Are Your fans "Couchgated"?

By Chris Wise and Heath Cox

Teams and sport venues can be misguided on how customers perceive them. Particularly, how and where they place the brand in their emotional hierarchy. Brand caretakers are often confused and believe that customers are reliant on the brand, when, in fact, the opposite is true. To make a brand grow and improve, it needs to deliver emotional satisfaction to the customer so each and every customer becomes a loyalist, an evangelist for the brand. The brand is then supported by loyal purchasing behavior, as well as the gospel of the brand shared with as many people as possible.

It is dangerous not to understand and engage a sports fan’s experience throughout game day—or even prior. It all starts with a ticket purchase, then goes on to parking, pre-game, the game, and on through post-game. For a sports franchise, it is crucial for each phase to be planned out and efficient as possible, because the paramount drive for getting fans in seats is to get those same fans off their couches.

The sports fan's behavior is valid and valuable insight into understanding how the customer feels about their experience. With focused data collection, people can fully express how their experience unfolds. More than that, defining which market segments are likely to attend the event helps companies recognize its primary targets, as well as the “why” driving consumer behavior. Armed with all this information, companies can make calculated adjustments to improve the fan experience. Improvements lead to gaining brand evangelists and loyalists.

When it comes to competing with “couchgating,” as companies often call it, the primary obstacle to combat is convenience. It’s vital for teams and venues to be able to make revenue generation per person skyrocket with the convenience factor.

The advancement of technology can help with the convenience factor for sports franchises. For example, ticketing apps can make ticket buying that much simpler, as well as providing convenience the day of the game so there is no need for last-minute printing since the ticket can be shown on a fan’s phone. 

One thing that “couchgating” cannot provide are the heightened sensations of experiencing the game first-hand. Being at a game exploits the spectator’s senses. You can smell the hot dogs and popcorn, hear cheers from the fans, and see the game right in front of you. Being on the couch provides only the viewing pleasure of the game. Sports franchises have to ensure that the experience is as enhanced and as memorable as possible. This is what brings fans back to the stadium and puts them back in their seats.

Another advancement to keep the fan experience incredible is being able to multitask from your stadium seat. Often, special deals appear for those using stadium Wi-Fi. For example, if you’re using the team app, a special deal on a jersey may appear during the game. Fans can order that jersey on the spot, directly from their seats. Similarly, advances such as the ability to order food from your phone and have it delivered to your seat really make the experience skyrocket.

The key to understanding what motivates—the “why” that drives behavior—is to develop a solid, ongoing source of focused, fan-centric data. Used in conjunction with your big data (the “what”) will provide you with a strategic advantage over all of those brands and venues racing to capture the coveted entertainment dollar.