stadium

200+ Fan Engagement Ideas To Entertain, Educate And Connect Sports Fans During COVID19

G’day everyone, I hope that this latest blog post and infographic finds you well especially given the unprecedented circumstances we’re all in at the moment.

How is everyone going with everything at the moment? It’s a pretty stressful and overwhelming time for everyone but it seems that we’re all coping pretty well with self-isolation, COVID19 concerns and everything else that’s going on in our lives. Whose missing live sport? The smells and sounds of the game-day? It will be all back before we know it.

Like millions of others, both my wife and I have lost work but life does go on and you have to keep moving. I’m deeply saddened to hear about plenty of my hard-working friends and colleagues from the sports business world who are struggling at the moment because of redundancies or lost income. We’re all in this together and things will get better. I know how hard these reps have all worked for fans in stadiums all over the world so they should be very proud of what they’ve achieved and hopefully will be able to come back to their clubs or venues when the time is right. I’m in the same boat and while there’s not much I can do to help, all I can say is that I’m always happy to listen and talk to anyone if they feel like a virtual chat or a catch-up.

It’s important that we check in on one another at this time but also that we stay active and focused mentally and so because the former school teacher in me can’t just sit still and not want to help, I’ve put together another free quick fan engagement infographic which will help global to grassroots clubs all over the world.

I scoured the web looking at what over 400 global teams were doing for fan engagement content ideas at this time and was blown away at the creativity and innovation coming from these hard-working teams at this time to still provide educational and entertaining content to connect fans.

From mental fitness webinars, kids activity workbooks and recipe creations to Zoom backgrounds, bitmoji’s and fitness challenges it’s been very impressive to see how teams across the world have adapted during COVID19 to provide fans of all ages, but especially young fans with ways to stay connected to the game and their teams.

I have therefore attached below another FREE fan engagement resource that I have put together along with the bullet points of all the ideas for easy access below too.

I have also added the images to my 8000+ strong fan engagement Pinterest board which has an abundance of ideas that have come in useful for teams over the years. Visit the FE Pinterest here.

Also if you haven’t seen any of the other fan engagement infographics that I’ve put together then you can find them here.

If something doesn’t make sense then please just ask and I will assist you with more information about what the bullet point represents.

As with the majority of things I do in the fan engagement space, I don’t ask for much in return for my services as I care about young fans and making the best fan experience possible. I love what I get to do and as a fan first and foremost myself this will never change. All I ever ask is that you respect me and my work and let me know if it came in handy and reach out if you found it helpful.

The best part about what I’ve been able to do here has been to network, help out and meet likeminded people in sports biz from all across the globe who one day I can introduce my soon to be born child to your team and stadium and not just go on my global stadium journeys by myself. With a baby girl on the way in July, I can’t wait to be doing this and instill in them my love for stadium architecture, trying diverse F&B and catching different sports in different parts of the globe. With COVID19 going on and no real end in sight, it’s important that we understand that we all have so much to look forward to and for me, I can’t wait to welcome my first baby and soon to be sports fan into the world.

Thank you for reading and I hope that this free resource comes in handy for you.

Have a good week, keep smiling and stay positive.

This will all be over soon and fans will be back on the Kiss Cam, cheering their teams on and also complaining about the price and quality of stadium F&B in no time!

200+ Fan Engagement Ideas To Entertain, Educate And Connect Sports Fans During COVID19

