In the modern era, the sports industry is staring at tougher competition than ever before. But just when it seems like attendance might trend downward, somebody in our business finds the right magic and captivates audiences to come and experience again what they have to offer.
To understand what key factors make a winning combination, Dimensional Innovations interviewed 20 of the most influential people in North American professional sports, compiling the insightful and candid themes from those conversations in this article.
The New Normal
As soon as fans arrive at the venue, a second competition begins – the one for their attention spans. Our interviewees generally agreed that we have permanently moved into a new era for how fans participate in live sports.
Yes, they seek additional experiences. Yes, they’re on their mobile devices. And beyond that, they don’t want to physically stay in their seats.
Not surprisingly for millennial fans, this pattern of creating social-focused experiences and moving from place to place closely mirrors their online behaviors. Based on this information, the key question becomes: How do we tap into this cultural shift with its new motivation and energy?
Identifying key revenue boosting opportunities is a smart place to start. What sports executives now look for in a venue is a compelling reason to make people want to travel. We want circulation because it increases the chances guests make additional purchases.
Across the board, in new and renovated venues, fans report enjoyable experiences much more where teams have invested in different zones with different appeal, which is crucial in getting the repeat visit.
Venues don’t have one fan. They have a variety of fans with a wide range of preferences and expectations. Below are three useful concepts distilled down from our interviews on how to think about segmentation.
Concept 01. Neighborhoods
The concept of neighborhoods has become a permanent facet of the venue experience, and teams across the country are continually improving their approaches in developing hyper-targeted gathering spaces.
The neighborhood idea gains even more momentum with the evolution of the “new normal” game-viewing style. If we can’t get people to stay in their seats, let’s design for it. By building spaces that are authentically tied to their communities, and capitalizing on fan mobility, we open up opportunities to attract repeat business and expand to a new and younger audience fan base.
Concept 02. Exclusive + Inclusive
Experiences drive the economy, and the more exclusive they feel, the more people will pay. However, the need for large attendance and revenue still remains. While these ideas seem at odds, together they form a powerful combination – an experience only had at the venue (exclusive), but anybody can have it (inclusive).
Concept 03. Adaptation
By weaving digital layers into venue design, spaces can instantly transform to suit the needs of different audiences. By focusing on intelligent design, each component becomes adaptable in application. For example, installation of the right building blocks of digital signage and responsive lighting can enhance fan experiences but produce custom content based on the specific guests in attendance.
Speaking to technology in only one section is an inherent over-simplification. There’s infrastructure, entertainment, app-based utilities, and data capture that could all have their own articles. Regardless, over-simplification is, in fact, consistent with the perspective we heard on the topic.
Primarily, technology must work quickly in order to satisfy users. Coupled with speed, adaptability becomes key when operating against an ever-changing onslaught of new advances. When done right, the technology is just a subtle added layer that makes the physical experience even greater.
Every business today has to guard against irrelevance, and sports are no different. Technology has the power to become a force multiplier for venues, and fan data is the best crystal ball we’ve got. And if we’re smart, we capture it while enhancing experiences.
365 Days a Year
If people are “always on” and forever-connected, shouldn’t their teams be?
To accommodate the need for expanding the team product offering, we’ve developed the Mixed-Use Solar System model. As teams move into real estate development, we compare a team property to the Sun – a power supply with the primary gravitational force. Complementary to its power, this center is surrounded by a plethora of other attractive amenities revolving around it to create a full system.
A successful example of this concept is the Battery Atlanta and SunTrust Park. With over 20 restaurants and bars, 12 retail locations, six entertainment venues, and six corporate office spaces, the real estate is fully operational and attractive to Braves fans year-round. By creating bars, gathering spaces, and restaurants as new destinations, we redefine what the fan experience is and evolve with a new trend.
Venues of the Future: Esports and Gambling
Esports are rightfully getting a lot of buzz with a massive and growing number of participants. With over 1,136,687 minutes of watch time and 129 hours of network broadcast airtime, it’s impossible to ignore the impact that esports is making.
In addition to outfitting venues for the esports emergence, sports gambling is also becoming a popular component to modern-day sports experiences, based on individual state legislation. While the concept is new, creating brick-and-mortar spaces will become essential to accommodate the pending insurgence of gambling. At its core, creating areas where arenas can facilitate the process for gaming will become an opportunity to attract new audiences and generate revenue.
Additionally, there are multiple facets of the current betting process that can be enhanced with technological updates. Digital displays of money changing lines, real-time odds, and automated transactions are just a few we see becoming game changers. All these things must be taken into consideration in light of new laws. Preparing arenas to accommodate these changes will help increase relevance in the professional sports world.
We hope ALSD members are able to glean new insight and inspiration from what we’ve compiled. Whether it be for renovations to existing facilities or simply creating a new space for fans, our goal is to help partners think strategically and stay ahead of industry trends.