sports

THE 2019 FAN ENGAGEMENT/ FAN 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 in 2019.

There is a customary heavy focus on Australia and New Zealand as I am based here and please do keep in mind that this is a very subjective list based on my own personal experiences at games, what I saw from colleagues around the globe and what fans have suggested. There will, of course, be ideas and activations that I have missed so please feel free to tag them and add to the discussion here or on social. 

Some of the key areas of focus included:

  • Technology innovations from augmented reality to smart jerseys.
  • F&B incentives were again a trending area with more venues offering early bird offers, family-friendly deals, kids combo meal deals as well as catering for dietary needs and craft beer. 
  • Innovative social seating experiences such as pools, couches, and beaches in venues to offer fans unique fan experiences that can’t be had at home.
  • Inclusive approaches that offer better access and representation to fans with diverse needs to enjoy the same fan experiences as every other fan both in the community and on game day.
  • Harnessing the power of fan-generated content. Find out what skills your fans have by listening to them and then utilize these skills. Fellow fans love this while the fan feels a genuine sense of appreciation that they’re being rewarded for their contribution. I’m a big fan of this area.
  • Sustainable environmental approaches as fans care about their local communities and the environment around the team and society.
  • More political and social justice concerns from fans and teams that put inclusion and communities first.
  • Seamless, tech-driven, fan-friendly venues.

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.

Inclusion: More than ever thinking about fans as people and not customers and looking at what we can do to better listen and engage them for the benefit of all. 

Personalisation: Never underestimate what it means to a fan to know that you have put them first by directly targeting them.

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. 

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

2018

2017

2016

2015

100. Craft beer and sports team and venue partnerships continued to pour in this year 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 fair bit about this area with my articles well worth a read to understand what teams, venues, and craft breweries are getting out of these partnerships. More info here.

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

  • Melbourne Storm and Brick Lane Brewing
  • South Sydney Rabbitohs and Young Henry’s
  • Brisbane Bullets and Newstead Brewing Co
  • Melbourne Demons and Brewanity
  • Port Adelaide and Pirate Life Brewing Co
  • Newcastle Jets and Murray’s Brewing Co

99. Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) post-game kick to kick.  

98. NBL Brisbane Bullets post-game on-court autograph session.

97. @MijnVitesse  launched a pay per month ticketing model.

96. Wimbledon offering vegan strawberries and cream for the first time. A theme emerging of inclusive F&B offerings around the global grounds. 

95. The hilarious New Zealand Warriors (NRL) ‘Bush Shirt’ that took social by storm and will be debuted in the 2020 season. A clever idea to tap into the random side of fans and a nation’s culture. 

 

94. Weetbix and BBL/WBBL personalized backyard cricket bats.

93. Coventry City music themed ‘Specials’ kit for Kick It Out campaign round. Also special mention to West Ham United and their collab with Iron Maiden. Will there be more of these music/team kit collabs?

92. The Boundary Social at The Gabba, Brisbane.

91. F&B prices at Mercedes Benz Stadium, Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII.

90. Chicago Blackhawks NHL chopping board giveaway to fans.

89. NY Mets Seinfeld Night and bobblehead giveaway.

88. Australian Women’s Cricket team trading cards. It’s been so good to see the rise of more women’s sport athletes being featured on cricket trading cards for fans of all ages to collect. Also Super Netball, WBBL and AFLW as well. 

87. Brisbane Lions (AFL) umpired youth games in the community. You should also check out the review I wrote of the Brisbane Lions and Gabba’s Verandah fan experience. 

86. Win an Adelaide Giants (ABL) contract for a day.

85. Chief Beer Officer at the LA Rams.

84. Queens Park Rangers crest collection for new members.

83. AFLX at Marvel Stadium. Light up goal posts, free trading cards and loads of kids activities. Another impressive event for 2019 at the venue. A lot of AFLX got blasted by the media and fans who weren’t the target market.

82. Kensington Oval beach cricket party atmosphere complete with jet ski chairs.

81. Melbourne Storm (NRL) Street Crew.

80. Commemorative yesteryear tickets from Collingwood AFLW.

79. Adelaide Crows (AFL) and Borussia Dortmund replying to fans with personalised kit wallpapers.

78. AGF Children’s Day drawings.

77. AIK Fotboll selling pre-signed jerseys for fans.

76Manchester United and Marriot launched the ‘Seat of Dreams’ at Old Trafford. 

75. New Zealand Warriors (NRL) and Auckland Blues (Super Rugby) ‘Codes of Auckland’ partnership and the Sydney Kings (NBL) and Sydney FC (A-League) partnership.

74. At Pollock FC in Scotland a big football fan – a dog called ‘Yardley’ – is allowed to watch games from the stands at Newlandsfield Park. Now that’s inclusion. Also, #74 just a bit of a laugh in the list. Also, lets put the Dallas Cowboys cat here too. That was very responsive from the AT&T Stadium and team to add the cat to the lineup. 

73. Reuseable cups from Rylands FC and free hot drinks to those who bring their own reusable cup along on match days.

72. @OU_Football launched a website with content and profiles of each signee. They made each of them their own logo and announced the athletes on the site.

71. This lovely story from the UT Vols.

70. Cousin Eddie hat giveaway from M State. One of the best random giveaways of the year.

69. This barbershop and barbershop singing girls at the V8 Supercars at Sandown Raceway in Victoria.

68. New Jersey Devils (NHL) had kids draw pictures of their favourite players and then put them up on the screen.

67. Seattle Sounders (MLS) calling out racism and fascism and in the process showing how inclusive they are to their community. 

66. Coventry City FC’s family zone but in particular their ‘lucky dip’ idea which I thought was simple and effective.

65. The Lawn at the MCG and in particular the caricature part of this. A simple and effective idea for hospitality guests and for kids in a fan zone. Here’s also a review I review of The Lawn fan experience that I wrote for Digital Sports Labs. 

64. Brisbane Roar (A-League) CEO shouting fans drinks at away games.

63. Montrose FC got fans together to road test the pies for the venue. Possibly the best fan engagement all year for food lovers.

62. Reading Fightin Phils had a gender reveal fireworks night.

61. The Holden mini-trucks race circuit at the State of Origin match at Optus Stadium in Perth, Western Australia.

60. Family-Friendly Sunday’s at the SCG. Discounted F&B prices for fans. What other venues are doing similar things?

59. Gender-Neutral toilets at Whitten Oval for the Western Bulldogs AFLW match. A very inclusive way for all fans to be made to feel welcome on game days.

58. Freebies for kids at Marvel Stadium over summer 2019/20 BBL/WBBL matches. 

57. This classy note from Manchester City to fans.

56. Various LA Dodgers themed nights.

55. DB Cooper CSI themed night at the Portland Pickles.

54. Pink Beer for the Pink Test at the SCG.

53. The Pool and Boundary Beach Club at Optus Stadium, Perth, Western Australia.

52. New Zealand All Blacks ‘Black Laundry’. “Running until the start of November, and open ahead of every All Blacks match, Steinlager wants to inspire Kiwis to show their true colours by sacrificing an item of clothing and dying it black  – with one Auckland woman already having dyed her wedding dress.”

51. Fans First free shipping. Savannah Bananas removed merch shipping fees.

50. San Francisco 49er’s ‘All You Can Eat’ tickets. 

49. State of Origin Light Show at Optus Stadium, Perth.

48. The Queensland Maroons visited the Brisbane Police Watch House.

47. Parramatta Eels (NRL) moving statue at Bankwest Stadium. Check out Bankwest Stadium too. I wrote a fan experience review for Aus Leisure Mag which can be found here.

46. This stubby cooler sweater from Cricket Australia as a hospitality piece of merch. Had to include something merchandise related and this was one of the best pieces I picked up this year. More on Brisbane’s The Gabba and Cricket Australia fan experience can be found here.

45. Sydney Roosters (NRL) members names on the LED ribbon at the SCG. Nice way to made to be feel welcome.

44. Brisbane Broncos (NRL) hackathon. What other teams did these well in 2019?

43. Peterborough PUFC young fans guard of honor.

Great to see so many first time fans at the game today – the looks on their faces when they see the players is priceless! Big ‘fans for the future’ initiative as alluded to by @JasonDavidNeale earlier is coming soon to get these back and ultimately season ticket holders.#pufc pic.twitter.com/KyuVypQRew

— Jake Baxter (@Jake__Baxter) February 2, 2019


42. These incredible kit reveal videos from Arsenal (Adidas) and Chelsea (Nike).

41. Free iconic Tayla Harris kick AFLW badges handed out at AFLW games.

40. Eredivisie Toy Toss. 

39. Manchester City became the first sports club to launch with YouTube Kids.

38. Royal Antwerp FC launched a special section for their vision impaired fans.

37. The @ThunderbirdsAHL‘s celebrated the 30th anniversary of the animated comedy series “The Simpsons.” with these Ice-O-Topes jerseys.

36. Kombucha coming into F&B offerings more and more like at Seattle Seahawks for foodies as healthier stadium concession products gain deeper traction with fans. 

35. Iranian women were allowed to attend a national team game for the first time in 40 years.

34. Baltimore Ravens Pop Up Shop idea.

33. LinkedIn sponsors Grimsby Town FC to help community score jobs. They launched the ‘LinkedIn Lounge’ – a permanent matchday fixture throughout the season, where match goers will be able to see current vacancies in the area, along with details of how to apply.

32. Huggity’s scrum machine challenge. 

31. For the Raptors 25th-anniversary, @PizzaPizzaLtd created an interactive GameBox to offer a tabletop gaming experience. 

30. Tottenham Hotspur’s fast pour beers at the new venue in London. Tech has been around for a while but it seemed to take off this year with the launch of the new stadium. 

29. Baltimore Ravens debut mixed reality Raven in venue.

28. NBA smart jerseys.

27. PSV helps a young fan enjoy a matchday experience like no other.

26. Chelsea FC unveiled a new ‘shirt holders’ Nike kit designed by fans.

25. Penn State Football’s creative poster that transforms into a helmet.

24. Hertha BSC ticket bot.

23. Premier League smart shirt.

22. FC Midtjylland hired a bagpipes player to greet Rangers fans.

21. FC Union Berlin made these posters up for their recently deceased fans. 

20. Feyenoord and Opel offer each away game a clubcar for four fans to travel to away games. 

19. Everton FC. Treats on seats for first time under 11 Season Ticket members to welcome them to Goodison Park for 2019/20.

18. Paris Saint-Germain partnered with Deliveroo for in-seat ordering at Parc des Princes.

17. Swindon Town FC Junior Takeover Day. Also another good example of this below from Brentford FC.

16. Brilliant work from Watford FC for those fans wanting to know costs, first time attendance and every detail for the match. This makes it so easy for fans to better understand the game day.

15. Andres Iniesta’s Farewell Jersey idea from beIN Sports.

14. VR work from Bayern Munich.

13. These ushers at Fiserv Forum for the Bucks game. 

12. GWS (AFL) ahead of the 2019 AFL Grand Final.

11. Dallas Cowboys/AT&T Stadium AR ‘Pose With The Pro’s’ activation. Also another fine example from Wolverhampton Wanderers too below.

10. Bat flips at the BBL/WBBL.

9. Swindon Town FC taking fans to their seats on their first game days.

8. DC United getting the local music community involved in game days.

7. FC Utrecht galvanising fans to donate their warm clothes to their supporters who live below the poverty line.

6. Charlotte Checkers having personalised notes on fans seats.

5. The Washington Capitals announcing their official team dog of the team. 

4. The warm welcoming work from Brentford FC’s team to create personalised welcome emails to fans coming to Griffin Park for the first time. A delightful way to ensure fans feel welcome and have all the information they need to be able to get the most out of their first experience. 

3. The work of teams like Melbourne Rebels (Super Rugby), Penrith Panthers (NRL) and Newcastle Knights (NRL) listening to their fans to lower the prices on their jerseys to $99 from the original costs of upwards of $170. 

 

2. The amazing work the Gold Coast Titans (NRL) and other organisations did to create a rugby league physical disability competition so that these young players could play the game they love. Watch Leagueability on ABC here. “A heart-warming, inspirational story about a bunch of young blokes who live for the game but have never been allowed to play and start a physical disability rugby league competition in regional Australia.”

