sports marketing

100+ Ticketing Tips, Tricks, Ideas and Incentives for Sports Teams and Venues

Hello, 

Please find this latest resource on ticketing useful in helping growing your fan bases and getting more bums on seats.

The list provides 100+ tips, tricks, ideas and incentives that will be useful for grassroots and global teams to offer interesting and innovative ways to acquire and retain fans and win back lapsed ones too. Many of these strategies have already proven successful for many stakeholders across the globe and are not limited just to sport either.

If you would like a hand understanding any of these concepts or ideas please feel free to touch base and I will be happy to assist you or point you in the right direction for more information.

As always this is about education in the sports business so feel free to download, print and share with your colleagues and also please let me know if you tried something and saw a successful outcome as I would love to hear that and I can pass it along to other teams, venues or showcase it to highlight your success.

The list ranges from ideas and incentives that are across the spectrum of areas before, during and after the fan journey starts and range from transport to pets and even some quirky random ideas in between…..remember it’s always important to look outside the box and get a bit creative when it comes to ticketing.

All the best and touch base if you need anything.

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THE 2018 FAN ENGAGEMENT/EXPERIENCE 100-1 RECAP

Hello and welcome to my annual 100-1 fan engagement/experience year in review where I take a look back on the creative, innovative, exciting and tailored strategies from teams, venues, sports marketing agencies and sponsors which in my opinion greatly captivated fans across the globe this year (with a heavy focus on Australia and in particular Melbourne owing to the fact we do it so well here and also it’s where I reside).

I attended over 50 different sporting game day’s in 2018 across Australia, England, New Zealand and the USA to continue studying fans and the fan experience and while you can find these full recaps in my FANS HQ resource it was in my honest opinion another outstanding year in this space.

Some of the key areas of focus included:

  • Technology innovations from augmented reality to robots continued to be used in creative ways by teams and venues and shows no signs of slowing down
  • F&B incentives were again a trending area with more venues offering early bird offers, kids combo meal deals, catering for dietary needs and craft beer
  • Innovative social seating experiences in venues to offer fans unique fan experiences that can’t be had at home
  • Inclusive approaches which offer better access and representation to fans with diverse needs to enjoy the same fan experiences as every other fan.
  • Harnessing the power of fan generated content. Find out what skills your fans have by listening to them and then utilise these skills. Fellow fans love this while the fan feels a genuine sense of appreciation that they’re being rewarded for their contribution.
  • Sustainable environmental approaches as fans care about their local communities
  • Encouraging authentic and useful items when it comes to promotional giveaways (also relevant to the point above so that items aren’t just thrown away in local neighbourhoods as fans leave the precincts)

When it comes to fan engagement strategies and improving the fan experience there are few thoughts that I’ll leave you with before starting the 100-1 recap:

Thinking like kids: We must never forget to think like fans, families and in particular junior fans. The ability to continually put ourselves in the shoes of kids and get on their level as well as remember the importance and feeling of those first moments of fandom that we had as kids when we were enthralled and excited by our favourite team or player.

Listening and responding with authenticity: Constantly listening to fans is vital but it is not enough. Responding with empathy and authenticity goes such a long way in driving lifetime fan loyalty. 

Keeping it simple: The greatest fan engagement is often the simplest stuff. While I’m constantly road testing the latest tech on my game day travels because I’m a huge fan of the way technology is enhancing our game days I do believe that stripping it all back to the purest and most honest form of fan engagement ends up having the most significant impact on fans. There are a number of outstanding examples of this below. 

I trust that this educational summary provides you with some basis for thinking about how you can both improve your fan experience and better engage your fans on both a grassroots or global level while at the same time marvelling at the creativity on show here.

Finally, a huge round of applause to all of the hard working, creative and talented front office team and venue crews, sports agencies, sponsors and other stakeholders out there who continually create these outstanding experiences for fans across the globe each year. Fans should be immensely proud of the work that is done to entertain us on game days especially given the hurdles these stakeholders often face when it comes to staffing resources, budget restrictions and time.

If you would like to peruse the previous 100-1 annual summaries then you can find them here:

2017

2016

2015

100. Craft beer and sports team and venue partnerships seemed to be endless this year both in Australia and overseas with the establishment of new partnerships with local breweries and venues in an effort to bring fans, local businesses and the community closer together by offering local and better quality beer options on game days. I’ve written a bit about this in 2018 and encourage you to read my article in Froth Mag (Australia’s premier craft beer magazine to further your understanding of the Australian craft beer scene).