  • Check in on elderly members/fans
  • Word search
  • Stay Home Bingo card
  • Spot the ball
  • Colour in the player/club emblem/jersey
  • Draw the player/ground/emblem
  • Throw back pictures/moments/memories
  • Nominate a team
  • Challenges
  • Zoom wallpapers
  • Team/Player wallpapers
  • Podcasts
  • Classic calls/flashbacks
  • Play back old games
  • Coronavirus hand washing techniques/instructions
  • Deliver care packages to fans
  • VR ground visits
  • YouTube/Video shows/recaps and rewinds
  • Hero of the team (emergency services fan shout outs)
  • Feel Good moments/pics/videos
  • Art competitions
  • Story Time. Players read kids books/stories to young fans
  • Countdowns and votes (best jersey/game/player etc.)
  • Connect 4 Mascot challenges
  • Google Home to engage with fans at home
  • Photo of the day
  • Family Nominations
  • Q&A’s
  • On This Day
  • Skills challenges
  • Fitness/work out/training tips
  • Team commentate fans skills/videos
  • GIF challenges
  • Twitch e-sports gaming challenges
  • Re-watch classic games
  • Share your fan story
  • Utilising fan generated content
  • Repurposing merch for medical supplies
  • Instagram/FB Live with players/team
  • Beat the clock online jigsaw puzzle challenges
  • Emergency/Health services branded merch
  • #FromTheArchives
  • Old player profiles
  • Choose your ultimate team lineups
  • Mental Health Messages and Tips
  • Classic game replays
  • What Self-Iso Personality Are You?
  • Quizzes
  • Polls
  • Social games
  • Replay games via Twitter updates
  • Club Spotify music playlists
  • What are the players up to updates
  • CEO messages/emails to fans
  • Player video messages to fans
  • Game day dress up
  • Twitter/FB/Insty take overs
  • Send letters to the team
  • Player pen-pals
  • Dogs of the club/team/fans
  • Activity sheets/kids worksheets
  • Legend Q&A with past player
  • The People’s Presser
  • Ultimate Quaran Team
  • Memes
  • Pixelated pick the players
  • My ‘Insert Team’ Story
  • Top 100 games/moments/memories/players/jerseys
  • Virtual Match day Predictions
  • Random Acts of Kindness
  • Inside the training session
  • 60 seconds Qs with the player/coach
  • Fan profiles
  • TikToks
  • Tattoo profiles of the players
  • Live Q&A
  • Choose your ultimate fantasy team
  • Match day program flashbacks
  • Fun Facts
  • Virtual autographs
  • Match day merch offers
  • Merchandise daily deals
  • Fan Virtual Meet Up
  • Online Quizzes Ex. Kahootz
  • Archival footage
  • Free access to exclusive content
  • Cooking and recipe shows
  • Online fan party
  • Mini documentaries
  • Exclusive special merch
  • Good News Stories
  • Stay Home Messages
  • Send us your crazy graphic design requests
  • Guess the player names from the emoji’s
  • Bracket challenges
  • Charity Challenges
  • Merch giveaways
  • Stadium wallpapers
  • Your Stadium Memory
  • Virtual Game Days
  • Personalised jersey wallpapers
  • Player fashion shows
  • CRIBS- player home lockdown version
  • Players/team letters to fans/members
  • #OpenDoorChallenge
  • Fan Art Fridays
  • #GetYourKitOn
  • Donate A Membership
  • Retro plays of the week
  • Stat attacks
  • Classic game breakdowns with ex players/coaches
  • Specials on training range merch
  • Stories behind the big moments
  • Team/Player Yoga
  • Animal Crossing jerseys
  • Surprise fans with calls/videos
  • Individual Training Programs
  • Food Bank Appeals
  • Name The Goal/Try/Moment
  • Show and Tell (Show Us Your Sports Cave)
  • Backyard Skills Challenges
  • Arts & Crafts
  • Community hero of the week
  • Home Workouts
  • Old photos from yesteryear
  • Your Call From Home- Fans commentating big moments
  • Show Your Colours- send in pics in
  • Team colouring in books
  • Guess The Player- Who Am I?
  • What Happens Next?
  • Fan discounts for team sponsors- support local businesses
  • Thank You Messages to fans
  • What comes to mind when you see this kit?
  • Your Birth Month and First Letter of your name = Your Career/Name etc.
  • Find a word
  • Scoreboard challenge
  • Word Challenges: Team scattergories
  • Spot The Difference
  • Share Your Ticket Stub Memory
  • Guess which season these jerseys are from
  • Trading Card Flashbacks
  • Retro Team List Tuesday
  • Share favourite merch items
  • Whose Tattoo?
  • Isolation Task/Name
  • Mental Health/Fitness webinars
  • Fan video messages of support for the team
  • Player/FOH profiles
  • Alternative design random jerseys
  • Design a banner
  • Old news stories from papers
  • Fan/Member of the week
  • Animated GIFs
  • Cartoons
  • This Week: Run a schedule of what’s on for fans
  • Inspirational quotes
  • Anything mascot related: Colouring in, wallpapers, cut outs
  • Virtual Happy Hour’s knock off beers/drinks with team/fans
  • Live chat with a former star
  • Share baby photos of players/team
  • Build the ultimate stadium meal
  • Thank you shout outs to health care workers
  • Game plan breakdowns- show attack/defence plays
  • Team/Player pays it forward with free coffees/meals for members/health care workers at local businesses
  • Team maze challenges
  • Reading challenges
  • Fans/Members nominate a local business that deserves recognition
  • Virtual cheerleading/dance sessions for fitness/kids
  • What’s in the player’s fridge?
  • Hand washing technique cards
  • Player Bitmojis
  • Art contests
  • Make up tutorials
  • Fan challenges- draw players/ask a question for social live
  • Virtual radiothon
  • Art workshops
  • Sudoku worksheets
  • Video chat with the mascot
  • Kids recipe book
  • Write letters/notes of support along with the team to health care workers
  • Showcase players hidden talents
  • Showcase fans/members hidden talents
  • Promote fans/members of the club local businesses to the fan base
  • ‘I Stay Home For….’ Cards
  • Community Support Roster- show who the team supports
  • Paper Bag Puppets
  • Write a letter to the mascot
  • Rivalry Recaps
  • Mascot/Player printable cut outs
  • Group fitness classes/steps challenges
  • Virtual Vacations frames for fans
  • Stay At Home Match Notes/Sheet
  • Make a player out of household items cardboard etc.
  • Virtual watch parties of classic old games
  • Where’s the mascot (where’s wally etc.)
  • Fan hall of fame
  • Guess the attendance of the retro game
  • Name the score of the classic game
  • Mascot trading cards
  • Send in fan messages for the team to go up in the sheds for their return
  • Fan call from the CEO
  • Write a match day review from a past game- writing challenge
  • Printable posters
  • Letterbox drops of merch/letters from players to members houses
  • Junior fan of the day during COVID19
  • Fan caricatures
  • Team DJ doing a set live on social
  • Junior reporter commentates a classic game
  • Kids only fan forum
  • Kids only team presser
  • Members/fans merch lucky dip live
  • Memory games
  • Virtual members wall
  • VR ticket/merch/mascot hunts
  • Kids/parents fans/members only fitness/health session live by team
  • Stay at home pass
  • Printable trophies and cups
  • Promote fans membership loyalty i.e. 5, 10, 20 years memberships
  • Harness, use and showcase fan generated content
  • Print out club size charts
  • First game day at home certificates
  • Game day memorabilia auctions/giveaways
  • Fan/member appreciation day/week
  • Make a team flag at home
  • At home ‘cams’ team filters for Oblivious cam, Kiss cam, etc.

