However, rather than succumb to the pressures of television and other forms of entertainment, clubs and stadium managers are developing and redefining live sport to meet the changing demands and expectations of today’s audiences, and to maintain the priority of matchday as the event that is best experienced live.
Trend #1: Desire to experience better experiences at still affordable prices.
The profile of today’s fans is more diverse than that of their predecessors, and their expectations in stadiums reflect their everyday experiences as consumers. Just like on a busy street, on an airplane or in the cinema, people everywhere demand better and better conditions at a similar price level.
The whole phenomenon takes the form of specific GA premium zones, which act as access to the best table in a bar available to all fans (ed. GA from General Admission, which can be understood as general access zones, i.e. fans who buy tickets without booking seats) . Such spaces offer many TV screens, great seats and quality food and drinks, sometimes even with live music. As a result, they not only deliver on the promise of enhancing the overall spectator experience, but also generate additional revenue by encouraging fans to visit the stadium earlier and to spend more money.
At Tottenham’s new stadium, extensive fan surveys were carried out and a large subset of season ticket holders were identified who were looking for a place to enjoy a beer at half-time in 15 minutes without the hustle and bustle caused by fans with GA tickets.
At Twickenham Stadium (the home ground of English rugby players), as investor expectations grew, a large segment emerged demanding an improved stadium experience. First, it was determined what drives this demand, and then it led to the creation of special spaces tailored to the needs of discerning fans.
A deep understanding of your local fan culture and the demand for it is an important part of good decision making. For example: The management of FC Barcelona needed information to make decisions about the future of the legendary Camp Nou based on real facts. In Barcelona, a socio with a season pass is not interested in buying so-called “hospitality package” because he feels he is the owner and the heart of the team, who cares about the match and the team, not about the spectacle. The field study, however, identified a segment that expects a premium stadium experience. The company is currently working with the Catalan club to create spaces at the renovated Barca stadium that will meet the needs of such demanding fans.
Some clubs are taking the GA premium match experience a step further, using the need to make changes to attract sponsors. For example, Carlsberg has sponsored a large sector of premium GA seats at Anfield in Liverpool, giving 2,000 fans the opportunity to watch the game and experience the full spectacle at a more affordable price. Meals are included in the ticket price, which makes Liverpool offer a Premium GA that is one step ahead of other clubs. Food comes from food trucks so fans have a lot of choice at every match.
Trend #2: Demand for a wider range of hospitality options.
Match day entertainment has changed beyond recognition over the last decade. It’s all driven by evolving demands and a commercial reality where the entities interested in hospitality packages are not just companies and corporations.
Individuals and groups of friends are increasingly taking advantage of match day hospitality packages to celebrate special occasions or simply enjoy the day. This trend, together with the changing approach of companies, makes the unified offer of hospitality packages suitable for all stakeholders.
The fact is that everyday life and normality are replaced by formality. This means more high-quality food, a varied space on match days, new entertainment elements and unique experiences – all without the need to wear a suit and tie.
Today’s demand means that hospitality offers must be much more flexible than before. Fans don’t want to be responsible for arranging large group trips to access hospitality services, which naturally increases the number of smaller groups who are also willing to eat and sit at the bar.
Comprehensive and extensive research was conducted at Wimbledon for the AELTC (All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club) to help them understand their clients. This was critical to the development of future hospitality offerings: the right mix of hospitality packages had to be provided to reach emerging segments of attendees.
In Galatasaray, a study showed that it is important for the owners of the “boxes” in the stadium to have access to a premium box to meet and get to know each other in informal situations, and not be tied to their box.
The demand of enterprises for “boxes” is also changing. Instead of the large box and stadium suites that were once considered the company’s biggest status symbol, a more personal approach is needed. Companies are striving to develop more flexible products. In Atlético Madrid and Tottenham, the so-called Loge Boxes, which will also appear at AS Roma’s new stadium.