Some of the craft beer and some of the other interesting beer developments from Australia and overseas included:

  • Melbourne City launched their City Pale Ale with Stomping Ground Brewing Co
  • Young Henry’s and South Sydney Rabbitohs partnering up
  • Perth’s Optus Stadium now has Gage Roads Brewing Co running through it’s taps for fans
  • Two Birds Brewing and the Western Bulldogs women’s AFLW team joined forces
  • Newstead Brewing Co in Brisbane added to their QLD Reds partnership by joining forces with the NBL Brisbane Bullets
  • Wellington’s Westpac Stadium added the delicious Panhead Brewery for the All Blacks clash in September
  • Wigan launched their LATICS Golden Ale
  • The New York Yankees and BluePoint Brewery printed players’ faces on beer this season at Yankee Stadium (also on coffee and some food). Supposedly though this got pulled soon after by the MLB
  • The Hartford Yard Goats became the first team to sell beer baseball bats
  • Essex Cricket gave away free beers to fans
  • 4 Pines is now on tap at the SCG in Sydney

99. San Francisco Giants and Rugby World Cup 7’s partnership for ‘Rugby Night’ and ‘Rugby in the Cove’ which saw  giveaways, meet and greets with some of Rugby’s biggest names and rugby played on this barge as well as in AT&T Park.

98. The NSW Cricket team took to the SCG in helmets designed by cricket fans from around NSW. It’s always good to see teams tap into fan generated content whether online or elsewhere. Your fans have skills. Harness their passions, creativity and skills. 

97. Global venues are seeing all types of creative and unique fan friendly additions to draw people in on game day and while barber shops have been done before by teams and venues in the past, the impressive Killer Mike barber shop set up at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena was on another level this year and provided a truly unique fan experience for Atlanta Hawks fans. 

96. The teacher ambassador programs from Sydney teams including SydneyFC and the SydneyKings were a smart way to motivate schools and teachers to learn more about football and basketball skills through these two Sydney teams.

95. When nine-year-old Willow went viral after receiving a Sam Kerr Matilda’s jersey for her birthday and then got to meet her hero later on.

94. The incredible atmosphere created by the fans at the Tonga versus Australia international rugby league game at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand in October. Just get a load of this fully engaged crowd of passionate fans in all their colour and glory. A sight to behold.

93. The A-League’s Central Coast Mariner’s away game theatre set up for fans where they can watch games on the big screen, pick up merch and grab a feed. A great way to draw in the fans on non home games.

92. Inter Milan launched their “Inter Social Night” to bring in-stadium activities to fans around the world and even included the players having their social handles on the back of their kits.

91. AS Roma’s cheeky social media content that entertains many football fans across the globe.

90. An entertaining and interactive activation from the Montreal GrandPrix here.

89. Accrington Stanley’s long term strategy and commitment to acquiring the next generation of fans with their giveaway of 1,200 free football kits to year three children.

88. Doncaster Rovers are consistently one of the best in the business when it comes to fan engagement and not least because they actually effectively communicate their initiatives so well to their members and the wider sports business. In 2018 they had a fan announce one of their latest player signings which was a simple and clever idea.

87. The entries for Doncaster Rovers 3rd kit design competition which were designed by children and young people, all of whom engaged with a mental health campaign as part of the entry process. The colourful winning design is featured below.

86. These ‘Guess the Attendance’ and ‘Guess the Score’ boards for junior fans that I saw in the kids and family stand at Bristol City’s Ashton Gate Stadium in October. A fairly simple and engaging idea for kids with correct answers winning some prizes. 

85. Premiership Rugby side Harlequin’s ‘Quins Cup’ reusable cup program. For £1 you can keep the souvenir cup too. Great to see an environmental approach to reducing stadium plastic waste at the Twickenham Stoop. 

84. Oldham Athletic became the first club in the EFL to offer sensory packs for autistic fans. The packs included headphones, a fidget spinner, a map of the ground and more. Along with this, the inclusive set up at Watford FC’s Vicarage Road which sees their sensory room set up for autistic children to ensure that every fan/member is included on game day.

83. The Young Visitor Wristbands at Wembley Stadium.

82. The quality sponsor giveaway item of these free seat cushions that every fan received at both the NRL and AFL Grand Final’s in Sydney and Melbourne respectively. These also included free sunscreen for fans and other game day supplies and were a smart and useful sponsor giveaway that will be used by fans for many games to come. 

