Another day, another team decides to offer up a “novel” new subscription program.
Which made me laugh when I saw this tweet referencing the story about the Jets’ new plan.
— Liz Sattler (@LizASattler) June 15, 2017
As if millennials are the first people to ever put value on something and decide against buying or not buying based on value.
Let’s get this out of the way pretty quickly, the reason that the teams are offering up these discount programs is because no one cares, or at least no one cares in a way that they used to.
This has nothing to do with millennials loving experiences, or loving cheap stuff, or whatever the genius idea du jour is.
The challenge in sports business right now has nothing to do with the changing demographics, or not exclusively, as much as it has to do with the strict value proposition of attending a game.
What we are in the middle of is a bubble in sports business, driven by the large amounts of TV money that have been being thrown at sports rights holders for the last several decades. Because sports was supposedly the last place that “appointment” viewing happened.
I’m not sure if that is true, but that was the justification.
Over the years, that “appointment” viewing idea has been proven flimsier and flimsier, reaching an apex in 2016-2017 when ratings for almost everything were down and down significantly.
This was pawned off as something driven by the election.
It was pawned off as something that was happening because of the suspension of Tom Brady.
It was offered up that maybe people didn’t like Kapernick’s protests.
There were a lot of reasons that were given, not any of which looked at the reality of the situation…which is that sports and sports entertainment had gotten fat and lazy based on TV money and neglected their customers and their fans to the point that they just didn’t care any longer.
Thus, tuning out and turning onto something else entirely.
So it goes.
But instead of looking at the root causes of the decline in attendance and ratings, it is much easier to look at everything else.
So instead of marketing and selling the game in a way that is consistent with the best practices in other industries and working to turn the games and in-stadium experiences into communal events and celebrations, things people look forward to, the leagues and teams have doubled down on the homogenized, corporatized experience that fans are turning against.
Here are some of the scape goats for the current state of affairs:
- changing buying patterns
- in-home experience
While a list, not a complete list.
All of these challenges have been used to justify a lot of inane business practices like:
- Sky high ticket prices because, “well, I saw a pair of tickets listed on StubHub for $10,000. So why shouldn’t I get that?”
- The answer, economics and reality. Despite super high prices being listed and reported, how often do those happen? And, more importantly, the same fan will feel put off paying you $500 for a ticket to a game, but will be more than happy to pay a broker $500. Its a basic tenant of consumer psychology that makes absolutely no sense, but has held up over and over.
- Subscription “packages” that amount to Hail Mary’s in the hopes that cheap to free will get people into the game. Even if that just drives down the value of your product.
- More commercials, more partnerships, and more stuff that prop up the revenues and drive fans further and further away.
The truth is that these things are long term trends. The decline in attention that we are currently seeing is just the manifestation of a long term trend away from caring about sports.
As they say in economics, a “lagging indicator.”
The thing is, in sports business, many of the executives have had a short term focus for a long time.
Its understandable because the money was so easy, but while they were watching the short term, the long term was coming fast and furious.
And, when it got here, no one was prepared.
That’s what we are seeing now.
No one knew or cared that consumers were going to change their tastes and that if you didn’t actively cultivate a long term fan strategy that you were going to be screwed.
Okay, maybe I did, but no one was listening.
The current situation has nothing to do with millennials loving discounts. It has everything with people not valuing the games and attending or viewing as much as they used to.
That’s not something that a $29.99 month subscription is going to fix.
The only thing that is going to fix that is smarter marketing, smarter storytelling, better service, and better experiences.
Think about it like this, you don’t not visit the Eiffel Tower because its too expensive, do you?