The 2016 AFL season get’s underway this Thursday night at the MCG with the Richmond Tigers taking on the Carlton Blues in what will be one of 207 hotly anticipated Aussie Rules matches played across the country.
Fans will be excited for the footy happening on the field but what else can they look forward to in terms of the fan experience both inside the stadium and while their online at home, in another state or country, on a mobile or tablet or even with their own virtual reality headset?
Just like I posted a couple of weeks back ahead of the start of the 2016 NRL season (See here: Club by Club: 2016 NRL Fan Engagement and Fan Experience Activations), this AFL club by club fan engagement recap will examine what each of the 18 teams are doing for their fans to drive deeper connections, engage their sponsors with their fans and shine a light on how these teams are listening to their fans.
Disclaimer: All of these team fan engagement activations and fan experience ideas have been sourced from the club’s social media pages and team websites, therefore there may be a great idea which I’ve missed. In this case please reach out to me on Twitter at @MrBlairHughes and I’ll update the article.
The Crows held their season launch on Friday at Adelaide Oval and online offer fans the chance to participate in AFC Quizzes.
Fans were also given the opportunity to be the ’19th man’ (although why not woman too?) in the team photo.
The Lions have a wealth of fan engagement happening in 2016 and it probably a bit easier for them with their own ground as they can make full use of front Stanley Street area of The Gabba for their Lion Park fan zone.
Brisbane offer fans the opportunity to share their member stories in their Your Club, Your Stories online portal, include behind the scenes shots with their Snapchat account, produce weekly member only online TV Recovery Reports and Training Resources as well as offer healthy eating insights from player Daniel Rich with his Richie’s Recipes.
The Lions through sponsor Hyundai offer Game Day Parking incentives for fans and the member’s only area Hyundai Terrace, the ability to Train with the team, downloadable season calendars and wallpapers as well as free on field Kick to Kick fun after the final siren which enables kids to have a kick of the Sherrin at the end of the game.
The Lions have not forgotten about their female fans as well as their hugely successful Women of the Pride group continues to go from strength to strength in engaging their female fan base.
Lions members can participate in the members road trip for the Geelong match.
Fans can also get their name up on the Member’s Wall at The Gabba for home games as well as cast their vote in the Hall of Fame jersey.
The Lions recently held a Family Fun Day and in partnership with the Brisbane Roar A-League team also offered a creative collaboration which saw the chance for 5000 A-League fans to come to a Lions AFL game and they in turn returned the favour and let 5000 AFL fans head along to one of the Brisbane Roar’s games across town. Read more here on this: Brisbane Roar, Brisbane Lions announce ticket deal
The Blues push the boundaries and offer fans some unique fan engagement from their player Music Playlists, Blues Museum Blueseum and Carlton Wine Club to their Member’s Stories portal and Ikon Park Carlton Ghost Tours.
The Blues have held a family day, host regular open training sessions, let members names be on their jersey, gave away free posters at a recent family day, let members in for free at the NAB Challenge games, meet the players for signing sessions and even ran an exclusive members opportunity where fans could win heaps of prizes as a different player’s locker revealed new information each day in the lead up to the new season.
The Blues The Journey: Inside the reset of a football club documentary was a great watch for fans of any club to view.
Carlton also engage their fans with exclusive on demand audio through their audioBoom channel that features press conferences, radio interviews and raw behind the scenes sounds. As part of their Blues Wall of Fame at Ikon Park the club have installed a beautifully tiled wall of famous players and moment which each have a QR Code that links back to an audioBoom post therefore meaning that a fan can come out to the club and use their phone to interact with the feature while also hearing interesting insights and sounds from that era as they walk along.
The Magpies have a host of fun things for fans from their special match day deals and special day deals to their family fun run and walk event and even their Collingwood Cartoon.
Collingwood have run an intra club match, host regular training sessions, have the opportunity for a coach to win an ultimate coaching experience with Nathan Buckley’s staff and have their Magpie Army as well that engages fans across the globe.
There’s plenty to look forward to for Magpie’s fans as this article ‘AFL clubs fear a costly ‘contest’ in match-day experience’ points out that ‘Collingwood president Eddie McGuire bemoaned a “sterile” atmosphere at matches last season, prompting the Magpies to revamp their cheer squad, which will now span three bays at the MCG. The Pies will also have sausage sizzles at their Olympic Park home ground before the match, with fans able to march to the MCG together.’
The Bombers have some exciting multicultural fan engagement happening at the club with their unique Embracing India Indian supporters hub on their website.
Essendon will play a country game against Geelong this year and have also featured this in their country portal on their home page. Essendon Country Hub
The Bombers players and staff have even been out to members homes to present them with their 2016 memberships which is always a nice touch and puts an unexpected smile on fans faces.
Essendon are just one of a number of teams who have seen the rise in podcasting and have jumped on this hugely popular media to engage with their fans. Their Lloyd’s Lowdown is a very successful podcast that amongst other audio like pressers, match sounds and interviews with players and fans has seen the club generate over 1M listens. Listen to Lloyd’s Lowdown here:
Bombers fans are being encouraged to wave their jackets at key moments of the 2016 season in an effort to get the crowd pumped up and as a homage to the famous Kevin Sheedy jacket waving moment. Skip to 3.44 here to view that classic AFL moment.