1. AS Roma’s new recruits and missing persons campaign. There are just no words for how brilliant this was. 

So there you have it for 2019.

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?

Thanks also to my colleagues and the people I look up to in the industry and this space such as but not limited to:

Be sure to also scroll back through the 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015 countdowns too to see what’s been happening over the past few years (found at the top of this post).

Let me know at @MrBlairHughes on Twitter or on LinkedIn.

Thanks and have a great holiday break.

ABC Radio Interview: Fun Police Curbing Sport Fan Behaviour? (21/6/19)

A riveting chat with security personnel and fans from across Australia.

Talking about the current AFL fan and crowd issues, security, behaviour awareness officers and more.

Listen in here: https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/overnights/fun-police-curbing-sport-fan-behaviour/11233648

The F&B Fan Experience: 100+ Ideas and Incentives To Improve The Game Day Fan Experience

G’day, 

Please find another one of my latest resources with this one touching on some ideas, trends, strategies, innovations and incentives that teams and stadiums can use to enhance the food and beverage (F&B) fan experience on game day. 

The list provides 100+ tips, tricks, ideas and incentives that will be useful to grassroots and global teams and of which have already proven successful for many stakeholders in this space. 

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 please also let me know if you tried something and saw a successful outcome as I would love to hear that and be able to showcase those outcomes for you.

The list ranges from ideas and incentives that are across the spectrum of areas during and before the fan journey starts and range from F&B incentives to the changing diets and tastes of sports fans and even some quirky random ideas in between too.

Remember that it’s always important to look outside the box and get a bit creative when it comes to the food and beverage fan experience.

All the best and touch base if you need anything as I’m always happy to assist.

Please find a downloadable PDF file here: THE F&B FAN EXPERIENCE

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. 

The Importance and Benefits of Harnessing Fan Generated Content: An NRL 2018 Case Study

If it’s one part of the fan engagement spectrum that I have consistently championed over the years for clubs and my clients it has been to acknowledge, promote, utilise and harness the diverse skill sets of their fans. 

Fans have skills that can help a club in many ways whether it be from graphic design to podcasting and what we’re seeing more and more of is that teams are realising that they can create deeper emotional loyalty, new revenue opportunities and provide extra engaging content to their members and fans by working alongside these fan groups. 

Teams like the MLS Seattle Sounders are one of the best in the business when it comes to harnessing the skills of their fans. Every year they do a ‘Posters By The People‘ and a scarf design contest which allows Sounders fans of all ages and skill levels to contribute match day poster and scarf designs which are then voted on for by fellow fans and either used across the clubs official social media channels or produced for fans to wear on game day respectively.

It’s an incredibly effective and simple way to bring these fans closer to the team, highlight the skills and passions of their fans and overall it’s a positive thing to do. It’s not going to work for every team and it’s certainly never going to take over from the quality output that team staff do but it’s just a great look for a club to illustrate that they’re listening to their fans.

 

One reason for the proliferation of fan generated content has been because the barriers for entry into both graphic design and podcasting for instance have been broken down. You can now create quality designs and effective podcasts as a result of free design platforms like Canva whose intuitive platform enables anyone to get started creating content as well as podcasting’s explosion which has seen every man and his dog set up a podcast with the very basic of equipment. For both graphic design and podcasting the costs are also much lighter on the fans wallet these days as opposed to the past where expensive graphic design software and a recording studio would have stopped many fans from getting started. 

Now obviously the vast majority of fan generated content creators out there are not at the level of professional graphic designers or creating professional studio recorded quality podcasts such as what the league or teams contribute however what it does do is highlight that fans have these skills, that they’re building their own fan groups of fellow supporters of the same team and that their voice and that of fans voices globally are growing louder every day as they realise that they can create content that is highlighting their love for their team.

It’s impressive to see the rise and rise of the fan voice across the globe as they can now create content that other fans enjoy and engage with. Clubs should absolutely start tapping into this more and more as it shows an appreciation of the fans effort and compliments the work that their in house teams do whether that be in writing, podcasting, graphic design or other related fields. 

I recently posted this thread on Twitter highlighting the creative efforts of NRL fan content creators here in Australia after what has been a stellar year for the code with ratings, revenue, memberships, crowds all up as well as the establishment of the NRLW and games in Perth and Denver.

The game’s greatest asset is the fan so it is important to acknowledge these fans as they are constantly pumping out the positive, passionate and engaging content and I feel this illustrates my point that it is both vital and rewarding for clubs to find ways to engage, highlight, promote and harness the diverse range of skills of their fans as it is a win-win positive thing to do.

1. Podcasters

Having worked very closely in the podcasting space in recent times I have seen the rise of people wanting to get their passion into podcasting and as I said above the barriers have now decreased with a very basic bedroom podcasting set up costing well under $100. Podcast quality has also increased so while some pods may not be at a high quality level, whats happening is that fans are getting better the longer they stick with it. There’s also an incredibly strong community amongst these podcasters too. They do it for the love of the game. They promote each other and therefore that of the game and their team. They are broadcasters and should be taken seriously. 

Some of the podcasters out there in the NRL include:

Ladies Who League

Oh Errol

Full Credit To The Boys

The Full 80

Shark Cast

Fifth And Last

Progressive Rugby League

League Life NRL

Roosters Radio

Panthers Weekly

Dead in Goal

NRL Roast

Woody & Slugs Do League

Fire Up On FBI

This Week In League

Sports Best Friends

League Digest

Zero Tackle

NRL Boom Rookies

Fins Up Pod

League Counsel

ASD Podcast

View From The East Stand

2. Statistics/Game Data

Fans like stats guru Andrew Ferguson who runs one of the best league sites out there in Rugby League Project is an incredible fan generated site which houses a massive range of rugby league data and is an absolute credit to the game. I find myself using this site a lot as do other NRL fans. Another fan doing good things with stats is pythagoNRL.

3. Sports Science

In a classic case of a fan using their diverse skills to offer the rest of us an insight into player injuries and recovery, the NRL Physio has provided some really interesting insights and analysis for NRL fans this year. The NRL should find a way to utilise his skills as fans have greatly enjoyed his insights and graphics in real time during games on social as he provides game player injuries and recovery information and analysis. He knows he’s not affiliated with the NRL and that what he says is only his opinion however he has built an incredibly strong trust with fellow fans as a result of his skills and willingness to want to contribute to his passion.

4. Independent Broadcasters

The independent fan NRL media, broadcasters and writers like The 81st Minute, Steele Sport, League Unlimited, Nothing But NRL, Steve Mascord, James Smith, RLeagueLive, JasonNRL and even to an extent ‘The Fan which while it may be shown on Fox Sports is run by mega league fan Andrew Voss who consistently provides outstanding behind the scenes storytelling that fans greatly enjoy. 

5. Fan Club Social Accounts

The NRL fan club accounts across social constantly provide fellow fans with a passionate atmosphere at games as well as insights and analysis throughout the week and add to the stories and content from the club but from their perspective as hardcore fans.

Some of these include: 

NRL Bulldogs Fans

Nothing But Knights

The Greenhouse- Canberra Raiders

Red V Mail- St George-Illawarra Dragons

NZ Warriors Die Hards

The Burrow- Souths

Wests Tigers Hub

Titans Legion- Gold Coast Titans

NQ Stampede- NQ Cowboys

Eels The Cumberland Throw- Parramatta

6. Social Commentators

The often hilarious NRL social commentators who constantly provide cheeky laughs, clever analysis, interesting stats, glorious memories as well as cutting through the media bullshit, crisis merchants and spin that often snakes its way into the game. In fact what we’ve seen this year is that as a result of the positives in the game as well as the huge level of fan generated content and these positive fan voices in NRL that fans have collectively called out the rubbish reporting and negativity in rugby league. 

Some of the accounts to follow on Twitter for instance include:

Boring NRL Guy

Sports Freakshow

Former Legend

Karate Warrior 2

Winfield Cup

NRL Grammar Cop

Simpsons NRL 

7. The Graphic Designers

The graphic designers like  and  as well as others who’ve put their own skills and spin on things to create interesting NRL content like jersey designs and artworks are to be applauded. Perhaps a game day poster idea could be something teams could think about for 2019 and then have these around town prior to a game to promote the match. 

8. The Hardcore Fans

And then there’s fans like who travelled 19259.4kms for 24/24 Parramatta Eels matches this year, documenting his journey along the way for fellow NRL fans to enjoy. What were some of the other great NRL fan stories you enjoyed from 2018?

Overall it’s been a huge positive year for both the NRL and NRL fans and I just wanted to put this together before the start of the NRL finals to shine a light on some of the creative content creators and fans out there who go above and beyond for the game. League’s greatest asset is the fan and the faster clubs around the globe realise the benefits of working closer with these particular fans and their skills, the more the game, fans and the code as a whole will grow together.

Introducing……FANS HQ

Hello,

After numerous requests from colleagues across the sporting globe to provide some kind of weekly or monthly summary of educational insights from the world of fan engagement I’ve decided to put together a monthly recap in the form of this FANS HQ journal/magazine which I hope colleagues and those interested in this space will find useful as a resource.

The fun monthly fan engagement journal will showcase and look at some of the key exciting and innovative developments in the world of fan engagement and fan experience from the sports business in both Australia and abroad.

FANS HQ will also touch on sports merchandising, the wackier side of fan engagement and other areas of the business to include interviews with professionals in this space, venue updates, new technologies plus a variety of fan zone pictorial recaps from across my travels.

Fans HQ is designed to be a fun, educational and insightful resource for those interested in the fan engagement/experience space.

I hope you enjoy the monthly musings and recaps from this very entertaining industry.

I also hope to continue to improve the offering here over the course of its journey so if you have any constructive advice or feedback please let me know how I can improve this over time.

Thanks and please enjoy edition one for January 2018 here.

FANS HQ

FANS HQ

The 2017 Fan Engagement/Experience 100-1 Recap

Hello and welcome to the 2017 fan engagement/experience year in review countdown-recap-innovation-spectacular where I’ll again be showcasing 100-1 ideas from this space across the sports business landscape. Of course this is all in my honest opinion so if you have seen something else that should of made it into the list please join the discussion on Twitter @MrBlairHughes or comment below with your thoughts as this is all about sharing and showcasing ideas with the sports business community.

Firstly, well done to the whole industry and in particular the hard working fan engagement/customer experience reps across the globe for once again going above and beyond for sports fans to not only listen to them but provide them with memorable experiences.

This year I’ll also be providing a quirky, random and fun take on some of the weird and wonderful things I’ve seen in this area from across my travels throughout Australia, USA, UK, Japan and India over the course of the year. You’ll be able to follow that on Twitter under the hashtag #25DaysOfFE.

The previous 100-1 countdowns can also be found below:

2016: Fan Engagement 2016 Year In Review: 100 Global Fan Engagement/Experience Activations

2015: Fan Engagement 2015 Year In Review: 100 Global Fan Engagement Activations

In 2017 I also added over 2000 ideas to my 6000+ fan engagement/experience Pinterest board which has again proven to be a valuable educational resource to leagues, clubs, stadiums and sponsors from across the globe as well as small businesses and university sports business courses. It’s great to know that a simple fun resource I started over four years ago has become so useful to so many colleagues all over the world from Russia and India to right here in Australia. 

On a personal level, 2017 has been an outstanding year of career development for myself. I took the risk to leave a hectic full time role and backed myself to jump straight into consulting picking up clients including the Portuguese Football League, Denver Broncos, Chelsea FC, Gage Roads Brewing Company, Sydney Cricket Ground Trust, TechFront, Sydney Swans and Kojo amongst a host of consulting for sports tech start-up’s, small businesses, craft breweries and clients within the music business. I also visited a bunch of new venues and attended close to 80 matches across India, Japan, USA, England and Australia with some of the experiences in Asia proving to be valuable in observing fan sociology and fan engagement in these parts of the world.

So what’s next in this space for sports fans then? How will fan engagement/experience continue to evolve?