81. The AFL Grand Final Footy Festival which was an outstanding fan experience at the MCG and in my opinion is right up there with Super Bowl NFL Experience, Australian Open, Australian Grand Prix and Denver Broncos as one of the best global fan zones due largely in part to it’s quality inclusive family and fan fun focus.

The fan engagement fun and sponsor activations around the MCG Footy Festival included:

  • The Dunkinator
  • Ultimate Handball Challenge
  • Tower of Torp 
  • Fitness challenges
  • AFL Kids activities
  • Inflatables
  • Scream A Meter
  • Family zone
  • Ball pit
  • Kicking challenges

80. The Buggy Transfer Service from the MCG which has been a clever inclusive addition to the fan experience here at the G for less mobile fans and those needing assistance around the ground on game days.

79. The NRL Cronulla Sharks invited members and fans onto the field after a win to join the players in singing the team song.

78. The NRL Penrith Panthers ‘Stand Up! Flags Up!’ campaign. The club’s call to arms where fans were encouraged to make their own Panthers flag, bring one from home or buy one from the Panther Shop. The main objective was to get involved and it worked incredibly well when I visited in round one which was a sell out. 

77. The NFL Seattle Seahawks game day selfie #12sTakeFlight‘ photo opportunity.

76. The NRL Sydney RoostersRocky Run at Allianz Stadium which was an innovative motion capture experience that allowed fans to score length-of-the-field tries while fending off defenders in the process. 

75. The Detroit Lions NBA team offer one free shot on the court for all kids post game.

74. Durham FC’s updated Match Day Calculator. They’ve updated this since a year or two back but this is just superb stuff for families from Durham WFC. A simple checklist/calculator in visual form for the match day is a creative, simple and authentic idea for fans. 

73. The creative fan engagement from Toronto WolfPack this year that featured:

  • Stadium wide wrestling match
  • Bubble Footy
  • Medieval Times jousting
  • Beer Olympics
  • Tag Rugby
  • Hundred person line dancing competition

72. The inclusive approach of how the FIFA World Cup helped the deaf and hard of hearing community watch Russia 2018 World Cup.

71. The way in which the AFL Collingwood Magpies helped out a young fan who was too sick to be our junior mascot at a game so they strapped a GoPro on his brother who did it for him.

70. The Cleveland Browns smart BudLight beer fridges that were eventually unlocked for Browns fans to enjoy a free beer. In recognition of the poor Browns form,  these “Victory Fridges” full of free Bud Light beer were installed in bars around Cleveland and opened when the Browns won their first game this season.

69. The NRL Brisbane Broncos featured a new social seating section for fans to ‘Take in the Gold’ thanks to long time sponsor XXXX.

 

68. The Baltimore Orioles became the first pro team to wear uniforms with Braille lettering while they also ran a yoga night called ‘Yoga at the Yard’ where fans were able to nab a free yoga mat. Inclusion and fitness- staples of both the American game day fan experience and promotional runs.

67. Manchester City welcomed two very special mascots who have held season tickets for 85 years to the pitch before their clash with Fulham. Hands down adding oldies will make their day and bring a tear and smile to all fans at the same time.

66. Barnsley FC collaboration that saw the UK’s first gamification event.

65. The new Fantatics venue technology which enables fans to order merchandise online for pickup at these merchandise lockers placed in venue concourses like seen at the Wells Fargo Centre this year.

64. ‘The Lawn’ social entertainment experience from Cricket Australia and TLA at the MCG this year with it’s superb presentation, attentive staff and all the little touches (sunscreen/straws/shade all well thought out).

63. The Melbourne Renegades BBL team unveiled a new augmented reality app which saw fans bring the team to life through a cricket game played by wearing a special glove.

62. The hilarious Georgetown Hoops Actual Reality (AR) Seating Section that featured:

  • No cell phones allowed
  • Letter writing station
  • Actually talk face-to-face

61. The AFLX competition that featured a brilliant kids zone with activities galore. Mascots, neon LED posts, free fruit, cheer squads all together added a lively atmosphere. There were bean bags with a view, activities, food trucks and kids could catch the ball as it went through the posts. It wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea but it was a huge fan experience win for kids and families and that was the essential point that was missed by many as the AFL seeks to acquire and turn the next generation of young fans into lifelong members.

60. Adelaide FC’s social media contribution with both their mascot Claude and their responsive, authentic and often times hilarious content.

59. The promotional freebies that every fan received at the Super Bowl which included a touchdown light cup Budlight cup, hand warmers and ‘finger lights’ for the half time show.

