Every game is different—thankfully and wonderfully different. That’s why we play the games, that’s why we watch the games, and for many, that’s why we actually go and experience the games. For that fan who buys a ticket, pays to park a car, shuffles through the turnstiles and invests in grilled meats and/or possibly brewed delights—this had better be damn good.
“This” is the Fan Experience. The total, accumulated sum of this and that and every little thing that surrounds and interacts with the fan. Clearly, the Fan Experience is subject to many variables, the first being, the Fan himself or herself. What are their personal expectations, particular histories, specific level of commitment to the team and much more? These are Fan persona factors, which at least on the first visit, we can’t control…but we can start to make our point.
It’s well known that a favorable Fan Experience, at any venue, catering to any sport, yields return. A well thought out, fully supported Fan Experience creates goodwill, motivates added spending and encourages more frequent attendance. It makes perfect sense and yet, it is rarely given the sort of weight and attention it deserves.
Where can you make a difference? How can you build a better Fan Experience? What are the variables?
Let’s lay out the factors, both large and small, that matter:
It sounds broad and general, but Customer Service is truly about a single conversation, an easy smile, a helpful answer and a presence that invites positive, practical and person-to-person interaction.
Food & Beverage
While there’s no accounting for taste, there is accounting for quality, freshness and innovation. Food is personal and persons are picky. The spectrum of possibilities and issues is great. Food and beverage is an intimate factor.
That guy sitting next to you and your daughter who’s constantly cursing out the officials definitely matters. Again, a somewhat unmanageable factor, but with proper Customer Service techniques, the effects of bad neighbors can be minimized. Also, a positive overarching Fan Experience helps create an atmosphere of respect among fans.
Wifi, Apps & Social Media
In-venue technology can boost and bolster your reach and interactions with fans. Although, some would say it can also distract from what’s occurring on the field, floor or rink. Hmmm, ponder…
Game Day Traditions
Whether it’s monkeys on horseback, skydiving mermaids or Gladiator vs. Godzilla at mid-field, tradition knows little logic and weighs heavily. Finding fresh ways to surround and celebrate (not change) that heritage will serve a venue well.
Team & Players
How can a venue take advantage of a winning streak, a losing slump, or the dynamics and personalities of its team’s players? Efforts can be made to offset losing and enhance winning, but ultimately, the “W” column reigns supreme.
The promise and personality of the team/organization extends beyond the stadium, but it must be crystallized and at its Sunday Best within the venue walls.
An often-overlooked element that, when done right, encompasses many of the factors called-out above. Venue branding is the graphic and visual interpretation, within a venue’s environment, of the organization’s character, history, aspirations and gratitude to the Fan. This is not interior design or architecture, though some skills from those disciplines apply. This is about refreshing, inspiring and energizing the space that surrounds and directs the Fan. How do you want your home to look and feel when guests visit?
It seems simple: buy a ticket, grab a beer and watch the game (oh, and have a winning team). But the reality is; the Fan Experience is complex with interrelated and interdependent elements. No single component topples or trumps the equation. Attention to each is important and overseeing of it all is crucial.
We are all Fans of something and nowhere is the Fan Experience more passionate and acute than in the universe of sports. Use that energy and fire to power something better in your arena of glory, hallowed grounds, sacred space, field of dreams and storied stadium.