Ep. 20: The New Fan And What Do They Want with Bob Jordan
In each episode of The GameDay Playbook presented by FanFood, Rob Cressy discusses how leaders are transforming the sports and live entertainment industry by leveraging technology to enhance the fan experience and operate gameday more efficiently.
Bob Jordan, CEO and Founder of Venue Road, joins Rob Cressy to talk about “the new fan” and what they want. What do fans want from a venue, experience, and engagement standpoint when they attend an event? How is history repeating itself with the questions that the eSports industry is asking? Are there new ticketing models being created that can better serve the sports fan? What do stadiums and arenas need to do in order to cater to both the fantasy sports and sports betting fan?
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Rob Cressy: (00:04)
Welcome to the Gameday Playbook presented by FanFood, a discussion around how leaders are transforming the sports and live entertainment industry by leveraging technology to enhance the fan experience and operate game day more efficiently. I'm your host Rob Cressy and joining me today is Bob Jordan, founder and CEO of Venue Road. Bob, great to have you on the show.
Bob Jordan: (00:29)
Thank you Rob, glad to be here.
Rob Cressy: (00:31)
Can you give a quick overview on who you are and what you do?
Bob Jordan: (00:35)
Absolutely. Long time participant in the sports business, specifically with the construction activation operation of the venues, stadiums, arenas, race tracks, ballparks, (for) almost 30 years, came out of the rock and roll world, translated that into a back of house position in the arena space. Worked my way through the front of house to the front office and started working in program delivery, project delivery in the operations of work as a owner's rep on multiple buildings ranging from American airlines center in Dallas for the Stars and Mavericks, MetLife stadium for Jets and giants in New York, cricket teams in Mumbai, San Jose Sharks, Detroit Redwings. I've worked on every major league ballpark doing technology upgrades, with the MLB and BAMTech on that. Kind of the focus of all of this though in the last decade has really been on where does technology, the customer engagement, partnership activation and the actual brick and mortar environment, where do they intersect to really maximize the experience for everyone involved with the sport space. So that's as brief as I can make it for you.
Rob Cressy: (02:01)
I love it and I'm glad that you're bringing a lot of knowledge and experience to the table and you and I had a conversation about 10 days ago that really set a good foundation for what I want to talk about. You mentioned that you were on a panel and one of the things that was being talked about was the new fan. What e-sports can learn from traditional sports in the questions that were being asked around that. Can you expand on that?
Bob Jordan: (02:27)
Absolutely. I think e-sports is a phenomenon unto itself right now, just simply because of the growth that it's going through. But the questions e-sports and the brands, the teams, the franchise model, the venues that they're asking are, are a corollary of what we were asking about our fans back in the eighties and nineties. It's what does the fan want? Who is the fan? What is going to make their experience more memorable, more attractive? And then for the brands is an increased revenue. What are the monetization points? And I'll use it as an example. When I did the American Airlines center in Dallas, this is back in the late nineties, just at the turn of the century there. But, we have almost 200, little less than 200 suites in that building. Nowadays, I just finished up a SunTrust park with the Atlanta Braves. We're down to 15 suites, but Atlanta has seven layers or levels of premium product.
Bob Jordan: (03:35)
Those premium products are four tops, eight tops, communal seating, nontraditional row and column seating elements because one thing that the fan today wants is an experience that's tribal, but they don't want to be locked into a sedentary environment. It's more about mobility and things along those lines but it still has that social aspect. E-sports, what we're learning about these individuals and the players and the people that consume it, they consume the core product. They're very passionate. They're very into that core product, but they want to be part of a greater experience and how they consume that experiences as different as the personalities of the game types, of the players they're watching, of who their pro player idols are. Things like that and how they consume that data directly affects how your monetization is going to be interspersed with that. You have to be, you have to meet them where they are. They're not necessarily going to come to where you are now.