A study by specialist firms found that local and regional firms were looking for private or semi-private venues and found it difficult to fill 12-24 seats for more than 20 games per season. However, they were intrigued by the concept of more flexible solutions.
Trend #3. Demand for exceptional and unique experiences.
Television’s ability to bring fans and players together before and after a game has helped increase viewer demand for similar, up close and personal experiences. For this reason, The Tunnel Club was created at the Etihad Stadium, i.e. boxes allowing a view of the teams passing from the locker rooms to the pitch and bringing the fans closer as if to the players, thanks to Venetian mirrors. This is the first such project in the entire Premier League and has revolutionized the concept of hospitality in stadiums. The initiative has been a huge success at Manchester City and will make its debut at Tottenham’s new stadium next season. Similar concepts are already being developed all over Europe.
The challenge, resulting from the exponential growth in the number of new products and offers, is to ensure the quality of service across the entire stadium offer. This means introducing interesting innovations while taking care of existing products and services and their prices. To achieve this, Legends has developed its own research platform, which uses the lessons learned from more than 1,800 projects around the world to model the development of the right product range to meet specific market needs.
This, coupled with a comprehensive approach to services and an understanding of the design and operation of sports venues, gives owners the knowledge they need to incorporate relevant design experience and, most importantly, to achieve a return on investment. However, it is important to remember that the return on investment is not always limited to financial benefits, but can be measured in terms of brand enhancement, customer loyalty as well as customer satisfaction.
More choice and exclusivity also means the need for more space. Experience and creative thinking allow you to explore new areas of hospitality in existing buildings or projects that improve the fan experience and maximize revenue.
In addition, with the increasing variety of offerings, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find space for hospitality services close to the best seats in the stadium. This requires careful and thoughtful planning from the start to ensure that the customer experience is not compromised at any point.
Trend #4: Clubs looking for extra revenue before the game.
The traditional match day is Saturday, with fans going to local bars and restaurants before the match and arriving at the stadium a few minutes before kick-off. But over time, the fan demographic is also aging, so it is imperative to bring younger fans to the stadium on match day.
Many clubs these days create fan zones outside the stadium to provide a special match day atmosphere and give fans a reason to arrive at the club facility early. They typically offer activities for younger fans that help cement their loyalty for life and create a variety of revenue opportunities through catering and merchandise. The fan zones feature large screens showing pre-match preparations, live music scenes, pitches for mini-games and football tricks, face painting, mascots and, of course, places to eat and drink.
Bringing fans in earlier also improves security checks and reduces queues, as well as reducing peak demand for pre-match public transport. In Liverpool, fan zones have quickly become an important part of match day. There are now four fan zones around Anfield Stadium, each with a different vibe and target group. They open four hours before kick-off and are packed with supporters on weekends, many of whom are occasional visitors to Anfield or away fans who come to the stadium and can spend the day in the area.
Liverpool’s fan zones have been so successful that a new fan bar will be launched this summer, providing a heated space for over 600 fans on match days. All Liverpool fan zones are accessible to everyone in the stadium, not just ticket holders, which only adds to their attractiveness.
When Atlético Madrid moved to the Wanda Metropolitano on the outskirts of the city, the stadium needed to be brought to life on match days and the large open spaces around the facility needed to be launched. The opportunity was quickly recognized and now there are fan zones for the capital club, including themed food trucks with local food, to ensure the authenticity and quality of the offer.
Teams across Europe plan to expand existing fan concepts to include sponsor activation, increased merchandising presence and activation on non-match days. There is talk of redesigning museums and club tours – not only shelves with trophies and photos from the past, but also cutting-edge technology, virtual reality and augmented reality, because they are what attract new fans and customers to the club today, and also engage them on longer with in-depth content that connects and brings them closer to the team.
In a rapidly changing world, bands can no longer segment their fans as rigidly as they used to. Fans are more discerning consumers with higher expectations of the products and services they buy, and that applies to all experiences. As a result, there is a growing demand from all fans for more personalized premium matchdays.