Our 4FRONT team is constantly breaking down borders in our innovative work. Last week, our team took this mantra to new levels by attending 4 different games in 4 different parts of the world. True to our vision of being lifelong learners, here are some #SportsBiz learnings from a globetrotting weekend in Boston, Dubai, Las Vegas and Sydney.
1. Dubai – Asia Cup Final (September 28th)
Ruchir Shah, Senior Director of Analytics
We like to remind those not familiar with cricket that the US population currently sits at around 326M people and if you surveyed 10 people at a bar, “what’s your favorite sport?” in all likelihood you may get 10 different answers. For context, the population of India is around 1.35B people. That B is for Billion! And if you walk the streets of India and ask, “what is your favorite sport” you will get 1 answer…cricket!
With that as the backdrop we attended the Asia Cup Finals in Dubai featuring India vs. Bangladesh. While in some ways this was a tale of David vs. Goliath if we were measuring the match solely on fan passion it would be a dead heat entering the match. Hordes of fans lined up outside the gates nearly two hours before the scheduled start. Attending a cricket match in the middle east is a far different experience from what you would likely find at any professional sports experience in the US but again, that requires some context. While the Techfront LED on field boards were state of the art, we were struck by the sparse concourses, lack of traditional fan engagement and complete lack of merchandise that you would see within arms reach at a US event of this magnitude.
Ruchir Shah (L) & Josh Kritzler (R)
While fan passion and engagement is often manufactured or at least the fires are stoked at US events, the crowd excitement here was organic, the intensity was palpable and the fans were rabid. For nearly eight hours in scorching heat, the fans cheered on and they were deservedly treated to an enthralling contest between bat and ball. Bangladesh far exceeded expectations but ultimately came up just short with India winning with a single on the last ball, capping off a nail biting finish. The event was a smashing success with record sponsorship and attendance but with definite room for improvement from a merchandising and fan engagement perspective.
-Ruchir Shah, Senior Director of Analytics
2. Boston Red Sox – Fenway Park (September 30th)
Brian Gainor, Vice President of Innovation
This weekend I’ve had the fortune of traveling to Boston with MiLB’s Senior Manager of Marketing Strategy & Research, Cory Bernstine, for the Forbes Under 30 Summit – an incredible gathering of innovators and entrepreneurs from around the world looking to network, share ideas, and create new business opportunities.
Prior to the festivities kicking off, Cory and I had an opportunity to enjoy an incredible day at Fenway Park, going behind-the-scenes at America’s Most Beloved Ballpark and seeing the Red Sox take down the Yankees on the final day of regular season play.
One of the most unique & memorable aspects of the tour was seeing a 5,000 square foot rooftop garden the Red Sox installed on the third base side of the ballpark called Fenway Farms. Over the course of the season, the Fenway Farms garden produces 6,000 pounds of fresh produce that the team uses in its clubhouse, suites, and also donates to the local community.
Fenway Farms is a great example of how teams & leagues worldwide can turn a dead space in the ballpark (it previously was an underutilized rooftop) into a vibrant space.
A few things I love about Fenway Farms include:
- Fenway Farms is a textbook example of how to create new, high-value, sponsorable inventory (Fenway Farms is presented by 4 partners: Stop & Shop, Dole, Sage Fruit, and Aramark)
- The idea for Fenway Farms was conceived by Linda Pizutti, wife of Red Sox owner John Henry as part of a campaign to promote healthy & responsible ways of living (a great idea can come from anywhere!)
- Fenway Farms showcases how teams can turn an ugly, unused rooftop into a thriving rooftop farm benefiting the team, partners, fans, and the community
(Special thanks to current FSM Associate, Sales Zach Korman (and former MiLB intern through the University of South Florida Sport & Entertainment Management program) for an incredible behind-the-scenes tour.) -Brian Gainor, Vice President of Innovation
3. Las Vegas Lights – Cashman Field (September 28th)
Jeff Owen, National Director of Corporate Partnerships
& Katie Foglia, Senior Manager of Innovation
The Las Vegas Lights put on a show for their last Saturday night home match of their inaugural season. The team, which plays at Cashman Field in downtown Las Vegas, did an incredible job creating a fun game day atmosphere for fans of all ages. One (of the many) things the team has done well is provide unique, partner-integrated experiences before, during and after the match. For example, the Zappos Tailgate Party featured Llamas in soccer jerseys, blow-up, life-size foosball and plenty of photo opportunities. During the match, the supporter’s section is rowdy and sets off smoke bombs and bangs on drums. The team’s mascot, Cash the Soccer Rocker rides a Harley and greets fans in the stands. Following every home match, the team (including front office staff, coaches and players) head over to the Plaza Hotel and Casino for the afterparty. Fans can use their ticket for one free beverage and take photos with the players. Our team enjoyed the lights-out atmosphere (pun intended) and look forward to helping the team go even bigger in year two!
-Katie Foglia, Senior Manager of Innovation
Lights do a great job at incorporating elements native to Las Vegas into their branding to help them identify as the “hometown team”. This includes the neon light font, over the top promotions (helicopter cash drop), their mascot Cash the Soccer Rocker who is inspired by Johnny Cash, Elvis and Evil Knievel, all Vegas staples.
Next season the Lights will be the primary tenant in Cashman Field and will have a blank canvas to build out their new home and activate sponsors in ways that enhance their “hometown” brand (i.e. local restaurants incorporated into the concessions, sponsored seating sections and areas to offer Vegas themed party sections, etc.)
-Jeff Owen, National Director of Corporate Partnerships
Bill Nielsen(L) Katie Foglia(C) Jeff Owen(R)
4. Sydney – Cricket Australia Women’s Team Vs. New Zealand (September 28th)
Becca Hemby, Senior Manager of Innovation
Cricket Australia turned hill into a fan experience deliberately creating the fan atmosphere that aligns with cricket product & brand. Made it as easy as possible for fans with shirts, clappers, blankets and bean bags, face painters the come to you in line and had a carnival-like atmosphere.
NRL Grand Final (September 30th) The double-sided LED boards were added value both during the match and pre game entertainment for the in-game crowd and the TV viewers at home.
-Becca Hemby, Senior Manager of Innovation