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Volume 26 No. 178
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Execs Trying To Tackle Main Aspects Of Evolving Fan Experience

Starkey came to the Panthers from T-Mobile, where she had more control of the product than she does now
Photo: TONY FLOREZ
Starkey came to the Panthers from T-Mobile, where she had more control of the product than she does now
Photo: TONY FLOREZ
Starkey came to the Panthers from T-Mobile, where she had more control of the product than she does now
Photo: TONY FLOREZ

The definition of fan experience evolves by the day in sports and entertainment, and has grown to mean much more than just serving fans' needs on gameday, according to a panel at the '19 AXS Sports Facilities & Franchises conference. That especially rings true for NFL Panthers CMO Meredith Starkey, who has been on the job with David Tepper's team for only six months. Starkey came to the Panthers from T-Mobile, where she had more control of the product than she does now. "That's an interesting dynamic to be in as a marketer," she said. "In this world, it's much more important to deliver a great experience outside the white lines." Starkey and the Panthers have kept things relatively simple early on, whether it has been pregame fan tailgates with Tepper or adding the team's logo to midfield at Bank of America Stadium (which happened before Starkey's arrival). "That created and fostered such an affinity with our brand and with our leadership team, and that wasn't a hard thing at all," she said of the logo placement. "All those things can matter and add up and build equity for us." For Minnesota United, now in their third full MLS season, it has been about connecting with the multicultural fan base in the Twin Cities. Minnesota United CEO Chris Wright said there are 251 languages represented in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and the Loons now have more than 25 languages across their 200 part-time staffers, from concessions to security. "We decided that we had to hire people that reflect our audience," Wright said.

ELIMINATING "PAIN POINTS": While the fan experience outside the stadium is key in some markets, LA2028 Chief Business Officer Brian Lafemina said that for his money, there is "still no better way to experience what we do than being inside the stadium." For teams and leagues, and in his case the Olympics, that means improving the in-venue experience. "How do we spend the amount of money we need to in order to eliminate the pain points?" he said. "The big video screens you see, they're great, but we should be spending just as much to eliminate the pain points. How do you program things inside the stadium that makes fans get in there earlier?" Starkey noted the Panthers are looking at ways to improve the in-game experience through expanded replay at Bank of America Stadium. "How can we take from the broadcast and bring it to the game?" she said. "If we're going to get people there, we have to deliver a great product." Legends COO Mike Tomon: "Fan experience is the campfire everyone will get around. ... Fan experience is so big because the end goal is to be a lifestyle for their fan base. How can I stay with them for every waking moment?"