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News & Stories

A Social Fan Experience: How Alumnus Joe Heller Keeps Fans Engaged

By: Courtney Kubitza
First Published: October 30, 2018
Topics: Alumni, Alumni Stories, Sport, STHM School


Nothing quite matches the fun, thrill and excitement of heading down to the stadium and watching your favorite team. Thanks to today’s advancements in technology, keeping fans and their favorite teams close has been easier than ever for teams like the Philadelphia Flyers.

With just the swipe of a finger, you can round up a group of friends, order tickets, , get live traffic updates, keep an eye on the weather, and get stats and news on your favorite players —  all before leaving the house. And just because you can’t get to the game doesn’t mean you can’t be involved. Fans watching at home or their local bar have the opportunity to interact with their favorite players live tweet with fellow fans and access exclusive fan content 24/7. Advancing technology means a lot of exciting, new opportunities lie ahead but also new challenges for the sport industry. Joe Heller, Vice President of Marketing for the Philadelphia Flyers, understands this more than anyone else.

Joe has been with the Flyers since 2011 and in that time, technology has played a key role in fan engagement both during the season and after. In addition to offering features like automated traffic updates and mobile ticketing, Joe also presents fans with more convenient ways to create shareable content. Something as simple as an Instagram-able photo station or a hashtag contest gives fans an exciting and fun ways to be involved while also showcasing some of the overlooked experiences that go along with attending a game. This extends beyond game day with promotions like “Who’s the Biggest Flyer Fan?” and  “Nominate Philly’s Greatest Hockey Mom,” where fans upload photos showing their love for the team and the game, placing the Flyers brand in front of millions of combined followers.

Beyond social media, the Flyers continue to connect fans to the team through a mobile app.

When fans download this app, they open up a whole world of exclusive content that takes them behind-the-scenes and gives them a closer, more personal look at their favorite players as well as special offers and discounts off tickets, refreshments, and more. This increased use of technology at games creates a new level of team loyalty, but it also creates new challenges for operations. Luckily, Joe and the Flyers have some big plans to meet this growing demand.

As the role of technology and the desire to share becomes more and more ensconced in the fan experience, the biggest tech-related challenge is at the helm for stadium operators —  the lack of strong WiFi signals and the absence of cellular connectivity. Stadium location can affect a fan’s connectivity and their phone’s battery life, making it challenging for marketing to reach its goals for engagement.

To solve this challenge, Joe hinted at some big changes are on the horizon that Flyers fans will absolutely love. “We plan on doing some big renovations to the Wells Fargo Center to allow our fans to be able to have an experience that meets all types of fans needs, whether they consider themselves avid or casual fans. Though they are still finalizing plans, Joe says they will definitely be following the trends happening across the globe, including previously installed enhancements for WiFi signals and connectivity, new lounges and seating options, special game-day features charging stations, and more creative opportunities to share social media content. These updates will expand opportunities for the team, allowing operators and vendors to create and display targeted advertising and generate special offers and promotions that can be transmitted to fans using the Flyers App while at the game.

When we asked Joe what more he has instore for the future of technology and the Flyers he simply replied, “My goal is to find new ways to keep the fans and the Flyers closer than ever. The growing demand for technological convenience is a win-win across the board. It makes us more competitive and gives fans the opportunity to participate in a way that was never possible.”