Rob Cressy: (04:52)
So you just gave me a sort of a thought or an idea. I completely agree with you on the tribal experience and not wanting to be locked in and wanting to be mobile because I'm a great example of this. I live in Chicago, I rent and I don't own a car and I have a home studio and I also do coworking. So for me, flexibility in the sharing economy is part of my life and I'm also the biggest sports fan you can think of. I've got all of the streaming packages and I want to be plugged in as much as possible, both on social and as well as the options for the games that I watch. But when I think about, different experiences in ways to view games, has there ever been a thought of almost the Southwest Airlines model for ticketing? Like what have you as a fan could buy access to a level and wherever there's open seats, you could just come and go as you please as opposed to the traditional model. Like you said, you're locked into these two seats, but what about I want to be locked in the whole time. What if there's better food on the concourse below me or I just want to see a different perspective because not everyone's going to be going to a plethora of games. Like what if this is the only game during the season that I'm going to go to? It sure wouldn't be nice to experience each of the different things that these arenas and stadiums have to offer.
Bob Jordan: (06:17)
It's an interesting give and take on that. And let me give you the positives and some of the things that have happened in these, along those lines. You mentioned single games or less than games, you know, all of the leagues and all of the teams. Now it is very common to see packages, five games, six games preferential or I only want to see a certain team. Let's say I'm a baseball fan and in Texas, but I used to be in Cleveland and I'm a big Indians fan. Okay, I only want to go to the Indians games. All right, how do I manifest that? And the teams are learning just you don't have to sell 82 or 80 or 40, or whatever your league game is, let's learn how to sell what the fan wants and then find out what they want to do on that day.
Bob Jordan: (07:11)
And so the flexibility used to be kind of like well it's inefficient to do that. Well now, it's mandated by your cus customer base and the monetization supports providing flexibility, providing preferential.I'm using the term preferential opponents, preferential days, different things along those lines. When you talk about the communal areas, if you look at what the coming Oakland A's stadium, the concept designs that are there right now at one end of the scale, you look at the malls and the plaza areas of AT&T stadium for the Cowboys and then you also look at Colorado Rockies are a prime example is about three or four seasons ago they blew out the upper deck on the right field side and they created a common, almost like a loft rooftop experience where you bought a ticket which gave you access. That access was everything from fire pits to some seats that you can watch the game and had a plethora of video.
Bob Jordan: (08:20)
It had different food options. It had some, you know, you could also buy up to get bottle service. All of those things are coming. And I think what you're seeing here is a understanding, and this is my contrarian view, the that we talked about earlier, is you're seeing that the sports industry is having to look at other industries, the hospitality, the gaming, the casinos, retail to how they do fan engagement and bring those into sports because in this disposable income world, our disposable income for sports, we're competing with all of those other experiences now.
Rob Cressy: (09:03)
And, I love the way that you framed that because it makes complete sense, the nontraditional game experience. And I think to my experience, when I went and saw the Padres play this past summer when I was out in San Diego for a fantasy football draft, and we want to take it to the common area and there's grass and there was a stage for the band and there's actually a giant big screen there and there's good food. And I don't think I watched more than three pitches of the game, but it was exactly what I wanted. I didn't want to be locked into a seat. So as I project forward in what would I as a fan like I would like more things like everything that you listed. And then if you look at the NFL side of things, I'd be curious how much teams really start to think about the worlds of fantasy football in sports betting in red zone channel.
Rob Cressy: (09:55)
Because one of the reasons why I probably wouldn't go to a Bears game as someone who lives in Chicago is because I'm a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and I wouldn't want to miss the Steelers games, one, red zone, two, so that I can catch up on everything and three fantasy football because the majority of the stadiums you go to has horrible wifi connectivity. So I can't even follow the games on my phone. But, if all of a sudden you say, listen, here is the fantasy zone or sports betting zone experience where I'm in this stadium, I have the ability to sort of roam around and catch the ambience if I wanted. But otherwise I can watch red zone at a Bears game and follow my fantasy teams, which should be a very natural segue or point of entry for Draft Kings, Fan Duel, William Hill, any of the sports betting companies that want to it get integrated.
