My Aus Open Review

05 February 2024

I think the Australian Open has to be considered one of the most well run, organised and innovative sports events on the planet.

Now, there might be a bit of ‘home-cooking’ going on with that assessment, considering I live a 30 minute walk down the river from Melbourne Park and the famous Rod Laver Arena.

But having been lucky enough to attend a handful of days at this years tournament, I have witnessed first hand how good this event really is for those attending during the glorious Australian summer.

So, as part of the near 1 million fans that will have walked through the gates by the time the final ball is hit, I’m gonna give you my review of ‘The Happy Slam’ across fan experience, partnership activations, digital and concessions.

Yes it was a tough job testing the temperature of the Peroni Capri tap beer, listening to live bands and watching the greatest tennis players on the planet, but I do whatever it takes for all you wonderful subscribers of The Crowd. I also brought my mate Alex to help with the research.

Let’s get into it.

The minute you walk through the gates, the electric atmosphere immediately hits you with a rush. With tunes playing, the hum of fans zipping off to see their favourite players and the magnificent Melbourne sun beaming down, it feels like you’re at a music festival (but with more families and less glitter).

Rod Laver Arena is the jewel in the Aus Open crowd and watching any match there is a spectacle in an of itself. There isn’t a bad seat in the house and with speedy access in and out of the venue to grab food or drinks, its an unmatched experience at centre court.

Outside, its a hive of activity. A ground pass will get you into all the outdoor courts and while you do have to line up a bit to get into most matches, the staff are super proactive in finding you a spot to settle into.

One of the newest additions is the two-storey Court side Bar on court 6. Now while some of the players aren’t super stoked about it, its awesome for us fans. With a DJ downstairs and number of vantage points to see the action with a drink in hand, its a fun atmosphere.

And to be honest, there is always a fair bit of noise on the outside courts anyway, so the background sound of glasses clinking and bass from the DJ’s speakers aren’t a total faux pas for those worried about tennis crowd etiquette.

And although at the time of publishing I haven’t yet attended it, I will be hitting up the ‘Finals Festival’ on the weekend, which will see musical performances at John Cain Arena. As an add-on to the ground pass ticket, I’ll be catching Aussie bands DMA’s and Jungle Giants (give them a listen, absolutely sensational). Obviously musical performances aren’t a new initiative at sports events, with The Superbowl the most famous example. But, that only lasts for 15 minutes. Finals Festival will keep everyone entertained for five hours. For $70 AUD, that’s bang for your buck.

I’ll do my best to not use the word synergy too often here, but those brands that embrace the summer life style always have their eye on getting involved at the Aus Open.

One of the biggest is Bondi Sans, a skincare company. Its probably considered a premium sunscreen down under and they were handing out free samples to everyone. This is a necessity at The Open, with the mercury consistently soaring above 30. They also have these huge mist showers to keep everyone cool, a hit with the kids.

For the adults, Aperol Spritz made its triumphant return as an official partner, so Terrazza Aperol was back up and running. The staff did look a little bit like McLaren pit staff, but the service was lightning and the drinks are absolutely elite.

Next door was the Peroni Capri Beach Club. It will be the only place on Grand Slam Oval offering live music and beer on-tap. And if you closed your eyes, and have an incredible imagination, you could almost believe you were in Italy. Almost.

Other notables was the huge New Balance pop-up store, Ralph Lauren were predictably selling eye-wateringly expensive merch and digital innovations partner InfoSys had a VR setup where you could compete against your favourite players.

Note: There were also plenty of exclusive, premium spaces that I didn’t get budget for to ‘test’. The Penfolds Restaurant pop up looked the goods from the outside. Next time boss.

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I had one gripe last year and that was how long it took to get a drink. I remember waiting over 20 mins to get a beer and that really sucks the life out of you on a hot day.

Things have changed this year. Not sure if there are more bars or the flow of traffic is managed better, but this is now much quicker. AgilSys have been brought in to provide On-Site Premier Point of Sale (POS) Service and from a technology standpoint, and that has also sped up the process.

The food at the Aus Open is elite, reflecting Melbourne’s exceptional culinary standards. Sure you can get pies and fries, but you can also get Bahn Mi from Nem N’ Nem, Cuban sandwiches, Bao buns or a greek souvlaki from Stalactites.

It is on the steep side, but honestly its all 10/10 and worth testing at least a few of them.

A quick note on this, but the whole place is not only super clean, but they have ‘Recycling Champions’ (I made that up), helping you pick which waste goes in which bin. Might be overkill, but I have recycling trust issues as well.

The gold recycling award definitely goes to Cambo de Tercio, who took that to another level, serving their takeaway tapas on hard plastic plates. They then directed you to a special bin nearby to put these plates in, which they would then wash up and re-use. Don’t think I’ve ever seen that at an event with this many people before. Full marks guys.

And finally, the Australian Open app is absolutely fantastic. The ticketing system through Ticketmaster is seamless and you can easily check out the schedule of play, live scores and what events are on that day.

It has a great map which tracks your location and shows you live directions. It can be a bit of a maze in there, so when I was looking for the party court, it gave me Google Map style directions which made it super easy.

One thing that would be a really cool addition was if they were able to communicate with you in real-time once you scan in at the gate via your device.

As an example, if it was your first time at the event, AO could offer you 50% off a welcome beer at the Peroni Beach Club using a unique QR code. If you activated that you could get another offer at the merchandise store, creating a little digital partnership journey as you earned ‘AO Fan Points’.

It would be a great value add for the tournaments partners and increase the revenue per attendee at the same time.

Communicating with fans using real-time interactions on your device is only possible if you have real-time ticketing integrations, which we have been talking about non-stop for the past few weeks.

On the whole, this event is incredibly run from front to back. It has something for everyone and I count myself very lucky to have it so close to home. Can’t wait to see what they cook up next year.

Until next time folks 🫡

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