Sports compete against cinemas, concerts, Netflix, and other entertainment sources. At home people have their comforts, the possibility of watching instant replays, non-existent queues at the toilets, can grab a beer from the fridge at any time, and don’t get stuck in the rain. The stadium experience needs to be unique, giving fans good reason to leave their home. Although a critical selling point, the atmosphere alone is no longer enough to lure them. Fans need and deserve more.
Sports clubs are facing the demanding challenge of attracting people into Stadiums. Match day attendance is a huge income source for clubs both big and small. For instance, FC Barcelona made 159.2M€ (23.4% of their total income) in the season 18/19, Real Madrid 144.8M€ (19%) and Manchester United 120.6M€ (14%).
Offering added value to the stadium experience is crucial to attract new and existing fans. Understand what they want, whether that be the ability double screen, a connected social media experience, or a better F&B service. Good Wi-Fi connectivity enhances the experience and enables sharing between fan networks; in fact, according to Oracle, 8 in 10 fans use social media while attending the games, and according to a study by the University of Florida, more than the 60% of the fans thought improvements in the stadium Wi-Fi would boost their match day experience.
Connectivity is not the only aspect to consider. Fans want to be warm, well fed, and comfortable. Breeze block concourses and long queues for food and drink are challenging problems to solve from a structural point of view but using services such as Click & Collect can get you a part way there. According to a case study by Oracle, 45% of fans have abandoned queues without purchasing F&B due to long waiting times, 56% of fans would “probably use” or “definitely use” a mobile app to order and pre-pay for food or beverages to be picked up at an express line, and 40% state that missing the game prevents them from buying more F&B. Build an environment for fans to enjoy and watch them thrive.
Fans (notably away fans) commonly get lost or find difficulty in the journey to and around the stadium; whether that be the train journey, car journey, parking restrictions, purchasing a drink or snack, going to the toilets, or meeting up with friends. These challenges cause anxiety and anxiety causes resistance in attending a match-day. Thanks to digital applications, clubs can enable a map on the fans mobile phone, taking them to and through the stadium, helping them to find whatever they need. The world is evolving, and so are industries, including sports. All businesses must adapt and take advantage of technological and digital innovations to bring forward the next level of fan/customer experience.
It’s no secret that fans second screen – 87% of them in fact – both in stadium and at home. We must utilise this knowledge and enable people to access instant replays, updates, trivia, and more on their device through the official app. This will personalize their experience and provide them with added value that a television alone cannot.
Take football for example… together with the VAR and the cooling breaks, comes pauses in the match that should be filled. It’s very common, especially in American Ice Hockey to fill these pauses with “Kiss Cam formats” that keep the fan engaged and enjoying their experience. These pauses can be used to send quizzes or questions via the official app and rewarding answers with discounts or loyalty programmes for upcoming matches and again providing something fans can’t have at home.
We cannot forget the power of data. Thanks to it, we don’t have to guess what the consumers want anymore, we just must listen to them. For example, if we know that people aged between 30 – 40 years purchase club merchandise, why not incentivise them with team merchandising or club related initiatives together with the ticket, or let’s say fans aged between 20 – 30 are strong supporters of a specific player, incentivise them with merchandise of that player.
Connectivity, comfort, accessibility, weather conditions, innovation… all are the challenges to face, and none of them easy to overcome. Adopting a data-lead action plan and understanding what YOUR fans want and demand is the best way to go through all of them and position the stadium experience above the TV and other streaming platforms.
Match day revenues are vital to the strategy of every sport club or league. The entertainment industry is crowded with competing options for fans to choose between. Stand out from the rest, provide an experience that fans will both recommend and repeat.