My predictions for 2018 are that we’ll see more developments in the following areas:

  • Chat-bots
  • Continued rise of women’s sport from broadcasting to attendances resulting in more female fans and higher female sport participation numbers
  • More fan created content being harnessed by teams 
  • Focus on more illustrations and animations for content
  • Augmented reality viewing opportunities 
  • Athlete led content and more athlete voiced media
  • NFC/RFID tag/chips coming into more sports applications 
  • Holograms, drones, robots although in small doses
  • More inclusive venues with a focus on more ‘social spaces’ in venues displacing traditional seats
  • Facial recognition and biometrics technology 
  • Use of smart home devices in venues
  • iBeacons and geo-fences
  • More teams signing on ESports players, tapping into leagues and setting up training centres
  • Incredible out of this world stadium visual and audio shows
  • Fan led control over camera angles/viewing
  • More fan-first pricing options at venues
  • Ticketing companies to improve their technology to stop bots/scalpers
  • Interactive LIVE content from teams and media entities
  • Subscription passes becoming a popular form of ticketing
  • More gourmet, local and specialty food options available at venues
  • Getting fans into venues for non-team events and finding new ways to monetise venues year-round

What else would you add?

Let’s get started on the count down.

100. The Seattle Mariners installed the Amazon Alexa smart home device in each of their 59 suites to enable fans to use their voices to order food, change TV channels and play music all adding to the fan experience at Safeco Field. 


99. MLS team Philadelphia Union signed on a CTO. That’s right a Chief Tattoo Officer. A creative way to galvanise the local community and provide a new outlet for the team to acquire new fans. While the idea was originally designed just for players to get inked they’ve been able to host days like a ‘mini-tattoo-and-team fest’ that’s brought fans and players closer.


98. The Judge’s Chambers. Yankee Stadium and the NY Yankees added this special seating section to honour player Aaron Judge with faux wood paneling to resemble a courtroom’s jury box situated in three rows in section 104 of the stadium. Will we see future stadiums creating more of these type of areas within venue areas that can be reconfigured into new and creative spaces?

97. In my recent travels back and forth to London I’ve seen a few teams such as West Ham at the Olympic Stadium offer early bird incentive offers on food and beverage items in an attempt to get fans into the ground earlier which means more eyeballs on sponsors branding, more overall spend on merchandise and F&B and more chances for collecting data from fans as they interact with all of the fan engagement initiatives on display. I was lucky enough to hang out at Stamford Bridge a couple of times this season for Chelsea FC games and to take in their very good fan engagement activations but I also noted how they offer fans this early bird beer incentive for the first 30 minutes after gates open and then for a further 30 minutes if they use the club app to express order. Chelsea really have stepped up their offerings for fans and is one of the best fan zones I’ve checked out in recent UK football ground visits so if you get the chance stop by and check it out.

Chelsea FC Stamford Bridge

96. Of all the team, stadium and sports start up tech apps I played around with this year, the NRL Brisbane Broncos FanTribe gamification app was easily the most engaging, enjoyable and addictive. From earning points by participating in polls, quizzes and activities fans were able to use those and be rewarded with money can’t buy prizes and experiences. The exclusive insider content as well as the UX of the app were also key highlights here too.

Brisbane Broncos FanTribe

95. Chatbots. While there were an abundance of chat bots this year from across the sports business spectrum some of the key ones for me that stood out were right here in Australia with the Australian Kangaroos, Adelaide Crows and Perth Wildcats all delivering exceptional added opportunities for fans to engage with the teams via this AI tech. I tried hard to trip these chat bots up with mundane and hard questions but they were really well prepared and thought out. I also found it really cool and easy to be able to buy tickets to a game through Facebook Messenger as well. I expect to see more teams and venues jumping straight into this space in 2018 as it clearly represents an opportunity to continue to globally engage with fans 24/7 while offering potential new revenue streams for ticketing and merchandise.

94. While at NRG Stadium for Super Bowl 51 in Houston, Texas this year I participated in this ‘Fan Mail’ activation whereby fans could send a personalised postcard of their day at the Super Bowl to anyone in the world. I filled out one for my girlfriend back in Melbourne, my folks in Brisbane and a die-hard NFL mate in London. I didn’t hold out much hope that these would actually be sent internationally as I was thinking that they would only have stamps to cover internal US domestic postage but to my surprise and delight about a week after I got back from the US it arrived in my letterbox here in Melbourne.

93. While walking around the fan zone precinct for game 2 of the State of Origin at ANZ Stadium this year I had a quick go of the ‘Quick Shaves’ Schick Hydro sponsor activation where I got a little bit of a beard trim before the game. A nice little touch and a clever sponsor tie in to get ‘game ready’ for the big match.

Quick Shaves at SOO

92. Toy Toss. Hopefully a growing trend but there were a few good ones this year like the Hershey Bears toy toss on to the ice and the Charleroi one on to the pitch in Belgium. An idea that looks great on video and does a lot of good but probably makes all the OWHS, security and venue managers out there a little bit anxious. 

 

 

91. One trend I’ve seen this year is something that is far from a new thing but something which I don’t think clubs have effectively showcased to the public in the past. It’s not flashy, it’s not enabled by tech and it doesn’t take much effort. It’s the simple act of players giving their time after a performance to say thank you to fans, to sign autographs and even to give hugs to young fans who are desperate to meet their idols. Look at some of these kids faces. They are now hardcore loyal members for life of these teams and players because of these simple acts. Anyone whose worked in club land knows that these athletes do more community work and give up more of their time than most of us and along with these simple efforts after the game I think it goes a long way to adding to fan satisfaction both for the young fan and for the families who cough up the cash to attend. More of this in 2018 and more of teams showcasing the good they are doing for fans. Promoting the good stories and the positive experiences with fans, especially on social drives the ability to acquire new fans and galvanise existing supporters.

90. AFL Rookie Passport. I’ve seen some high quality educational team passports like from the Socceroos and Chelsea in the past but while attending the 2017 AFL Grand Final Footy Festival outside the MCG I picked up a copy of the AFL Rookie Passport and was very impressed with the content for junior fans. With an extensive spread of activities and engaging content this was one of the best I’ve seen for these formats. Kids were able to plan their day, do colouring in, complete quizzes and games all while learning healthy eating tips and other educational insights into both the life of an athlete and Aussie Rules.

 

89. A trend I’m seeing within stadium design is venues bringing in local artists or design studios to contribute artworks and design installations to liven up the often bland concrete walls and spaces inside venues. One team and venue that did this in 2017 was Southampton with the work they did at their stadium, St Mary’s. On my trek to Hard Rock Stadium for the Miami Dolphins last year I also noticed how they’ve linked up with local street artists to bring some colour and vibrancy to fans on match day.

 

88. While in Bangalore, India for the Royal Challengers Bangalore IPL match I thought that these ‘Ask Me Anything’ event staffed seats were a bright and beneficial addition to the match day to help fans understand what was happening on game day, where to enter the M Chinnaswamy Stadium and how to access transport. Being set high up at various points around the stadium certainly helped fans be able to see and access this supporter liaison officer.

87. Scarf The City. Orlando Pride scattered 1000 free scarves across Florida for fans to pick up and keep as part of a thank you to fans campaign.

Orlando City MLS

86. Atlanta Braves Glove Experience. At SunTrust Park fans are able to hire out a baseball glove for the day through sponsor Mizuno. Fans can take a glove for a $1 deposit and can use it to try to catch foul balls and home runs.

85. North Queensland Cowboys mascots. In March I ventured up to the tropics in Townsville, North Queensland to take in my first North Queensland Cowboys NRL game day experience. While the crowd went wild when the Cowboys won in golden point, the other thing that sent the kids in the crowd nuts was the addition of no less than 10 different mascots. It may have actually been even more than 10. They had a mascot for every sponsor as well as the team mascots and the kids were running round the touchline like mad trying to get autographs, photos and high 5’s from these costumed characters. Some were downright hilarious though like the coffee sponsor giraffe that took 20 minutes to get down the stairs even with a minder to the kind of scary looking steak house mascot. All in all it was an interesting observation to watch how the kids interacted with these mascots as well as another creative and fun idea to get the sponsors involved.

 

84. Northern Premier League Division One team Prescott Cables FC gave their fans the chance to ‘Own and Loan’ a team jersey whereby fans could purchase a kit, loan it to the player to wear for the season and then at the end of the season the fan would get the jersey back fully signed by the team.

Prescott Cables 'Own and Loan' jersey

83. MLS team San Jose Earthquakes held a Lego Build day event for young fans to make replica stadiums and forge stronger connections with the team.

82. The Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs and the Fresno Tacos held the ‘Ultimate Food Fight’ and ‘Bacon Vs Tacos’ match which saws fans vote on various topics with the losing team having to wear their opponents hat in a game. The fan engagement and social media work on the microsite here is worth a look to see what they did for this campaign and I’m sure you’ll agree its as random, quirky, fun and brilliant as the merchandise range.

81. Cricket Australia and KFC Buckethead Army. Thousands of these KFC bucket caps are handed out to fans at the BBL (few pics below from back in January at the MCG) and as part of the current summer of cricket campaign with myself grabbing one at the first Ashes test match at the Gabba in Brisbane last week. A clever way to keep fans cool and stay sun smart while also giving the sponsor maximum branding in the crowd.


80. The Winnipeg Jets announced their new security team member signing. Meet Lenny, a high performance sniffer dog whose joined the NHL team’s venue security detail and was named by supporters in memory of a long time fan.

Winnipeg Jets Security Dog Lenny

79. The Baltimore Ravens debuted Faceware Interactive and Image Metric’s AR Face Kit technology which sees fans have access to a photo real, virtual, face painting experience that seamlessly integrates into the Raven’s mobile app. With around a dozen augmented reality face paints to try on this has proven popular with fans with other teams such as the Chicago Bears also jumping in here too.

Baltimore Ravens AR Face Kit

78. Cricket Australia recently debut their ‘Matchday App‘ which is accessed by their brilliant Live Pass app (if you want an example of an outstanding sports app that does everything from streaming live games to quality content then you have to check theirs out). The Matchday App only works when you’re in close proximity to the game and pops up to show you important event information such as what fan engagement activities are on as well as venue maps, match replays and how to get to the ground. A really impressive little addition to help fans out on the day of a match to show them how to get the most out of their day at the cricket.

77. While many game day giveaways end up scattered outside the stadium such is the poor quality or irrelevance to fans, this growth chart idea from Super Rugby’s Wellington Hurricanes is a prime example of a sponsor branded giveaway that could quite possibly stay hanging up inside a young fans room for years.

Wellington Hurricanes Growth Chart

76. For the 2017/18 NBA season, Nike has released special edition connected jerseys featuring NFC tag technology where fans can tap their jersey to access exclusive player content like stats and player playlists. Soon enough you’ll probably be able to tap your jersey and pay for food and beverage items inside the venue. 

NBA connected jerseys

75. Five of the Western Sydney Wanderers played a match against 50 kids as part of a new partnership. The commentary is as good as the footage here. 


74. Football League two side Notts County in England announced a creative jersey sponsorship deal whereby there would be 10 unique sponsors for each month of the season. A clever way to attract new fans especially with the month of November which featured music star and mega fan Jake Bugg sponsoring the team kit.

73. Fan First Pricing. A common theme at the moment for many mega stadiums is to reduce the cost of F&B items for fans. Some venues to put fans first with cheaper options to ease the cost of a day out included Atlanta’s Mercedes Benz Arena which had $2 soft drinks, $5 beers, $2 hot dogs and $5 burgers.

72. The AFL team Geelong Cats debuted their ‘Fan Portal‘ which sees fans enter a private room with a select group of fellow fans, don special socks and gather round to reveal the floor retract to reveal the players below them. Fans are able to watch the team warm up, hear the noise and build up in the sheds before and after the game all from this special money can’t buy vantage point. 

 

71. Dutch football team RKC Waalwijk decided to switch up the traditional player’s entrance by substituting kids for elderly fans as a clever way to draw awareness to the loneliness often felt among older fans and members of society. Sydney FC also had older fans as mascots in an A-League game this year too. 

70. Not to be outdone, Chilean football team Colo-Colo took the field in their game this year with rescue dogs as their mascots to raise dog adoption awareness.

