Getting foot traffic into stadiums and event venues seems to be increasingly difficult. Cost of attending games and events is rising (think beyond tickets — parking, concessions, souvenirs...costs do add up); in-home viewing experience has gotten manyfold better (think live streaming, wide-screen TV, and have I mentioned VR?); and other inconveniences await, such as trouble finding parking, getting stuck in long concession lines...
Yes, people need more compelling offers to enter the gates.
Many pro stadiums have not held back on investing in fan experience. The Atlanta Braves worked with Cisco to delivery comprehensive WiFi coverage for fans at SunTrust Park to accommodate fans’ need for connectivity. Some stadiums even use facial recognition technology to identify attendees and understand their characteristics. Tech aside, other measures to keep fans satisfied include discounts for a pregame lunch at a nearby restaurant or engaging fans with special offers at stores even after the game.
In this blog, we break down top 3 factors that increase the perceived gameday value so fans feel that their attendance is more worth it. Scroll down to also find 4 tips that help you instantly improve the gameday experience for attendees at your venue.
3 FACTORS TO IMPROVE PERCEIVED GAME DAY VALUE
According to research, guess what the no. 1 thing fans hate on gameday is?
Too much waiting.
A “fun” gameday doesn’t just mean your team wins or the themed night is fun. It’s also about how frictionless the fan journey is: from ticket purchase, to parking, to ordering concessions, to even finding the bathrooms...the entire experience needs to be delightfully simple and require as little waiting as possible. Nothing should distract the fans from focusing on the action or spending quality time with their loved ones — that’s what makes gameday memorable.
Sometimes technology could help with that. For example, Durham Bulls Athletic Park implemented a mobile ordering app called FanFood. Fans no longer have to get up and walk to concession stands, or wait in lines just for a can of beer. They could either pick their food up at the express pick up window or have it delivered to theirs seats. (Have we mentioned it also increased their revenue per cap since fans are placing larger orders, and are ordering multiple times throughout the game??) Guess what: fans couldn’t resist sharing their delight on Twitter:
Innovation doesn’t necessarily mean technological innovations. It could be innovative concession items, fun promotional campaigns and creatively organized themed nights. The point is, your fans are constantly looking for new reasons to stay engaged, and will greatly appreciate your effort to think outside the box.
We have an entire blog dedicated to coming up with creative concession items. If your creative juice is running dry, you could even kick off a social campaign soliciting fun concession names or ideas from your fans with a giveaway. That’s another fun way to keep your community engaged while letting your fans know that their opinions matter.
Also, another all-time favorite is naming your concessions after players. This isn’t necessarily an example from a MiLB team but Seattle Mariners launched a new menu item called “KuKu Fries” to honor their new pitcher Yusei Kikuchi. Who wouldn’t want to give that a try?
A big component of fan experience is “fan-friendliness.” (We’re not just talking about fan-friendly pricing, which we’ll get to in a bit). MiLB was recognized by Sports Business Journal as the league with the most fan-friendly experience in 2014-2017, and player-fan interaction is a big part of that. Not only do fans love that intimacy with their favorite players, but also players often get excited being asked to sign autographs or pose for a selfies.
As Kevin Millar, 12-year MLB player and host of Intentional Talk, said on FanFood’s podcast The Gameday Playbook: “I love when players are signing for the kids down the right field, left field lines. I love to hand them batting gloves and wristbands and cause you can remember that forever. [When I was in] 10th grade, Pedro Guerrero from the Dodgers gave me one of his wristbands — I had that my entire high school career.”
Now as promised, here are 4 tips on how you can instantly improve the fan experience at your venue. You can start implementing these strategies as early as tomorrow — and it applies to venues of all sizes, whether you're a high school stadium or professional venue.
1. Surprise your fans with fun things to do and areas to explore beyond the game itself.
Don’t get me wrong, the game itself is still the primary attraction to get people to show up. However, the teams’ performance is after all outside of our control. One thing we can control though, is whether there are sufficient ways for fans to enjoy themselves.
Bill DeWitt III, President of St. Louis Cardinals said their priority is to make being at the ballpark enjoyable under all circumstances — regardless of the game outcome or the weather. Therefore they’ve included initiatives such as Budweiser Terrace, which is for people to hang out and enjoy a different social experience, as well as Ballpark Village, a year-round community to enhance the gameday atmosphere.
