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The spread of coronavirus around the world has significantly affected the global sports industry. The COVID-19 pandemic caused the most significant disruption to the worldwide sporting calendar since World War II. As the shutdown continues, sports brands are looking for innovative ways to increase fan engagement in the age of COVID-19.

1. Stadiums filled with cardboard fans

Bundesliga was the first top European league to resume playing. Borussia Mönchengladbach supporters have been invited to upload photos of themselves and purchase a cardboard figure for €19 to be placed in the stands for their first home fixture against Bayer Leverkusen. In total, more than 20,000 cardboard cutouts have been ordered so far.

Other leagues around the world are discussing similar plans. Turkish football clubs are trying a model with two price tiers: €16 for season ticket holders and €19 for regular fans.

2. Using sex dolls to fill the stands

For sports teams trying to recoup ticket revenue, cardboard fans aren’t the only idea in the mix. South Korean FC Seoul filled its fan seats with actual sex dolls to add to the atmosphere during a closed match. The club has been handed a 100 million KRW (€72,000) fine and widespread criticism.

3. Drive-in stadium experiences

Danish side FC Midtjylland have turned their stadium into a drive-through so fans can still watch games on large screens. More than 2,000 parking spaces were made available for the return game against AC Horsens.

4. Fans watching the games from virtual stands

Fans of the Danish Superliga side AGF Aarhus were able to watch their team play Randers from a ‘virtual stand’ they connected to using Zoom videoconferencing software.

Several giant screens were set up along one side of Ceres Park in Aarhus and filled with the images of locals connecting from home. Around 10,000 fans were able to join in and watch the match live.

Sydney Swans have partnered with Zoom Video Communications to remotely engage their fans. During the returning game, Swans’ supporters were displayed on the LED screens.

5. Virtual forums

Blackburn Rovers organized their first virtual Fans Forum.

6. Quiz time with club legends

Former Premier League Champions, Leicester City is engaging remotely with the fans by organizing LCFC Legends Quiz. Every week, a Fox legend is heading up a quiz on club’s social media channels. Each question is being centred around the player’s individual career at the club.

7. Boca Juniors virtually celebrated the 80th birthday of their stadium

On May 25th, Boca Juniors celebrated the 80 years of its stadium: the legendary Bombonera. Technological solutions were applied to bring fans from Argentina and the world closer to the stadium. A virtual tour was the way to visit La Bombonera on the day of its 80 years.

Boca used Pixellot technology to display the empty stadium in real-time. The broadcast could be followed on YouTube which allowed fans to interact on the channel during the 24-hour celebration.

8. Bayern Munich face masks

Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich sold face masks for fans in need of extra protection during the coronavirus pandemic. All incomes made from the sale of masks went to the ‘WeKickCorona’ campaign set up by Bayern pair Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich.

The donation initiative has already raised more than 5 million Euros for social and charitable institutions.

9. Free tickets in return for reading books

The New York Red Bulls has launched a program designed to reward students for their hard work as they are staying home. In return for reading 3 books, young fans can earn a free ticket to a Red Bulls game.

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