Bob Jordan: (10:49)
Absolutely. And I think what's really interesting in this, and you're right on your thought process is we are not, I'm not advocating that there's not a hardcore fan. All right. There are still hardcore fans that want to come to the game. They're going to be glued like in hockey, they're glued to every puck drop, alright, and what they're doing that is similar to those that that move around a lot in our dynamic inner games. They still want more information that individual that may not move from his seat for most of a period. Their second screen is attached. They're looking for out of town, they're looking for data. They're looking for what's going on behind the scenes of what I'm seeing. At the same time, they want to be connected to their Facebook group through everybody else. They know their and to experience that entire game day movement both through their mobile device as well as being there.
Bob Jordan: (11:59)
And there's also those individuals who like just, I'm going to be at the stadium but I'm going to go into a club and I'm going to hang out. And this kind of leads me into the whole wireless world of where we're moving with wifi six and five G and mobile and the intersection of gaming at live events and things like that. So this is kind of where the built environment and the technology start moving together in concert because you can't do one thing at the exclusion of somebody else. And that's one of the things, the art from the architectural world that I get my eyebrows raised, that when I talk about is like, guys, what are we doing when we designed this building to accommodate the flexibility of multiple levels of fans that are going to consume our product in a myriad of different ways.
Rob Cressy: (12:56)
So that's actually a great segue to what we can talk about next is the speed of adoption of this because one of the challenges is our regular lives, a change at the rate of adoption when we get new I-phones come out and new internet and new everything you can think of. New Apple TV, Disney plus you name it. Our lives are nonstop change for technology and all things media and social creation. However, when we go to stadiums and arenas, it is traditionally slow because some of these arenas have been built anywhere from one to 30 years ago and how long does it take for them to bring this adoption cycle to the consumers and how far back are they? You even mentioned it yourself, they're competing for the same attention as everybody else except the technology and infrastructure that they have isn't as good as what everybody else was rolling with in everyday life.
Bob Jordan: (13:59)
Yeah, the wireless is interesting. I was involved with, here's an example is I was involved with major league baseball about seven years ago and we created with the four carriers a standardized wireless platform, which included wifi and DAS for every major league ballpark. We remove the barrier to entry for that to happen in those ballpark is called a consortium of about 25 ballparks came. So we kind of went from zero to one hundred in about five or six months bringing them in. But you know, remember what I said, this was five and six years ago. So the challenge where all of this comes in, it doesn't matter if the carrier is moving from 4G, LTE to 5G or it's for the teams and the venue owners to go from traditional wifi to wifi 6. It's a constant evolution, but it's also a constant draining of capital resources.
Bob Jordan: (14:57)
And that is a huge challenge. But the other side of that coin is if we would do surveys on what was the number one thing that fans wanted, alright, 10 years ago it was close in parking. Well, Uber and Lyft and mass transit have kind of moved that off of the number one. Now it is connectivity, connectivity, connectivity, connectivity because think about our new fan, you know, what do they come to the game with? You know, it might be a driver's license, a credit card, and a mobile device. And a lot of them, it's a driver's license and a mobile device because their mobile devices now their pay app, right? So they're consuming, again, consuming product in a much faster rate and a much different pace. If you don't provide it, it's not, they're not coming. And study after study after study has now shown that the new fans in their decision tree on what to do on any given evening.
Bob Jordan: (16:02)
So let's say a bunch of this generation of millennial kind of fans, the gen X, gen Y fans, they're getting their say, what do you want to do on this day? Okay, we're going to spend. Do you want to go to a game? Let's go to a sporting event and do this versus let's go somewhere else and hang out. And we'll go look at a hospitality experience. In that decision tree, connectivity is a deciding factor on what they do. So the teams now understand if I don't have connectivity, they may not buy my ticket and that's a very real scenario. Now that everybody accepts it, it's a capital intensive. Plus, the downside from a technology perspective. Pure technology and density of users affects 5g and it affects wifi 6. There's going to be a very, very long learning curve for the carriers and for the providers of these products on how that works in a stadium environment, but the early tests are, it's going to be phenomenal and it is going to be another huge paradigm shift in what we can do with the fans. Part of the fans experience because wifi, once you get to kind of gigabit speeds, and I don't want to get too technical, but the whole thing is once you get into that level of speeds, real time analysis, real time stats, player tracking, all sorts of things like this become part of the experience of the fan that they're giving them that at-home experience in the seats. That's monetized the bubble, that increases fan retention, that increases fan engagement and starts to move the needle, but we got to get there.
