to catch as many footies as possible in their KFC bucket to WIN KFC vouchers and merchandise!
Fans could get involved with the Telstra Fan Cam to win a signed jersey from their favourite NRL team.
Fans could show their support for their team with the Ampol Pump It Up Cam for their chance to win a $100 fuel voucher. The big screens featured hilarious kiss cams, ‘make some noise’ call outs as well as oblivious cam and a few other funny moments that got a good reception from the crowd.
Lucky fans across NRL Magic Round weekend got the chance to race against some of the fastest players in the game. The one we saw was able to beat the Telstra Tracker and was quite fast.
The Ampol ‘Australia’s Own’ Deck was Australian-themed and included a full food & beverage package for guests. Fans could take their best red-carpet photo at the Ampol Magic Carpet activation in the stadium precinct and share it across socials for the chance to be upgraded into the Ampol Deck. This was a brightly blue coloured event space at the Caxton Street end inside one of the stadium corners and stood out amongst the other social spaces.
The Bundy Backyard Deck was the ideal spot to kick back with mates for the best seats in the house at NRL Magic Round. Guests received full food and beverage offering and the opportunity to meet and greet with NRL legends. Fans who were one of the first to purchase a Bundy from the Bundy Pop Up Bar in the stadium precinct each day of NRL Magic Round were lucky to receive a double pass upgrade for a specific match into the Bundy Backyard Deck inside the stadium for the best seats in the house. This was another themed social space that looked really impressive for the presentation in one of the corners of the venue.
Guests to the Chemist Warehouse deck received full food and beverage offering, the opportunity to meet and greet with NRL legends and an exclusive product gift bag upon arrival. A relaxing spot in the corner of the venue.
Fans who purchased a supporter bay ticket were able to collect a free supporter flag that featured all 16 club logos on a colourful flag design. They were handing these out to fans everywhere and I was lucky enough to get one for my daughter which will go nicely in her room. A really nice simple touch for a physical item that fans could take home.
The light shows and themed LED lighting was vibrant and looked good both inside the stadium and on TV. The ability to switch between themes either teams or colourful light shows added to the atmosphere and created a positive vibe to make this a big-time event. The fireworks and flames at the end of the try lines also pumped up the crowd either when the teams were running out or when tries were scored.
Fan Experience Elements
While thousands of fans made for a busy stadium precinct both inside and out it was clear that venue did a very good job of keeping fans safe and ensuring the fan experience was quality. With the rain falling constantly and fans getting wet it was good to see the concourses being managed well to allow the safe and efficient flow of fans despite fans crowding along the bays to try to stay dry and still watch the game. Security and ushers were managing this as best they could under the circumstances.
The staff were really efficient and attentive as I made three enquiries and had interactions with different staff members over the course of the night for some things that I thought needed to be addressed such as glass in the concourse area, catering staff inadvertently blocking a stairwell and an aggressive fan who was throwing items onto the field and agitating other fans. In every situation, the venue and security staff were very helpful and switched on to ensure fans were having an enjoyable event experience.
Food and beverage options were plentiful and inclusive with the frozen cocktails proving to be very popular amongst fans along with Pirate Life craft beer for beverages. It was good to see the dedicated vegan stand in action along with vegan and gluten-free options available in the concession outlets while there were combo deals available as well. From pies, pizza slices and chicken wings and chips to American BBQ, fish and chips and hot dogs, there really was something here to tempt all tastebuds with many prices being affordable and expected for major event days. Beers ranged from $9-11 with most food around the $6-16 mark. I had a fairly decent salad sandwich and 600ml Coke Zero which came in at $11 and which I thought was pretty good value for a footy feed.
Toilets were clean and lines, even for female fans seemed to be moving fast. Staff were abundant around the venue and were seen cleaning constantly throughout the night. I said to one staffer that he was doing a good job and he said no one has ever said that before. It’s something I make a point of doing, especially for cleaning staff and young folks on the concession registers. They do a good job and deserve to be told they’re going well so if you’re at a venue then make sure you give them a little shout out.
The exit at the end of the night was efficient and seamless with buses, trains and taxis all flowing from the venue and making it easy for fans to get home safely. Way-finding signs as well as helpful staff directing fans also just made the exit swift and simple after a long day at the venue.