58. ‘F1 Fan Voice’.  F1 launched the Fan Voice community with forums, blogs and surveys to ‘better listen to fans’. Seems F1 has really picked up the fan engagement since the acquisition to bring in new fans and better engage the hardcore ones. 

57. The brilliant free fruit and hot chocolate giveaways for young fans at Etihad Stadium (now Marvel Stadium) in Melbourne during AFL games this season. 

56. The Scottish FA’s ticket treasure hunt. Find the player card and win…

55. AFL Richmond Tigers ‘Raise the virtual AFL premiership flag’ augmented reality feature that let fans raise the AFL trophy.

54. The Irish RFU’s free jersey for all passengers on this flight into London for the Six Nations match against England.

53. Wigan’s female fans forum which saw female Latics fans have a chance to express their views on all areas of the club.

52. Everton FC’s clever work with this virtual mascot experience for an ill young fan. Fantastic inclusive and innovative work all round.

51. The Jacksonville Jaguars unveiling their doggy daycare to the South Fan Deck at TIAA Bank Field.

50. The San Jose Sharks game day for the Stanley Cup Playoffs with choc pucks, special team ice cream and these projections.

49. The AFL Brisbane LionsTweet of the Week’ 

48. The NRL Canberra Raiders unveiled their new female mascot, Velda the Valkyrie. Bravo to every team out there who have stepped up for mascot equality in 2018.

47. Commonwealth Games ‘Giant Sing Along’ as well as this sunscreen/mirror combo (at kids height too) which was a clever set up at CBUS Stadium for #GC2018.

46. The NRL NSW Blues introduction of BLUiE, the world’s first bionic Blatchys Blue that was equipped with a 360-degree camera and VR technology. BLUiE gave fans unprecedented access to the Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues in 2018. Along with this, the Blues took a page out of the Ole Miss ‘Walk Of Champions’ book by walking through the crowd on their way to the MCG for game one.

45. The MasterCard and ANZ bank sponsor activations at the Australian Open in Melbourne that included this pool set up and fan hub which offered phone charging, cash point services and other fan experience incentives for ANZ customers.

44. ‘The Garden’ at ATT Park which is a first-of-its-kind mini-farm and outdoor classroom that provides a platform for community engagement, education, 50+ kinds of fresh produce and hosts field trips for school children. I loved this focus on innovation and sustainability here when I visited in June.

43. Monthly subscription passes have flourished this year in US sports with both the Spurs and Stockton being two of the monthly mobile ticketing passes that caught fans attention and enabled a seamless entry as part of the fan experience. The NZ Warriors also had a unique offer for fans whereby they could choose their own ticket price for the final game of the season.

42. The way in which the A-League’s Brisbane Roar and sponsor Actron Air actively listened and responded to fan‘s voices and requests to have the sponsor logo better compliment the kit.

41. The Citizen Bank Park new beer delivery via text message feature.

40. Watford FC’s brilliant idea to reward fans loyalty by sending our free jerseys.

39. AFL team Greater Western Sydney’s films on the field at Spotless Stadium prior to matches.

38. The AFL’s ‘Neverbeens’ membership program at both GWS and Sydney Swans with their booths for first time fans which saw them get a lanyard, scarf, info book, copy of the match day program.

37. The All Blacks fun and educational programming for young ones with their Ruggerbees kids TV show.

36. Alport FC looked after fans by offering them the ability to borrow these hot water bottles for free during the games where it was freezing. What a novel idea. AZ Alkmaar also ran a campaign we’re they offered their fans free hot drinks throughout an evenings match where the temperature dropped to -15C.

35. Brentford FC having a young away fan read out the team sheet on game day alongside a junior fan reading the home team squad.

34. The exciting smart jersey developments with a selected batch of GWS AFL fans trialling Australian company Solos‘ wearable smart tech guernsey.

33. In 2018 there has been continued progress in global venues and teams implementing and offering fan first pricing incentives such as early bird offers, combo deals, kids meal deals and cheaper options on food and beverage in an effort to draw fans into grounds earlier and ease the pain on the hip pocket.

Some developments have included the following but are not limited to:

  • The prices at the US Open
  • Atlanta Hawks fan friendly prices
  • Marvel/Etihad Stadium’s 10% off offer on F&B
  • Detroit Lions fan first prices
  • Oklahoma City Thunder’s kids $1 menu
  • Collingwood Magpies AFL kids combo deal which includes a pack of trading cards
  • Sydney’s ANZ Stadium fan first pricing options on game day grub
  • Manly Sea Eagles NRL $10 combos at LottoLand Oval

32. The MLS Vancouver Whitecaps ‘Caps Cruiser fan engagement truck that brought 200+ events to the neighbourhood with a fold-out stage, two large TVs and an epic surround sound system which saw the Cruiser built to party and entertain fans.

