Why Stadiums Need to Listen to Sports Fans

Across North America, stadium audiences are dropping sharply. The Major League Baseball (MLB) loses nearly a million spectators a year. The National Football League (NFL) and Canadian Football League (CFL) are undergoing a similar situation. The pro sports leagues are on the alert, they must pay off their expensive new stadiums while rethinking the stadium experience for a generation that does not have the same relationship to the sport as previous ones.
Why Stadiums Need to Listen to Sports Fans



What are some changes sports marketers can implement to bring millennials and younger consumers to stadiums? Let’s explore some of the proposed solutions by industry experts.


Better Wifi and Mobile Experience

As you might know, younger consumers love fast internet connections. At US college games, fans often leave at halftime if they can’t connect to the internet or upload their photos to social media networks. Thereby ensuring fans have the fastest Wifi possible to post, tweet, or instant message, is quite paramount to get their approval. For example, the Denver Broncos recently spent $6 million in renovations to enable free Wi-Fi throughout their stadium.


Speeding up Wifi isn’t the only option for quick mobile engagement. If you provide mobile experiences as Progressive Web Apps, you may not have to worry about spotty Wi-Fi or spectrum crunch, because PWAs can run in areas with low connectivity such as large stadiums with thousands of fans all trying to connect to the same Wi-Fi network.



The President of the New York Jets, Neil Glat, told the Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Daily: “The sports fan in 2022 will likely consume additional and more customized sports content through OTT and digital platforms; take advantage of new and better-augmented reality and virtual reality offerings; and utilize mobile ticketing, mobile payments, and personalized apps. In addition, stadiums and arenas will be state-of-the-art venues that will allow fans to optimize their experiences through technology. They will also be places where people will want to be to bond with fellow fans to cheer for their teams, to socialize with friends, and to meet new people.”


IoT Inside Stadiums

Beacon implementation across stadiums has increased dramatically. Teams use them to send exclusive, stadium-only promotions and trivia to fans’ devices. The geo-mapping also helps alert fans to the closest restrooms with the shortest wait times and other “convenience information”. More importantly, teams are using beacons to track fan behaviors, movement, and spending inside venues and communicate with event-goers while they’re in their seats or on the way by a concession stand.


Here is a breakdown of US pro sports locations with beacons deployed (as of July 2016):

  •      93% — Major League Baseball stadiums
  •      75% — National Football League stadiums
  •      53% — National Basketball Association arenas
  •      47% — National Hockey League arenas


A few sports teams with beacons have seen a return on investment of 40% or more from incremental merchant revenues alone in the first year of implementation. The NBA’s Orlando Magic saw more than $1 million in increased ticket sales, 30% app adoption, and a 233% increase in Fast Break Pass sales in 2016 compared to the previous season.


Bring Food and Beverage Prices Down

Food and beverage at sports venues have a reputation for being particularly steep, especially for younger event-goers. At the start of the 2016-2017 season, the Atlanta Falcons announced the food prices at their new $1.5 billion stadium: $2 hot dogs and sodas, $3 nachos, $5 beer. Fans loved the initiative, and people in other cities started pushing their local ownership groups to imitate this new low-cost strategy.


Falcons owner Arthur Blank anticipated that what the organization lost in markup, would recoup in volume (fans would coming earlier, staying longer, and buying enough food to make up the difference).



Approximately 6,000 more fans per game entered the stadium earlier than they did the previous year, and in general, the venue sold as much food by the end of the first quarter of Falcons games as it did in full games in 2016.


Additionally, fans also gave the Falcons the highest satisfaction rating in the NFL for food and beverages (up from number 18 in 2016), as well as the highest rating for security satisfaction, partly due to shorter lines produced by early entries. That being said, it is important to note the team failed to recoup the loss in markup that year.


“Sure, we could shake out a few more dollars of margin under the old model, but we believe that the direction we’ve taken, given all the other positive benefits, is the bigger revenue play, period,” a team representative told Bloomberg. Other major sports franchises are definitely taking note.


As demographic and technological shifts are occurring, sports teams and marketers have to make an extra effort to listen to fans and implement changes in order to make them happy. Yet, such efforts could pay off and ensure stadium attendance remains high.