At the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany organizers unveiled official, sponsored FanZones. These venues featured huge screens where literally hundreds of thousands of fans who didn’t have tickets could watch the matches together, for free. The idea came from the experience of the 2002 FIFA World Cup where a quarter of a million fans gathered to watch the host nation, South Korea, advance to the semi-finals.
The always sharp Sports Economist is in Germany where thousands have been following Euro 2008, which is being hosted in neighboring Austria & Switzerland. I think you are going to see an explosion of this sort of thing in the future. It’s a great idea for the Olympics or even the Super Bowl, which is usually held in a city not represented by the two teams on the field.
Of course, the organizing bodies have not only provided a unique and compelling venue for the fans, they’ve also generated a new revenue stream, charging official partners more money to feature their brands in these FanZones. It will be interesting to watch and see what brands take advantage of this new opportunity most strategically. Mobile phone companies, food and beverage and sports gear companies would all seem naturals for taking this to the next level.