 

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

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

How Sports Teams And Stadiums Are Scoring Big With Craft Beer Fans

This is my latest article which has been written for new Australian craft beer magazine, FROTH. Enjoy!

FROTH MAGAZINE

FROTH MAGAZINE

The live sports fan experience has been undergoing a rapid and exciting transformation in recent years in an effort to bring fans back to the game as major sports teams and stadiums across the globe are addressing fan concerns such as poor quality food options, long queues and inadequate parking to public transport woes, expensive tickets and dirty or insufficient toilets. However there is also one key area that these clubs and arenas are working on to enhance the fan experience and that concerns improving the quality of the beer.

As a result of the high definition wide screen TV sports experience becoming so entertaining these days, sports businesses have had to work extremely hard to increase fans emotional loyalty and provide extra value and ‘bang for their buck’ in an effort to get fans off their TV’s in their sport caves and get their bums back into the stadium seats. While stadium technology like artificial intelligence and virtual reality activations, real time player stats and biometric fast track fingerprint ticketing screening to apps that show you the fastest moving toilet line and in-seat ordering are creative stadium innovations for sport fans, the one area that often gets the most gripe from fans is the quality or lack there of it of the stadium beer however certain aspects in this space are improving.

There are many exciting things happening at this intersection of craft beer and live sports to improve the fan experience and deliver deeper connections with fans. Teams such as the NFL’s Buffalo Bills and the MLS’s DC United have both brought out their own lines of pale ales for fans such as Southern Tier Brewing Company’s ‘One Buffalo Our Beer’ and DC Brau Brewing Company’s ‘The Tradition’ respectively. Major League Soccer team Sporting Kansas City also teamed up with Boulevard Brewing to release special brews on game days with myself being lucky enough to try their delicious Sporting Saison at a game in October.

Venues like the Dallas Mavericks and Dallas Stars American Airlines Arena in Dallas, Texas and Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand have recently introduced local craft beers to appeal to fans tastes and offer a wider selection of beer on match days. In the case of Wellington’s Westpac Stadium, which is the first stadium in Australia or New Zealand to offer local independent craft beers, the initial foray into local independent craft beer has been for Wellington Phoenix games this season with the beers changing for each event. The Stadium’s CEO and good beer fan Shane Harmon highlights that ‘craft beer was cited as the No.1 area in which we could improve the fan experience’ and points out that at the most recent event ‘we poured Garage Project’s Hāpi Daze (a Pacific Pale Ale) and Orange Sunshine (a citrus wheat ale) as well as Tuatara’s Outrigger (a Pacific Pale Ale), Pilsner & Helles’ with the feedback having been universally positive from fans.

Elsewhere, English football teams Burnley FC and Crystal Palace have both held beer festivals celebrating local craft beer varieties from Moorhouse Brewing and Cornwall’s Sharp’s Brewery while Reading FC have recently called on fans to name and brand their new West Berkshire Brewery pale ale to be sold in the stands. It’s these types of beer initiatives that have deeply engaged hardcore fans who love craft beer as well as the world game.

Back in the US and the New York Mets held an educational ‘beer passport’ event last year that featured plenty of New York brews from Brooklyn Brewery, The Bronx Brewery and SixPoint Brewery and was an added way for fans to get more bang for their buck out of the game while experiencing quality New York state craft beers. Major League Baseball’s LA Dodgers have also upped the game in terms of beer technology as they’ve created special technologically advanced ice cream type foam that sits on top of your cup of beer to keep it ice cold for 45 minutes.

 

 

In recent seasons in the US there’s been a big push for stadiums to feature better quality beers with NFL stadiums like New York’s MetLife Stadium featuring Captain Lawrence and BluePoint, Chicago’s Soldier Field serving up Half Acre and Goose Island and the Green Bay Packers Lambeau field pouring Hinterland and Badger State brews. In fact in writing this article I counted over 100 craft beers on offer at US stadiums. Throughout other US stadiums in-seat ordering and self serve craft beer machines have meant that fans avoid missing long periods of on-field action as beer lines are shorter (with colder beer) as well as the fact that beers can be delivered straight to your seat. Stadiums like the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers Levis Stadium have implemented in-seat ordering so that your beer can arrive ice cold without ever having to leave your seat while their mobile app can even show you which toilet has the shortest queue in real time when you need to relieve yourself!

For those fans who want to watch their beer calories at matches, Canada has manufactured a recovery ale sports beer called ‘Lean Machine’ that is being marketed as the perfect post workout beer as it only contains 80 calories and even had scientists backing it up by saying its no more harmful than a sports drink. Further to this if you’re the designated driver in your group of mates, then US stadiums are just for you as many teams like the New Jersey Devils and New York Jets give sober fans who sign up to drive their mates home a free soft-drink which is a good idea that could work here too.

Exciting developments are happening in Australia too as the SCG recently launched their Matilda Bay Brewer’s Pavilion bar featuring a special exclusive lager called Wagging Tale. Not to be outdone, Sydney’s ANZ Stadium has just openedThe Crossbar that features Kosciuszko Pale Ale amongst 16 other varieties of beer while also creating the James Squire Craft Beer Bar inside the stadium. Furthermore, with Mountain Goat and Little Creatures being recently bought out by Asahi and Lion Nathan respectively and with fans constantly demanding more value, we may well be seeing these fine beers or others at an Australian stadium soon.