The Dockers also offer a valuable array of educational programs and worksheets in their Welcome to Freo resources to get young fans involved with the club and learn healthy habits and participate in player visits to schools.
The Giants G-Man Kids Site is a must view for teams thinking about doing something similar. NRL teams like Parramatta and Souths lead the way here with their kids sites however this is one of the best in the AFL.
Their Giants G-Man Kids Zone is also worth a look for what happens on game days at the ground and online.
GWS fans can cast their say in their GWS ‘Your Say’ while the club even held a GWS Hidden Camera Surprise for fans who found a lucky orange ticket.
Geelong are on Snapchat, have held a family fun day and have allowed fans the chance to be in the team photo.
Their HALF CAT’S TELSTRA ALLSTARS TEAM enabled junior fans to be in a run on team at the family day.
Gold Coast Suns
Gold Coast let fans be in the team photo, host a TV show for members called Sun Burnt, held a family day at their home base in Metricon Stadium, offer VIP match day experiences and held an open training session on a Gold Coast beach for fans.
The team are calling on fans to have their pictures featured on their giant Suns social wall and in good news for fans who like to stay connected at the stadium, Metricon Stadium has just announced details regarding free Wi-Fi in the ground for fans on match days. Read more about that here: Metricon Stadium completes Wi-Fi roll out.
The Suns fan zone is one of the best in the country in any sport and needs to be seen by other sports fans to understand it’s excellence and best practice in providing a unique fan experience. From their football paddock, giveaways and live stage with bands to members bars, abundance of social media picture opportunities and gourmet food options the Suns fan engagement is top notch. I have attached some pictures from when I visited in 2014 and 2015 and hope to be back this year to see how it has improved.
Hawthorn’s ‘Call It’ App allows fans to participate in the action on their second screen with other fans while fans can also join up to the club tipping comp.
Instead of having a typical family day, Hawthorn have opted for a Night Market event complete with food trucks which is a nice change. More on that here Hawks Family Night Market
The Hawks are also letting fans design their alternative jersey for 2016 with details found here Design our alternate guernsey
Melbourne have a wealth of fan engagement happening this year from their Kids Deezone which features a section where young fans can submit a book review, play footy shuffle and participate in other activities.
The Dees Women’s Team section is a showcase of what is happening to engage supporters for the games that the women play this year leading into the new national competition while the Pledge Per Win is a way for fans to contribute a sum of cash after every win that directly helps the club.
Melbourne also have free Wallpapers for fans, held a family footy festival, allowed fans to be in the team photo and host open training and signing sessions for fans as added bonuses.
North Melbourne Kangaroos
The Roo’s digital presence is quite engaging as they do all the regular social stuff however also have a Gif’s section that is a nice touch.
Along with this, North also offer fans the chance to participate in club Quizzes, held a big family fan day and have also released a special retro jersey as seen below.
Port Adelaide Power
Port have released a special retro jersey from their first season for fans.
The rendition by PAFC fans of INXS’s classic tune ‘Never Tear Us Apart’ at home games at the Adelaide Oval is probably one of the greatest sights by any sporting team in Australia right now and needs to be seen in person (I hope to get over this year for a match) This collaborative fan sing along from Port fans has become a stand out anthem at games. Watch it here now
Port Adelaide have also held open training days and have exclusive member benefits with their PAFC App
The Tigers offer fans a superb match day fan experience with music performances and the new addition in 2016 of being able to control and access around one kilometre of LED signage plus the big screens at key periods on match days.
St Kilda Saints
The Saints are utilising Snapchat in 2016 to provide fans with AAA footage and pics from behind the scenes on match days and throughout the week.
St Kilda also held a family day and a jersey presentation and have much more to come in 2016 by the looks of things.
The Swans fan engagement is world class best practice and offers fans exceptional Match Day fan experiences.
Fans can catch a ride for free to the game thanks to this Be Driven To Match Day bit of fan engagement from sponsor Volkswagen.
The Rainbow Swans LGBTI group is also a brilliant way that the Swans are showing how inclusive they are to all fans which in 2016 is brilliant to see from a major sporting team in Australia.
West Coast Eagles
The Eagles have held a family fun day and have also released a 30th anniversary guernsey for fans in 2016.
The Doggies offer fans a weekly Bulldogs Cartoon, a special ‘Ask a Bulldog’ segment, information and ways for fans to get involved with their Bulldogs Women’s Team as well as ways for men to look after their health with their men’s health focused Sons of the West program.
Young Western Bulldogs fans can learn healthy eating tips in their online Bulldogs kids zone called ‘The Pack’ and also participate in reading challenges with the Bulldogs Reading Program. More on The Pack can be found by following the links.
Bulldogs fans have been able to go to interstate open training days while junior fans can be the ‘Pup Press Reporter’ for each game and also participate in a junior member training session with a player.