NRL Magic Round is an event like no other. The fans are equal to the athletes in terms of the atmosphere and colourful vibe that the event brings and it’s certainly a major sporting event that I reccomend any rugby league or sports fan to go and check out.
A weekly recap of some of the interesting stories and developments from the educational to the random in the world of fan engagement/experience, stadium/venue news, fan behaviour and psychology and customer service plus much more. Enjoy
TIO Stadium Fan Engagement for Parramatta and North Queensland Fans – well worth taking a look at Les tweets on this from up in Darwin
Nashville SC stadium GEODIS Park: History, capacity, debut as largest soccer-specific stadium in USA ready for opening and The Fan Experience at Geodis Park and Geodis Park food vendors: Ranking, reacting to 6 concessions at Nashville SC’s new stadium
On a wet and chilly Sunday afternoon I hit the highway from Brisbane to head down the M1 to the Gold Coast to take in the Gold Coast Suns AFL fan experience at Metricon Stadium in Nerang.
Today’s match was to be the Suns versus the Brisbane Lions in the annual QCLASH derby as well as representing an ANZAC Day ceremony to honour our servicemen and women.
I prepped for the match day by getting my daughter Ramona all dressed up in a Gold Coast Suns dress that I bought for her to show her support for another Queensland team (her first ever dress- which she hated, the dress that is!) while I pulled out my Brisbane Bears wool guernsey, grabbed my Sherrin footy, new Lions cord cap from the Lions shop and some fresh ANZAC biscuits to share with mates and laminated my printed out match day ticket to save as my ticket memento to go into my box of 1000+ tickets from 30 years of live events – anything to keep the physical part of the event day ticking on in my opinion.
The fan journey started at 1pm with a quick 50 minute car journey via tolls from Brisbane to Nerang Railway Station. Nerang Station has ample parking and a lockable bicycle station as well as open bike racks. I made sure to park via the exits under security cameras for better safety and to get away faster at the end of the night however by 2pm the car park was filling up with Lions and Suns fans meaning that this is a safe and secure place to leave your car and head to the match due to the number of people coming through here on match days.
Once parked I made my way through the station to the bus terminal area where the game day buses were starting up at 2pm to ferry fans to Metricon Stadium. The buses were free for fans with the transport included within the ticket, as was the train from Brisbane if fans had chosen to catch the train from Brisbane to Nerang Station. However with track work today on the Gold Coast line, driving to the station and then catching this free bus seemed like the best option.
The bus driver was cheerful as Suns and Lions fans hoped on the bus and I was impressed with security greeting everyone that was getting on and asking us who would win while the bus driver was equally impressive ensuring that fans were safely picked up along the way despite there only being the one designated stop at the venue which was a helpful thing to do for those fans who were walking to the ground. The bus arrived directly outside the stadium after a short five minute journey which made it a seamless entry into the ground. It was also important to note that since my last visit here a couple of years ago, parking restrictions have gone up similar to around The Gabba and Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane meaning restrictions apply on match days and it is not advisable to try to park as you risk a fine.
Parking is also available within the stadium for only $20 via the Ticketmaster site however this does seem to sell out quickly in the week leading up to match day. Metricon also has a ride share and public pick up and drop off zone near the venue too with accessible entry and exit to the stadium.
Making our way into the stadium was seamless and we were greeted by a ‘hello’ and ‘thanks for coming’ by the venue staff. I then made my way over to the AFL Record stand and picked up a copy of the ANZAC round AFL Record which is still a bargain at $5 and a game day tradition I never miss.
This is one of my favourite AFL venues in Australia for a number of reasons. The views are great wherever you sit while the ease of access to get in and out to get food and drinks or to go to the toilets is also not a hassle. I love a venue you can walk the full distance around and here at Metricon Stadium you can walk both the inside and outside concourses to take in the full sights and smells of the match day as well as accessing all the types of food on offer and not being cut off by security or ushers.