So raise your plastic schooner cups sports fans and rejoice in the knowledge that your love and thirst for craft beers is finally being addressed by teams and stadiums across the globe and even here in Australia as they look to give us greater fan experiences each time we head through the turnstiles.

Blair heads up the Australian operations for audioBoom which works with major Australian and international sporting teams through to broadcasters and podcasters and has previously worked at English football club Queens Park Rangers and The Gabba sports ground along with a career in the education system and music industry. Blair can’t go past Stone and Wood’s Pacific Ale but is also partial to Feral Brewing’s Watermelon Warhead. 

Portsmouth FC and Fratton Park Fan Experience Review

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

I’m currently in London for a week of work with our audioBoom UK office but with a Sunday and Saturday free either side, I’m making sure I can get to a couple of stadiums to check out some more football fan experiences across England.

Today I’m in the south western English seaside town of Portsmouth, home to current football league two team Portsmouth FC or ‘Pompey’ as they are known more affectionately. Today is my 28th football ground visit in England since I first moved here in 2006 so I’m slowly ticking all 92 of them off as Pompey take on AFC Wimbledon today.

I head off for this away day to Portsmouth at 830am by grabbing a tube (£2.20) from London Bridge to Victoria Coach Station where I catch a two hour (£9 return) coach ride to The Hard Exchange in Portsmouth.  

PortsmouthFC

PortsmouthFC

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

When I arrive just after 11am it’s wet, extremely windy, cold and grey and the seagulls are out in force trying to eat my chips (£1.20) and Cornish pastie (£1.90) that I’ve just purchased from a proper chip shop, the delicious pastie of which comes second only to the one I had at Glastonbury 2008. 

PortsmouthFC

PortsmouthFC

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

I find a local home team pub in the Ship and Castle in town and settle down to a few pre-game beers (Hobgoblin pint £5.90 and something called a Fosters for £2.80- sorry Australia!) and read up on some research I’ve collected on what Portsmouth do for fans on match days to improve the fan experience. Some good reading here on that: 

How Portsmouth FC are leading the way in Fan Engagement

Portsmouth FC – Mobile First

Government sets up group to improve fan engagement

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

It looks like I’ve arrived at just the right time for stadium transport as Uber was only legalized here on Friday and at 1pm I grab one from the Ship & Castle to Portsmouth’s Fratton Park stadium and talk to my Romanian driver about Portsmouth, Uber and football in general. Ben is a Manchester United fan and thinks the fan experience at Fratton Park is quite good but he hates the team so is only judging this from having sat in the away end.  

Ben drops me just outside the south stand gates where I chat to a teenage program seller about the Pompey experience. The young chap talks up the things the club does to engage young fans and shows me the excellent specially produced £1 kids only 100 page match day program. I believe from what sellers were saying to fans that this is the only kids specific match day program in the football league. 

PortsmouthFC

PortsmouthFC

PortsmouthFC

PortsmouthFC

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

As I walk around this classic old school 1898 stadium through tiny alleyways surrounded by residential housing I’m thinking about how for some fans, fan engagement is just about making sure things like transport, ticketing and concessions are road block free on match day. The Fratton Park and Portsmouth FC experience is not a glossy polished technologically driven day out with cup holders,  free WiFi (or any WiFi for that matter) or big screen digital activations but of bovril and curry chips to singing songs and sitting under historic stadium tin roofs while taking in the game. 

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

After purchasing a £3 program I make my way to my general seat (£20) in the North stand but I’m surprised to see it is a restricted view seat yet there was no mention of this in the booking process nor did the club reply to my email asking for help with purchasing a ticket when the address function drop down bar on the ticketing site only allowed for five countries with Australia not being one of them. I figured it out by using a fake address but it shows the importance of clubs having to make sure they listen to their fans. Now while I also know that these old stands weren’t designed with all fans sight angles in mind and that thats part of the charm, I can imagine another fan getting frustrated at paying (AU$50) for a ticket with a restricted view but not being told about that in the first instance. And what of £20 for the fourth division of a competition? Is football too expensive in England? It was a sell out here today so it’s obviously not a problem amongst Pompey fans? Time will tell….

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

It was a nice idea to see that Pompey fans occupy the number 12 spot in the team listing on the back of the match day program. 

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

I entered through turnstile 5 in the North Stand by scanning my paper ticket that I printed back in Melbourne. Sigh. Look at this. What has become of the great physical ticket design. I’ve collected 95% of the tickets from gigs and games since 1996 and always try to buy a physical ticket whenever I can. Any club who produces these paper tickets should find a way to at least make these customizable with fans faces or profiles on them or with team livery designs to bring a bit of personalization and memorable collectability to ticketing. Its the fans ink and paper after all. 

PortsmouthFC

PortsmouthFC

PortsmouthFC

PortsmouthFC

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

Food options at Fratton Park are pretty basic but the pies sounded nice. Beer prices are affordable at £3.50 considering I paid double for a pint at pretty much every stadium in the US recently and at this price are on par with Aussie beer prices, albeit we don’t have pints at out stadiums. 

PortsmouthFC

PortsmouthFC

I do find it intriguing that in English football  even though clubs and stadiums make every effort to stamp out abusive language with text lines and stewards on hand that fans get away with the level of swearing that they do. Cries of ‘Fook off you daft muppet’ and ‘eww durty basterd carnt’ here from one fan barely raises an eye from fans but in Australia I think while its expected at sporting matches the world over, that fans don’t tolerate it as much with kids present as they do here as in a way its all part of that quintessential English football experience. Its also a bit of the bystander effect in practice as no fan wants to dob in another fan just for swearing. 

