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Fan Experience: What Do Fans Really Want in a Stadium?

AJ Maestas's picture

It came as no surprise a few weeks ago when the home fans for PSV Eindhoven had a gigantic banner ready for their team’s opening match. It did come as a surprise, however, when the Dutch football fans unfurled that banner and the message became visible.

“F*%& Wi-Fi, SUPPORT THE TEAM,” it said, spelled out in all caps, stretching at least 20 people wide. (And, it must be noted, the full F word was included. We’ve inserted characters to make this a family friendly post). There were also roughly 15 additional signs held by fans above the banner, each with the traditional Wi-Fi symbol being crossed out by a red line.

On this day, the first with Wi-Fi access to fans at Philips Stadion, the die-hard PSV supporters certainly made their feelings clear: They wanted people focused on the pitch, not their phones.

Of course, to almost anyone in the sports industry, this flies in the face of what we’ve come to know. Fans have spoken out time and again to the teams they follow and the venues they frequent, and the feedback is an overwhelming expression of desire for access to Wi-Fi. And not just that, but FAST Wi-Fi. Even at PSV Eindhoven, our hunch is that the diehards with those signs are in the minority; the other sections were likely filled with people tweeting and posting pictures of the banner while happily connected to the stadium’s new Wi-Fi network.

It’s also a possibility that American sports fans want and need different things in a stadium than say, European soccer fans. Still, there has never been a definitive research study that helps quantify what those drivers are.

That is just a hunch, though, and it leads to a bigger paradoxical question: How do teams and venues create a fan experience that can compete with the couch without sacrificing the original appeal of attending a game in person?

As of this writing, we don’t have the answers. But soon, we will.

Navigate's latest syndicated research project is a Fan Experience study that will use quantitative research and cutting-edge qualitative research to examine what fans want across a variety of topics, with the common focus of providing insights that can drive revenue.

We will also measure which venues are currently scoring the highest for Fan Experience, thereby creating yearly rankings to identify the best in the business, as well as which venues are improving.

Results from this study will also have a bit of a qualitative feel through a small sampling of biometric based research. A select group of fans (some at stadiums; some watching at home) will wear heart monitors and other biometric tracking devices in order to try to scientifically define the fan experience. This type of research could answer questions such as:

- Which advertisements do fans respond to the most?
- When are fans the most excited?
- What do fans pay most attention to when they are at home or at the stadium?

The final result of this study will be useful to both sides of the industry. It will provide brand marketers with a more concrete idea of how they can effectively integrate and activate on site. And it will provide teams and venues with the most in-depth understanding to date on how to provide a fan experience that results in happier attendees and higher revenues, not to mention more positive banners.

For more information on the study, please contact Ben Levy at Ben.Levy@NavigateResearch.com or go to www.navigateresearch.com.

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