On the food and beverage front while there were food trucks and permanent food stalls in abundance I found the food offering we sampled to be below par and quite disappointing however this was no doubt not the opinion of every fan who purchased food items at the event. The hot chips we purchased for $6.50 were flavourless (my friend had a delicious peppery salt on his while mine had nothing which was odd) and undercooked while the hot dog looked quite sad presentation wise for $6.50 and the pie for $5.75 had hard pastry like a rock. There was an assortment of options from Chipsters offering dagwood dogs and loaded fries to a Kebab stand meaning there truly was something for every fan to get around. There were also wings and chips and Hawaiian burger combos along with churros and even popcorn boxes to satisfy fans tastes and preferences for both young and old with the more substantial offerings costly $15-$17.
Prices seemed quite high compared to other venues for items such as hot dogs and chips while the beer was fresh and on par with Australian venues with a Carlton Mid tinnie (served into a plastic cup) at $8.95 while Great Northern schooners were $9.80 and craft beer from Pirate Life Brewing Co (CUB/South Australian) was $11.20 for their mid-strength or $8.50 for their 0.9% light beer which all in all represented normal pricing and a good variety for beer drinkers. Furthermore some bars did not have electronic boards displaying prices or price lists so you weren’t sure how much you were paying until it was round up at the til.
The venue has an impressive outside concourse as as well as an inside open concourse which offers plenty of space to roam, order food and drinks as well as find a space to sit and take in the event away from your actual seats. It’s one of my favourite grounds because of the open space and the flexibility you have to walk around the venue on a game day. There are multiple member’s bars (one with a live band called The Fifth Quarter) as well as a Carlton Draught bar for Suns members and fans while there are chairs and tables and plenty of green space including a massive oval only 50 metres from the stands where you can kick footies on all throughout the match day. This is a big incentive for families and young fans who who come along as they can bring in their footballs to the match and head out for a pre, mid or post game kick as we did with our own Sherrin that was a lot of fun.
The sponsor activation social spaces were impressive and included the Carlton Draught bar and a comfy couch seating area overlooking the field of play (could not see sponsor, perhaps Metricon). There were two sponsor activation set ups that really caught my eye though and these included the Metricon Homes ‘Terrace’ that was a fully fledged house within the stadium that included a balcony overlooking the field while the Plungie Pool area was also eye-catching with its pool, lifeguard and blue astroturf seating.
The toilets here were clean and spacious with no lines seen throughout the night for either the women’s or men’s with the men’s having a lot of space to walk in and out quickly with soap and tap all working fine. Hand sanitisers were available around the ground and after checking three which had sanitiser in them on my travels around the venue it was good to see them filled up unlike on recent stadium visits where they have been on show but not filled up.
The views are simply breathtaking here with views on the ground level or up in the stands affording fans a cracking close up view of the action no matter the seating rake. Behind the goals at the scoreboard is also a place worth sitting and while not undercover affords fans a close up view of the action. Sitting high up in section 216 we did still get slightly wet as the rain permeated through the worn roof tarps with the roof, rails and shades all looking like they need a thorough clean. The way-finding in the stadium was not too difficult to see where to go for food, seating sections or toilets but I thought it could be made a bit more clearer and in larger text to make it more visible. I saw a few ushers on the night cheerfully helping fans however there was not one in our stand or the one adjacent, however it seemed that fans made their way to their seats easily with the night running very smoothly as well for stadium staff. Accessible seating is clearly marked and available for those fans needing it while outside the concourses there are merchandise stands offering both Suns and away fans the option of securing a piece of merch.
The Suns fan engagement really stands out and is underrated in my opinion both for AFL teams and in other Australian sporting teams. The Suns really cater well for families and kids with a big feature being their Suns ‘Little Legends’ train that runs around the venue picking up young fans and families and taking them on a fun casual train ride around the outside of the stadium concourse. The Suns do a lot for their members with the social spaces previously listed however they also have a member raise their Suns flag up the flagpole each game while they also have a junior reporter, Suns photo wall, face painting, a kids zone out the back and a member’s guard of honour. Screen activations like Air Guitar and the on-field kick the footy into the Plungie Pool were also fun to watch – I reckon I could have nailed the kick into the footy easily (It’s all about wearing the right shoes for on field fan engagement if you’re ever selected to participate!).
It was also good to see the way the Suns acknowledge their members with big plaques inside the venue honouring those fans who have shown their dedication as members along with history charts across the seating bowl that highlight the Suns formation and history on the Gold Coast over the past decade.