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

There was some creative street art adorning the mens and women’s toilets that was a good use of space as seen here.

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

With Remembrance Day only a few days prior to this game and Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris, the club plays the last post before a minutes silence. Listen here: 

There was also a young navy man carrying around an old Pompey rally sign in the form of a 30’s/40’s design to ramp fans up in the pre game which was a simple and creative yet respectful idea. 

PortsmouthFC

PortsmouthFC

While the youth program was a cool idea it was also interesting to hear how the club’s older fans participate in walking football as well.

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

 

The Pompey fans are out in fine voice in the Fratton End as they belt out chants with drums, bells and whistles. Listen here to the Portsmouth FC fans. 

The game is an exciting free flowing and attacking spectacle with both teams firing shots off while the goalkeepers struggle to kick the ball straight as its held up in the wind like a balloon.  

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

I know I harp on and on about the exciting advancements and best practice fan engagement examples that I come across on my travels but sometimes all you really need is a good chat with fellow fans, a cold beer, a decent seat and a sing song to have a great stadium experience as a fan. Nothing compares to the English football experience from the pre game pints in either the home and away pubs and the walk to the ground to the singing and all the good vibes that go with this however I do  wonder what older purist fans will think when better advancements in seat ordering, drones, beacon and virtual reality technologies eventually start proliferating into the English game as they have done in the US and as they are now in Australia. Will English football fans of all ages embrace these new technologies? I for one hope that the football fan experience here retains its simple and pure charms as I experienced here at Portsmouth today. 

Portsmouth FC

Portsmouth FC

PortsmouthFC

PortsmouthFC

 

San Francisco 49ers and Levis Stadium Fan Experience

49ers

49ers

It’s 2am and I’m up to catch a 5am flight from Kansas City to San Francisco for today’s 49ers game in Santa Clara. Today is going to be a long day of travel and probably one of the longest ‘away days’ I’ve done. I had a 530am flight to Phoenix, Arizona with a two hour lay over and then a direct flight to San Fran. By the time I make it to San Francisco it’s 10am. I make the quick trek to my hotel, dump the bags and then hit the ground running for what would prove to be another two and a bit hours of travel to the 49ers Levis Stadium. 

49ers

49ers

Transportation

I make my way to San Francisco’s Union Station in downtown San Fran and pay US$20.50 for a day return which takes me to Levis Stadium. The huge CalTrain disembarks at 1pm packed with fans heading out early to the 5.35pm Thursday Night Football game and passes through 20 odd stations before we all disembark and cross the tracks for a small light rail type train to then take in another 20 odd stops to Mountain View station where Levis Stadium is located. It surely is a decent effort (100km or so) to get from downtown San Francisco to the stadium however with fellow NFL fans to talk to and a clean, safe and smooth ride in this modern transport it’s really quite a breeze. 

49ers

49ers

49ers

49ers

49ers

49ers

Parking and Tailgate Set Up

I step off the train at Mountain View station, walk across the platform and the car park ($60 US per car to tailgate) and stadium are in full view and it is a sight to behold. This is a stadium which greatly defines what an outstanding fan experience is all about and as I had heard a lot about it, it was thrilling to finally be able to experience it. As I walk in I start to feel thirsty so kindly ask the first tailgater I see in if I could buy a beer off him. Without hesitation he reaches into his huge esky packed with beers, soft drinks, waters (any good tailgater knows you have to be smart with the fluids!) and the biggest Grey Goose I’ve ever seen and hands me a beer and a handshake. It’s this type of hospitality that the tailgate is famous for as within the next few minutes we’re both being offered BBQ meats, seafood and other football food staples I stay for an hour or so talking about the success of Jarryd Hayne, fan engagement, life in the US and the tailgating experience before heading into the stadium but not after the guys had given me a few more beers to get set for the night.

As I leave the car park tailgating area and head into the stadium I notice that there’s a substantial bicycle area for fans who have chosen to ride to the stadium. I remember seeing something similar at Aston Villa’s Villa Park in Birmingham in the past so it’s great to see that the stadium is accommodating to those fans who chose a healthy way to get here today.

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Levis Stadium and 49ers App’s

I had previously downloaded both the extensive 49ers and Levis Stadium app and was excited to test these two out today, especially as they are integrated with one another on game day. 

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Mobile Ticketing

After extensive security procedures that included walking through the metal detector followed by a metal detector wand search and finally a pat down I was able to continue entering the stadium. Opening the Levis Stadium app I was able to view my ticket and scan the QR code at the electronic check point to enter the stadium. 

Using today’s hashtag and the app, my name was then displayed on the screens inside the stadium which was a very cool feature, especially as the app sent me a notification informing me that my ‘check in’ was coming up on the screens. As other’s have mentioned the beauty of this is that fans can be rewarded for their first, 50th or 100th visit for example by the NiNerds.

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NiNERDS

Just as you pass through the mobile ticketing area you are greeted by the NiNerds reps who are on hand to help fans with any stadium related queries they may have. From finding your seat to where you can purchase a gluten free vegan hotdog these guys are helpful, tech savvy and are here to look after  the needs of fans. I had a great chat at the gates with Michael and Noemi but also later noticed them running around during the game helping fans with queries.  

