Aneisha Johnson of the Jacksonville Jaguars
There are only so many places where a city or a region truly gathers together, where people from all backgrounds join to celebrate, to cheer and to be proud of who they are and where they're from. Many of those places are Spaces Where We Play, and the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League (NFL) is no exception. With fans decked out in teal chanting the name of their county with pride, a Jags game day is undoubtedly a moving communal experience for Duval County residents.
It's Aneisha Johnson's job to make sure people keep coming back, to make sure EverBank Stadium feels less like a physical venue and more like a living, dynamic space where a community meets and flourishes. Johnson is the Jaguars' director of Member Experience and Retention, working to make sure the team's most committed fans enjoy game day and everything that comes with it.
Creating a year-round community presence
NFL teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars have only a handful of home games each year — quite a difference from Johnson's previous role with the Miami Heat of the National Basketball Association (NBA), whose home arena hosts concerts, award shows and other events. Yet Johnson finds opportunities other than home games for building relationships in Jacksonville.
"Member experience is all about feeling like a part of the Jaguars. We develop our members' experiences by connecting with them through year-round events like our Draft Party and Training Camp, as well as calls, emails, handwritten cards and many more touchpoints," she said. "The Season Ticket Member experience is year-round, 365 days of the year, inside and outside of football season."
Making members feel appreciated during the time of year when football isn't front of mind helps fans feel valued even when they're not watching Trevor Lawrence and Zay Jones connecting on a touchdown pass.
That sense of being appreciated comes from building genuine community, a core value for both the Jaguars and for Gallagher. The shared desire to support community is the driving force behind the Jaguars Foundation and Gallagher's work in the surrounding Outeast community, including a book fair at an eastside neighborhood elementary school, summer jobs and internships for high school students, and an Outeast Community Engagement Volunteer Day.
Johnson said she was surprised by just how passionate fans are about their team and the region it represents, not only in the immediate neighborhood but also in northern Florida and beyond.
"When I first got to Jacksonville, I was blown away by the amount of pride that Jacksonville residents take in our community. Hearing the 'DUUUVAL' chant for the first time was electric," Johnson noted. "It just makes you want to be a part of something bigger. Our marketing and production team does an amazing job of tapping into Jacksonville community pride through hype videos, social media content and branding."
While every sports team talks about being involved in their city, Johnson and Jacksonville make sure to back that talk with action.
"The Jaguars Foundation and community impact team works diligently to support Duval and surrounding areas through unique opportunities and programs that strengthen our community," she explained. "During the 2021-22 season, the Jaguars Foundation totaled $3.67 million in donations; $2.26 million in grants to children, families and communities; 800 care packages distributed to troops; 700 turkeys and food bags donated at Thanksgiving; and much more!"
At the stadium, Johnson and her team often are — figuratively — taking fans' temperatures to better understand what they think of certain projects, initiatives and plans.
"Feedback is vital to our business. We utilize NFL-wide surveys and Jaguars surveys after every event to improve our processes from event to event and year to year," Johnson said.
Investing in the EverBank Stadium experience
While part of Johnson's work involves pushing beyond the constraints of the physical stadium, the stadium itself plays a huge role in how much fans enjoy game day. That's why Johnson and her team are working to improve the experience from that perspective as well.
"The Jaguars continue to make the stadium experience a priority for all fans and that includes their entry process, seating experience, concessions and in-game entertainment," Johnson noted. "Together with our stadium partners, we continue to invest in new technology that continues to improve their experience, from mobile ticketing to in-seat concession orders to the world's largest outdoor videoboards and more.
"All of these pieces impact what it's like for fans on game day outside of just a physical structure. In addition, the Jaguars are already looking to the future as we make plans to partner with the City of Jacksonville on a fully renovated stadium that will provide enhanced amenities."
A partnership based on common values
Gallagher counts expertise as one of its core values, relying on people to use their knowledge and experience to better serve its clients. Similarly, Johnson uses the expertise she gained in her previous roles and from the response of Jaguars fans to continue to craft the way fans will feel during a game or one of the team's special events. It's shared commonalities and business practices like these that makes the Gallagher/Jaguars partnership work so seamlessly.
Johnson's journey is all about those connections, with fans and with the community around her. As a Penn State student, she saw sport's influence on people in State College. The experiences fans shared in Penn State's jam-packed Beaver Stadium or watching the women's soccer team add another Big Ten championship pushed Johnson to work in sports.
"During sporting events, fans can disconnect from their outside lives and fully engage in an exciting atmosphere that brings everyone together," she said. "Being involved in it all is so rewarding."
With those moments where everyone comes together, the genuine commitment the team has to the North Florida community and a game-day experience Johnson is constantly working to keep world-class, there is no doubt EverBank Stadium will continue to be a gathering place for Jacksonville and beyond.