The Suns ANZAC Day ceremony was handled respectfully and included a marching band, the last post and the national anthems and it was good to see everyone take their hats off and stand in silence to appreciate the ANZACs and what this day means to so many Australian and New Zealander’s.
While it was an entertaining game in the rain, the Lions ended up running away with the win 132-80 before the final siren sounded and fans made their exits. I found it easy to leave the venue and the signage for the buses back to Nerang Station or to Broadbeach were easily identifiable with bus staff also speaking to fans to ensure they were headed in the right direction. Within five minutes of lining up we were on a bus and on our way back to the train station which again only took five minutes journey before heading back to the cars and home within an hour to Brisbane.
A Gold Coast Suns AFL game day at Metricon Stadium is a very worthy event day visit in my opinion, either as a Suns fan or as in my case travelling for an away day as a Lions fan. From the views and the big oval for a kick to the Suns fan engagement andd the ease of the fan journey both in and out, it really represents an enjoyable AFL match day for Aussie Rules fans. There is so much on here for families and fans with the Suns clearly going the extra mile to create lasting memories for their members and fans and I could not more highly rate the Suns fan experience as an event worth checking out.
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.
On a mild April day in Melbourne I set out for two games in the city with the first one taking place at Marvel Stadium in Docklands at 4pm before heading across town to AAMI Park later in the night.
I started my fan journey to Marvel Stadium in the city by catching the free 96 tram from our accommodation to within a 5 minute walk of the stadium gates. I first walked around the ground taking in the Kangaroos fan zone and members tent area with spin to win games, free GOAL cards and photo opportunities for fans young and old. I checked out the basketball court and the mural as well as some of the Marvel world entertainment like the pillar wraps and the rock climbing Spiderman wall that was not in use today. The walk from Southern Cross Station along the top concourse is always a special moment in Melbourne as thousands of fans make the pilgrimage in to the venue dressed in their guernseys and scarves.
I picked up my copy of the AFL Record and spoke to the seller who said that it’s still selling very well on game days as fans love the physical memento to take home. It’s sad in a way with QR coded digital tickets that we don’t have as many physical items to take from the game anymore like ticket stubs.
The match today was an AFL game between North Melbourne Kangaroos and Western Bulldogs that was scheduled for a 4.20pm bounce as part of the annual Good Friday Appeal match which both teams had worked well on for press all week in the city and thus resulted in a very good crowd. Tickets were well priced with myself being able to pick up a $15 Western Bulldogs ticket via a targeted Facebook post that had no extra booking fees added on as part of the deal.
The COVID check in process was seamless and easy with multiple friendly staff on hand to assist fans. I received a hello and welcome to the venue on entry and found it impressive to see the back of the staff shirts saying ‘Can we help you?’ as well as the IPTV screens displaying similar information about talking to staff if you need anything. I went around to the Customer Service Centre to ask some questions about the game day and found that the staffer here was very well educated on the game day and venue facilities. The hand sanitisers around the ground were mostly filled with one either not working properly or out of sanitiser. The toilets were clean and staff were seen to be doing a really good job of cleaning the venue as the game went on and of ensuring patrons were kept safe especially with the cordoned off roped area when the coaches were making their way back to the stands.
The joint banner and legends kick to kick were clever fan engagement ideas to bring people together for a laugh and a positive moment at the game and there was no doubt that a lot of funds were raised for the Good Friday Appeal.
The F&B options were plentiful with the standard fare of chips ($4.50), pie ($4.50) and hot dog ($6) however the best feature here is the free sauce! Not 30c, not 50c, not even a $1 for sauce but FREE! This might seem small but these things, these little things go a long way for the fan experience not least family budgets when it comes to things like buying food and drinks at a game. I really liked how the IPTV screens displayed the time til bounce and also how you can just pull up and drink a beer or have a bite on the concourse benches that run along the venue facing the field without being ushered on my staff.
There are many quality options to choose from and the pricing is quite affordable too including Smoke and Smouler BBQ, GAMI Chicken and Sweeter Life which was a hit with kids selling lolly bags and popcorn. It was good to see vegan options in burgers as well as gluten free pies making Marvel quite an inclusive venue when it comes to food options.
It was good to see the work the stadium does for accessibility and inclusion with their kids Stadium Sensory Room with sensory bags for kids including noise cancelling headphones, fidget tools, visual cue cards.