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Way-Finding 

One of the best features in the app is the way-finding element which directs you right to your seat inside the stadium using GPS. While I normally get a kick out of doing a full inside and outside walk around a stadium, this was a great feature that gets fans to their seats quickly.

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WiFi

Free WiFi which was super fast all day long even with 70,000 here today. It made ordering food and drinks, way-finding, mobile ticketing etc all very easy. The only thing this stadium or future stadiums need now is retractable USB charges under or in front of your seats.

Cup Holders

Every seat has a cup holder. Just brilliant to keep your beer cold. 

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Food

The food options inside Levi’s Stadium rival that of some of the best stadiums for food that I’ve visited in the past such as Yankee Stadium and the MCG. 

Fans have the option of over 180 items such as garlic fries, pizzas, burgers, pretzels, hot dogs, curries, steamed buns, burritos, asian style rice bowls and BBQ fare as well as having the option to either have their food delivered to their seat or grabbing it through express pick up. It was also interesting to see a over 14 vegan food concessions and other healthy options throughout the stadium as well as plenty of craft beer varieties to choose from. 

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In-Seat Ordering 

An aspect of the app which I was keen to test was the in-seat ordering for food and drinks. While I have tried these a few times in the US in the past, this was by far the best example of how to do this. 

I started by going into the app’s in-seat ordering section. Food was fairly priced for stadium food with a fee of $5US attached to in-seat ordering which does seems a bit high (but not if you’re ordering a stack of stuff).

While there are only about 15 options to choose from (drinks, hot food, snacks) I was able to select a hotdog and gatorade, punch in my credit card details and see where the food would come from. I hit one hurdle in that I had to fake a US postcode (11111 worked) where it asks for the address details that match your credit card because my 4 digit Australian postcode was not allowing the process to continue. It obviously makes no difference though as my order was processed. This part of the app is incredibly user friendly and all in all took 90 seconds to order (after I realised I needed to make my postcode 5 digits. I guess though if you didn’t know US postcodes are 5 digits then you’d have an issue). I set the timer on my phone and watched as the app screen moved from ‘order processed’ to ‘being prepared’ to ‘en route’.

I’ve got to say that it was a pretty cool sight to watch as the Levi’s Stadium staffer walked down the aisles with a bag holding my food and drink. As Shane Harmon mentioned in his look at Levi’s Stadium a few months back, this whole process still involves a human and the one issue that that human has is that after they come down to your row they then need to identify you and get your items to you. I was in the middle of the row, about 15 seats in and although I had been watching her walk down the aisle I was able to gesture to her ‘Yep, Blair? Yep that’s my order’. The issue here and it’s obviously not a massive one, but the delivery person then needs to come all the way into your row/seat and check your phone’s order screen to see that they are delivering the items to the right person. In a way this means that they get in the way of other fans however this was a 5 second job and I doubt that it affected fans sight angles.

So how long did it take for me to order, the food to be prepared and then delivered right to my seat? 18 minutes and 31 seconds! Outstanding in my opinion and an element every stadium needs so that fans never miss any of the action or have to wait in lines. The hotdog was tasty, piping hot and came with mustard, ketchup and relish while the gatorade was ice cold. The $5 fee is probably a bit steep for just two items but if you’ve got a group of mates ordering a stack of food and drinks then it’s nothing. 

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Restroom Way-Finding

A cool function of the Levi’s Stadium app is the way-finding function in the ‘Around Me’ section of the app to show you which toilets are the closet and which have the shortest queues. I asked some of the NiNERD’s how they work out which lines are the shortest and input that into the app and was amazed to hear that there is a person standing outside each restroom area who feeds this information into the app. Again a process that needs a human to facilitate the task however a very cool feature that is thinking about fans first. 

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Fan Engagement Activations (Around Levi’s Stadium concourse)

Two hours until kick off and the concourse fan zone areas are pumping with people running around between sponsor activations and picking up freebies left, right and centre. The 49er’s sponsor stands are complimented by food trucks, bars and diverse fan zones. 

I start by checking out the ’Ninerfier’ Levi’s activation which has fans put a piece of their 49er’s gear on a mobile conveyor belt type contraption (I mean seriously, how do I describe what this thing is!) and watching it pass through various odd but colourful elements before coming off the conveyor belt and being ’Ninerfied’. Fans receive a ’Ninerfied’ pin and then have their photo taken as a memento. An interesting bit of fan engagement that really goes back to the idea of fan culture and being granted approval (‘You’re now Ninerfied!’) of sorts by the team.

I pick up a free sign and calendar from CSN and then move on to the SunPower stand where I score a free set of 49ers sunnies just by playing a bit of trivia with their quiz activation. While I wasn’t a 49ers member, 49’ers members are able to earn points by checking in every 20 minutes at the Faithful 49er’s stand. I couldn’t see myself doing this every 20 minutes to earn rewards but I’m sure hardcore fans would be taking advantage of every chance to gain points in this program to then put towards prizes and upgrades. 

Next was the SAP ‘Quarterback Challenge’ which was the first of a few virtual reality activations that I would see today. Fans had the chance to use Oculus goggles to play a game as a quarterback while over at the Toyota fan zone fans were participating in raffles and a wheel of fortune type game for prizes while TV commentators did a live outside broadcast surrounded by fans. This stand also had dedicated phone charging stations while I also counted heaps of ‘Juice Bar’s’ throughout the stadium that were often surrounded by fans charging their devices and what appeared to be making new friends. 

