With the global sports and entertainment industry facing unprecedented challenges, the AFL has partnered with Zoom to allow fans to virtually support their favourite teams.
From the comfort of their own homes, selected AFL club members have been able to support their teams via broadcast and in-stadia LED signage at Marvel Stadium, The Melbourne Cricket Ground and Sydney Cricket Ground.
Each week, AFL club members are being selected to participate in the AFL Zoom initiative, which is the first to be adapted by an entire league worldwide. Up to 18 households can join for each match, creating the ‘Toyota FanZone, powered by Zoom’ – a montage of the supporters being shared within Seven’s AFL broadcast.
The initiative kicked off with Round Two of the 2020 Toyota AFL Premiership Season, for the nail-biting Richmond v Collingwood match, and has since hosted several households.
With a record Thursday night average audience on the kick-off match of 1.275 million viewers nationally, AFL’s broadcast partner, Seven, has embraced the fan engagement and viewing experience through the initiative powered by Zoom.
Seven Melbourne managing director and head of network sport Lewis Martin commented: “When you consider what makes footy the best game in the world, fans are the most important ingredient – end of story. Zoom has played an important part in helping us fill the void left by crowdless stadiums, giving fans at home a sense of connection and comfort. And through the tireless work of our AFL team, particularly executive producer Gary O’Keeffe and Tara Carlon, our broadcasts have been able to capture all the one-eyed passion, colour and tribalism that underpins our collective love of the game.”
AFL general manager for growth, digital and audiences Darren Birch said: “Zoom’s technology has allowed loyal fans to still be an integral part of matches with social distancing restrictions in place. Providing AFL club members with an opportunity to be a part of the broadcast and cheer on their favourite players via the LED in stadiums is just one of the many ways we are aiming to enhance fan engagement.”
Zoom Video Communications head of APAC Michael Chetner said: “We’re thrilled to bring spectators into the stadiums through Zoom and simulate the in-stadium visual atmosphere and give the players the support they deserve in the long-awaited return of AFL. We truly believe this has the potential to revolutionise how fans engage with live sporting events in the future, particularly those who live in rural areas who might not be able to access the matches as easily and can feel they are part of the action. In addition, this also introduces new opportunities for clubs and broadcasters alike to engage their fan base wherever they are, as well as enhance the viewing experience. We’re also proud to be keeping Australians connected and to drive an experience that many would not have been able to take part in, even before the public health crisis.”
AFL Club members who wish to be a part of the AFL Zoom initiative are encouraged to get in touch with club membership teams to register interest.
The next match to feature the Toyota FanZone powered is the Sydney Swans vs Western Bulldogs on Thursday 25 June.
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