Since baseball is different from other sports in its length of season and large number of games, the challenge is to make being at the ballpark enjoyable under all circumstances — good and bad weather, good or bad team, etc.
If your venue has a smaller scale, consider bringing in food trucks and pop-up shops. Local businesses will very likely be willing to tap into your attendees for brand exposure and who knows, you may even get some sponsorship dollars from these opportunities! These activities can incentivize your fans to show up earlier before the game and hang around after — both are great for fan engagement and retention.
You can look into companies that specialize in bringing brands to games and live events in the form of tailgates or popup shops. Tailgatehouse is one, and we’ve interviewed their CEO and Co-Founder Charles Davis Jr. about how tailgate experience helps boost game attendance.
2. Signage, signage, signage.
This is probably one of the quickest and easiest hacks to improve your in-stadium or in-venue experience — improve the wayfinding experience. Studies have shown that the addition of signage can result in a 50% decrease in wrong turns and a 62% decrease in backtracking. Just think about the amount of time and effort this thoughtful gesture on your part could save your fans!
Put yourself in the shoes of a first-time attendee and walk through their whole user journey: from getting to the parking lot, to finding their seat and to leaving the venue. Imagine that it’s your first time ever at this venue and that you know nothing about its structure or the floor map: are you able to easily find your way from the parking lot to the entrance? Did you hesitate when trying to decide which direction leads to your section? Were you able to find the nearest bathroom with ease? Are there hidden concession stands that are difficult spot?
Especially since you probably already know the venue like the back of your hand, it can be difficult to notice the inconveniences through the lens of a first-time visitor. Therefore it does require a careful re-evaluation of the status quo. Or better yet, chat with your fans on gameday and ask them for feedback. Sometimes a casual conversation can serve as so much inspiration.
After identifying areas for improvement, it’s time to put up signage. It doesn’t to be fancy — especially if you have a small budget. It could literally be sheets of A4 paper with directional signs and language printed on them, pasted on prominent spots. Or, if you really feel like splurging on them, check out this article detailing the intelligent wayfinding system at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, where a combination of LED screens, sign posts and floor maps are used for frictionless wayfinding.
3. Introduce easy and inexpensive tech upgrades
When you think of stadium tech upgrades, what do you think of? Expensive high-speed, stadium-wide WiFi? All-in-one venue mobile apps? A ring of video screens faceted with zoomed-in views and gameplay stats?
It doesn’t have to be that way. There are way cheaper and quicker tech fixes that can exponentially better your fans viewing experience. For example, FanFood’s mobile ordering app allows fans to order concessions from their seats and skip the lines, or even have them delivered to their seats! No more long wait and no more fearing of missing the big moment. And it’s a rather inexpensive tech introduction that venues of all sizes can afford, from high schools to pro venues.
Fans thought it's the greatest thing in the world that they don't have to get out of their seats for the food.
Dave Levey, Director of F&B at Durham Bulls
4. Use social media — plus it’s free!
Fans attending games and events today are not focusing exclusively on what’s happening on the field. The fan experience nowadays is multifaceted: it includes what happens in-venue, video, audio, stats, highlights, fantasy, social media, podcast, blogs, and much much more. While they maybe physically in your venue, they are still spending a bulk of their time on social media, checking tweets, looking up stats and replaying highlights. Just Twitter alone captures 78% of all sports fans, who check Twitter on a daily basis. That’s why you need to engage with your fans not just in venue, but also on their phones.
This is when social media comes into play, big time. There are so many things you can do on social media and the sky is the limit. For example, you can announce new amenities at your facility:
You can engage your fans with a question and generate user response. This also gives your fans the perception that you care about them as individuals and value their opinions. Also, don’t be afraid to start a conversation thread with the responses you get!
Give fans exclusive one-to-one interactions with celebrity athletes as well as behind-the-scenes access to events like England Rugby did during the RBS Six Nations Championship.
Social media has brought people closer and that includes your venue and your fans. Use the platform well to establish authenticity and meet your fans where they are. These relationships built online can last you a long time in real life too.