Washington Football Team Senior Advisor (and Super Bowl MVP) Doug Williams and Vice President of Guest Experience Joey Colby-Begovich invited Hogs Haven to interview them about the team’s new Fan Ambassador Network (FAN) outreach in which the team will select a diverse group of fans to work with the team to guide the rebrand process and improve the overall fan experience. The team’s initial press release describing FAN can be found here. From the press release:
The Washington Football Team today announced the launch of “FAN” – the Fan Ambassador Network – a diverse group of Washington Football fans, who will serve as the voice of the fanbase and provide perspective to the organization through the rebrand process. Through WashingtonFootball.com/FAN or via Twitter, using the hashtag (#WashingtonFootballFAN), the fanbase can nominate their fellow Burgundy & Gold supporters to be part of a group that will help shape the overall Washington Football Team gameday experience moving forward.
The Fan Ambassador Network will have seven specific crews, each comprised of at least five ambassadors in the following areas:
- Community: to help define the team’s presence throughout the DMV
- Culinary: to share thoughts on in-stadium and tailgate event food and beverage
- Culture: to give insights on local art and lifestyle as well as team history
- Entertainment: to provide ideas around integrating areas like music, dance and gaming
- Fashion: to discuss opinions on merchandise and new gear
- Family Experience: to help create gameday activities that are enjoyable for parents and kids
- Sunday Funday: to represent the crowd looking to take advantage of every minute of their weekend while also safely rooting on the team
Note, I include the video of the interview at the bottom of the article for those who’d rather watch video than read the transcript.
HH: First we’re joined by Doug Williams. We’re here to talk about the new Fan Ambassador Network that you guys are starting, so my first question is what does being a fan mean to you and what are you going to be looking for in these applications?
Doug: Well you know for me, I’m looking at it from a whole different perspective than it used to be. From the other side, as a player, you figured it’s just someone out there cheering for you. But now on this side of the panel, being with Jason and his crew, I’m looking at it from a whole different perspective. Being a fan is more than just standing in the stadium cheering; it’s being a part of the brand of the team, whether it’s community [outreach] or coordinating [with friends] or having fun with your kid on Sunday. The fan should be enjoying more than just the game itself.
HH: Have you read any of the applications so far and if so, what kind of things have stuck out to you?
Doug: I haven’t read a lot of applications yet. We’ve got over a thousand applications and we’re breaking them down into the seven core groups that we have. Some of the [groups] have more applicants than the others, but at the end of the day we’re going to come up with about seven people in each category to help us see what it’s like being a fan and what they would like to see going forward from there.
HH: The press release for FAN said you’re looking for a mix of older and younger fans to be ambassadors. What do you think the different age groups bring and what unique insights will they have for the rebranding process?
Doug: I think you want the old and the young, the old school with the new school, and I think that’s important because I’ve been around since 1980 and you’ve got to bring those fans with you [and connect them] with the new fans and make it one fanbase. That’s why it’s important that no matter how old you are or how long you’ve been a fan, that you can get involved and be a part of this so nobody gets left behind.
HH: The website says you’ll also be accepting fans from outside the DMV area to be ambassadors and we seem to have really good turnout at away games, so I’m wondering why do you think this fanbase travels so well and what unique contributions those fans outside the DMV will be able to give?
Doug: I think it’s important because we have fans all over the country and you want them involved too. They’re over there cheering and they want to see the team do well and [they care about the] branding as well. So you’ve got to open it up to fans not just in the DMV, but all across the country and let everybody be a part of the branding of this football team.
HH: And since you mentioned you read Hogs Haven earlier, we got lots of international fans on there too.
Doug: I’m telling you even me as a player, I would get letters from people all over Europe asking me to autograph things, autograph shoes and send it to them and stuff like that. So we got fans all over the world and when you’re talking about branding this football team, you got to include everybody.
HH: Is there any parting message you want to give to fans?
Doug: Yeah, I want them to feel a part of this whole rebranding whether or not we choose you [to be ambassadors]. Whatever your ideas are, we’ll take them, so don’t feel bad if you’re not chosen. Just feel like you’re still a part of the process, but a part of the branding outside [of the FAN].
HH: How should fans stay involved and let you know their ideas if they’re not chosen for the FAN?
Doug: Well I think fans gotta keep doing what they’ve been doing... and still give your thoughts on the Football Team.
[Editor’s note: all fans can still follow the rebranding on Washington Journey. Following the team on Twitter and commenting on news or responding to polls is probably the easiest way for any fan to give instant feedback. Team President Jason Wright is also pretty active on Twitter and tweets regular updates about the rebranding in his President’s Brief, which is typically weekly or bi-weekly.]
HH: Next we’re joined by Joey Colby-Begovich, who is the team Vice President of Guest Experience (newly hired). Before this, you were an executive in the hospitality group Inspirato and before that, Carnival Cruise Lines. Can you tell us about how you’re bringing that experience to bear in your current role with the team?
Joey: Absolutely, and thank you for having me here today. I think that my background in traditional hospitality is not only very transferrable to sports entertainment, but also a value add to sports entertainment. In hospitality, the main purpose of an experiential operations role is to be true to the brand, from service, to the surprise and delight moments, to removing points of friction at the back of the house that the customer might not even know existed in order for them to have a seamless journey. All of those [skills] are needed in shaping gameday experience, from arrival, to ticketing, to food and beverage, to merchandise, to getting to your seat, to experiencing the game, to the entertainment that happens. It’s all the same thing, so I think my background in hospitality transfers very well to this environment.
