Reuniting Fans with Live Experiences

Fans are coming back to the stands. Say it with us. FANS ARE COMING BACK TO THE STANDS! We couldn’t be more excited. Not to say that we’re ungrateful for all the games that have happened over the last year and a half - but we’re ready to move from “surviving” to “thriving” again. Bring on the fans, bring on the banter and bring on the noise!

But also bring on a solid “come back plan”

We’re excited, yes. But the arrival of fans back in the stands comes with a unique set of challenges. We recently hosted a webinar to hear from our partners “down under” about the challenges they faced as they started welcoming fans back to the stands. If you missed the webinar - don’t fret - we list the key takeaways below. If you’re feeling curious, you can watch the recording of the webinar here.


Plan, Organize & Build Processes for Return: The process of resetting your workflow takes time - ensure you have adequate support and time budgeted for this.

Acknowledge Change when Re-engaging your Fans: Digital Activations have had a large impact on the fan experience. Make sure you’re bridging remote fans’ experiences accordingly, and lean into a more data-driven approach. Finally plan your communication strategies as fans re-enter your venue - perhaps bridging digital with physical.

Product Fit: Covid has changed the landscape, so now is a great time to revisit your product mix & promotion strategy.

Empathy Goes a Long Way: Fan rituals have been hard hit. Ensure you’re reaching out to your fans to understand their pain points, and to show that you’re listening. Fans will appreciate it, and you’ll provide better services.

Embrace Resilience: Uncertainty continues to be the name of the game, but being prepared for it makes a big difference. “Own your moments” and be ready to pivot by creating flexible strategies and teams.

Additional Logistics: From contact tracing to ongoing support, don’t underestimate the manpower you will need.

Reward Loyalty: The fans that stuck by you deserve some love, make sure you’re acknowledging the fans that have stuck by you throughout this difficult year.

Key Learnings

Plan, Organize and Build Processes for Return.

The first lockdown was a shock to everyone, where teams transitioned to virtual almost overnight. It’s been a rollercoaster since , with uncertainty becoming the new normal. Everyone - your staff, your athletes, and likely yourself - have worked hard to find new ways to be productive. Now, the landscape is saying “go back to normal.”

It’s undeniably exhausting.

As excited as we are to have everyone back to their regular roles on game day, the process of resetting our workflows takes time. Ensure you have adequate support and time budgeted for this, so your organization is strong enough to capitalize on the opportunities that will start to come your way.

For example, the Sydney Swans had an internal plan of “Survive, Reset and Thrive” for 2020 and 2021. We see the light at the end of the tunnel, but teams are still very much in a state of “reset” and will take more time before “thriving”. Build processes for return.

Acknowledge Change when Re-engaging your Fans

We say “re-engage” because we’re entering a new landscape when it comes to fan engagement. The last year and a half has led to the following changes:

  • Doors are open to a more digital fanbase
  • In-person events now require an educated fanbase & flexible rollouts.

i. Digital Activations and their Impact:

You’ve likely opened your doors to international or remote fans over the last year by creating more opportunities for digital engagement. The last thing you want to do is slam the door shut. As a result of the fan-experience being forced online, remote fans were treated to a great fan experience. It also created an opportunity to increase addressable audiences through digital campaign roll-outs. As we welcome more live events, it will be important not to overlook the importance of a digital outlet for fans. Whether your fans are back in the stands or at home, bridge the divide by offering “live digital campaigns” while uncovering fan intent.

ii. Education and Roll-Out

We say “live events are back,” but we all know it’s not as simple as that. While venues are gradually opening up to full capacity, health and safety protocols add another layer of management, preparation and education for the fans entering the stands. Clear rules and restrictions are just one piece of the puzzle - the other is “influencing fan behaviour”. Digital campaigns are a manageable way to do this. The Sydney Swans showcase a great example of this:

They created a curated set of engagement campaigns to educate and entertain fans, while pushing them in the direction of desired behaviour. For example; at the end of the game, they would encourage fans to participate in a gamified campaign, so that the flow of fans out of the venue could be supported (i.e. fans waiting had something exciting to do while they waited their turn to leave).

Education will have to be a part of your communication strategy as you welcome fans back to your venue, so consider what strategies you will use to ensure fans are hearing the right information and are showcasing safe behaviour.


We all know things have changed, including the industry landscape. If the landscape has changed, your traditional approach may no longer be the best one for your fans, and for your organization. That means you should be looking at your current product offering (things like ongoing engagement opportunities, yearly memberships, partnerships) to see if it bridges new fan behaviour with your operational needs.

The Western Bulldogs showed a great example of a team acknowledging changes in their landscape - that is, rethinking their traditional membership product model for the 2020 and 2021 seasons. For the 2021 season, they decided to experiment with a more flexible product mix - allowing members to try out more premium products (Level 2 membership) for 3, or 6 games as opposed to the whole season, and allowing members to bring guests to games. Their more flexible membership program will allow them to pivot as regulations change while making it clear to their fans what benefits they are purchasing for the season.

Empathy Goes a Long Way

Fan rituals are another hard-hit impact from the last year and a half. Whether it’s fans not being able to high-five their favorite players, or feeling unsettled as they enter an arena of 2000 other people, these subtle human elements need to be acknowledged. Letting your fans know that you hear them, that you’re working for their best experience, and that you’re working off their feedback is a great way to breed more loyal fans. The Sydney Swans, for example, understood that the jump to digital would be difficult for a subset of their fans, and anticipated their anxiety. They segmented out this subset of fans, and came up with creative ways to let these fans join in on their community, despite being digitally adverse in a year that was almost fully online. Digging into fan feedback, and being empathetic to their experiences over the last year is a good way to understand their wants and needs for tomorrow.

Embrace your resilience

Expect the unexpected. It was the motto of last year, and will likely bleed over into the next few. As venues open up, changing regulations, and potential mini-lockdowns are almost inevitable events that we all need to be prepared for. Build your plans to account for quickly changing circumstances.

That’s where the resilience we’ve been building up for the last year and a half comes in. Your authenticity and intent in your actions are what fans will carry with them, and that needs to be the anchor of any plans you develop for the season ahead. Shane from Sky Stadium shared the advice that applies to many of us, “own a moment in time”. Whether you are dealing with a last minute shutdown of your event like Shane, or just jumping on another opportunity, be ready to take ownership over your moments.

Additional Logistics

Fans are used to having things a certain way, but regulations could get in the way of delivering the same experience fans are used to. Staff up to prepare for these changes. From contact tracing & to communications prepared to educate fans, to the additional support needed to help fans troubleshoot, don’t underestimate the manpower you might need. Finally, ensure you’re keeping simplicity as a goal when introducing these new measures, and make your plan as inclusive as possible.

Reward Loyalty

Your fans have stuck with you through a difficult year and were a big source of inspiration to keep pushing when things got tough. Be sure to show them how much you appreciate their support and how glad you are to have them back. Go the extra mile and reward your loyal fans! They deserve it and your show of support will reap rewards in spades over the coming months. With that in mind, any strategy that you build needs to be “People First”. Plans will change, ideas might fail, but if you keep fans and your people front and center, you’re moving in the right direction.

It’s evident that despite the excitement around fans coming back to the venues, there are a significant number of challenges that still need to be addressed. We hope some of these learnings from our partners help you on that journey. Do not hesitate to get in touch to discuss your strategies to reunite fans with live experiences.


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