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Volume 20 No. 42
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Three ways to know if your hands-on design is a winner

Last February, fans gathered in Houston to watch an unforgettable Super Bowl. The battle between the Patriots and Falcons will be especially memorable for the lucky fans who paid to be at the game. The price of witnessing sports history? A small fortune, with ticket prices ranging from $4,744 to $74,928.

Consumers pay that much money to attend events like this because they expect a unique experience. And the best way to meet those expectations is by taking a hands-on design approach to guarantee that no matter which team fans root for, their experiences last longer than the time they spend inside the venue.

For most fans, the experience begins the moment they pull into the parking lot and doesn’t end until they arrive home. Providing a fully immersive experience for fans means brands, teams and venues have to carefully think through and collaborate on every detail. Explore the property. Learn exactly what path guests will take to find their seats, make their way to concessions, or explore an activation.

The bluemedia team worked with GMR Marketing and the NFL to create experiences meant to engage fans at a multitude of touch points within the stadium itself, including the secure fence line that surrounded the stadium, which depicted images and information related to the state of Texas, the Super Bowl, and past winners. The signage aimed to make the most impact at the south entrance to the stadium, where most fans entered.

The team also looked beyond the stadium, creating experiences to build anticipation about the big game and boost fan engagement weeks before kickoff. At Houston’s Discovery Green Park, we crafted a projection show to celebrate the sport and tell the story of the rivalry between the Falcons and Patriots. Part of the digital show was projected on a large water screen, and the rest was mapped onto a nearby hotel building. The show played several times each night during the five days leading up to the Super Bowl.

Also, experiential graphics for the NFL’s team hotels and headquarters hotel, NFL House, area airports, media center and many other entertainment centers throughout the city were themed consistently for the Super Bowl and reinforced the fan journey even though they weren’t in the stadium itself. Each asset was designed to keep fans, players, guests of the NFL, and even Houston’s own residents excited about the game ahead.

Fan engagement and creative design at big events extends well beyond the game itself.
Photo: getty images

Want to determine whether your hands-on efforts are giving your fans the experience they paid for? Consider these three strategies:

1. Check your ticket sales, and listen to the purchasers.

Produce online surveys for ticket holders, and pay attention to the results. Monitor single-game and season-ticket sales to determine whether group events deliver the desired fan experience. Every touch point you have with a fan is an opportunity to tell a part of your story through simple, consistent, and well-timed messaging.

Keep an eye on social media to recognize trends and potential areas for improvement. If numerous fans are posting about a failed marketing tactic, listen to them. Change your messaging or redesign the path to their seats — do something to respond to the problem; don’t just ignore the issue.

2. Understand guests’ physical journeys.

Don’t stop working once it’s clear that customers are buying tickets to your experience. Understand where and how each guest will navigate through the stadium. If they’re sitting way up in the cheap seats, for example, how will they make their way down to the nearest concession stand? Technology such as AmpThink and Umbel can help marketers understand the fan journey.

Marketers can also keep track of fans’ social media posts via geofencing, which uses GPS or a radio frequency to let an administrator establish a geographic boundary and alert administrators when customers with smart devices enter that area. You can also monitor Wi-Fi opt-ins to help you know where fans’ seats are and how they move around the stadium. If, for example, you notice a fan had to stand in line for eight minutes to buy a beer, send a coupon his or her way to say, “Sorry you had to wait so long — have a beer on us.”

3. Update designs based on results.

As fans increasingly expect the entertainment value of sporting events to extend beyond the field, marketers should create sponsorship and activations that add to the experience. Don’t overwhelm fans by adding to the clutter — engage them through cohesive, consistent messaging.

It’s hard to gauge a stadium’s environment from off-site, but what you can measure is social media feedback, merchandise sales, and customer activation levels. Companies such as Ampsy can help you keep track of how customers are interacting with various parts of the stadium in real time. If a sponsored lounge isn’t getting any customer activations, it’s not working to bring customers back, and it’s time to rethink your design strategy.

Designing an immersive, captivating experience for sports fans can take a game from a day of fun to a lifelong memory. Hands-on collaboration among brands, teams, and venues is a surefire way to give people their money’s worth and make events like the Super Bowl one-of-a-kind. Just be sure to check the score after your design is in place.

R.J. Orr is an executive vice president and partner at bluemedia.

IT’S YOUR TURN TO SPEAK OUT
For further information on guest columns, contact Jake Kyler at (704) 973-1436 or jkyler@sportsbusinessjournal.com.