HH: You’ve grouped the fan ambassadors into seven categories: Community, Culinary, Culture, Entertainment, Fashion, Family Experience, and Sunday Funday. How did you decide on these categories?
Joey: We decided on those categories as the seven areas where we could elevate the experience in terms of how people interact with the team from a fan perspective on gameday. All of the things that we already know, like parking and arrival and wayfinding around the stadium, we have hired consultants and experts to help us in those areas. These seven things are the areas where fans interact the most and get the most value out of the gameday experience, so that’s how we landed on these seven categories.
HH: If someone is nominated for one of the seven categories, will they also be considered for one of the other categories if you think they’re a better fit there?
Joey: Absolutely. We’ve already had thousands of submissions and several people have been nominated for several different categories, but we’re going to take a look at the submissions holistically because we really want small focus groups for each of these seven areas. If somebody’s on the cusp and we think they might fit better in another category, we’ll definitely reach out and make that connection.
HH: What criteria will you be using to choose the fan ambassadors and who is going to do the choosing?
Joey: That’s a great question. Doug Williams, Super Bowl MVP and my new best friend, I can’t get enough of Doug, him and I are going to be leading this selection committee that will be made up of some other stakeholders who are directly related to some of these seven categories. We’re going to be reviewing the submissions in all of those categories, we’re going to be narrowing it down to a set of finalists, possibly doing some interviews with those finalists before landing on the final group.
It will be quite a process, but we want diversity within these groups. As an example, take the culinary category. We want the person on the street who brings the best casserole to the potluck that everybody raves about. In that same group, we want the ultimate tailgater at FedEx Field. In that same group, we want somebody who is maybe an executive chef at a restaurant. We want to create that diversity in the group so it contains as many of the fans as possible.
But I want to add that everybody who is nominated and everybody who becomes a finalist will have an opportunity to participate in some way.
[Editor’s note: I should have asked about this last sentence in more detail, but Joey was kind enough to expand on it when I followed up offline: “Even if someone is not selected they’ll still have the opportunity to submit suggestions for the various groups to discuss and bring to the organization. The Fan Ambassador Network will still engage with the public at numerous points throughout the rebranding process.”]
HH: What will be the specific duties of the fan ambassadors and who in the team will they interact with on a regular basis?
Joey: They will regularly interact with me, with Doug, and with these different stakeholders we’ll bring in that are a part of these seven categories. The way we see it right now is that once a quarter we will have a virtual meeting (due to the pandemic) where we will get to present our ideas and gather reaction, have discussion around them, and then hear this network’s ideas as well. In addition to that, there are going to be several events at FedEx Field, possibly in the DMV area, that will be optional events that these groups will be invited to attend as part of our fan engagement.
HH: So kind of like a focus group plus VIP experience?
Joey: Yeah, that’s a great way to put it.
HH: The press release says you’ll be choosing 5 or more fans in each category. Will they primarily be working with each other in a group, on their own, or something else?
Joey: I think it’s best that we do things as much in a group as possible so that the diversity that’s represented and the different opinions within the group are heard by others. I think sometimes we think that all fans are like us, but that’s not always the case. Fans come from different walks of life, some fans are here in the DMV and some aren’t, some are older and some are younger, and they all have different ideas. I think in order to create a more holistic, connected fanbase to the Washington Football Team, a group setting would be most beneficial.
HH: But would it still be that the Culinary people are only meeting with other Culinary people?
Joey: Yes, though some of those events that I talked to you about would be for everybody.
HH: Which categories right now are getting the most applicants and are there any categories where you need more applicants?
Joey: I’m glad that you asked this so that people out there in the fanbase hear this. We have a ton right now for Community and Sunday Funday, they are leading the charge. All the other categories are doing well, but we could use some more submissions for Culinary and for Culture. I mean we’ve got a lot, like I said, we have thousands, but those are the categories that are lagging a bit behind that we would like people to nominate or self-nominate so that we can get a lot of really great people to be a part of that.
HH: And when is the due date for nominations?
Joey: They will be open until the end of the month [April].
[Editor’s note: FYI, I followed up offline and was told finalists will be selected and contacted in May.]
HH: Are there any parting messages you want to give to fans?
Joey: I would like to say, as someone who considers myself a new fan since joining the organization, I just have a sense of gratitude to everyone in the organization out there. I have felt so welcome coming to the DMV, joining the Washington Football Team, and I look forward to meeting as many people as possible as we welcome fans back to the stadium this Fall.
Fans who want to apply to become ambassadors (or nominate a friend) can do so here. I encourage everyone at Hogs Haven to apply. Thanks to Doug Williams and Joey Colby-Begovich for taking time out of their day to talk about FAN as well as to Marc Sausa for setting up the interviews.
Are you interested in becoming a fan ambassador?
This poll is closed
Yes, I’ve already applied
Yes, I’m planning on applying
No, but I’m going to nominate someone else
No, but I think it’s a great idea
No, I’m not really interested in the program
If you were to apply to one of the FAN categories, which would it be?
This poll is closed
Community: to help define the team’s presence throughout the DMV
Culinary: to share thoughts on in-stadium and tailgate event food and beverage
Culture: to give insights on local art and lifestyle as well as team history
Entertainment: to provide ideas around integrating areas like music, dance and gaming
Fashion: to discuss opinions on merchandise and new gear
Family Experience: to help create gameday activities that are enjoyable for parents and kids
Sunday Funday: to represent the crowd looking to take advantage of every minute of their weekend while also safely rooting on the team