Bob Jordan: (18:00)
We have to get to the point of saying these buildings can do this.
Rob Cressy: (18:05)
Well, and you actually just talked about something that actually could be a huge differentiator. If you look at the world of sports betting, which over the next one to three to five years is going to be legalized across the United States and in stadiums, arenas everywhere. The ability for them to use data that doesn't have a ten second delay, to be able to offer an experience to someone to do real time betting. And I would say remove the fact that it's just going to be, I'm going to take the Patriots -6.5 at home, taking on the Cowboys, but more the ability, what's going to happen on this play or prop betting or things that all of a sudden you can say, you know what, my team is down 2-1 in the third period with a minute to go and they pull the goalie, and I'm going to bet to see if they're actually going to come back here in making that part of the experience. Something that is so native and different. But the ability for the technology to be able to catch up to it, to allow people to consume it the way that new fans want to consume this stuff.
Bob Jordan: (19:12)
Well, exactly. I mean I think you look at the recent transactions in the casinos that are now involved with teams or leagues. One of the primary things there is real time data feeds back to the sports book from the venue is because between broadcast and all of these other things is that it could be anywhere from a three to five to a ten second delay. Well that takes you back to the old movies about horse betting is that they were able to get a delay in there so they could get the bet in. The idea is that if it's doing it in real time, if I'm in the fans, as you said, you're down two to one, pull the goaltender. You can have an instant probability of them scoring.
Bob Jordan: (20:01)
You know, is it a $5 bet? A $10 bet? Is it a bet for a coupon and the retail in the merchandise area, whatever that is, you can do it in real time because there's instant odds, instant dollar, instant transactions, and it keeps your fans engaged at a different level. But it only happens when there's no latency and it only happens when it can be done in real time. That's where this new generation of wireless is going to get us and that is what the fans are clamoring for right now. Also it's why we don't have all 50 States having it ratified right now but hopefully that will come. I know gambling at some point in time, it was like, Oh, it's gambling that has these bad connotations. But the thing is, is that done well, done properly, it gives the fans what they want. That's the key to this.
Rob Cressy: (21:01)
Well, yeah, you nailed it. It's the opportunity for the nonstop, hot dog or mascot race that we see on the jumbotron or on the floor at all times because like you said, this can be a fan engagement in marketing play because we know people are going to be looking on their phones. So now instead of looking on the jumbotron and only giving us four real opportunities for engagement, like people love free stuff, whether it's a free tee shirt, a free taco because your team scored a hundred points in basketball, you name it. For the stadiums and the teams themselves, the amount that we can monetize these things and oh by the way, instead of just having the mascot race where people are just going to try and bring their ticket into Dunkin donuts and a small percentage of them do it.
Rob Cressy: (21:51)
Imagine doing that all digitally in the data that can come from that and the tracking of that plus on my side as a consumer, my ability to also put that into a wallet and then be able to claim that at a time that is a little bit more convenient. Like so much of the marketing activation is old school. Whereas right now as you mentioned, people have credit cards on their phone, they can roll over the phone and nothing else. Boom, you've got it. So you're right, this isn't just about sports betting, it's about real time fan engagement.
Bob Jordan: (22:24)
Right and one thing is, you touched on a very salient point in this is identification of the fans, and I'm not trying to be too big brother-ish, but all of the teams know, and this is a very real issue, is that you don't know who your fans are that are in the building. As you know, we try so hard to make sure that if a person buys a ticket and then sells it to someone else and then they sell it to someone else and then they give it to someone else. All of those things mean we try very diligently to keep track of that. But at the end of the day, we may not know who all of our fans are in the building because they come and go. This is the concept of the ghost fan but their fans and the more that we can engage those individuals to give us the breadcrumbs on who they are, that allows us to create a better brand engagement with those fans that they may only come to one or two games a year.
