Commentary

Finding Balance Between Serving Core Fans And Broader Market

  • by , Columnist, January 8, 2019

The proliferation of live sporting events, combined with increased and improved out-of-home access channels, has kept sports marketers focused on enhancing the onsite experience.  

Coupling this phenomenon with an incessant desire for ticket sales growth has surfaced a pervasive challenge for properties looking to boost attendance.  This has amplified a desire to broaden the entertainment and amenity offerings to appeal to a wider event enthusiast audience, one that likely lacks a strong affinity for the home team or sport being marketed.  

It's easiest and appropriate for a property to initially look to its core audience in developing enhanced amenities, increased fan access and creative onsite activations.  Most properties have also bolstered existing fan relationships through technology value-add and communications programs that leverage the central values and participation drivers that make their offerings resonant. Missteps here can be costly both at the gate and in maintaining fan equity.

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There are widely documented efforts of sports properties marketing to the next generation of core fans.  Assuming that a simple "build it and they will come" approach is enough to capture this audience is often short-sighted.

Our research has shown that a focus on providing enhanced access to the event can often reinforce the essential emotional drivers for attendance from this next generation of fans.  But the challenge is tougher when reaching beyond this group to those with a limited interest in the central sporting event. 

The typical response by properties, of late — particularly those focused on millennial and Gen Z audiences — has been to develop social spaces or amenities that emphasize interactivity, unrelated entertainment or upgraded food and beverage experiences. These are often less dependent upon the central sporting event taking place. 

But the appropriate question that emerges is, what’s the cost of following this strategy?  A marketing and activation plan focused on tertiary potential fans demands significant human and financial resources, while risking dilution of the core product, without any assurance of positive ROI. 

How does a property find the right balance between creating an environment wider in appeal, without watering down the experience that core fans are seeking?  How does one identify those segments most receptive to these offerings?

For properties focused on season ticket packages, there is also the inevitable need to cultivate the event enthusiast into someone with at least a basic appreciation and understanding of the core product.

These are the most important considerations that must be evaluated through research across multiple constituent groups. There’s no singular magic bullet.  But answers are out there.

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