69. Way-Finding. How many times have you been to a venue this year and just wanted to easily be able to get to the loo, see the fan engagement activations or grab some food and drinks but have had to either wait in long lines or dodge around fellow fans just to try to find what you’re looking for? Well this year I’ve been able to see two way-finding set ups that attempt to solve this issue. The first one was at the Sydney Swans huge fan zone outside the Sydney Cricket Ground where there simple sign directs fans to all of the fan activities while the second example is Wait-Time’s way-finding screens which were recently installed at the Melbourne Cricket Ground but which have been a feature in US venues for a while now. I’ve only been able to utilise WaitTime at a match with a relatively smaller crowd than usual however found it to be an impressive addition to navigating the MCG. More venues across Australia and the globe will start to see this tech being rolled out for fans soon.

 

68. Cricket Australia’s ‘Cricket Hosts’. A fine addition this summer from CA has been the introduction of the Cricket Hosts who are very much like SLO’s (Supporter Liaison Officer’s) or game day helpers in the US who are on hand to provide game day advice and information to fans as well as answer their questions and get them pumped up for the day’s play. I had a chat to a few of these hosts at The Gabba for the first test and found them very helpful when it came to asking about the fan zone, seating and what else to expect from the day. A really effective solution to have positive smiling people on the ground representing and promoting the brand so that fans have everything they need for the match before they enter the venue.

67. The NFL’s Minnesota Vikings signed a ‘Generation Z’ consultant to help the organization better connect with young people. 18-year-old author and public speaker Jonah Stillman was drafted in with the aim of connecting to the team’s younger audiences through social and other digital means. A clever idea from the Vikings which I know a few other clubs and venues here in Australia are looking at replicating in some capacity.

66. Photo printing backpacks. The NY Mets and marketing technology firm M-ND introduced these ‘interactive, social-media curating- and photo-printing backpacks’ at Citi Field this year that saw fans able to upload a photo to social media and then track down one of the backpack wearing staff to be able to have their photo printed out as a keepsake. 

65. Bayern Munich hosted a press conference of a different kind with their one for the Audi Cup featuring the coaches coming in via hologram for the presser. With musicians like Roy Orbison already touring again in hologram form and the potential for hologram sports matches to be played as part of new broadcasting opportunities in places outside where the real match is taking place, this is sure to be a space to watch in the coming years for fans.


64. The NBA’s Sacramento Kings and Golden One Centre’s augmented reality app in partnership with Zappar and Nike enabled fans this year to give fans a 360-degree look at its new jersey when it was unveiled. The app lets fans personalize Sacramento Kings uniforms and virtually photograph themselves with star players.


63. Quiet sensory room spaces. This year both Liverpool FC and Cleveland Cavaliers debuted quiet spaces and sensory rooms at their venues. The basis for these rooms was to improve accessibility and inclusion for fans with sensory sensitivities such as autism and PTSD. The Cavs Quicken Loans room features calming paint tones, a textured wall, special seating and privacy away from loud noises and crowds. Over at Liverpool’s Anfield, the space includes a sensory portable bubble tube and light unit, fibre optic carpet, a projector and an LED bean bag. A clever idea here from both venues and teams to ensure that all fans, regardless of their diverse needs, are made to feel included and comfortable on match day.

62. Craft Beer. A common feature for teams and venues in recent times has been to jump on the craft beer wagon and provide a better beer experience for their fans who wish to sample local and independent brews. 2017 has been no different with many clubs and stadiums collaborating with craft breweries to establish partnerships with the local community and provide craft beer on match days or for other events in specialised craft beer bars. While below touches on some of these developments from my part of the world in Australia and New Zealand there have also been many others across the globe who have listened to their supporters to supply craft beer. Some of the developments include:

  • Essendon Bombers AFL: Partnership with CBCO
  • Westpac Stadium, NZ: Garage Project and NZ All Whites collab beer plus Wellington Phoenix sideline bar
  • The Precinct: Suncorp Stadium’s new bar featuring Little Creatures/Rogers (Yes not technically craft beer anymore)
  • Lords Cricket Ground: Craft beers on tap in general bar areas. Got to try a few of these back in April thanks to some very positive but bored public bar staff during a rain break between Essex and Middlesex.
  • Harrowgate Town FC: Collab craft beer
  • Melbourne Aces ABL: American craft beers on tap at the Victorian Baseball and Softball Centre
  • Melbourne City A-League: Partnership with Stomping Ground Brewing
  • West Ham United: The Olympic Stadium features a variety of craft beers on tap including Boleyn Bitter and West Ham Iron Ale
  • Central Coast Mariners A-League: Coastie Lager collab with 6 String Brewing
  • Canberra Raiders: Bentspoke Brewing on tap at Canberra Stadium
  • North Sydney Oval: Craft beers on tap in main stand bar
  • South Sydney NRL: Craft beers on tap
  • Adelaide Oval: Little Creatures/Rogers on tap- again purists will argue this is not craft

 

61. Pitch-side beds. Two of the stand outs this year for pitch-side experiences were the partnership that Allianz Arena and AirBNB did for the Audi Cup and also Old Trafford‘s partnership with Hilton Hotel.

Allianz Arena enabled some lucky fans to stay overnight in the stadium for two days and one night during the Audi Cup 2017. The modern and spacious accommodation was built directly on the sideline of the field, so fans could watch four games of world-class football from the most comfortable couch during the tournament.

Meanwhile at the Emirates Old Trafford a Hilton Hotel opened up that included 80 odd pitch-side rooms that provided cricket fans with a unique vantage point to take in the days play. Taking it one step further they rolled out some beds for another creative pitch-side viewing experience.

60. DROPIT developed an interactive app which connects teams and sponsors with their fans via in-game, 60-second drop auctions aiming to generate heightened excitement inside the venue. The app aims to deliver on both fan and brand engagement with immersive, digitally connected social experiences that combine the pace of a video game and the excitement of a live auction. I wrote a bit about this start up earlier in the year having been impressed with what I saw. They have since gone on to sign with an NBA team and other venues are also interested in adding this to the game day. Tech start ups come and go so it will be interesting to see how this goes in 2018 and beyond. What do you think though?


59. All the times teams listened to their fans in 2017. Below is obviously a small snapshot of some of the stories that went viral this year but certainly show the value of both players and teams listening to their fans. Whether it be a kid who writes to a player as part of his school work and then has the player visit to a player who offered to have a kick around with young fans in the park to going door to door with pizza to rally fans to get out to support the team nothing shows you value your fans more than listening to them and interacting in creative and positive ways for them. What else did you see this year?

58. Was this 2017’s best game day giveaway? 5000 cricket bats with player Rachael Heyhoe Flint’s signature on them were given out to every child attending the ICC Women’s World Cup final at Lord’s in July. What good game day giveaways did you see this year?

57. A-League team the Wellington Phoenix established a new diversity program in partnership with the Human Rights Commission, Red Cross, ChangeMakers Refugee Forum and Multicultural New Zealand. As part of the inclusion program, former refugees in the region were offered a season ticket for the 2017/18 season in recognition of the important role sport plays in building bridges between individuals and across communities. An inclusive way from the Phoenix and stakeholders here to acquire new life long members and bring the community closer together.

56. Wells Fargo Center and the Philadelphia 76ers announced a new addition to their concession stands by adding the Australian meat pie to honour Australian player Ben Simmons in what was the first international commercial arrangement for the team. The 76ers ‘Australia Heritage Night’ plans also sound like a creative way to highlight Australia, Simmons and the Four and Twenty partnership. A clever idea to provide something unique here to fans on match days in the venue which they certainly can’t get anywhere else in Philadelphia or the US.

55. Atlanta’s Mercedes Benz Stadium. After all the hype over the past couple of years the stadium finally opened this year and fans were not left disappointed by the fan experience features of the new venue. From the impressive halo screen and the fan first pricing on a range of F&B items to the state of the art retractable roof and the mega LED screen column this was the stadium that made the most noise in the industry this year. Looking forward to attending a game there soon. Optus Perth Stadium to step it up in 2018!


54. These ‘XXXX Gold Bay’ seat covers at the Brisbane Cricket Ground (Gabba) for the first ASHES cricket test match were a nice idea for fans to store their phones, sunnies and any other items. The fan section seat covers also came with small personalised fans which when plugged into your phone’s power socket provided some much needed fresh air.  In the back of the seats was also a bandana which when taken to the XXXX Gold staff could be exchanged for an ice cold one from an esky which was no doubt keeping fans cool.

53. Hiroshima Carp’s wearables cheer wristband. Fans of the Japanese baseball team Hiroshima Toyo Carp were able to add to their fan experience with this new wristband from Sharp this year. The device displays the current scores of games of the team with a built-in motion sensor sensing the movements of the arms of the carp fans wearing the band which is then interpreted as a “cheering action” that causes the smart-band to vibrate and the LEDs to illuminate to support the cheering. Fans are able to accumulate the “cheering action” as “cheering points” and use it to vote for player’s of the match as well as to interact with other fans.

52. AS Roma’s farewell to Totti and fan controlled videos. While AS Roma partnered with SmartReplay in 2017 to become the first football club to roll out a video experience which enables fans to control what they wanted to watch they also executed a social first content and media strategy to use Facebook Live to stream Totti’s farewell to a global audience and share the emotion in the stadium with fans all over the world. This resulted in over 12M views for the farewell speech and 73M views overall.


51. Sunderland AFC’s kit launch. The Sunderland kit launch featured a Facebook Live stream with two amateur football teams (Dawdon Welfare Park FC and Hall Farm Glasshus FC) taking to the field at Ashbrooke Cricket Club, one of Sunderland’s former homes, to play in a match to both promote the new jersey and get fans passionate about the club’s heritage. The campaign was so successful it even won a Football Business award.


50. These inflatable foam team and sponsor logos here from Atlanta based company Atlanta Special FX. Used on match day at Atlanta’s Mercedes Benz Stadium these Cloudvertise eco friendly ‘Helium Soap’ 3D Logo Bubloon Clouds are certainly something new and exciting for fans on match day this year.


49. Never one to do things by the book, the Newtown Jet’s have continued to put on some very good events  for fans at Henson Park in Sydney over the past few years with their Hipster’s Day again proving to be a roaring success this year in attracting new fans and families. Featuring kids activities, food vans and craft beer, a day on the hill here is a must here especially to see the rise in attendances especially amongst families and females fans.

48. Brighton Hove and Albion FC’s personalised emails to fans. This year BHAFC sent out these personalised emails to every member at the end of the season showing them how many miles they had covered in the season as well as games attended and the special moments of the past season which saw the team promoted to the Premier League. An impressive albeit time consuming CRM effort that resulted in plenty of fan admiration for the Brighton digital, membership and fan engagement team.

47. Cricket Australia announced plans to enable fans the ability to live stream all of the 2017-18 summer of cricket action on Qantas planes in Australia which are fitted with Wi-Fi.  Most people like to be able to switch off from Wi-Fi while 10-30,000 feet up in the air however this announcement and partnership will no doubt delight many cricket mad fans who can now ensure they don’t miss any of the action.

46. The NBA Augmented Reality app. The ability to set up a team personalised set of hoops anywhere in the world and then tap your phone as if you’re taking a shot to play basketball was another impressive jump into AR for the NBA this year. The successful launch of the NBA AR app in October with this game that sees fans shoot three pointers in their own unique court set up is just another way the NBA and other major sports leagues are getting deeper into engaging fans with new technologies like augmented reality. 

45. Blatchy’s Blues SMARTWiG’s. The story of the State of Origin Blatchy’s Blues fan group is a success story in itself having been started and grown by a fan into a massive fan group that was then sold on to the NSWRL. The sheer fact that this group could get 10-15K fans to wear a blue wig at matches is credit to the team behind Blatchy’s but this year they stepped it up another level with STAR’s involvement to allow fans to have these SMARTWiG’s to include an LED antenna which lit up bright blue at ANZ Stadium back in June which created an incredible atmosphere. The SMARTWiG’s also enabled fans at the game to be able to listen in to 6 hours of Blatchy’s Blues Radio as well as receive exclusive radio access to the Blues’ dressing sheds with coach Laurie Daley and players talking directly to the Blues’ most loyal fans.

