What a year 2015 has been for fan engagement in the sports business.
From digital delights to giveaways galore 2015 has seen some outstanding fan engagement activations from across the globe. With innovative and fan first ideas ranging from the areas of ticketing, virtual reality, merchandise and food to iBeacon’s, fitness and 3D printing, clubs and stadiums have been working hard to listen and increase the emotional loyalty amongst fans and drive deeper connections through storytelling between all parties.
As a passionate fan engagement and sports fan, I wanted to highlight the impressive work that has been produced in 2015 by putting together a brief (ok it’s pretty extensive actually) summary of some of the best global fan engagement ideas from this year and shine a light on the hard working marketing, digital and fan engagement teams who do so much for their members and fans across the world.
This is in no particular order and is by no means the definitive list of the ‘best in fan engagement’ from this year however it should be viewed as a launch pad for a discussion about what else was brilliant in fan engagement from 2015.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on anything I’ve missed and I’ll add them to my 2800+ fan engagement Pinterest board here: Blair’s Fan Engagement Ideas Pinterest Board.
Finally, a big thank you to all of my sports business and fan engagement followers and colleagues who constantly share ideas.
Without further delay, let’s get started.
1. The LA Dodgers always have some of the best fan giveaways with this year’s including a Hispanic heritage night, social media night ‘Back to the Future’ Movie night and Running night, Pups at the Park as well as giveaways that included fans getting their hands on one of 10,000 free yoga mats at Dodger Stadium.
2. As part of NRL Grand Final week the NRL hosted an epic fan zone called NRL Nation at Darling Harbour in Sydney. The site featured digital activations, signing sessions, photo opportunities and much more. NRL Nation
3. The 49er’s created an interesting ’Ninerfier’ contraption in conjunction with Levi’s that saw fans get ’Ninerfied’ before heading into Levi’s Stadium. The team also gave out free shirts on the opening game day, launched their Twitter vending machine and kept evolving the fan experience with their app that features loyalty rewards as part of the Faithful 49 and also shows you the fastest moving toilet lines! Faithful 49
4. Super Rugby team Western Force held a ‘Superhero Saturday’ themed event which let fans in for free if they wore a superhero costume. Super Hero Saturday
5. Sporting Kansas City allowed fans to pass around their US Open Cup trophy through the whole crowd at Sporting Park for their MLS game in October.
6. Melbourne Storm gave fans the chance to have their name on the team banner and win seat upgrades on the centre line in a private bar. Furthermore Melbourne also let young fans engage in a junior reporter type activation. The Storm also led the way in increasing loyalty among their members with their Lightning Rewards program. More on this here Lightning Rewards
7. Ronda Rousey had a cool activation called #WalkoutWithRonda for the UFC fight against Holly Holm in Melbourne, Australia.
8. The Brisbane Broncos held a live video signing of a new player. Brisbane Broncos contract signing
9. The Seattle Sounders march to CenturyLink Field is a fan engagement masterpiece that needs to be experienced and continues to grow every MLS season.
10. Carlton Blues used audioBoom’s recording widget to have fans record in their message of thanks to retiring player Chris Judd. The Blues also used audioBoom to record over 100 short audio biographies of club legends and then put these into QR codes around the club house on colourful plaques to encourage fans to visit the club and use their phones to access this special historical team content.
Carlton also held a 90’s themed game to commemorate the 1995 Grand Final win and they even dropped everything in the club shop by 19.95%. Furthermore their ‘bongo cam’ which sees fans play the bongos on the imaginary drums was a good laugh while the Virgin Australia activation which saw a virtual plane fly around the outside fence was also impressive as it saw a whole row of fans pick up a free return flight to the US.
11. Boston Celtics featured a game called ’Shot in the Dark’ that had a fan blindfolded while shooting at the hoops for a prize at the TD Garden.
12. Western Australian AFL teams Fremantle Dockers and West Coast Eagles held good fan engagement initiatives such as the #FlyTheFlag and #TheWestIsFinals that had fans participating on social media.
