By: Natalie Downey
Due to COVID-19 and the new safety measures that must be in place, the design and organization of stadiums must change if teams want to see a significant number of fans in the stands. According to a poll taken at Seton Hall University, 72% of fans do not want to return to stadiums until there is a vaccine. On the flip side, if no fans come to the games there is a revenue risk of more than $5 billion for the NFL.
It is not just the health risks that are influencing fans, but also the increased comfort they have in their own homes. Ticket prices are now too high for many sports fans who have created comfortable "digital nests" at home. Social media and other apps also influence this. Fans can get updates after every play or even live stream a game while doing a different task. Fans no longer have to watch games to stay up to date on what is happening with certain teams.
Many stadium CIOs and CMOs are changing the way their stadiums work in order to improve and personalize the customer experience. This includes updating how technology and social media are used. The goal of the transformation: put fans at the center of it all.
Paper ticketing has been upgraded, giving fans the option to put their ticket on a mobile ticketing app. This app would also be connected to parking, tailgating, discounts, and a rewards program. There is also talk of having food delivered to specific seats or an order-ahead option available for concessions. The goal of this transition is to reduce touchpoints as much as possible.
As an added precaution, stadiums are now requiring health screening prior to fan arrival. Body temperature thermal scanners will also be installed to ensure no one has a fever or any other COVID symptoms.
CMOs are also hoping that the small number of fans that go to in-person games can help bring in more people. Kassie Epstein, the social media manager for Boston’s Gillette Stadium, says she expects social media to be a part of every event she hosts, and she works on capturing and sharing content while every event is taking place. Fans are encouraged to interact or repost this content in order for more fans to see it.
Teams all over the world are all using social media and encouraging fans to do the same. The Tottenham Hotspur’s use the hashtag #COYS (“Come on you Spurs!”) when posting on Twitter. Fans then can respond to polls or just tweet back using this hashtag. Not only does this increase engagement, but it keeps all of the event information organized in one place so fans can find it easier in the future.
The future of sports is looking up as more safety precautions are being put in place and more advertisements are being released to the public. If we continue to move at the pace we are going, we could see a significant increase in in-person attendance at sporting events.