44. NFL Experience at Houston Super Bowl 51. If there was ever the ultimate fan engagement theme park, the NFL Experience in Houston earlier this year would be close to epitomising what it could be. This was an incredible spectacle of activations, sponsor activities, tech wonders and giveaways worthy of the greatest showbag you’ve ever picked up. I spent about 7 hours here wandering around and checking out all of the activities such as making an NFL helmet, viewing the latest in female fan gear, playing video games and sampling loads of American foods and drinks from sponsors. Thousands of fans ventured through the Houston Convention Centre for a week leading up to the Super Bowl and for abour $35USD they were able to visit the 100+ stalls here and participate in all of these fun activities. This has easily been the greatest fan engagement fan zone spectacle I have seen in all my time venturing across the globe to check and it is a must visit if you want to learn about best practice fan engagement. Sure the Super Bowl was fantastic to go to but in my opinion this was better!

 

43. Sometimes (and it’s actually more often than not) its just the simple and small things that can go a long way to improving fan satisfaction, increase loyalty and provide some quality fan engagement along the way. This was the case this year as can be seen below where FC Schalke played one of Ajax fans’ favourite tunes over the tannoy’s after their loss to Schalke. A nice and simple thing to do for travelling fans after a heavy loss.

42. Perth Glory have consistently been one of the most well performing teams in the A-League when it comes to fan engagement. From their petting zoo, free fruit flavoured water station and member’s fan wall the Glory have gone above and beyond for fans in recent times to show that they are listening to them. One activation that stood out this year was this smoothie station which allowed fans to pedal a stationary bicycle which in turn created a smoothie for themselves while they watched the game at NIB Stadium. 

41. In what was one of the most uplifting fan engagement stories from 2017, the work of the Iowa Hawkeyes whose fans, players and game officials all turn and wave to sick children in the hospital adjacent to their 70k capacity Kinnick stadium made many people smile at what is such a simple but moving gesture. The Hawkeyes said of the tradition: “What started as a fan suggestion on an Iowa Facebook fan page has turned into a full-blown movement: Iowa fans collectively waving to the top floor of the hospital, where the children and their families gather to watch Iowa, at the end of the first quarter during Hawkeye home games.”


40. The Australian Baseball League’s Melbourne Aces gave fans the chance to have a dinner date with one of their star players at a game this season and judging by the image it looks like a pretty fun and simple concept following the completion of the match. 

39. The NHL’s New York Rangers rode the subway in full gear earlier in December to a fan day and outdoor practice in Central Park. The players snapped selfies with fans on the journey into the city and found time to chat with young fans as part of this simple bit of fun by the team. 

38. eSports/Esports/ESports/esports. The proliferation of teams jumping into the esports space in 2017 showed no slowing down with global teams continuing to invest in either pro gamers and individual teams as well as set up high performance centres in venues. In 2017 esports was questioned as to whether or not it was actually a sport, was considered for the Olympics, had players buying into it and leaving traditional sports to become gamers and filled out 80,000 seat stadiums in China with events. The ability for sports stakeholders to tap into esports represents a new opportunity to win new fans and audiences to increase attendances, presents new revenue opportunities and is a broadcasting delight for media. Oh and by the way according to AP the correct spelling is ‘esports’. 

Some of the big esports developments from the sports business world this year included:

  • Sacramento Kings unveiling a new esports facility inside their venue.
  • The SCG established a high performance centre. 
  • Essendon FC bought the Abyss team.
  • Adelaide Crows acquired the Legacy esports team. 
  • Melbourne City signed an esports player. 
  • Seattle Sounders set up an esports gaming fan zone at their stadium. 
  • West Ham United ran a training session with their player to help other FIFA gamers up their skills.
  • The rise of esports fan groups continued, namely Hashtag United. 
  • QPRFC launched their own esports team. 
  • Adelaide United FC ran tutorials for fans.
  • In the MLS, NYCFC signed the first esports player. 
  • The FA Cup Gamers Tournament continued it’s successful run. 
  • Dutch side Eredivisie were the first to launch a league-wide esports competition.
  • Puskas winner Wendall quit football to become a pro-gamer. 

Another of the more intriguing spaces to watch in the coming years to see how teams and leagues fill stadiums for combined matches of esports and traditional sports where teams will battle each other in both worlds. 

37. . Rafa Nadal surprising fans in virtual reality (kind of) was a fun idea from this sponsor.

36. Cricket had a big year when it came to introducing interesting new content but so too did Twitter who in partnership with the ICC and IPL debuted a host of interesting content. The Indian Premier League debuted player emoji’s which were a hit with fans across the tournament. At the ICC Champions Trophy there was a host of new features such as the #AskCaptain series where fans could tweet in a question to the captains while fans could also opt in to receive personalised direct messages featuring score updates and video content. There was also a live commentary box stream on Twitter and the debut of the first female cricket emoji’s too.

35. freeD Technology VisionWith fans crying out for more diverse and unique camera angles to play back and view game plays and live action this new freeD virtual reality technology offers a pretty cool new viewing perspective for fans. With more than thirty 5K cameras surrounding each venue, the Intel® freeD™ technology delivers the clearest high-def images possible. This technology uses voxels (pixels with volume) to render replays in spectacular 3D, creating a multi-perspective view of key moments. The NFL used this tech this season to deliver new viewing experiences to fans with the use of VR and their 360 degree replay technology. 

34. Hackathons. There’s been a trend in the past year for sports business stakeholders to engage their fans and in particular those with data skills to help them do a deeper dive into the team data to improve their processes. Teams like Bayern Munich are “collaborating in teams to work on technical, business and design problems and develop innovative and creative software to build prototypes and come up with new ideas and approaches” to improve the fan experience. The NRL cracked open its stats to data experts and held a DataJam to “identify new trends and ways to visualise game play, participation levels, entertainment value and more” while MCFC collaborated with Google to hold their second hackathon event called #HackManCity which was designed to unlock new fan engagement ideas and ways of doing more innovative business.

33. The Brisbane Cricket Ground (Gabba) Pool Deck. Jacksonville’s Everbank Field has a pool and now the Gabba has one too. When I did the 2016 100-1 compilation last year I touched on this briefly however the final product was not yet ready. However last month I was able to visit the pool deck area at the Gabba for the first ASHES cricket test match and was blown away at what a unique, fun and slightly random fan experience this was for fans. The pool deck sits in an open area of the ground directly facing the pitch so fans are able to either sit at nice tables or on deckchairs or if they fancy they can take a dip in the pool and sit with fellow fans to take in all the action. Fans are allowed to take drinks into the area and are given a free towel to dry off with after a swim. The area provides free sunscreen and is patrolled by experienced lifeguards as well as being cleaned after every two hour session making it one of the cleanest pools in Australia. If you didn’t have any togs on you then they were also selling pairs to fans to change into before a swim. To think back to being a kid and watching cricket at the Gabba that one day I would be able to watch Steve Smith score his 21st century from a stadium pool is a crazy thought but it again shows how venues are pulling out all the stops to create unique seating and viewing experiences for patrons. To see more of the pool deck in action be sure to follow the BBL Brisbane Heat this summer as the pool will be in action again at the Gabba during those games.

32. NFC and RFID Chips. Finding their way into more and more of the sports world over the past year, these two different but related types of chips, NFC (Near Field Communication) and RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) are adding more insights for fans from broadcasters in terms of statistics and player data.

Some better explanations of the two chips too:

NFC: A short-range wireless connectivity standard that uses magnetic field induction to enable communication between devices.

RFID: A method of wireless communication that utilizes radio waves to identify and track objects.

Some of the developments with these chips and tags over the past year have included:

  • NFL installing RFID chips in every match ball to provide statistics for broadcasters and in turn fans.
  • NBA’s connected jerseys. Mentioned previously in this list. 
  • MLB enabling faster seamless access to venues by tapping their phone on ticket scanners. 
  • PROVA preventing the fraudulent sale of sports merch through NFC authentic tracking tags. 
  • Levis Stadium speeding up sales via NFC payments.
  • The unveiling of the new FIFA World Cup 2018 ball that features an NFC chip that fans can engage with to access exclusive content and information. 
  • These smart connected winter gloves for payments at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics which allow fans to use their gloves and keep warm to make payments at the venues next year.
  • Catapult Sports provided these new RFID player tracking devices for the 2017 NRL State Of Origin series.  
31. Trophy Tour. Welsh Premier League team Prestatyn Town FC took their trophy on a tour of the town and of the local businesses that supported them in the past season as a thank you. While there’s trophy tours for fans this was a novel approach to reward sponsors and fans of the team in the town who had helped out over the course of the season. 
30. Altrincham FC‏ asked local children to design a jersey that celebrated the diversity in the community an were overwhelmed with the response. There were also some other impressive work for fans here such as how they set up a WhatsApp broadcast list to keep fans connected straight to their mobiles as well as launching their own 5-a-side fantasy sports platform. A team well worth checking out as they’re putting fans at the forefront of all their activations here. 
29. Premier League side Southampton FC created this 80’s style animation with Under Armour to launch their 2017/18 kit design. The #MadeForHeroes cartoon was both a clever way to showcase Southampton’s digital prowess as well as launch the new kit and target young fans at the same time. 


28. Meet and Greet. Fans often complain that they’re never listened to or that their views are not taken seriously because clubs and leagues simply just don’t want to engage with them. The truth is that this couldn’t be further from reality in the majority of cases as many sports teams often host fan forums where fans can express their views in a constructive manner but also have systems in place to allow dialogue between fans and the club. One such team that did this well this year was the NBA’s Denver Nuggets who held a fan meet and greet with their President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly at a Denver beer pub. While some fans were also lucky enough to grab some tickets it also represented an opportunity for them to ask questions of the business. 

27. The Los Angeles Angels hosted an introductory press conference for fans by the home plate gate entrance of Angel Stadium to showcase their new player Shohei Ohtani. #ShoheiDay came complete with a red carpet entrance and merch for sale right there and then for fans. 

26. The Baltimore Ravens offered fans the chance to have their cars stencilled in bright purple colours as a way for them to rep the team in the lead up to the new NFL season. 

 

25. The fan engagement at AZ Alkmaar. One of the most impressive fan engagement experts around is Bas Schnater who with his team runs the fan engagement and CRM ship at Dutch professional football club AZ Alkmaar and who deeply understands the importance of listening and engaging with fans. Bas and his team’s work for fans here is up there with some of the best practice fan engagement seen this year. From baby photo day’s, junior press conferences and a golden seat to the first fan who renews their membership to listening to fan feedback to change the stadium speaker system and even allowing a section of hardcore fans to light flares in a designated zone this is fan engagement done superbly well and which continues to reap rewards for the team with increased attendances. Everyone should keep this team on your radar as they continue to push the boundaries of creativity and put fans first in every aspect of the club’s business both on and off the field. 

24. Accessible inclusive all gender rest rooms and nursing rooms. Many venues across the sporting globe are improving the fan experience by ensuring that every fan feels welcome and can attend a game and feel safe. There has been the rise of venues such as Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center adding accessible all gender toilets which has received high praise from the LGBT community for building the world’s first entertainment and sports arena to fully accommodate transgender fans. Furthermore Fenway Park and Avaya Stadium have also installed Mamava nursing suites which provide fans with a private safe area for breastfeeding and baby changing because why should any fan miss attending a game. Expect to see more of these throughout global sporting venues through 2018 as venues continue to go above and beyond to provide the best experience for attendees.

23. ASK FRED. The Wimbledon chat bot ‘Fred’ was a big hit for fans this year as it guided tennis fans around England’s historic lawn tennis competition earlier in 2017. The Fred bot gave ticket holders information about dining options, featured a natural language interface and also included an interactive map of the venue.

22. Detroit Pistons allowing fans to take a shot on the court after the game. Kids sign up pre-game and are allowed one shot at the completion of the game. A nice and simple way to collect data via the kids club sign up and then give these young fans a moment to remember. Why is this not done in other sports for just 30 minutes after a game? Kick the ball through the net? Kick a place kick etc? Would be good to see more of this in other sports. 

21. Valentines Day cards. There’s always an opportunity to have some fun with fans on social and while some teams have these Valentines Day cards for that special day, some teams even send out the mascots to go visit girls and guys all over town which is a good use of the mascot outside game day and a revenue opportunity that is not utilised enough.