13. The 2015 Rugby World Cup saw over half a million fans come into the 15 fan zones around England. RWC Fan Zones
14. Cricket Australia and beer company VB teamed up to call on fans to earn a place in the Australian cricket team by having their name on the jersey. Fans are able to nominate the person who has inspired them to work hard and take action. The most inspiring stories will win their nominee’s name on the shirt of an Australian cricket player for the VB ODI series this summer. VB promotion
15. New fan zones from Sunderland, Chelsea and West Bromich Albion all gave their respective fans extra value on Premier League game days.
16. The Melbourne Cricket Ground listened to fans and lowered the prices of food and drinks and saw massive rises in consumption. The consumption of hot pies increased by over 130,000 units, chips were up 37% (150,000 additional sales) and salads also went up by over 130%. MCG food prices a big hit with fans
17. Pittsburgh Steelers held a women’s training camp. Steelers Women’s Training Camp
18. A-League club Melbourne City streamed real time data and statistics from GPS tracking devices to fans during matches this season by transmitting the information directly to the scoreboard video screen at home matches and made the data available on social media apps and its website. Game data to stream live for Melbourne City football fans
19. The NY Mets let fans had a ‘Beer Passport’ for fans who could sample various New York craft beers at Citi Field.
20. EA Sports asked fans of the Australian women’s football team, the Matilda’s to choose the player for the cover of FIFA15. EA Sports Matilda’s
21. Orlando City SC put fans faces in their squad numbers on the back of their jerseys.
22. Melbourne Demons asked young fans to submit a book review which was an educational bit of fan engagement. Melbourne Demons Book Review
23. The NFL’s Baltimore Raven’s created emoji’s for fans. Raven’s Emoji’s
24. The QLD Firebirds ANZ Championship netball team provided free healthy recipes for fans such as nutritious bean burritos and chicken bites.
25. Copa America changed some of Chile’s bus shelters to resemble goals in the lead up to the event.
26. Sydney’s Allianz Stadium offered free pies to fans who used their mobile food ordering app. Allianz Stadium pie deal
27. While Match.com and MLB.com teamed up in 2014 to give singles another reason to cheer during the season by giving members the opportunity for single baseball fans to connect online, the Atlanta Hawks encouraged fans to use the mobile app Tinder to transform Philips Arena into a premier social networking hub in the NBA as part of their “Swipe Right Night”. Atlanta Hawks Tinder Night
28. The FFA Cup let fans choose the football design for the ball used in the 2016 club competition. Design the Westfield FFA Cup 2016 ball!
29. The St Louis Ram’s NFL team created a wellness zone for fans at their stadium complete with football skills drills and healthy nutrition tips. St Louis Rams Wellness Zone
30. The Central Coast Mariners paid homage to their coastal traditions and history by honouring the Central Coast Life Saving Association with this special jersey for fans. 500km up the road, fellow A-League club the Newcastle Jets did something similar with their Australian Air Force inspired kit for fans. CC Mariners SLS Jersey
31. The NJ Devils held a cross fit workout session for fans at The Prudential Centre ahead of their NHL match.
32. The Australian Diamonds wrote fans a sick note pass for fans to give to their employers for the Netball World Cup after their win.
33. The El Paso Chihuahuas held their Wiener Dog Race. I’ll just leave it at that.
34. The Cricket World Cup and Tui teamed up to give fans the chance to win 1M by buying a $30 ‘bullseye’ shirt and money if they caught a six. The $30 shirt, part of the Tui Catch a Million promotion, encouraged cricket fans to purchase the shirt and attempt to cleanly catch a ball for their chance to win up to $1 million.
35. The Gwinnett Braves let pregnant fans into CoolRay Field for the game and then added that if you went into labour during the game that your child would get a lifetime of free birthday parties from the team. Gwinnett Braves
36. The NSW Blues rugby league team had fans names on their jerseys in conjunction with beer company VB.
37. The San Francisco Giants printed ‘first game’ certificates for fans at AT&T Park.
38. Sydney Swans and ANZ Stadium gave free massages to fans at their AFL games.
39. The NY Islanders held their Beard-A-Thon which is acelebration of the great tradition of the playoff beard. Beard-a-thon® was launched in 2009 and since then, over $3 million has been raised for all participating NHL team charities.