Bob Jordan: (23:38)
But if you can figure out like they are Dodgers fan and they live in New York and the Dodgers came and that's the only game they could ever come to. Let's find out why. So there's other things that we can do. It might be as just vicariously as saying, okay, next season you want to buy tickets to when the Dodgers come to town. Finding out who they are is really important to knowing how to engage them. And that's what all of these other technology things that are going to do and I'm completely overlooking the simple things like food ordering concessions and how to get to your seats quickly. All of those things are implicit with this new level of technology. Augmented reality is probably just going to set that stuff on fire when it comes into a true fruition. Again, it always comes back to you and I will preach this until the day I die is what does the fan want when they're in the buildings? Because a happy fan has a looser purse string than a disgruntled fan.
Rob Cressy: (24:54)
Amen to that and I just think about my own consumption and I'm probably going to be a little bit different because I've got a background in digital advertising sales, but I'm all for retargeting and for these teams or arenas to know who I am. I think there's also an element of familiarity where if I could order something through an app that I use in my everyday life and it allows me to keep my regular life and data and tracking and make my experience better on future purchases, or when I'm on Facebook or Instagram or Twitter and allow them to say, Hey, Rob, what was your experience like at a bulls game? Fill this out and X, Y, and Z like it would make my experience better than just the random ads that you see that's out there.
Bob Jordan: (25:46)
Well, here's the other segue on that is look at this and I'll use food and beverage, if you charge $9 for a hot dog and that hot dog is really hot, it's very tasteful. It's presented well. It's like that's a good hot dog. All right? But if you just paid that money for that hot dog and it's cold or it's soggy or it's just thrown at you, alright, that's a bad experience. And you're probably never going to buy another hot dog, right? Think about the lines and queues and this is, here's my brick and mortar spiel. We've been making concession stands in public assembly facilities 40 or 50 feet long and 15 feet deep and it has a long bar.
Bob Jordan: (26:32)
You plan on, you're going to put five linear feet for the POS. Then you're going to have your fountain head and then you're going to have some beer heads and then you're going to have your cashier turn around and pick up the food from behind and then turn around and pass it back to you again then you do a transaction. All of these things go on. I'm like, look at every other entity. We are just now starting to see chase do this. Well, the Warriors are doing this really well in San Francisco and the NFL LA will have some of these things. But again, it's fans don't want to be belly up, in line for a 60 or 72nd transaction for a hot dog or a hamburger. It doesn't matter what it is. All right, why are we still doing that?
Bob Jordan: (27:25)
Let's look at the C store concept. Let's look at what McDonald's has moved to. Let's look at what any of the other QSR folks are doing. Let's look at why are we not doing automated ordering? Why are we not doing an a different pickup program? This is my contrarian thing is they just because of the last sports building did it that way, doesn't mean to me in this day and age that the next sports facility needs to do it that way. Other people are experimenting, other industries are experimenting. Other industries are setting new bars for their customer engagement. Let's grab the best of practice everywhere and let's drag it into sports and make it even better.
Rob Cressy: (28:19)
Bob, we will end with that because you, my friend just gave the best testimonial humanly possible about why FanFood exists in the first place because we want 100% agree with everything you just said. Mobile food ordering is a way to make the fan experience better. So Bob, I really enjoyed this conversation. Where can everybody connect with you?
Bob Jordan: (28:46)
Absolutely. My email address is real simple, jordanrobertd@Gmail. Drop me an email. I'm on LinkedIn. I'd love to connect with anyone who really kind of wants to break silos down and look at new ways of engagement both in the e-sports space and the traditional sports space. There's a lot of ways to have fans that have big smiles on their face and remember the event for the event's sake, not because we missed something else in the delivery of that event.
Rob Cressy: (29:23)
As always, I would love to hear from you about this episode. How would you describe the new fan? How are you consuming things now? You can hit up FanFood on Twitter, @fanfoodondemand, on Instagram, @FanFoodApp or on LinkedIn. And as always, you can hit me up on all social media platforms at Rob Cressy.