An Australasian Perspective: Fan Engagement Down Under

Activations by brands and sports clubs centred around fans are taking the US and UK by storm, but 2015 also promises to be an exciting year of further innovation down in the Southern Hemisphere. Fans young and old across Australia and New Zealand are now enjoying the experience of being able to engage with games on on a second screen and in turn fan loyalty is being rewarded with extra incentives such as seat upgrades, prizes and digital media activations. Based on the progress of 2014, there are certainly lessons to be learned from sports such as Australian football.

Every top tier sporting club across Australasia right now is focusing on impressive fan engagement initiatives for their supporters in an attempt to create the ultimate spectator experience and in turn get more people through the turnstiles.

Stadia

From the gluten free food stand at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium and the MCG’s use of iBeacon technology, to Sydney’s free Wi-Fi at Stadium Australia and Adelaide Oval’s state-of-the-art audio and visual experience, it is clear that stadiums are seen as a focal point for encouraging engagement from fans. As they provide the setting for activations, clubs are continuously working hard to provide a better stadium experience to give fans valuable lasting memories.

article

Stadium Australia was the first venue in the Southern Hemisphere to be a Telstra Connected Stadium

At the Major League Baseball opening game at Sydney’s Cricket Ground the sheer scale of what the event organisers pulled off was incredible to witness. However, it was also all of the fun fan engagement on offer for baseball fans that really was impressive and definitely enhanced the day out at the ground. Outside the ground there were photo opportunities with the MLB trophy, batting cages and pitching zones with free giveaways. Once inside the ground there were special zones set up such as the ESPN Fan Deck, which featured free and customisable merchandise for fans.

Rugby League

The National Rugby League had an impressive year with fan engagement activations. The Newcastle Knights perhaps showcased this best by teaming up with SportsBet to feature fans’ Twitter handles on the back of their jerseys while the NSW State of Origin rugby league team changed the copy of beer sponsor Victoria Bitter on the front of their jerseys to feature fans’ names.

The Melbourne Storm utilised Instagram well by holding a 31-day challenge which encouraged fans to tag a photo and follow a new theme like try celebration or tickets for example. Currently they are running the #stormchallenge, giving fans and users of the platform the chance to become the club’s official ‘Fanographer’ during Storm’s first trial match at AAMI Park against the Canberra Raiders in February. Judging by the number of entries and their quality, it has been a roaring fan engagement success.

Melbourne Storm have been heavily using Instagram over the last few months and are seeing excellent engagement from fans on the platform

Melbourne Storm have been heavily using Instagram over the last few months and are seeing excellent engagement from fans on the platform

Aussie Rules Football

The Australian Football League kept the pace with its rival sports in 2014 by rolling out major activations, with none catching the eye more than Port Adelaide Power who continued to to build on their theme song by getting fans to sing the INXS classic ‘Never Tear Us Apart’  in unison at home games. The singing of this anthem has been recorded at multiple matches throughout the season and shown in HD quality on the club’s YouTube channel, promoting PTV but also conveying the club’s motto: We Are Adelaide.

Aussie Rules also produced two of the best fan zones of 2014 with Brisbane’s ‘Lions Park’ having a skills zone and photo stands with share-to-social opportunities. while the Gold Coast Suns featured a live music area called the Fifth Quarter and many fan incentives on offer such as seat upgrades as well as allowing members to present players with their jerseys at the fan day. The Sydney Swans offered fans a 2-for-1 ‘Bring a Buddy’ deal to home games as a smart marketing tie-in with star player Buddy Franklin.

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 09.58.33

Port Adelaide Power’s channel PTV have used fan activations in the club’s stadium to promote the club on YouTube

The home of Aussie Rules, the Melbourne Cricket Ground, also featured new iBeacon technology which saw roving food sellers fitted with iBeacons that send messages via Bluetooth technology to supporters’ smart phones as they move around the stadium. Fans who have downloaded the stadium’s own MCG app the receive messages telling them a seller is nearby and they can then use discount codes. It makes the process of purchasing food far easier for the buyer and has gone some way to curbing the number of queues at food stalls within the stadium.

The A-League

Australia’s domestic football competition the A-League also featured many diverse fan engagement activations across both Twitter and Instagram.

The Football United tour of New Zealand featuring two ‘Uniteds’ from the Premier League, West Ham and Newcastle, and A-League sides Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix had its own Football United App and made use of TagBoard technology at grounds. At Wellington’s ground it was plain to see the benefit of these digital activations as fans engaging on their second screens visible more during the double-header.

Another A-League club Perth Glory utilised QR codes to have fans vote for their man of the match while the Western Sydney Wanderers encouraged fans to share footage recorded at games to the teams’ Instagram and Twitter accounts as a way of bringing fans closer to the club. Brisbane Roar were not to be outdone and held a group fitness day for fans, while the Central Coast Mariners constructed a beach bar at one end of their ground where fans could swim behind the goals and take in quality food and drinks all while the main game was taking place.

Central Coast Mariners' $100-a-head beach bar

Central Coast Mariners’ $100-a-head beach bar

Fan engagement is on the rise in Australasia. This review has only touched the surface of all the impressive activations taking place Down Under and there are many valuable and creative fan engagement ideas that can be taken away from what clubs are doing to get fans back into the stadium and create these lifelong sporting memories.

Australasia could be the continent to watch for digital innovation in 2015.

This article has been adapted from a guest blog entry by Blair Hughes who lives in Brisbane, Australia. Blair is the Australian and New Zealand fan engagement representative for audioBoom, a platform allowing users to bring their audio content to millions of listeners worldwide via embeddable players, mobile apps and social networking sites. His blog can be found here.