40. Richmond Tigers let fans design their own AFL trading card. Richmond Tigers Footy Cards
41. The Rugby World Cup ticket design introduced a Rugby World Cup first as it used augmented reality technology as part of the ticket design to enable fans to engage with the tournament through interactive content. RWC 2015 Augmented Reality App
42. The Australian F1 Grand Prix again produced a fan engagement masterclass with in excess of 100 various activations that fans could participate in. However the one that I enjoyed seeing the most and which cost nothing to facilitate was when the gates to the circuit were opened to the fans who then proceeded to bolt to the finishing line while collecting leftover bits of race car tyre rubber along the way.
43. The 49ers and SAP had a few fun virtual reality activations at Levi’s Stadium that included the ‘Quarterback Challenge’.
44. Geelong gave a free jersey away to fans who signed up to a three game Cats AFL membership
45. Charlton Athletic in London put a couch on their sideline for fans to get up close and personal at the game.
46. The NRL Bulldogs let fans be the game day photographer and also created a private Instagram account to unveil the 2016 jersey. BULLDOGS USE PRIVATE INSTAGRAM TO LAUNCH 2016 JERSEY
47. Chelsea FC and the Netball World Cup’s Australian Diamonds created fan zones that featured digital print out’s of fans with star players as a memorable keepsake.
48. The All Blacks and sponsor AIG created the AIG HAKA 360 that in their words ‘Combining a love of rugby with a passion and commitment to innovation for its customers, AIG is pleased to bring Virtual Reality (VR) innovation to All Blacks fans through our branded Haka 360° campaign. The virtual Haka 360° experience app directly connects fans with dynamic All Blacks content which can be brought to life with the use of VR headsets. Imagine standing on the pitch amongst the All Blacks pre-match, watching the team performing the traditional Maori Haka up close. This is the thrill the Haka 360° app and headset delivers.’ All Blacks 360 Haka
49. The Toronto Raptors held #DrakeNight and had perks such as a “Hotline Bling” booth where fans could film their own gif-worthy dance moves within the video’s colourful confines. Those moves were then shown on the Raptors’ official Vine account. Drake Night
50. The Gold Coast Titans held a rock and roll night and created a ‘fan of the match’ while bringing back classics like ‘catch the bomb’.
51. The LA Kings and StubHub combined at the Staples Centre to have fans create their own commemorative ticket by going into a ticket booth and adding different features on a touch pad.
52. AFL team Collingwood Magpies gave out free polaroid photos to fans at the MCG.
53. The Detroit Tigers and DooB teamed up to turn fans into 3D models. At a Tigers game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, fans could undergo the “DOOB-lication” process that begins with posing in a 3-D-scanning system with 54 high-definition cameras to capture every angle. After the scan, the photos are sent to DOOB’s processing facility in Brooklyn. The printing process takes up to 18 hours with the curing process adds another week. Tigers fans being turned into 3-D models
54. ANZ Stadium created the ‘Fanometer’ that let fans vote to see if Tottenham or Sydney FC would own the Sydney Harbour Bridge with their team colours.
55. The O2 and the Rugby World Cup worked together to feature fans names on the roof of the O2 for the ‘Wear The Rose’ campaign. The roof was transformed into a giant, blooming rose and a canvas for fans tweets. England fans can have their own messages of support projected onto The O2 roof