I loved the KEG Room I passed which when I ventured further around I thought could be a decent fan social space if you knocked out a window from the inside of it as it had an epic view of the field from up here. On the topic of beers, Great Northern’s were $10.50 while 4 Pines craft beer was $12.50.
Crews were collecting for the appeal while they were also giving out free hot cross buns to fans which was a welcome surprise.
I found it interesting that the inside of the venue had so much Marvel theming around the venue from life size statues to wall wraps and even height charts and photo ops yet they were branded with Marvel characters and not AFL players/themes. Maybe all kids like Marvel characters but I’d love to see an AFL all team character compare your height chart or an AFL footy photo opp booth. I know that the venues name has a lot to do with this but even the fan engagement on field was ‘pose like a superhero’ and not really AFL related.
The atmosphere was really pumping for this Good Friday Appeal AFL match and I was really impressed by the quality F&B on offer, fan engagement from North Melbourne, the team work from both teams media and marketing teams in the lead up to the game, the focus on inclusion and the venues focus on helping fans have the best fan experience they possibly can.
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.
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.
10,000 fans were allowed back on the night for the NRL game.
Train to the game. Chelmer station to Milton station. Free transport still on offer for fans here heading the game.
Note the clear communications around ticket conditions for the COVID19 plan on this game day.
The march to the stadium from the station. Not as vocal as usual but grateful and lucky to be back here.
Ticketing. Paper PDFs or mobile ticketing only. Gates open only from 45 minutes before kick off.
F&B. Cashless/card only. Line markings. Social distancing maintained and respected by fans. Speed was fast to be served. Staff friendly and good on them for being back too. They need this for jobs as well.
Seating. Strictly only allowed to use the 2 seats you were able to purchase and must keep 1.5m away from each other. Must remain within the zone allocated on your ticket.
Hand sanitizer stations abundant throughout the venue.
Well done to all of the staff from the Broncos membership team to the venue staff and everyone else in between who put this on for fans with only a few day’s notice. Huge respect for that team work.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
106 days into 2020 and what an unimaginable and absolutely crazy year it has been within the Australian craft beer industry this year.
First the devastation of the summer bush fires and now the way the world has been flipped on its head by COVID19. It’s been an incredibly tough time for many Australian’s and small businesses out there but as I work within this industry I’ve also seen first hand how stressful, challenging and frustrating it has been for independent craft breweries (and all the associated people along the supply chain) throughout Australia.
However if it’s one thing that this industry and community of good beer fans do well, it’s pulling together and working together to support each other. From the relentless back-breaking work that organizations like the IBA, Oz Brews News, Froth Mag and Crafty Pint do for this industry to all the craft beer fans out there who have all gone to great lengths over the past few months to buy local and get behind their community craft breweries, well it’s just so bloody lovely to see. What an outstanding community of people! It just makes you feel so damn proud of how Australian’s come together to support each other in times of crisis.
Anyway, seeing as I have lost work like many others within the industry and because I now have some extra time on my hands and just can’t sit still, I have put together another handy infographic of fan engagement ideas that will come in useful to a host of businesses, breweries, and venues within our industry.
Featured below is a new fan engagement infographic that has been created from collating ideas and initiatives from what over 300 Australian craft breweries have been doing to engage their fans and local communities. I have also included all of the ideas within a bullet point list with images added below as well as including some of my own ideas. If an idea does not make sense then please feel free to reach out and I will assist.
Earlier this week I also released an infographic for the sports business titled ‘200+ Fan Engagement Ideas to Entertain, Educate and Connect Sports Fans during COVID19‘ which aims to help local grassroots and community clubs throughout the globe with ideas to engage their communities at this time. Previously I have created these resources below as well. These have been useful for the sports business but many of the ideas are interchangeable, cost-effective and simple and have also helped small businesses with the ideas presented here being quite adaptable to many businesses.
I have also previously created this resource ‘100+ Fan Engagement Ideas For Craft Breweries’ which has been a simple and effective guide for craft breweries across Australia and may come in handy down the track for other breweries to acquire new fans and drive further revenue opportunities.
If IBA members also have access to the new IBA forum and website sections then my fan engagement presentation and panel from last year’s BREWCON conference might also be a beneficial watch.