31. The Google Home Mini Pie Shop activation at the MCG in Melbourne. 

30. Over 2000 fans enjoyed a summer BBQ at Levis Stadium for the San Francisco 49ers Picnic On The Field.

29. The LA Dodgers distributing crypto tokens that unlocked one of three digital player bobbleheads that can be stored in a fan’s Ethereum wallet. It was believed to be the first crypto-based giveaway in pro sports.

28. The Frisco Roughriders hosted their “Pitch Day” with fans to share ideas for theme nights and promotions for the 2019 season.

27. Telford United welcomed a Syrian family to their first match in an effort to welcome and show solidarity with refugees. Inclusion at its finest. Well done.

26. BBL Melbourne Stars ‘Date Night’ at the MCG complete with roses for fans.

25. The rise of smart home devices like the Google Home and Amazon Alexa this year has enabled teams such as the Washington Wizards and New England Patriots among others to provide fans with timely briefings and news updates, fun facts, trivia and more.

24. Minnesota Vikings collaborated with 3M to give every fan a purple film which when placed in front of a cell flash light turned the stadium completely purple.

23. Fantastic campaign by FC Utrecht to personalise every season member’s seats at the first home game of the season.

22. What a moment it was when 94-year-old Roy, who’s living with dementia, fulfilled a lifelong dream by scoring a penalty for Notss County FC. How good is sport!

21. The oversized treadmill going 21km/hour that had many fans trying to keep up with Eliud Kipchoge’s world record marathon pace at the 2018 Chicago Marathon expo.

20. FC Bayern Munich became the first sports organisation in the world to launch an optimised website service explicitly for poor internet connections to engage fans in certain areas such as Africa, the Middle East and Asia. 

19. Manchester City launched an artificial intelligence-powered wearable smartband with a plethora of special features, including live match reporting, 24/7 inside information, updates, real-time match stats, breaking news, fan polls and quizzes.

18. The Augmented Reality Sports Analysis technology used by Danish broadcaster TV2 Nord with their analysis of Le Tour de France showcased the immersive nature of AR tech. 

17. Human Pac-Man court projection game at the Fertitta Center in Houston, Texas.

16. The NRL CEO and Chair of the ARLC entertained fans with a fan forum before a game in Sydney which was welcomed by rugby league fans for the authentic nature of the communications and engagement from the higher ups at NRL HQ.

15. FC Rostov launched a limited edition fourth shirt with a carpet design.  This all came about after one fan was renovating his house and had no room for his carpet so brought it to a match. Rostov won 4-0, so it was declared a lucky charm and the fans were rewarded with the ability to purchase the kit. So far over 500 orders have been filled.

14. Barnsley FC and Celtic FC both offered female fans free sanitary products at their stadiums this season in an inclusive move that was welcomed by supporters.

13. Player of the match wall from Super Rugby’s Tokyo Sunwolves. Fans fill out the player wall with their selection after every game making for a unique visual display in the fan precinct. 

12. This letter that Norwich City Football Club wrote to a young fan sums up the importance of always going the extra mile for fans. 

11. Here’s a clever addition from the Esports world whereby AZ Alkmaar gave away free player posters with autograph sections in them at an esports and sport collaboration event. 

10. Sheffield football fans were able to take a journey into Sheffield’s prolific football heritage, with a new walking app called “The Home of Football” that introduced them to the people and places who made the city.

9. Arsenal Women’s football team give young fans the opportunity to shadow the photographer, kit manager, program designer, media rep and other club roles as part of this ‘Junior Member Takeover’ initiative. 

8. Fans of the Victoria HarbourCats in the West Coast League are now able to watch live baseball action from the deck of an open-top double decker bus which overlooks the field offering a truly unique experience at Victoria’s Royal Athletic Park.

7. At a Danish Superliga match between Hobro IK and FC Copenhagen the Hobro club sponsor raffled the chance to watch the game pitch-side in a jacuzzi with beers. Not a bad spot to take it all in at -4C!

6. Teams and venues like the Detroit Lions and Ford Field in the NFL are tapping into new fan engagement and revenue opportunities by having fans arrive at the ground earlier for early bird offers as well as staying longer post game for the ‘fifth quarter’ by offering cheap F&B incentives, live music and games from around the grounds. 
 
