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Q: What is the challenge of the Chief Revenue Officer in today’s modern professional sporting venue?
A: Squeeze as much revenue out of this building as you possibly can. Ticket sales, apparel and concessions, and sponsorship are the primary methods of generating revenue for major league sports franchises. Maximizing fan exposure to these avenues of revenue generation is critical for continued growth of the organization. Paraphrasing a recent article on this challenge; when one team owner was questioned about why a fan has to pay $9 for a beer at the stadium he retorted, “Why do I have to pay $250 Million for a running back?” You can see the complexity of the challenge.
This should be self-evident, but for clarification, any wall, ceiling or floor space within the publicly accessible areas of the stadium which is unused or underutilized due to obsolete static fixtures or displays, can be considered dead space. Activating these spaces with engaging, unique visual and interactive display solutions creates extremely attractive lures for sponsors and partners to spend toward their defined sponsorship goals. Sponsorship activations have a myriad different objectives from brand awareness, to usurping a competitive brand, to promoting a new product or service.
It's no secret to corporate partners, sponsors and team marketing executives that they have a captive audience for a prescribed period of time on a weekly (or more) basis. The bar has definitely been raised and continues to rise as far as engaging the attending faithful Especially if the on-field product isn't leading the division or likely to. To borrow from an old Nirvana song - "Here we are now - entertain us!"
Cosmetic stadium renovations are certainly a nice way to enhance the fan experience, better seating, improved aesthetics of the concourses and concessions areas, etc. Taking it to the next level and accenting these out-of-the-bowl areas with jaw-dropping digital displays adds a dimension beyond spectator comfort. Doing so allows engagement on both a group and personal level. There are almost certainly static display areas and unutilized "dead space" outside the bowl of your stadium where more revenue can be driven by conversion to, or enhancement with, digital content. Refreshing digital content is much easier than static; and allows partner/sponsor messaging campaigns to remain fresh and relevant.
With a visually spectacular display solution, well-produced content developed to engage the customer or geared toward inciting a purchasing behavior through personalized interaction, the branding and OOH dollar increases impact exponentially for your sponsor. You’ve all seen rudimentary examples of this in the stadiums you frequent from the “Coca-Cola Kiss Cam” to the “Home Depot Tool Race” on the big screen.
But outside the bowl there awaits a new set of engagement opportunities: Families with children who are roaming the gift shops and concessions areas before the game or in the middle of the 4th inning of a scoreless 2-hitter or a rain delay. Out of town guests visiting your teams’ Hall of Fame or franchise museum. Tailgaters who go to the game for the social aspects vs. the game itself and then move the party to the in-stadium common areas, to name a few.
The complete DOOH campaign today is more than an ad on a display, it’s about integrated technology. Nowhere is this more evident than the in-stadium environment. Examples include: apps for mobile devices that guide you through the venue, recognizes your preferences, and makes suggestions based on those preferences. Automatic replays on mobile, fantasy sports integration with real-time game stats, live tweeting and fan recognition and a myriad other interactive fan experiences are now the norm. The truth is there is a percentage of the attending fan base more interested in the off-field product offering than the on-field.
Integrating vibrant, engaging content-populated displays with “smart” platforms for interactivity gives sponsors the ability to learn about who makes up their audience which brings them that much closer to the holy grail of one-on-one communication with fans (a.k.a. potential customers). Examples of these technologies include beacon technology (to trigger prescribed location-based messaging on mobile devices), digital place-based advertising platforms and audience recognition applications.
In-venue social media engagement is no longer a coming attraction — it as arrived.24-7-365 fans are requesting deeper involvement with your team and front office via social media. Strategically placed large-format displays in fan congregation areas throughout the stadium and adjacent facilities provide even more opportunity for sponsors and partners to reach a highly motivated customer base — AND actually join in the conversation!
The trend across all of professional sports, is stadium downsizing e.g. purpose-driven smaller venues to enhance the game excitement and reduce the empty seats prevalent in the massive multi-use stadiums of the 70's and 80's. Along with the downsizing of the building itself, is the downsizing of stadium real estate and display areas you have to sell to partners and sponsors.
DOOH advertising, allowing for rotation of ads and interactive strategies is essential to maximize revenue potential for these shrinking spaces. The challenge becomes driving more revenue with fewer spectators in the building. So activating the space digitally is critical — static banners and facilities offer no option for additional revenue.
Another trend that goes hand-in-hand with these smaller venues is the addition of upscale luxury spaces for season ticket holders, corporate sponsor invitees, etc. In some cases actual seating for fans has been removed from existing stadiums to make room for VIP lounges, exclusive restaurants and cocktail decks. These lucrative advertising environments present incredible potential to market to a select population.
One of the top trends in professional sports is the proliferation of storytelling spaces within and adjacent to the stadium. These areas where the history and legends of the team are outlined with historic artifacts, photographs and even historic video footage are prime areas for close engagement through digital signage and displays. Maybe your franchise has recently renovated or built your team’s Hall of Fame? Entrance ways, hallways, overhead space, and static exhibits – all offer digital enhancement opportunities. How much do you think a sponsor would pay to brand the story of your franchise with digital content?
We live in times where it’s essential to communicate with large populations instantly when something is amiss. Offering unique networks of highly-visible, displays allows partners and sponsors avenues to promote community responsibility within the stadium. Imagine driving down the highway and having traffic delay alternative routes sponsored by Allstate or Amber Alerts for child abductions sponsored by Pampers. The same principle can apply to your stadium. Safety and security are on everyone’s mind and allowing one of you marquis partners to protect your Sunday afternoon guests with a unique array of digital displays offers an attractive path to incremental ad sales.
Static messaging and darkness is over in your dead spaces. Gradually, either accompanying renovations, or through static display and fixture transformation, the digital light is coming on in previously unused or underused areas of stadiums. This is fantastic news for CROs and sponsor activation executives across the Big Four and emerging sports as it greatly expands your ability to increase incremental revenue from these most valued commercial relationships.