All in all this has just been something to do to stay active during this time so I hope that it comes in handy for anyone within the independent craft beer industry.
My final piece of advice is to get out there and support your local indie brewery and buy local from local indie bottle shops and venues doing take aways where you can as this will help these businesses at a time when they all need it the most.
Thanks for reading.
150+ Fan Engagement Ideas For Craft Breweries: Solutions To Entertain And Educate, Drive Revenue And Connect Beer Fans And Local Communities During COVID19
My year in beer for 2019 has come and gone and while I’ve had a very enjoyable year working in beer (have a read of this article here on my experience working in the craft beer industry) I’ve also had a very satisfying time getting out and about to check out as many craft breweries as I can on my travels.
It’s been rewarding to meet the hard-working people behind the breweries and to try and learn as much as I can about the industry as well as just sample their tasty brews as well as try and get more people and my mates into drinking better quality beer and supporting these local Aussie indie brewers and businesses.
The industry has so much positivity and enthusiasm from the talented insiders and passionate fans alike who like me love elements such as the tinnie art, talking to the people at the breweries, traveling for beer tourism and beer road trips, collecting too much beer gear merch, learning about the sustainability and environmental approaches as well as experimenting with all the different and diverse flavours and aromas of the brews while at the same time supporting local Aussie businesses. Honestly, how good does it make you feel!
I quickly thought I’d put a bit of a blog post together that both wraps up my year in beer travels as well as provides some insights, ideas, lessons and also some tips for anyone planning on visiting some of these specific breweries listed below. Please feel free to touch base if you’re after any travel tips for these breweries as I’d be happy to help. Thanks for reading. Enjoy this with a cold brew and bring on 2020.
Lessons, Ideas and Insights:
Range Brewing Co, Newstead, Queensland
Townsville Brewery, Townsville, Queensland
Burleigh Brewing Co, Burleigh, Queensland
Black Hops II, Biggera Waters, Queensland
Semi Pro Brewing Co, Wolloongabba, Queensland
Fortitude Brewing Co, Tamborine Mountain, Queensland
Balter Brewing Co, Currumbin, Queensland
Lost Palms Brewing Co, Miami, Queensland
Felons Brewing Co, Brisbane, Queensland
Black Hops, Burleigh Heads, Queensland
NEW SOUTH WALES (6)
Stone and Wood Brewing Co, Byron Bay, New South Wales
Devil’s Elbow Brewing Co, Dubbo, New South Wales
Grifter Brewing Co, Marrickville, Sydney, New South Wales
Stockade Brewery, Marrickville, Sydney, New South Wales
Batch Brewing Co, Marrickville, Sydney, New South Wales
Sauce Brewing Co, Marrickville, Sydney, New South Wales
Hobart Brewing Co, Hobart, Tasmania
Cascade Brewery, Hobart, Tasmania
Moo Brew at MONA, Tasmania
Shambles Brewing Co, Hobart, Tasmania
The Winston, Hobart, Tasmania
Bruny Island Brewing Co, Bruny Island, Tasmania
T-Bone Brewing Co, Hobart, Tasmania
Stomping Ground Beer Hall, Melbourne, Victoria
Inner North Brewing Co, Brunswick, Victoria
Queenscliff Brewhouse, Prickly Moses Brewing, Queenscliff, Victoria
Jetty Road Brewing Co, Dromana, Victoria
Urban Alley Brewing, Docklands, Melbourne, Victoria
Salt Brewing Co, Airey’s Inlet, Victoria
Two Bays Brewing Co, Dromana, Victoria
(Disclaimer- I work here but visited as a punter in February before starting out in March)
Valhalla Brewing Co, Geelong, Victoria
Blackmans Brewery, Torquay, Victoria
Southern Bay Brewing Co, Geelong, Victoria
Burnley Brewing Co, Melbourne, Victoria
Moon Dog World, Preston, Victoria
Moon Dog Brewery, Abbotsford, Victoria
Black Dog Brewing Co, Taminick, Victoria
Fixation Brewing Co, Collingwood, Victoria
Thunder Road Brewing Co, Brunswick, Victoria
Detour Brewing Co, Coldstream, Victoria
Temple Brewing Co, Brunswick, Victoria