Continuing throughout the various stands I noticed more opportunities for fans to win prizes, enter competitions and receive freebies like packets of chips. At the NRG stand fans could pick up another pair of 49ers sunnies and have a go at snapping their photo with a players face cut out. The photo theme is a constant in fan engagement and there were another two sponsor stands that had prizes for fans who had their pictures taken. The Yahoo Sports stand were giving fans free ‘ Go Niners’ 49er’s rally towels while Intel were encouraging fans to ‘Be The SuperFan’ and have their photo taken with super hero type colours put over the top before being showcased on big screens around the stadium. 

A feature that I have seen at a few stadiums was the designated driver stand where fans can opt to be a designated driver and in return they receive a free soft drink and the chance to win prizes. The Levi’s Stadium one was called Good Sports and is sponsored by Bud Light. 

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Fan Engagement Activations (Inside Levi’s Stadium)

I made my way inside the stadium and started walking around the venue to see what was on offer for fans. 

Making my way to my seat I found a note in the cup holder telling me that our section was going to be participating in a bit of TIFO fun. It was a great sight to watch the banner come down over our heads in the stadium. 

I captured the noise meter at the stadium reaching 112.1 which was by far the loudest I had heard at any stadium where they employ this. It was actually that loud that it was almost unbearable in terms of noise, even if it was a good sight to see fans going crazy with their war cries and screams. Every effort is made in these US stadiums and arena’s to ‘Make Some Noise’ and these noise readers really help facilitate that with fans. 

Listen to the 49ers fans here

The 49ers offer merch ‘item’s of the game’ throughout the day, show fan’s selfies on the big screen, have a 49er’s band, a fire twirling squad and have game day and post game (provided they win) offers on food and even haircuts too. 

There were some more virtual reality activations inside the stadium such as this giant helmet contraption however from my observations, it seemed as though more people just wanted a photo with this than actually participate in the VR feature. 

Sponsor’s Verizon had a section for upgrades, SAP had interactive quiz machines while Yahoo had a fantasy sports touch screen wall with trivia and photo opportunities however it was a bit odd to see kids playing this when it’s a gambling type activation. 

Listen to the 49er’s drumming band here

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While the actual team needs to start winning on the field, it’s clear that this is one of the best stadiums in the world right now for providing fans with an exceptional fan experience. There are things here that fans can’t get at home therefore Levi’s Stadium are providing interesting aspects that hopefully means more fans are making their way out to the stadium and switching off from their home sports cave experience. From the beacon technology to VR work to the in-seat ordering and toilet line feature and all the little things outside of their impressive app, it’s evident that 49er’s fans have something very special here on game day and I for one can’t wait to get back here to try it all out again. 

Sporting Kansas City and Sporting Park Fan Experience Review

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City

I’ve seen a lot of great fan engagement around the world, participated in some great global fan experiences and met some creative sports business people over the years but tonight at Sporting Kansas I witnessed next level fan experience. It is incredible here and the fans love it. I have never met such passionate fans in all my travels. The fan engagement was outstanding. From the MySKC photo, their SKC app, the healthy food options to the TV’s in the toilets and local Kansas craft beer and coffee collabs, the fan zone and the way they let their fans pass a recent winning trophy around the whole stadium resulted in an epic fan experience.

Backtracking slightly and it’s 1am in NYC and I’m up and roaring to go for a 3am flight first to Chicago with a two hour stop over and then another two hour flight into Kansas City for today’s MLS game. I’ve heard a lot about the SKC fan experience at Sporting Park so I’m running on excitement as I navigate La Guardia, Chicago O’Hare and Kansas City airports on this gorgeous Wednesday morning in America.

This was one of the pictures I snapped of the landscape from up high.

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SKC

I caught an uber from my Kansas airport hotel to Sporting Park around 4pm and I could not have had a more knowledgable driver on Kansas and it’s sporting teams. Having talked to my driver, Abdi on the half hour highway journey out to the stadium, it sounds like theres a real community spirit here amongst SKC, Chiefs and Royals fans.  

Listen to our chat about Kansas and its sporting teams here: 

After being dropped off at Sporting Park, I picked up my pass and started to soak up the atmosphere as fans were streaming in for this MLS fixture against the Colorado Rapids. 

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Sporting Kansas City

It was really nice to see that the stadium was supportive of their local teams as they played the Royals MLB game on the big screen before the game got underway. Its something I’ve seen a bit more of on this trip with teams throwing their support behind other local teams like Mr Met’s appearance at the Devils game.  

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City

The SKC App

The SKC app is one of the best around from a sporting team or stadium. Why? Developed by Sporting Innovations just down the road here in Kansas, the app has some very cool functions. 

Fans can access 360 degree view game replays for key moments, view play by play details and view a heat map of the team. As well as this, the app allows fans to take their personalised picture with the MySKC function that has a new pre-loaded background template in the app which then when accessed by the club enables fans to have their pictures shown on the big screens. Fans also have access to buy food, drinks and tickets through the app as well so the convenience is there for all fans to utilise.     

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Fan Zone

I was instantly impressed with the fan zone around the stadium that featured inflatable jumping castle type kids activities, a smaller football pitch and free giveaways from a local hospital. The wall feature is also a good photo opportunity for fans. 

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Sports Bar

Walking around at half time I also found a sports bar which was one of the biggest I’ve seen in a stadium before. Complete with scarves, big screen TV’s and comfy seating you’d think you were in an actual bar and not a stadium.

