Customized Experiences Gain Importance In Live Sports Environment

In the November 2019 Media Post: Marketing Sports, SLRG President Jon Last explores how sports properties are continuing to use research to create more compelling, customized experiences for core and casual fans.

The proliferation of leisure options, coupled with enhanced at home-alternatives for viewing sporting events, has put greater pressure on the in-person guest experience to deliver significantly greater value.  Emotional connections, fan access and physical amenities and activations all must be carefully intertwined to meet this promise.

So far, the industry at large has responded to this challenge by offering a variety of bundled amenities and pre-loaded ticket options that provide some level of fan choice.

The San Francisco 49ers most recently made the bold move of announcing that the team’s season ticket packages, going forward, would include a bundled food and beverage offering.  This strikes us as both smart and innovative, as insights that we’ve derived across sports continue to show a growing preference for upgraded food and beverage offerings, often leveraging popular local restaurants and chefs.

One of our clients went so far as to incorporate and theme parts of their renovated venue around local communities, complete with representative “pop-up” dining venues, reflective of each respective geography.

The 49ers are smart to recognize that packaging F&B both meets fan demand for convenience, while also presenting opportunities to enhance profits.

With continued cross-industry investment in digital ticketing and in venue apps, other logical enhancements to F&B offerings can meet guest/fan demand for more pervasive in-seat F&B ordering and delivery, and/or push notifications when an order is ready, that can significantly reduce wait times and queues at concessions areas.  One respondent in a recent focus group favorably compared this vision to the Disney “Fast Pass.”

F&B is just one component of the overall in-venue experience.  We’ve all seen the proliferation of new social spaces, replete with interactive activations, in venue renovation. A recent illustration of this: Homestead Miami Speedway’s plan to build a beach on the infield of the track.

The focus on social spaces has been largely driven by a desire to both enhance creature comforts and broaden event appeal to less avid fans for whom the action itself is just one component of what drives a ticket purchase.

Bottom line, the proper combination of ancillary amenities varies across each prospective attendee segment and specific event type. So it’s necessary for sponsors and properties to carefully evaluate the potential resonance of each, while simultaneously assessing their return on investment and the prioritization of attracting less engaged segments, while continuing to appeal to core fans.