5. Can’t go wrong as a fan being tattooed by a player of your favourite team. That’s just what one player from Brentford FC did to a fan earlier this year. 
4. The 49ers FIT gym. Which team will be next to bring this concept to the $81B global fitness market to engage sports fans? 
3. The Virginia Tech Hokies pre-game show and player entrance at Lane Stadium to Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ may not be a new tradition for college football but this video offers a new perspective with this behind the scenes reel that illustrates the supreme loyalty and devotion these fans have for Hokies.

2. Colchester United received an email from a local youth side to see if they could wish the team well this season so they said decided to do something a little extra and found out about every player and their attributes and then their Colchester United first team equivalent wrote back to pass on a good luck message. Fantastic simple idea.
1. Rochdale held a make your own Emirates FA Cup trophy for kids to design and decorate. You can’t go wrong with kids arts and crafts to round out the 100 either!
So there you have it.
A pretty impressive list of fan engagement strategies and fan experience insights from across the globe highlighting the outstanding work being done to entertain and delight fans in various parts of the world.
100 (actually there’s well over that as I’ve combined a few here and there) truly exceptional strategies but what have I missed? What was happening for you as a fan in your neck of the woods?
Let me know at @MrBlairHughes on Twitter or on LinkedIn. 
Thanks and have a great holiday break. 

100+ Fan Engagement and Fan Experience Articles From November 2016

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

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

How Sports Teams Are Using Virtual Reality To Enhance The Fan Experience

Even though still in it’s infancy, the rise and popularity of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) is permeating into every industry in the world from video games and education to health and the arts with the sports business leading the way in a number of exciting areas.

Teams and stadiums, predominately from the US but also in the UK, Europe and here in Australia are realising the potential of AR/VR to engage their fans as this is being seen as “the next evolution of human story telling at a whole new level” and we all understand the value of storytelling for driving home positive and deeper fan experiences. 

This blog takes a look at what sports businesses, teams and stadiums are doing around the world to engage their fans and enhance the fan experience with virtual and augmented reality technology.

Have you seen something else or think I’ve missed a great idea in this space? Hit me up on @MrBlairHughes on Twitter and share what else is happening in this VR/AR world.

USA

HeadcaseVR

This company collects “depth data capture” which uses 360-degree cameras and sensors to help teams access new data and analytics like how many seconds a football was in the air for or how fast it was thrown.

San Francisco Giants MLB

The Giants have teamed up with Jaunt to produce content using 360 degree video technology. At home games, fans have the chance to experience virtual reality by checking out the Giants social media centre where they have the opportunity to try on Samsung Gear VR headsets to experience the club’s new VR. The VR experience allows members to feel like they are at a training game and get an intimate, field level view of the action. Fans are also able to turn 360-degrees and feel like they are in the infield for practice.

Giants VR

Giants VR

Giants VR

Giants VR

Boston Red Sox MLB

The Red Sox have embraced virtual reality by having new virtual reality booths at Fenway Park this season. Red Sox fans have a chance to see the team up close and in 360 degrees. The technology made its debut recently with three dugout-themed booths stationed through the ballpark with each having several VR headsets for fans to get closer into the action. The club have admitted that the future is uncertain as to how they will use VR but that it’s an important piece of technology.

US Soccer

Looking to change their logo, US soccer released the final design on Google Cardboard for fans to experience this in virtual reality.

Rukkus

This new app lets fans browse and buy tickets using virtual reality.

Rukkus

Rukkus

Rukkus

Rukkus

NASCAR

Making it’s debut recently at the Daytona NASCAR,  the XFINITY Virtual Reality Experience simulates an on-track experience for fans.  Fans are able to experience what it’s like to drive a race car and experience the action.

NASCAR has also put fans behind the wheels in this new Mountain Dew virtual reality activation.

 

Cleveland Caveliers NBA

The Cavs teamed up with Budweiser recently to venture into the realm of fully immersive, 360-degree VR videos. The Cavs gave away a limited number of specially designed Budweiser-cardboard viewing headsets to fans at games recently and represents the first team in the NBA to have VR natively built into their official team mobile app and one of the only teams in the league to offer exclusive VR content. The technology debuted with an exclusive VR video that took fans inside the game day experience.

