Sports event industry has room to improve

According to an interview by Katie McIntyre of Sports Venue Business with Andy Rice, COO at Major Events International, which helps federations and sports event organizers find the right partners to improve commercial revenues and operational efficiencies, the sports event industry’s end of year report currently reads “Tries hard, but still room for improvement.” Rice said:

According to recent SportBusiness Intelligence, 50% of UK
sports fans would rather follow their chosen sport on TV than watch it live.
I’m not sure about you, but that quite surprised me. To me, it shows that event
organisers still have work to do to improve the fan experience. Or perhaps, as
most are selling out, they don’t care? It certainly is a reminder not to slip
into complacency.

Of course, ticket pricing has a lot to do with it, and 68%
of that 50%, cite ‘the price of tickets’ for their decision to consume sport
from the sofa or on the go via the small screen. Other factors included
convenience; the cost of travel; the hassle of travel; hassle securing tickets;
improved camera angles; and expert commentary. Many elements that are outside
rights holders’ control.

Rights holders have a challenge. As broadcasters, who
continue to furnish them with large chunks of cash, improve their content
delivery and OTT offers ever-more bespoke options, how do they keep pace and
ensure their sports forums are filled to capacity, and event day profits (I use
this word advisedly, as opposed to ‘revenues’) are maximised?

At the Summit, back in July, experts debated how to improve
the event day experience.

It’s all about providing an experience

Michael Cole, CTO, at the PGA European Tour (which runs 46
tournaments a year across 30 countries!) explained:

We basically have to build a town for every tournament…we no
longer see ourselves as a golfing organisation, but an entertainment provider.

Connectivity is as basic a right to fans as latrines it
seems. The European Tour does all it can to help fans amplify their experience
through sharing images and video with friends on social media. Additional fan
benefits are provided by seamless connectivity, such as wayfinding and enhanced

Cole illustrated the growing level of content being shared
with fans by explaining, “In the last 4 years, the number of player data points
captured have increased from 23,000 to 700,000!” The PGA have sophisticated crowd-tracking
software, which is used for safety and security, but also to maximise
merchandise and food and beverage sales. Push notifications being used to
facilitate this.

An event such as The Open will require 200km of fibre to be
laid and 400 cameras on course, plus 16/18 outside broadcast trucks. 5G will
therefore have tremendous benefits for operators, although the impact will be
minimal for the consumer; as there is not much 5G will do that WiFi isn’t doing
already. It will, however, allow additional information such as immediate
replays; and will also make phones cheaper and lighter, with an improved
battery life.

Cole claims that ever-more technology partners are coming on
board as sponsors of the European Tour, as they are wanting to showcase their
expertise. He gave the example of HP; which has created an ‘intelligent course’
where they put their clients in touch with next generation technology.

Cole accepted that golf needed to move towards the creation
of new formats to engage new demographics.

The US experience

Paul Samuels, VP Global Partnerships at AEG, said:

US Sports are very different as they are there basically as
a background for a social experience, eating, drinking and chatting; rather
than for the sport itself.

He was excited about the trend to use push messaging in
augmented reality to create location-based marketing. He claimed that the
festival experience was setting the bar for bespoke experiences, which will see
a greater diversification of ticket pricing.

Samuels was quick to stress that sponsors can be used to
enhance a game day experience – filling in the ‘dwell’ time with lounges for
customers or experiential experiences.

Tom Jones, Senior Principal at Populous explained that:

For the new Spurs stadium, we wanted fans to arrive earlier
and stay later – we also had to make it NFL friendly. We did that predominantly
by adding lots of additional facilities and reasons to be there; but we had to
put the deep footballing traditions at the heart of the project.

He feels that the fan experience starts with ticketing, then
transport information, then a frictionless match day experience. As someone who
has spent an hour and a half constantly phoning Carrow Road (56 times per
day!), whilst simultaneously sitting on Norwich’s website, for two consecutive
Monday mornings, in the fruitless effort to get a single ticket (having spent
£50 to become a Premium Member, on the promise it would give me ticket access),
I would have to agree with him.

Jones felt that one of the best future revenue opportunities
for rights holders was the implementation of real time sales: pushing
merchandising of the specific scorer of the winning goal, minutes after it
happens, in order to tap into fan passion when it is at its height.

Jones was delighted with description of the new stadium as a
‘pub on steroids, with a match taking place in the beer garden’. He explained
that the decision to go cashless was based on service efficiency – to minimise
queuing and maximise revenues.

He identified a trend in hospitality for more semi-formal
environments (more intimate, but less private) and less private boxes, plus
more unique access – such as a view into the players tunnel. And the options to
upgrade at short notice (citing the example of a particularly important client
turning up at the last moment).

Spurs’ next challenge is to secure a deal for naming rights,
which do include roof inventory – for which planning permission has been

Andy Rice was formerly Publishing Director at SportBusiness
and Head of Sport at the Press Association at a time when they were the host
news agency for London 2012. He is currently COO at Major Events International;
helping federations and sports event organisers find the right partners to
improve commercial revenues and operational efficiencies.