A 2021 Season With No Fans Would Be a Killer For Sports Business!

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We’ve learned a few valuable lessons this years: 

  • Sports without fans isn’t the same. 
  • You can’t just take the idea that fans will tune in and pay attention no matter what for granted. 
  • A lot of the businesses of the leagues and teams weren’t as stable as they seemed. 

I bring all of this up because John Wall Street posted a piece this week about the idea that with further lockdowns, owners may have to sell more limited partner shares

I’ll leave the finance stuff out of it today, but I will say that all of the challenges that confronted the live entertainment industry this year should have been a wakeup call for folks and have been pushing people towards an improved way of doing business. 

Sadly, I’m not sure if I have seen as much change as we should have expected. 

We haven’t seen nearly enough experimentation with ways to connect with fans, drive awareness and attention of games, and score new ways to deliver revenue to the clubs. 

This really comes down to the basic principles of marketing, especially market orientation. 

In the rush to get games back on the field, the biggest driver was making sure to keep the TV money locked in. 

A real concern, no doubt. 

But the bigger concern is that people aren’t tuning in and paying attention because if the eyes aren’t there, at some point the TV executives are going to stop paying the fees. 

There was this interesting Twitter thread I saw this week about how teams approach their sponsors. 

The unfortunate reality is that most teams don’t know who their customers are, really. They aren’t really in tune with the market. And, they’ve allowed or tried to off-shoot the basics of marketing: segmentation, targeting, positioning, and communications off to their partners for a long time. 

This is coming back to hurt folks now. 

I’m doing a program on the segmentation, targeting, and positioning during the National Sports Forum in December, BTW. 

I started to come up with a list of reasons that this period in time is dangerous for teams, leagues, and organizations that are hoping to bring back fans next year. But I don’t really need one. 

The situation is such that there needs to be experimentation in the way that folks are dealing with their customers and their markets, a emphasis on understanding where and what their customers want and need right now is the primary job everyone has, and rebuilding sales funnels for the many different ways that you can generate revenue should be an around the clock concern. 

On this last one, there are tons of ways to generate revenue that go outside of having fans in the building that haven’t been explored to any extent by most clubs. 

That’s not saying these things are easy to pull off. But I’m saying they are necessary to investigate and see if and how you can apply them to your organization. 

The other option is to just stick your head in the sand and hope things magically come back to normal. 

This applies to everyone that makes money selling tickets. 

There isn’t a magic bullet for any of us. But there are definitely opportunities to stabilize our businesses and put ourselves in a position to be successful as we emerge from the pandemic.

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