Cavs VR

Cavs VR

US OPEN 2016 Tennis

Fans at the US Open were able to try out this virtual reality experience which saw them try to return a serve from Maria Sharapova

NFL

The NFL teams and stadiums have been rolling out some impressive VR experiences recently with the 50th Super Bowl no exception. VR demos at SB50 enabled fans to transport onto the sidelines, beneath huddles and into locker rooms at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara.

Here’s a quick look at the VR experiences from the Jaunt Super Bowl booth.

On one of my recent US fan experience treks I also played around with SAP’s 49er’s Quarterback Challenge kiosk at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara where fans can use VR to feel what it’s like to be a quarterback under pressure from a tough defence.

49ers VR

49ers VR

49ers VR

49ers VR

49ers VR

49ers VR

New England Patriots

The Patriots have released this new VR experience for Patriots fans that was launched by Google Cardboard, in partnership with VISA and Bank of America, named “Travel Inside The Game“.

The idea was to immerse fans in the reality of last year’s SuperBowl winners, using a 360° video experience that saw 10,000 of the headsets handed out by the club.

NY Jets

The Jets have been experimenting with VR tech since the last NFL season and which has seen fans become immersed into the training sessions.

Here is a good chat with the NY Jets Seth Rabinowitz did with Fanalyse on their audioBoom channel talking about the Jets use of virtual reality. 

Boxing

Through virtual reality, the Jacobs Vs Ouillin bout was broadcast live to fans in VR through the Haymaker 360 App. The company used multiple cameras to create a 360-degree video where viewers were able to pan in all directions and view the match from different perspectives as well as access exclusive VR content on Haye’s workout and everyday life.

Horse Racing- Kentucky Derby

NBC Sports Group teamed up with NextVR at the Kentucky Derby to produce the first-ever live VR horse-racing experience.

NextVR Kentucky Derby

NextVR Kentucky Derby

 

College Basketball

Virtual Reality company NextVR teamed up with Fox Sports to live stream the quarterfinal, semifinal and championship games of this year’s Big East tournament.

NextVR

NextVR

http---mashable.com-wp-content-uploads-2015-10-grvr0897

 

NHL

For the NHL All Stars games, the NHL gave fans who could not attend a second chance to experience each event and feel like they were there.

First up was this compilation piece from the 2016 Honda NHL® All-Star Game. Utilizing the Jaunt ONE camera to provide a full 360-degree VR experience of the action, fans received an on-ice position at the Honda NHL® Skills Competition™, a seat on the glass for the NHL All-Star Game and other unique vantage points, including standing next to the press at media day and a look inside the locker room.

LA Kings

Last October I checked out the Staples Centre and the LA Kings fan engagement and got to trial the PictureMe activation from Toshiba. The augmented reality activation enabled me to have the mascot transformed into a picture of us both. Toshiba states that it is bringing a mobile focus to basketball fans’ experiences at Los Angeles’s Staples Center by rolling out an augmented reality application that curates true-to-life pictures of team players with game attendees, allowing guests to enjoy a memorable photo opportunity.

LA Kings VR

LA Kings VR

LA Kings VR

LA Kings VR

LA Kings VR

LA Kings VR

NY Rangers

The Rangers have a goal set up that sees fans try to defend the goals as pucks fly in from the star players as the fan wears a VR head set. 

NY Rangers VR

NY Rangers VR

NY Rangers VR

NY Rangers VR

Stanford University- STRIVR

Stanford University teamed up with STRIVR to develop a virtual reality simulator that is revolutionizing sports training.

MMA- Bellator

Bellator plans to go behind the scenes and let viewers experience fighters’ pre-bout rituals, practice rounds and training regimens.

MMA VR

MMA VR

MMA VR

MMA VR

 

UEFA- Euro2016

UEFA has teamed up with Nokia and their OZO professional VR Camera PC-01 to give VR viewers a 360-degree shot throughout the stadium during multiple games, including some of the England, Wales and Northern Ireland matches.

Euro 2016

Euro 2016

England

MCFC

Manchester City partnered with LiveLike and Sky Sports to bring City fans in London, New York and Melbourne closer to the game through virtual reality. LiveLike had fans put on a Samsung Gear VR headset and enter into a virtual stadium where they could maneuver to see the live broadcast, replays, stats and highlights.

MCFC VR

MCFC VR

 

Liverpool FC

LFC fans from all over the world were able to experience YNWA in full 360 by clicking and dragging the screen below.

England Rugby

England set up a VR experience for fans at the Six Nations recently whereby fans could try out a Samsung ‘School of Rugby’ game on the new Samsung Galaxy S7 and Samsung Gear VR headsets with the game challenging their reaction speeds against rugby stars Martin Johnson and Lawrence Dallaglio.