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Local Collaborations 

One of the really neat things about Sporting Park is that SKC has a few exciting local collaborations with coffee company The Roasteries producing their special ‘Sporting Blend’ and Boulevard Brewing’s Boulevard beer which was delicious! (Is the worst thing about travel being that you can’t really lug around a 6 pack? I’d be buying cartons of these if it was easier) 

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Food

There are plenty of tasty options here from healthy vegetarian, gluten free and vegan options like salad wraps and carrots and hummus packs to endless BBQ fare varieties, gourmet hot dogs and even meat pies!

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Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City

The Fan Experience

While at Sporting Park, I was able to talk to SKC’s Digital and Comms manager, Jonathan Kaplan who talked extensively at half time with me about the fan experience here. It’s the little things that make the fan experience at SKC so special as for instance before the game started fans had been encouraged to arrive early for a special pregame ceremony where the club owner addressed fans thanking them for their support. It wasn’t one of those generic thanks though, fans seemed to really love this owner and the way he genuinely speaks to them as here it’s obvious that everyone is apart of one big soccer family. Jonathan explained that at Sporting KC they really try hard to cater for every fan’s needs and that it’s all about the kids and getting them hooked from an early age. 

 The team do these great pre-game videos as well which informs fans about all the key info ahead of the game

I was also very fortunate to chat with Andy from Boulevard Brewing who shared his story about what the term fan experience means to him. It’s a great story so I encourage you to listen in here: 

I loved how all the way finder signs and toilet signs had little soccer men and women figures kicking soccer balls around as their image. The little touches go a long way for fans. They also have HD TV’s and surround sound in the toilets so you don’t miss any of the action! 

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Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City

In game Fan Engagement 

The crowd at MLS needed no extra fan engagement fun as they were one of the most rocking vocal crowds I’d witnessed across my sport travels. Hear the SKC fans now: 

The SKC team did a few of the same things that I’d witnessed at other US games like ‘guess which ball or where the ball is’ and trivia on the big screen however they took it a step further with the wiener race that saw fans race 50m then try to kick a goal while holding a hot dog. It sounds ridiculous and odd but I swear this had the most laughs and was strangely hilarious to watch. That’s the thing about fan engagement though as it can be free to set up, fun for fans, random to watch yet all it needs is creativity. 

While other activations also included a photo booth, face painting, commemorative scarf giveaways and autograph signings, the best fan engagement activation on the night wasn’t from a sponsor but was when the US Open Cup trophy which SKC had recently won, was passed around the whole stadium. Every fan in every stand got to touch it and take a photo as the game went on as a SKC rep kept a close eye on the cup from a distance. This was truly a great idea but having talked to Jonathan later on in the night he informed me that they also let select fans take home another trophy for a day each and allowed them to do a trophy takeover style bit of fun on the clubs social media whereby some fans took the trophy out to dinner. It’s really obvious that the fans here love soccer and this club such is the devotion they have but also as the club listens to them and goes out of its way to be creative and supportive of fans needs and ideas. 

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City

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Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City

WiFi

The stadium is serviced by free high speed WiFi which was very fast throughout the game even though they were having some issues on the night where it was dropping out, but it sounded like this was a one off. Again it was good to see another club and stadium with an impressive interactive and integrated app. 

SKC Fan Engagement

  • MySKC in app function allowing fans to take a picture and have it personalised with a foreground overlay shot. This game featured the two team jerseys.
  • Local collaborations with a coffee company and beer brewery to produce two SKC styles of beer and coffee. Sporting Blend from The Roasterie and Sporting Boulevard from Boulevard Brewing. Both nice drops!
  • Experience upgrade offers in the SKC app for fans to score upgrades
  • Ability to add credit in the app to make purchases inside the stadium for food, ticketing, merch.
  • Skills tests for kids. Inflatable soccer field as well as smaller fields for football fun
  • Free zip bag giveaways from a local hospital for Breast Cancer Awareness month
  • TV’s in the loos so you don’t miss any of the action
  • Loo’s all have funky soccer type pics on them which is a nice fan touch
  • Healthy options including vegan food. The stand and food looked fresh and healthy.
  • Salute to service and hero’s of the game. Defence veteran respect
  • Trivia on the big screens for fans
  • ‘Weiner Race’ where fans had to run with a hot dog and kick a football into the net. Was random but strangely fun to watch.
  • Raffles for prizes
  • ‘Where’s The Winner’ fans have to guess which ball on the big screen is the winning ball. Bit of fun for kids.
  • Freebies deals for fans post match if team hits a certain target like 2 goals or a win.
  • Fans were able to pass the US Open Cup around the stadium so every fan was able to get a picture and see the cup up close. This was one of the best ideas I’d seen.
  • Face painting 
  • Autograph signing
  • Photo booth
  • Commemorative scarf celebration and giveaways

The SKC fan experience is one of the best I’ve seen in the MLS as not only are the club continuing to do some exciting things and set the benchmarks for world class fan engagement but the fans here are very loud and passionate and they want to and do get to have their say on club matters. While the NYRB and LA Galaxy stadiums both have great set up’s for fan engagement and those teams provide a really fun day out however Sporting Park for a SKC game feels like you’re apart of a big family who are all passionate about not only the team (which every team does) but also apart of contributing to the stadium experience for fellow fans. It feels like every fan here (with female fans making up a larger than normal presence for a teams membership base) has greatly invested into this fan experience for the betterment of soccer in Kansas and the US. The culture here is one of support and respect for fans and where fans are able to access smart fan first technology which greatly adds to the fan experience. 

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City

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Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City

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