56. The NBL hosted an educational night for coaches to attend and learn from the NBL coaches.
57. Doncaster Rover’s #MyLocalScream Halloween themed match invited fans to mingle with mascot Donny Dog and the first team players in a day of scary fun, including ghost walks, spooky stories and a special Halloween party with the players in the Belle Vue Bar after the match. MY LOCAL SCREAM
58. The Netball World Cup in Sydney featured a brilliant FanFEST that included in excess of 25 interactive, digital and netball themed activations ranging from a nail and hair salon and chill out lounge to skills zones, daily netball fitness sessions and digital lip sync battles that were so popular that every national team squad ended up joining in and doing their own rendition to Taylor Swift’s hit tune ‘Shake It Off’. The creation of the fan experience started long before the tournament with the NWC website offering fans the chance to choose the official on court music playlist, bib bunting for the fan caves of those who could not attend and the establishment of a netball fan dictionary to educate newcomers to the sport. FanFEST also included digital activations from The Creative Shop such as the Fan’s MVP where fans could select their player of the tournament on a digital touch screen, ‘Cover the Court’ where fans could test their footwork, the virtual reality ‘Perfect Pass‘ game which tested fans passing skills and the ‘Cheer Cam’ which enabled fans to record their celebrations to Australia’s previous Netball World Cup wins.
59. The Tennessee Titans NFL team held a Football 101 day for female fans. Football 101
60. The A-League had a great fan engagement concept for the A-League Grand Final where they let fans choose a food item for sale in the stadium, who would sing the national anthem, have a say in the man of the match voting, vote on what song the band Peking Duk would play as well as decide what the ‘walk out’ song would be when the teams made their way to the field. It was all part of Hyundai’s Letting the Fans Choose campaign. A-League Grand Final Fan Engagement
61. Leicester City and Walker’s combined to create a special ‘Vardy Salted’ packet of chips for fans of Premier League record breaking goal scorer Jamie Vardy and then had these available for fans along with a note of thanks in every seat.
62. The Wallabies and Qantas gave fans the chance to choose the design of the Qantas plane that would send the Wallabies over to London for the Rugby World Cup.
63. Scotland’s Hearts of Midlothian football club unveiled a new kit that featured all 8,000 names of supporters who rescued club from extinction and who donated at least £120 to the rescue fund. Hearts Fan Jersey
64. The WS Wanderers teamed up a licensing deal with rockers KISS to run a limited edition of merch. WSW and KISS
65. The Jacksonville Jaguars were the first NFL team to release their own video game. It’s called “Duval Dash,” named after the county that Jacksonville finds itself in. The game at com is an 8-bit game. Jags Duval Dash
66. The Australian Ice Hockey League gave fans free rides to the games through Uber.
67. The Seattle Sounders let fans design the 2016 scarf design. Sounders Scarf Design
68. Hawthorn Hawks hid a jersey in a park for fans to find and the results were TV gold (and brown)! How this only has 400 odd views is beyond me.
69. The Football League created the ‘Own The Arch’ Twitter campaign to see which team could get the most support. Here you can see Tottenham’s attempt as #SpursAtWembley. Fans given chance to ‘own the arch’ through Twitter vote
70. The Australian Open Tennis featured a plethora of fan engagement activations however one of the best was the Twitter vending machine that let fans tweet away and receive a code back that they could then use for the vending machine which would in turn drop a prize for fans.
71. The Cleveland Browns gave a fan the chance to host and interview players (along with free food) as part of their official podcast.
72. Auckland’s Eden Park and AirBNB combined to offer fans the chance to stay over at the stadium while the Sydney Swans and the SCG did the same thing in Sydney.
73. LAFC asked fans to choose the colours of the team’s design scheme from five colours.
74. Taranaki Rugby Club had players sleep over night at fans houses.
75. The Rugby World Cup and Gilbert teamed up to run the #PassItOn campaign that had fans send in a video of themselves receiving and giving a pass of a Gilbert Rugby ball.
76. The All Blacks and Air New Zealand music video for #CrazyAboutRugby was one of the best music/safety videos created.
77. The Seattle Seahawks had a ’Nail Your Gameday’ activation where fans could pick up nail polish in the colours of the team.
78. The BlackCaps cricket team released a ‘leave pass’ for fans to give to their bosses for the 2015 Cricket World Cup.
80. The moving sideline contraption ‘SlideLiner‘ was a feature at the Real Madrid Vs Manchester City match at the MCG.
81. The Pittsburgh Penguins and CONSOL Energy Center used ibeacon technology to create a beacon-triggered experience for fans that sent them content that is location specific by way of the Penguins app. Once fans are in the arena, the beacon-triggered content is released, greeting the device users with special content. Once they reach the Mario Lemieux statue, an interactive experience is launched and they are provided with various types of discounts and offers for concessions.
