Sports is a billion-dollar industry undergoing significant disruption. Leagues and teams are facing decreasing attendance and broadcast ratings for the first time in decades. However, although growth rate forecasts are shrinking, there are still audiences to be found.
The demands and expectations of sports fans is changing and smart organizations are finding new ways to engage their fans through in-stadium customer experiences:
Digital intelligence provider Zoomph found that 83% of adults check their mobile phones while attending a live sporting event. Some teams, like the Denver Broncos of the NFL, are leaning into the shift. Sports Authority Field in Denver recently undertook a $6 million renovation to enable free Wi-Fi for fans throughout the stadium.
The NFL’s own app provides a holistic experience, including highlights, scoring updates and live game streaming. Team social channels share hashtags and showcase posts from the people within the stadium. For service needs, fans can tweet to stadium staff to address rowdy fans or beer spills on the concourse.
All the Comforts of Home, and Much More
For decades, sports venues had an unassailable advantage by simply housing the games. Fans outside had to satisfy their interest with spotty radio and television coverage. Now, games are broadcast in sharp high-definition to home theaters with 80-inch screens and comfortable couches.
The Prudential Center is the home of the New Jersey Devils in the National Hockey League. Opened in 2007, it offers unique food services, comfortable seating and the largest in-arena, center-hung scoreboard in the world. Without the game advantage, teams understand they must provide additional experiences to entice fans to leave the comfort and convenience of home.
Tiers of Exclusivity
The concept of spending more money to enable exclusive experiences is not new. Opened in 1991, the Vivint Smart Home Arena is the home of the Utah Jazz and the fifth-oldest National Basketball Association arena. To remain relevant to current customer expectations, the arena underwent a $125 million facelift just ahead of the current season.
Vivint Smart Home Arena now has several premium, exclusive offerings, including expanded dining and seating options. This significant increase in exclusive spaces underscores customer interest in paying more for an experience beyond the game itself.
The Frontier of Virtual Reality
Picture an experience where every game day a fan can wander the venue at will, including standing right by the entrance to the field as their team charges in. Once the game is about to start, they can choose any seat in the stadium.
Thanks to advancing technology and faster connections, this will soon be a reality for anyone with a virtual reality headset. Keith Wyness, CEO of prominent English soccer team Aston Villa, recently declared that teams are close to being able to sell virtual season tickets.
The targets for these virtual experiences will initially be fans in other countries, so as to not cannibalize physical ticket opportunity. But it’s not difficult to imagine teams playing in empty stadiums while thousands of fans watch through VR.
Satisfying Fan Expectations
Amazing experiences in any industry do not have to be flashy or tech-heavy. Lambeau Field, home of the NFL's Green Bay Packers, is an aging pile of bricks. But the organization curates the culture developed over the years, like shirtless guys in freezing temperatures, stadium music and the "Lambeau Leap."
By taking key steps, measuring responses and evaluating outcomes, companies understand their customers’s expectations and satisfaction. Customer experience is the essential differentiator of our time, and these best practices will increase revenue and are critical for most brands’s survival.