 

20. NCAA Volleyball projected tweets on court. A clever idea here for game day and to showcase the best fan tweets.

19. Everton FC’s kit consultation. A good way to show fans that the team is listening to them by having fans have their say on what the kit should look like.

18. CLEAR fast access biometric security screening. This tech continues to be rolled out at venues across the US and allows fans to scan their fingerprint to gain faster priority entry to the venue. While fans could be alarmed with the personal data and privacy issues and the fact that the tech tracks fans’ behavior and purchasing habits it’s ‘clear’ that many fans see no issue with this and are happy to use these priority lines to scan their iris or fingerprint as it’s enables them to avoid long lines and skip the queues.

17. Snapchat Specs. I wrote earlier in the year about the Snap Specs and how teams were using these after picking up a pair in NYC in January and enjoying them throughout much of the year for various activities plus lending them to teams and players down here in Australia. Everyone in the industry raved about them and I loved using them but they just didn’t catch on and were a spectacular failure for Snap. A few of the points I raised in my blog here back in March proved accurate however like 2016’s Pokemon Go craze the Specs did represent another fun period where teams and digital managers all jumped in and created some pretty cool perspectives and content with them. It goes to show that the quality and passion that team digital managers have when it comes to creating interesting content and jumping on new technologies is something more fans should be appreciative of. There were plenty of cool ideas for what teams did with Specs this year and it’s still worthwhile checking out the creativity and ideas here from this short lived fad.

16. BVB #BedForAwayFans. In the lead up to the BVB vs AS.Monaco Champions League match the Borussia Dortmund bus was bombed. The match was postponed to the next day meaning that AS.Monaco fans needed to find accommodation. Therefore in a show of what the global football community and spirit is all about the BVB fans and team started the hashtag #BedForAwayFans which brought fans from both sides closer together to house those fans before the match could be played.

15. NZ Warriors Stadium Live app. The Stadium Live for Vodafone Warriors App took fans at Vodafone Warriors home games right into the thick of game day action, with exclusive access to eight SKY camera angles to stream footage, replays and highlights LIVE from their mobile device. Fans are crying out to be able to see diverse and interesting camera angles and replays while at matches and with the new developments in AR in the MLB and with FreeD tech this is going to be a big area for fans in the coming months.

14. The Vegas Golden Knights embedded inaugural season ticket holders names on the ice at TMobile Arena. The NHL’s 33rd team also had players go door to door to deliver tickets and while the venue is mobile only for ticketing they ensured that all fans got a commemorative ticket on the opening night. Fans were even able to receive a free jersey as part of their membership which they collected at a special ‘Jersey Night’ at the venue.

13. The NFL Experience in Times Square, NYC. A sports fans museum/ playground/theme park in the centre of New York showcasing all the latest in innovative technology from the NFL.

12. Social media bingo. A nice way for fans to play along at home with these two good examples from the BBL’s Hobart Hurricanes and the NBA’s Washington Wizards.

11. Philadelphia Eagles NFL Football Festival For Women. The Eagles are just one of a plethora of teams across the US who do these female festivals really well. In 2017 the Eagles football festival for female fans was one that stood out due to the sheer scale and range of activities for this important set of fans. Some other great examples of what US teams are doing for their female supporters include football training camps, fantasy camps, wine/dine events, football health and safety events for mums and fitness and health sessions which is highlighting that many of these teams are listening more to their fans and moving away from the ‘shrinking and pinking’ idea to actually provide more worthwhile events that female fans want, especially that relate to the game. It was also good to see at the Super Bowl this year the dedicated NFL female fans merch tent while other sports across the globe are now offering female cuts of player jerseys for the first time such as the BBL in Australia. 

10. Mascots can be quite tame most of the time but this one from Japan’s Pacific Baseball League caused a few headlines this year. Chiba Lotte Marines introduced the “mystery fish” which spits out a human during games this year. Taking mascots to another level…..

9. Toronto Wolfpack fan engagement. The rise of the Wolfpack’s massive attendances, celebrated game day set up and overall quality fan experience was one of the highlights of 2017’s year in fan engagement. From their beer cans with fixtures on them to their cruise and the way they rewarded fans by constantly bringing them closer to the action this year was outstanding to see. Their after party events at the ground where players from both Toronto and the opposing team were invited in and they could drink with Toronto locals and away fans that had made the trip was a nice touch too.

8. The NRL’s Canberra Raiders have greatly improved their attendances on the back of bringing fans more of a united atmosphere on game days. The work of their Viking Clap has been so good that this year they unveiled a viking horn or ‘Gjallarhorn‘ at their stadium in Canberra to add to this game day atmosphere before kick off.


7. Steve Waugh augmented reality experience at the Sydney Cricket Ground. The Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust has partnered with Steve Waugh and Avanade to create an augmented reality experience to celebrate 15 years since Steve Waugh’s famous last-ball century at the Sydney Cricket Ground. In a first of its kind by any Australian stadium or sports body, the Steve Waugh AR experience allows fans to immerse themselves into one of Australian Test cricket’s most memorable innings.
The experience features commentary by Steve Waugh, an animated simulation of his shots recreated in the Avanade studio and short grabs of footage of his innings provided by the Nine Network’s Wide World of Sports.


6. Sports subscription boxes. The subscription box industry has exploded in 2017 with everything from craft beer to household goods now being able to be added to a subscription box service that sees buyers get a special mystery box of goods every month. The sports business has been quick to jump into this space too with the work of SportsCrate standing out in 2017. SportsCrate  is a fan-centered box launching with items targeting ten MLB teams. It’s also the league’s exclusive licensed subscription box. Expect to see more of this merchandise option in 2018 and beyond.

5. Arsenal FC held a Junior Gunners night  which saw a number of young members take on various roles in the stadium and with the team over the course of the match. Junior Gunner fans were able to hang out with a photographer, grounds person, media team and take on various roles with their buddy. 

4. Golden State Warriors replica trophy night. In terms of game day giveaways for fans this replica trophy from the GSW after their 2017 NBA Finals success certainly represented a collectable for fans and one that wouldn’t be thrown away when leaving the venue. 

3. The continued rise of subscription passes which are becoming a popular new form of ticketing. An example of this in 2017 was the work that the Oakland A’s did with their June-September $19.99 monthly pass. For only $19.99 per month, the Athletics Ballpark Pass includes mobile access to every 2017 regular season home game with the benefits including:

  • Guaranteed access to every game*, including high-demand and weekend games
  • Ease of delivery via the MLB.com Ballpark app – scan your personal mobile barcode directly from your phone
  • Auto-renews each month
  • Pass holders had access to enjoy all the great new features of the Coliseum during the game including Championship Plaza and Shibe Park Tavern.

Will we start to see more teams and venues go down this path in the coming years?

2. The nice gesture from A-League’s Melbourne Victory giving out $10 to every fan travelling to the A-League Grand Final in Sydney back in May. A small and simple outlay with a nicely personalised letter that went a long way for fans. 

1. WWE and KidZania launched a new fan experience in London which is the first-ever WWE Academy and an exciting new activity designed to entertain young WWE fans in the United Kingdom. The WWE Academy is a fully-branded experiential space within the city of KidZania London, where children can transform into a WWE Superstar. The area is designed to promote creative thinking and imagination where kids can become their favourite WWE Superstars and with the help of a KidZania referee, kids can choose from a range of WWE props and ring gear, practice their own catchphrases, develop a persona and create a promo video.

This brings an end to my 2017 fan engagement/experience 100-1 recap for 2017. What a year it has been for fans across the globe and for all the hard working teams providing these initiatives and ideas for their supporters.  As always there’s probably a good 100 odd ideas I’ve missed which could have also made the cut so this list is to be taken as a very general run down on some of the work which I thought really got people talking this year, were creative and innovative ideas or which I saw on my travels and thought they needed to be highlighted.  

I hope you enjoyed reading this and found it useful and I hope that you have a relaxing holiday season and time with your friends and family. 

Thanks

New Ticketing Developments Transforming the Fan Experience

Each week there seems to be a new development in the ticketing space with teams/artists, venues and fans now having access to a wide variety of new technologies which are improving the fan experience.

Having just finished some consulting work for a client in the NFL who wanted to know what were some of the next big and exciting things happening around ticketing I thought I’d provide a quick summary of that research here with a brief post looking at the new advancements in ticketing that fans could see soon at major events.

Summary of advancements in the ticketing space across the course of 2016-17:

1. Concourse Standing Only Passes

2. Face Value Re-Seller Sites

3. Charging for paper tickets

4. Loaded Tickets

5. Virtual Reality VR Ticketing

6. Mobile Only Ticketing

7. Ticketing and ChatBot Artificial Intelligence

8. CLEAR Biometric Ticketing

9. Microchip Tickets

10. Augmented Reality AR Ticketing

11. Fan Created Tickets

12. Innovative Ticket Marketing Ideas

13. Verified Fan Technology

14. *BONUS* Convenience store ticketing

1. Concourse Standing Only Passes

Many teams in the US are now offering fans the ability to just purchase concourse standing only passes. An example of this are the Oilers who announced the availability of $80 “Concourse Pass” which let fans get into the Rogers Place playoff games but which featured no seat and no actual view of the ice. By all media reports, fans were only able to watch via TV’s in the concourses. If the demand is there then fans will no doubt pay for these passes.

2. Face Value Re-Seller Sites

Some music artists who are fed up with ticketing scalpers are re-selling tickets at face value on their own sites. An example of this is Twickets by Ed Sheeran who supports a site where fans can resell tickets at face value and therefore get a fairer deal and chance to offload tickets or buy them for face value if a gig of his is sold out.

3. Charging for paper ticket

Teams like the Canadiens are now charging fans for paper tickets in an effort to make sure fans are coming into the venue with genuine tickets tied to the actual buyer which aims to address ticket fraud. The team also cited security, ease of use and environmental sustainability as reasons for the change. Some fans won’t like teams doing this even if it is the way of the future as for many the ticket stub is a collectable and special memento of the game they went to. In my own opinion I’m all for whatever venues, ticketing agencies and teams can do to stop ticket scalping and fraud however I love keeping my ticket stubs and have well over 1000 from various gigs and games I’ve been to from 25+ years of music and sporting events. Printed A4 ticket slips and mobile phone QR code tickets just don’t have the same appeal for me as a fan.

4. Loaded Tickets

Loaded Tickets are being introduced at global stadiums by teams and venue partnerships which have the ability for money to be ‘loaded’ on to their season membership card for food, beverages, tickets and merchandise while at the stadium to enabling ease, a better fan experience and to keep an eye on and control fan spending.

5. Virtual Reality VR Ticketing

Teams and stadiums are partnering with ticketing agencies to enable fans to be able to see the view of their seat as well as concourse concession options and other facilities like rest rooms and parking before they buy their tickets by having a virtual reality ticketing viewing experience. A good example of this VR feature is the work StubHub and the Nationals did together which allowed future attendees to dawn a virtual reality headset and check out the view from their seats before they even press the “buy” button. Deemed the “virtual view” on StubHub, customers can even use their phone to get a 360-degree shot of their baseball enjoying experience.

6. Mobile Only Ticketing

Teams like the Miami Heat have only recently announced plans to go strictly mobile only. The Heat announced the plans recently to switch to smartphone-only tickets for home games this season. According to a statement from the team, the new policy is due to the fact that about one in every three fans used mobile tickets to attend games in 2016/17. In the NBA other teams such as the Timberwolves and Cavaliers have also switched over to mobile tickets however these teams still offer the option for fans use a driver’s license and credit card to get into the venue. How do you feel about this as a fan? Would you want to just enter the venue with your phone? Too bad it’s probably going to be the standard in the next five years across the US.

7. Ticketing and ChatBot Artificial Intelligence

AI is being utilised in the fan ticket purchasing experience by allowing fans the opportunity to purchase tickets by sending a ‘buy’ text message to platforms like ReplyBuy and having chatbots respond with questions asking how many tickets the fan is after and other key ticket information. This is proving to be a new revenue opportunity for fans wanting to buy tickets to games. In recent weeks down here in Australia teams such as the Perth Wildcats (NBL) and Adelaide Crows (AFL) have introduced their own chatbots which I’m sure will develop over time to enable fans to be able to purchase tickets to games through Facebook Messenger.