82. The NRL Dragons had a social media booth at their Allianz Stadium game where fans could grab a picture in a special camera booth.
83. The Washington Redskins app gave season ticket holders the team news before the media received the news. Redskins App
84. Twitter teamed up with the Aussie cricket team for the Cricket World Cup to send back twitter replies to fans who tweeted the team a message of support. The pic that came back featured your name on the back of the team jersey. Similar activations of thanks via twitter replies were also used by the Aussie Diamonds netballers, the Matilda’s and the Wallabies for their big tournaments.
85. The NY Jets had a ‘Make Your Own Bobblehead’ activation at MetLife Stadium that saw fans create a digital bobble head version of themselves. NJ Jets Game Day
86. The MCG hosted ‘Sunday Fundays’ which let kids into the ground for free for Sunday AFL games and also featured a ‘kick to kick’ on the ground after the match and a special kids meal deal with free trading cards. AFL Sunday Funday
87. The 49er’s Uplause decibel reader at Levis Stadium and at other stadiums and arenas in the US greatly added to fans creating more noise and support in the stadium with this snap of the crowd reaching 111.1 at the 49ers being deafening.
88. Fan Zones at the Auckland Nines, NRL Grand Final, Aus Open, Cricket World Cup and AFL Grand Final were large and successful fan engagement activations.
89. The FA Cup asked fans to take a snap during the FA Cup games with the winning picture to feature on the Cup final ticket. Get your Instagram photo on Emirates FA Cup Final tickets
90. Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand listened to fans and brought in NZ craft beers for Wellington Phoenix game days. LOCAL WELLINGTON CRAFT BEER AT PHOENIX HOME GAMES
91. The NFL’s Vikings and 49ers engaged in a ‘Vine Off’ and executed what is the first collaborative Vine exchange in professional sports. On Monday Night Football Stage, Vikings And 49ers Strategically Execute First ‘Vine-Off’
92. The MLB introduced ’SnapBat’ which was a red and white baseball bat that took selfies of fans and players.
93. For the first time ever, fans decided the AT&T MLS All-Star captain using Snapchat. Fans had to take a screenshot of the player they wanted to be captain with one screenshot equalling one vote. For the first time ever, fans will decide the AT&T MLS All-Star captain using Snapchat
94. US Open fans were able to try to return Maria Sharapova’s 100mph serve via virtual reality. US Open Fan Engagement
95. The LA Kings had a neat virtual reality set up at Staples Centre whereby you could have your pic taken standing in front of a screen and then afterwards the mascot or player were in the picture with you. More on this here: Toshiba is pleased to feature PictureMe app in LA Interactive located next to the Figueroa Bar on the main concourse of STAPLES Center. This new mobile app is allows fans to take photos with ‘digital doubles’ of star Kings players. Operated from a media console embedded within Toshiba’s 65-inch Touch and Get kiosk, the augmented reality app projects a digital image of the selected player adjacent to the fan allowing for a memory-making photo opp. Kings introduce new off-ice elements as season begins
96. Taranaki Rugby Club had an offer whereby if a player scored four or more tries then every fan received free hot chips.
97. The Tampa Bay Bucs launched RED which was a new campaign aimed to “celebrate the female fan base’ that featured game-day style tips to experiencing the Bucs all-new virtual reality quarterback training technology. RED Women’s Movement – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
98. The MLB had a Twitter lock down to celebrate National Coffee Day meaning that only MLB followers could access the deals and giveaways.
99. Major League Soccer team NYCFC let fans choose the captain’s armband design.
100. Hibernian asked for fan input into what colour they wanted for their 2016/17 home strip. Hibs fans asked to pick favourite shade of green for new home shirt
101. Proving just how simple and easy fan engagement can be, the Seattle Sounders MLS team had a ‘Smile Cam’ at their fan appreciation day in October.
Thanks for reading.
Please feel free to share your ideas from the year that was in fan engagement.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays.