Master of Science in Sport Management Online


The Power of the Fan Experience

A horse race gets underway, with fans engaged in the background.

Some sports fans are diehards. They’ll attend their favorite team’s games regardless of the win record or the condition of its facilities. However, more fans than ever are becoming excited about sporting events based on the experience, and major franchises have taken notice. From the time they purchase their tickets until they leave at the end of the event, fans become immersed in a world of fun and excitement. Without a doubt, the power of the fan experience is the crux of increasing revenues and creating a generation of hardcore fans.
 
Fan engagement is at the heart of any team’s success; if you aspire to work with sports teams and are pursuing your Master of Science in Sport Management, understanding and enhancing the fan experience is a key concept to your education.
 

At and Away From the Event

The ultimate fan experience isn’t limited to the major four sports leagues (NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB); it’s something that’s available to just about any type of sporting event. Even sports that you wouldn’t consider can bring a huge number of fans solely for the experience. According to Bleacher Report, the Kentucky Derby is one such event. After all, watching the race is only a tiny portion of the festivities. Sipping a mint julep, dressing up in your finest clothes, and fraternizing with others on the infield are just a few aspects that make people come back year after year.
 
Another interesting fact about the fan experience is that it doesn’t always happen at the stadium. Other events and activities can draw fans, especially if they couldn’t get a ticket to the game. Although Major League Soccer (MLS) is a small yet burgeoning addition to the American sports scene, its owners and marketers have harnessed the power of the fan experience. According to JD Power and Associates, MLS teams have the best responses to their “Fan Zones,” which allow fans to participate in interactive activities.
 
This shows that it’s not necessarily the size of the following that translates to profits. Attracting new fans outside of selling tickets is just as important. There’s a strong market for non-sports fans that each franchise needs to address.
 

Fan Loyalty

Creating a fan experience is more than just luring people into the stadium. It’s a reward for season ticket holders and other fans who have stuck with your team through the best and worst of times.
 
Unfortunately, many pro sports teams fail to capitalize on loyalty programs that give these fans extra features at games and beyond. If they were to utilize some of the programs that retail stores, restaurants, and other businesses use, they could potentially create an even more loyal and enthusiastic fan base. Still, stadium upgrades and brand-new stadiums continue to bring in fans thanks to state-of-the-art amenities.
 

Technological Trends

Nearly everyone has a smartphone these days. With constant access to the web, a high-resolution camera, and plenty of apps, fans are always connected to the game. According to public relations firm FleishmanHillard, this allows each fan to become a broadcaster, reporter, and producer. While this is enough to give fans a bit of fun, coupling this technology with interactive games has become a fan favorite.
 
During games, many franchises ask fans to upload photos, send texts, and participate in quizzes during intermissions. The result is a wave of people who have become enamored with the experience, even if they’d never watch a game at home.
 
Apps are another popular way to improve the fan experience both at the game and at home. By downloading a league’s app or team app, fans are always connected to the action. This provides them with highlights when they can’t attend a game. If they are able to attend, these apps can be easy ways to access tickets, seating charts, concessions, and other fan zones. Armed with these amenities, fans are experiencing the game like never before.
 

Market Research

Despite the many new and evolving aspects of the fan experience, few studies have been conducted on this topic. However, JD Power and Associates became one of the first, evaluating the responses of 5,700 fans from across the country regarding various major sports. With this study, they found that the fan experience is one of the deciding factors in how much fans spend and whether they’re willing to return for a game in the future.
 
By studying these evaluations, teams can get more in-tune with the desires of their fans, learning what their fans enjoy and what they can improve on. The result will be a more comprehensive fan experience that leaves both sports enthusiasts and non-sports fans wanting more.
 

Fan Value

One of the oddest aspects of the fan experience is that a good team doesn’t necessarily translate to an increase in revenue. Teams need more. While demographics and stadium location make a huge difference; offering giveaways, student nights, or discounted tickets can get more people through the door. From there, it’s up to the team to retain these customers and build a strong fan base.
 
Some teams already have such a built-in crowd that team spirit is ingrained in residents as soon as they’re old enough to wear a jersey or go to the game. Just look at the St. Louis Cardinals. According to Scout Media, the Cardinals are the 23rd biggest market out of 30 teams. On paper, this seems like they don’t have a chance against bigger teams. However, Forbes currently ranks them as the seventh most valuable team. Many teams have chosen to model themselves after the Cardinals, who use a broad network of radio and television to bring in generations of fans.
 
For teams without the fan passion, building value is much more difficult. It requires innovative marketing techniques and, typically, a willingness to spend money on a contender. When a team wins and participates in the playoffs, not only does it provide more opportunities for revenue, but it also gives fans a sense of achievement and belonging.
 
Equipped with the knowledge you’ve gained pursuing an online Master of Science in Sport Management degree, you can better understand the marketing, sales, and media expertise that goes into improving the fan experience. Visit Adelphi University online to learn more.
 

Sources:

http://fleishmanhillard.com/2016/02/true/technology-and-the-evolving-fan-experience/

https://www.forbes.com/teams/st-louis-cardinals/

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2417353-15-sports-fan-once-in-a-lifetime-experiences