England: Wear The Rose

England allowed fans back in 2014 to experience virtual reality with Oculus and let fans train with the England rugby team. The Oculus Rift experience put fans right in the middle of the action and gave them a 360 degree view throughout.

Australia

Cronulla Sharks NRL

The Cronulla Sharks unveiled their ‘SharkPark3D’ virtual reality where fans can experience the home ground with Google Cardboard’s head set.

SharkPark3D Virtual Reality

SharkPark3D Virtual Reality

SharkPark3D Virtual Reality

SharkPark3D Virtual Reality

F1 Australian Grand Prix

Apart from offering a wealth of fan experiences, the AUSGP also featured a virtual reality ‘BIG HELMET’ this year which let fans immerse themselves in the helmet of a Formula 1 driver.

AUSGP Big Helmet

AUSGP Big Helmet

Port Adelaide Power AFL

The Power in conjunction with Jumpgate Virtual Reality have created a virtual classroom where players are being educated on skills through the use of  VR head sets. Port has filmed training sessions with three dimensional cameras, with the vision transferred to 3D goggles which offer 360 degree views, sighted through virtual reality goggles. “They (players) can use the goggles and all of a sudden be almost playing football while they’re on the couch, which is helping them educate,” Power coach Ken Hinkley said on Friday.

PAFC

PAFC

Port have also developed the PAFC Renault Virtual Reality Zone which allows fans to use virtual reality to run out through the banner from the team sheds.

New Zealand

All Blacks

The All Blacks Rugby Union team partnered with AIG to allow fans to experience the HAKA up close and personal with these AIG Haka 360º Experience viewer headsets that were given away to 5000 fans.

Australian Open 2016 Tennis

As part of the AO Social Shack, there was a virtual reality activation with the Aus Open 360 World ‘lab’ which let fans experience a sensory explosion from all angles of the on court action.

AUS Open VR

AUS Open VR

AUS Open VR

AUS Open VR

AUS Open VR

AUS Open VR

Netherlands

PSV Eindhoven

The Dutch football champions launched an immersive virtual reality experience which puts fans at the heart of last seasons title winning celebrations.

The new virtual reality film by PSV Eindhoven gave fans from all over the world the unique opportunity to get up close and personal with the players, as they re-live the scenes of when they won the championship title last season.

An Australasian Perspective: Fan Engagement Down Under 2014 Review

2014 Australian Fan Engagement Review

2014 Australian Fan Engagement Review

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

Pie Beacon at MCG

Pie Beacon at MCG

 

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

 

SlideLiner at ANZ Stadium

SlideLiner at ANZ Stadium

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

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

AUS GP Melbourne

AUS GP Melbourne

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

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

ESPN Freebies at the SCG

ESPN Freebies at the SCG

MLB at the SCG

MLB at the SCG

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

Seat and Eat at Allianz Stadium

Seat and Eat at Allianz Stadium

Newcastle Knights

Newcastle Knights

Broncos members lucky dip

Broncos members lucky dip

Storm Instagram Challenge

Storm Instagram Challenge

 

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

Gold Coast Suns

Gold Coast Suns

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

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

Football United Tour of NZ

Football United Tour of NZ

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

Mariners beach bar

Mariners beach bar

Perth Glory

Perth Glory

 

Socceroos Leave Pass

Socceroos Leave Pass

 

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

NRC Rugby QR Code program

NRC Rugby QR Code program

The SlideLiner

The SlideLiner

QLD Reds mascots

QLD Reds mascots

 

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

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

Netball Fan Engagement

Netball Fan Engagement

12 Days of Hockey Fan Engagement

12 Days of Hockey Fan Engagement

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Than The Game: Fan Engagement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Words and photos by Blair Hughes.

This article originally appeared in Thin White Line

More than the game: fan engagement

A-League Social Media Stats October 2013-May 2014

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

 

Social Media Statistics A-league 2013 Season

Social Media Statistics A-league 2013 Season

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

Social Media Statistics 2014 A-League

Social Media Statistics 2014 A-League

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

Brisbane Roar vs Western Sydney Wanderers A-League Grand Final 2014 Infographic

Brisbane Roar vs Western Sydney Wanderers A-League Grand Final 2014 Infographic

Brisbane Roar vs Western Sydney Wanderers A-League Grand Final 2014 Infographic

Brisbane Roar vs Western Sydney Wanderers A-League Grand Final 2014 Infographic

 

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