8. CLEAR Biometric Ticketing

The ability to enter venues now with just your fingerprints is making some fans breeze through security rather than having to wait in lines to get into the venue. The CLEAR biometric fingerprint technology allows fans to enter the venue gates almost without security screening having already signed up prior to advanced screening like seen for some passengers at US airports. The Colorado Rockies launched this a while back for games at Coors Field and recently Detroit’s Comerica Park was also added to the list of US venues allowing fans to enter this way. What about you though? Do you want your fingerprint data collected? Could there be some big privacy concerns here?

9. Microchip Tickets

As crazy as it seems, some teams are now offering fans the ability to be microchipped with their ticket or membership information implanted into their arm through a tiny incision of a pill like microchip. The fan then is able to scan their arm at the gates to enter with ease at the venue. One team doing this is Argentine football club Tigre who have launched these implantable ticketing microchips in for die-hard fans. This is something from way left field but I think it’s pretty innovative and I’m putting it out there now, if there’s a team/stadium anywhere in the world that wants a test case for this then I’m 110% in! Just pay for all the flights, accommodation, match tickets and surgery and I’m there.

10. Augmented Reality AR Ticketing

Innovative new augmented reality technology was utilised to bring match day tickets alive at the most recent Rugby World Cup in England through the use of tech company Blippar’s Augmented Reality technology. The Rugby World Cup 2015 tickets were able to come to life and provide fans with unique activations developed as part of the ticket design. In a first for a major sporting event, the technology allowed fans to create a 3D interactive experience through their smart phones by scanning any Rugby World Cup 2015 match ticket with the app. The fans were then able to unlock exclusive content with England 2015 ambassadors. Having been playing around with a few AR apps recently I expect more interesting AR developments will come into our match day tickets provided some of them stay as a physical ticket!

11. Fan Created Tickets

Teams like the Green Bay Packers are turning social posts from fans into commemorative tickets that feature fans own generated content which is then featured on the match day ticket. The Packers aren’t the first team to do this with other NBA and NFL teams also allowing personalised messages and photos to feature on tickets.

12. Innovative Ticket Marketing Ideas

Teams are constantly creating new and innovative marketing strategies to get bums on seats from retro ticket prices to game day merch ticket bundles and the endless variety of US ‘event’ nights however one that stood out recently was the Bucks who announced a special 10-win pass ticket offer which saw fans have access to however many games it took the team to get to 10 wins. Fans were guaranteed a seat to see the next 10 home victories as part of this unique new ticket package, inviting fans to attend the next 10 home Bucks victories for just $149 through the exciting and affordable 10-Win Pass. I haven’t had a chance to follow this up but does anyone know how many games these fans were able to actually get? 11, 12, 15? How many did it take for them to get their 10 wins?

13. Verified Fan Technology

Some ticketing agencies like TicketMaster US are creating a ‘verified fan’ ticketing process which enables fans to sign up and access tickets by completing tasks or buying other items like merchandise. Some commentators see this as a bit hard on genuine fans to have to do this but the idea is that this is cutting out the bots and scalpers and making it a fairer process for genuine fans. Would you complete tasks like sharing a team/artists social posts to then have access to buy tickets? It sure would beat those pain in the butt Captcha’s that keep reloading on ticketing websites no matter how many times you click all the damn street signs or cars!

14. *BONUS* Convenience store ticketing

 


While in Japan recently I was amazed at the ease of being able to buy match day tickets to a Japanese baseball game from a machine inside a 7/11 store. With a little help from the helpful staffer, the ticket machine which presumably also doubled as a printer, fax, coffee and internet machine was simple to use and allowed me to easily grab a couple of tickets to the game at Osaka’s Kyocera Dome. How about this stadium!

So there ends a quick summary of some of the developments around ticketing and how it’s going to or already is impacting the fan experience. Feel free to throw in some other ideas in the comments and if you’re looking for a creative and enthusiastic problem solver to help you engage and grow your fan base please feel free to touch base with me at @MrBlairHughes and WWW.MrBlairHughes.com.

About Me:

Blair Hughes is a passionate advocate for fans and an authority in the fan engagement/experience space who consults around analysis, ideation and implementation for global sporting leagues and teams to help deliver creative and innovative fan engagement solutions that grow fan bases as well as increase revenue opportunities. Blair brings a diverse and creative approach to his work as well as a knowledgeable background in adolescent sociology and fan psychology as a result of a career and valuable life experiences gained from the education, sport, music and digital sectors. More information can be found on his website https://mrblairhughes.com/

Fan Engagement 2016 Year In Review: 100 Global Fan Engagement/Experience Activations

What a year in fan engagement 2016 has been.

From Pokemon Go to Hackathons, eSports to virtual reality and wearables to a focus on user generated content, stadiums and teams across the globe have been putting fans first with some very funny, interesting and innovative ideas. 

Sports fans across global stadiums have been gifted with a dazzling array of interesting and down right intriguing fan engagement activations throughout 2016 particularly through new advances in technology. Teams are constantly on the hunt to find the new ‘wow’ factor idea that brings the fan closer and increases their emotional loyalty to the team while importantly finding ways to drive revenue through these sponsor led engagement ideas. 

As I did last year with this 2015 review, I’ve put together a list of 100 activations across a multitude of areas of engagement and from some 90 odd stadiums and teams. The list I’ve collated is by no means a definitive account of the top 100 fan engagement ideas in 2016 but merely my take on what some of the best activations have been from what I’ve seen on my travels throughout the year. 

I could have easily added another 200 to 300 ideas in highlighting the impressive work that fan engagement and customer experience reps are doing around the world such is the high quality of creativity on show however for now these are the 100 best ideas across fan engagement/experience that spring to mind from the year that was.

There is no particular order here for the 100 ideas but be sure to tell me if I’ve missed something spectacular or if you would like to learn more about an idea seen here.

Be sure to check out some of my resources for more information and education:

5000+ Fan Engagement Pinterest Board

200 Fan Engagement Ideas Work Sheet

Once again, well done to all of the creative people responsible for the work below.

Let’s get started……

100. The Royal Box at the 2016 Formula One Australian Grand Prix. A seat upgrade right on the starting line for the big race.

Royal Box at AUS GP F1

Royal Box at AUS GP F1

99. Green Bay Packers NFL Fan Choice Awards. Fans can vote for their fellow fans in these awards

Green Bay Packers Fan Choice Awards

Green Bay Packers Fan Choice Awards

98. Liverpool let fans take control of Fabio Aurelio’s free kick on Twitter.

97. Seattle Sounders FC continued their great work in fan engagement and user generated content with their Posters By The People

Sounders FC 'Posters By The People'

Sounders FC ‘Posters By The People’

Sounders FC

Sounders FC

96. Sporting Kansas FC produced these cute Valentines Day cards for fans.

Sporting Kansas Valentines Day Cards

Sporting Kansas Valentines Day Cards

95. The San Francisco 49ers let fans sing the national anthem at their Levis Stadium home games with this Golden Voice bit of fun.

49ers Golden Voice

49ers Golden Voice

94. Cambridge United FC gave fans this voucher for free food and drinks at an away game that was very far from home. 

Cambridge United FC

Cambridge United FC

93. Cronulla Sharks in the NRL introduced their #SharkPark3D virtual reality

Cronulla Sharks 360

Cronulla Sharks 360

92. Argentine club Tigre introduced implantable microchips for die hard fans.

Tigre's Fan Microchip's

Tigre’s Fan Microchip’s

91. The Atlanta Hawks unveiled a shark tank like competition for fans to showcase their marketing skills.

Atlanta Hawks 'Shark Tank'

Atlanta Hawks ‘Shark Tank’

90. Brisbane Roar (A-League) and Brisbane Lions (AFL) announced a collaboration to work together this year by allowing members of both clubs to enjoy a top-level cross-code experience.

Brisbane Roar A-League and Brisbane Lions AFL

Brisbane Roar A-League and Brisbane Lions AFL

89. The Phoenix Suns made everyone laugh with their Lion King Cam 88. Hibernian unveiled their ‘Life With Hibs’ campaign.

Hibs SPL

Hibs SPL

87. The Detroit Pistons introduced their new interactive game day guide which saw the emails that they send to fans change every time the fan views them.

Detroit Pistons NBA

Detroit Pistons NBA

86. West Ham United FC were one of a number of clubs to introduce eSports players. Manchester City, Ajax, PSG and the 76ers were among the teams to also introduce eSports players.

West Ham eSports Player

West Ham eSports Player

Ajax eSports

Ajax eSports

85. The Townsville Fire in the WNBL put all of their members names on the centre court.

Townsville Fire WNBL

Townsville Fire WNBL

84. The NBA and Under Armour introduced the NBA Fit App.

NBA Fit App

NBA Fit App

83. FC Grenoble used Tinder to engage their fans with an activation that involved fans matching with the team mascot.

FC Grenoble Rugby Tinder App

FC Grenoble Rugby Tinder App

82. The Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters first pitch got a bit scary as they did this scary Ring version of events in Japan. 81. The NY Knicks and other teams across codes poked fun at fans with the ‘Bandwagon Cam’ throughout the season.

80. Swedish club AIK replaced younger mascots with older ones for this game and it was an interesting outcome.  79. Mercedes Benz Stadium introduced their concession offerings for fans for when the new stadium opens. Fan favourites like hot dogs and soda’s are cheap at $2. The Atlanta Falcons then sent members a player signed thank you card with $2 inside so they could use that money on the new food and drink menu.

Mercedes Benz Stadium concession offerings

Mercedes Benz Stadium concession offerings

Atlanta Falcons NFL

Atlanta Falcons NFL

78. The Melbourne Storm in the NRL lit up Melbourne’s AAMI Park with these stadium projections.

Melbourne Storm NRL

Melbourne Storm NRL

77. The Sacramento Kings in the NBA launched a spin cycle class for fans.

Sacramento Kings NBA

Sacramento Kings NBA

76. Richmond Tigers in the AFL got cosy with the Cuddle Cam 75. Euro 2016 saw David Guetta team up with fans which allowed the latter to sing his song and re-mix the track.

Euro 2016

Euro 2016

74. Metallica played the US national anthem to thousands of fans at a San Jose Sharks NHL home game. Interesting national anthem renditions. Can they work elsewhere?

72. The Sydney Swans in the AFL worked with a sponsor to light up the Sydney Cricket Ground through this wearables activation.

Sydney Swans

Sydney Swans

Sydney Swans/SCG AFL

Sydney Swans/SCG AFL

71. The roving dinosaur at the Australian Grand Prix in their new M-Lane gourmet food and drink area certainly made fans lose their minds for a few seconds.

AUS GP F1 'M-Lane'

AUS GP F1 ‘M-Lane’

70. The Dallas Mavericks in the NBA let fans design the new basketball court.

Dallas Mavericks NBA

Dallas Mavericks NBA

69. At the Wests Tigers home game at Campbelltown Stadium in Sydney against the NZ Warriors made the traditional Kiwi meal, Hangi available to fans.

Hangi at Wests Tigers NRL

Hangi at Wests Tigers NRL

68. The Phoenix Suns held a 90’s night complete with some clever content like this pager number and 90’s website. 

Phoenix Suns NBA

Phoenix Suns NBA

Phoenix Suns 90's Night

Phoenix Suns 90’s Night

67. The Sounders in the MLS let fans design their scarves.

Sounders FC 'Scarf Sound Off'

Sounders FC ‘Scarf Sound Off’

66. Leicester City gave away a free beer to every member after winning the Premier League.

LCFC

LCFC

65. Brisbane Lions AFL club gave free car washes to fans cars while they were at the game.

Brisbane Lions AFL

Brisbane Lions AFL

64. The Australian national football team, The Socceroos created a clever junior passport which saw kids be able to participate in activities and get a stamp at each station and then take home a merchandise pack.

