Sports Venues and the Game-Winning Play
Collegiate campuses buzz when a new building opens its doors for the first time, especially when an athletics facility is unveiled to student-athletes, fans, and program supporters who made the facility a reality. Opening day generates a great deal of excitement, but long before the gates open fans must be informed of what’s to come. Combatting the anxiety of opening a new building is simple: Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Quite simply, a well-executed communication plan has great potential to exceed an athletic department’s goals for the new facility. If communication with the various user groups is not executed appropriately, the reaction could be negative, resulting in severe consequences and headaches for fans, facility managers, and the athletics administration.
A case in point is the reconfiguration of seat locations throughout renovation or new construction. Seating configuration best practices have changed considerably over time to meet the demand of the consumer and provide an opportunity for athletics departments to generate additional revenue through market segmentation, donations, and sponsorships. Fans no longer spend the entire game sitting in one location, and all seats do not have the same essential characteristics. Now we have luxury suites, loge boxes, donor pavilions, special admittance entertainment areas, family seating, and areas with interactive activities for fans of all ages.
Creating new fan experiences and generating more revenue is the ultimate win-win, but the air quickly escapes the balloon if the new options and priority seating plans are not properly communicated. Not only could that mean a loss of ticket revenue but, in the case of collegiate athletic departments, donors could be alienated, which jeopardizes those additional funds.
Athletic departments have the opportunity to build excitement and create demand if they can equate new opportunities with an enhanced spectator experience. To get ahead of the curve, pre-design intelligence gathering can help identify demands of the marketplace. Surveys, focus groups, advisory boards, fan panels, and similar exercises are valuable in gathering key information that will form the basis of the blueprints.
To help ensure that the consumer responds in a positive manner, athletic departments need comprehensive and proactive communication plans that identify targeted constituents, include key talking points, and provide opportunities for feedback. Departments should lean on design firms to support that communication effort through the thought leadership of client leaders, design professionals, survey results, research data, graphics, animation, and examples of similar work. The focus should not be on making a sale or soliciting a donation, but rather providing information. The goal is to build donor and fan relationships, making the process less transactional.
In addition, athletic departments should consider more direct vehicles to relay information such as open houses, webinars, one-on-one meetings, public presentations, sales centers, and videos. Again, designers offer excellent resources to assist in disseminating information. These resources can also help the various agents who interact with consumers, including the sales teams who focus on ticket revenue; fundraisers who seek to satisfy donors and increase donations; marketing teams who aim to maximize sponsorship dollars; and athletic administrators who are responsible for communicating the new seating features/benefits to the public.
The planning phase of any new facility is meticulous and detailed, and so should the communication efforts supporting it.