Socceroos Junior Passport

Socceroos Junior Passport

63. Auckland Blues in the Super Rugby gave away 10 tonnes of potatoes to a selection of fans on game day.

Auckland Blues Super Rugby

Auckland Blues Super Rugby

62. The ever inclusive Sydney Swans launched their official LGBTI fan group. Read more about the Rainbow Swans.

Sydney Swans AFL Rainbow Swans

Sydney Swans AFL Rainbow Swans

61. Football club Reading FC in England gave fans the opportunity to brand and name their new beer in partnership with West Berkshire Brewing.

Reading FC

Reading FC

60. Essendon launched their Embracing India campaign to engage with the Indian community in Australia.

AFL Essendon's Embracing India Initiative

AFL Essendon’s Embracing India Initiative

59. Leicester City and Walkers released these special edition crisps called ‘Salt and Victory’ to celebrate their huge win in the Premier League. They gave away a packet to every fan at a home game too.

LCFC 'Salt and Victory' Crisps

LCFC ‘Salt and Victory’ Crisps

58. The NY Rangers introduced a new big screen idea with the ‘Viral Moment Of The Game’ that took a clip that was or is going viral and put it up on the screens during breaks.

NY Islanders NHL 'Viral Moment'

NY Islanders NHL ‘Viral Moment’

57. As part of their fan giveaways and promotions in 2016, the Dodgers gave away 40,000 Justin Turner Chia Pet’s to fans. That’s an interesting merchandise/giveaway idea if ever I’ve seen one.

LA Dodgers MLB

LA Dodgers MLB

56. Arsenal launched the first Premier League app for kids. More on this here.

Arsenal Kids App

Arsenal Kids App

55. The GWS Giants had a half time activation that made one fan $100,000 richer! What a kick this was…. This video shot by a fan is also worth a look. Absolute scenes…..

54. The Atlanta Tinder Hawks Swipe Right Night 2.0 again showcased the Hawks flair for tech with this digital tech night at a game. More about this activation here.

Atlanta Hawks Swipe Right Night 2.0

Atlanta Hawks Swipe Right Night 2.0

53. MCFC have unveiled their plans for their new walk way from the stadium which sees fans see them walk through a special tunnel.

MCFC

MCFC

52. The Sacramento Kings in the NBA held a tech night that was a good way to showcase fans tech skills which would go a long way in improving their fan experience at games.

Sacramento Kings Tech Night

Sacramento Kings Tech Night

51. The Miami Dolphins and a host of other US teams partnered with Uber for Uber Tailgate which saw fans be able to catch a seamless ride to and from the game.

Uber Tailgate

Uber Tailgate

50. The NRL launched a new real time auction feature called Instabilia which allowed fans to bid on game worn gear while the game was still on. 

NRL Instabilia

NRL Instabilia

49. The British and Irish Lions unveiled their new kit with this cool hologram activation.

48. NYCFC introduced ‘Hair Cam’

NYCFC 'Hair Cam'

NYCFC ‘Hair Cam’

47. Collingwood let injured player Dane Swan live tweet a game from the official team Twitter account.

Collingwood AFL

Collingwood AFL

46. The NRL Bulldogs leased their Belmore Sports Ground stadium out to one lucky family for a night.

NRL Bulldogs

NRL Bulldogs

45. At the NRL Grand Final fans were treated to free massages in the members only fan area.

NRL Grand Final

NRL Grand Final

44. The NFL Baltimore Ravens let a fan be a photographer for the night.

Baltimore Ravens NFL

Baltimore Ravens NFL

43. MCFC introduced robots to keep fans happy at Etihad Stadium.

MCFC Robots

MCFC Robots

42. Tottenham Hotspur in the BPL produced a heap of free and fun printable party ideas for fans.

Tottenham EPL

Tottenham EPL

41. Arsenal FC had fun with this ‘Where’s Wally’ type mascot image on social media which took off.

Arsenal FC

Arsenal FC

40. Minor League team, the Potomac Nationals had one of the coolest giveaway promotions ever with this Seinfeld Frank Costanza bobblehead.

Potomac Nationals

Potomac Nationals

39. The Memphis Grizzlies held a cute Diaper Derby. The Sydney Kings in the NBL also did a baby race which went down well with fans.

Memphis Grizzlies 'Diaper Derby'

Memphis Grizzlies ‘Diaper Derby’

38. The Atlanta Falcons called upon gaming fans for Madden Monday tournaments.

Atlanta Falcons NFL

Atlanta Falcons NFL

37. The San Diego Padres held a Ghostbusters Day complete with a nifty bobblehead freebie.

Padres MLB 'Ghostbuster's Day'

Padres MLB ‘Ghostbuster’s Day’

36. The Brisbane Heat in the BBL cricket launched their virtual reality mobile app.

Brisbane Heat BBL

Brisbane Heat BBL

35. The Western Sydney Wanderers launched a new fan bar for their A-League fans.

WSW A-League

WSW A-League

34. West Ham United FC launched a new range of beers at the Olympic Stadium in London which included Iron Ale and Boleyn Bitter.

West Ham United FC

West Ham United FC

33. The Cleveland Cavaliers introduced a VR headset activation with sponsor Budweiser to bring exclusive VR content directly to fans through their app.

Cavs NBA VR

Cavs NBA VR

Cavs NBA VR

Cavs NBA VR

32. The NBA launched these colourful Twitter emojis and hashflags for the current NBA season.

NBA Twitter Emoji's

NBA Twitter Emoji’s

NBA Hashflags

NBA Hashflags

31. Cricket Australia launched their ‘Field of Flavours’ fan experience that is seen here on show for the third test match at the Adelaide Oval.

Cricket Australia 'Field of Flavours'

Cricket Australia ‘Field of Flavours’

Cricket Australia 'Field of Flavours'

Cricket Australia ‘Field of Flavours’

30. The WWE Series let fans take home their actual seats!

WWE Survivor Series

WWE Survivor Series

WWE Survivor Series

WWE Survivor Series

30. The Canberra Raiders fans in the NRL made the ‘Viking Clap’ something to remember in 2016.

29. The Seattle Mariners gave away 20,000 replica plaques to fans.

Seattle Mariners MLB

Seattle Mariners MLB

28. Aston Villa’s owner Tony Xia allowed members the opportunity to sit with him at games in his director’s box.

Aston Villa FC

Aston Villa FC

27. QPRFC held a special ticket promotion to coincide with the 50th anniversary of their 1967 league cup win by offering tickets at this low price.

QPRFC

QPRFC

27. Melbourne Victory in the A-League gave away free personalised trading cards to fans.

Melbourne Victory A-League personalised trading cards

Melbourne Victory A-League personalised trading cards

26. The Cleveland Cavaliers gave fans the chance to wear a championship ring through virtual reality.

Cavs NBA

Cavs NBA

25. The NRL Grand Final featured a cool activation called ‘The Virtual Boot’ where fans could take a virtual kick as seen below. e7b494d70612bb8e6f3fca0fb58b5aff

24. Football club Morton FC called on fans to design and then judge the winning kit design for their away jersey.

Morton FC

Morton FC

23. Watford and Virgin Rail subsidised the away day train travel for fans.

Watford EPL

Watford EPL

22. NASCAR let their drivers take over the Snapchat account.

NASCAR

NASCAR

21. West Bromwich Albion owner gave out a free beer and scarf to every member at one of the team’s home games.

West Bromwich Albion BPL

West Bromwich Albion BPL

20. Chelsea Football Club stood out brightly with this new lighting and visuals display this season.

Chelsea FC

Chelsea FC

19. Memphis Grizzlies created a giant corn maze for fans. 

Memphis Grizzlies NBA

Memphis Grizzlies NBA

18. MCFC launched Pep’s Taxi. 

17. Australian Open Tennis Instagram Mosaic. Fans were encouraged to tag #AUSOPEN on Instagram and then were able to get their polaroid pic printed. They could then add it to the wall as seen below.

Aus Open Instagram Mosaic

Aus Open Instagram Mosaic

Aus Open Instagram Mosaic

Aus Open Instagram Mosaic

16. The Canterbury Bulldogs in the NRL had a fantastic fan engagement project called The Breed. Everyone should check this out.

NRL Bulldogs

NRL Bulldogs

'The Breed' Canterbury Bulldogs NRL

‘The Breed’ Canterbury Bulldogs NRL

15. The Minnesota Wild became the first team to use Snapchat Spectacles. 

14. The Gold Coast Suns (AFL) were one of a number of global teams who jumped on the Pokemon Go craze back in June with this event.

Gold Coast Suns AFL

Gold Coast Suns AFL

13. Plenty of teams in the US and UK started to engage fans with hackathons. Denver Broncos, MCFC and Oregon University were just some of the many teams getting into this tech space.

MCFC

MCFC

Oregon University Quackcon

Oregon University Quackcon

Denver Broncos NFL

Denver Broncos NFL

12. Westpac Stadium projections for the ALL BLACKS rugby union test matches in Wellington, New Zealand.

Westpac Stadium Wellington, NZ

Westpac Stadium Wellington, NZ

11. The Hallmark Security Football League produced this great little ground hopper book for young and old football fans.

The Hallmark Security Football League

The Hallmark Security Football League

10. The AFL Grand Final saw fans take a big kick off the ‘Tower of Torp’ and into a giant AFL Premiership cup.

AFL Grand Final 'Tower of Torp'

AFL Grand Final ‘Tower of Torp’

9. The Western Bulldogs in the AFL gave fans travelling to Sydney for a finals match $10 and this lovely letter to show them how much their support meant to them in the run through the finals.

Western Bulldogs AFL

Western Bulldogs AFL

8. The Denver Broncos launched a 45 day fitness challenge for fans which represented a good health and fitness bit of fan engagement.

Denver Broncos NFL

Denver Broncos NFL

7. The Houston Astros gave out beards for fans of Keuchel.

Houston Astros

Houston Astros

6. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFL got their players to draw NFL team logos. What ensued was pretty hilarious. Bucs Draw NFL Logos

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 'Draw Logos'

Tampa Bay Buccaneers ‘Draw Logos’

5. The pool deck and Sandy Point at The Gabba, Brisbane. 

Pool Deck and Sandy Point at The Gabba Cricket Australia

Pool Deck and Sandy Point at The Gabba Cricket Australia

Gabba Pool Deck

Gabba Pool Deck

Sandy Point

Sandy Point

Sandy Point

Sandy Point

Sandy Point

Sandy Point

Gabba Pool Deck

Gabba Pool Deck

4. Tennessee Titans NFL fan caricatures had fans lining up for these free face drawings when I visited Nissan Stadium in October.

Titans caricature's

Titans caricature’s

3.  Allianz Stadium in Sydney put up an offer for fans to grab a free pie via their app if either team scored 4 tries or more before the 60th minute. 

Allianz Stadium

Allianz Stadium

 2. San Antonio Spurs gave away packets of Slam Duncan O’s (Tim Duncan’s cereal) via mini parachutes at his farewell ceremony

1. One of the best bits of fan engagement at the AFL Grand Final was seeing a couple of fans race around the MCG fence as they tried to beat a horse on the LED screen which was racing along side them.

FREE Resource: 200+ Fan Engagement Ideas For Stadiums And Teams

Hi, 

I’m talking all things fan engagement and women in sport at the MCG on Tuesday 15th November for the CHAMPIONING WOMEN IN SPORT conference and have put together a helpful flyer to hand out to delegates on the day that lists over 200 creative and fun fan engagement ideas.

While it doesn’t compare to a free rally towel, flag, magnet schedule or t-shirt, I can’t just give a fun motivational speech at a fan engagement conference without having guests take home a free giveaway! 

The high res PDF print version is available below if you’d like to print it out as well.

Fan Engagement Activations

It’s always nice hearing from sports business professionals from England and the US to Russia and Australia and everywhere else in between who find both my Fan Engagement Pinterest site and these resources helpful so please touch base if you would like any more information regarding these ideas and I’ll be happy to assist you. 

I’m available for consulting and conference talks and always keen to hear what teams and stadiums are doing in this space so feel free to get in touch via MrBlairHughes@gmail.com or @MrBlairHughes on Twitter. 

Thanks and have a good week.  

Fan Engagement Ideas For Stadiums And Teams

Fan Engagement Ideas For Stadiums And Teams

Fan Engagement Ideas For Stadiums And Teams

Fan Engagement Ideas For Stadiums And Teams

 

200 Fan Engagement Activations

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