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Get Your Head in the Game: How Live Sports Experiences Improved Since COVID-19

COVID-19 undoubtedly turned the world upside-down. We adapted to new rules and procedures, changing the way we operate as a society. Some of the most fascinating developments were in the realm of technology; things we never thought about succeeding in a digital landscape, did. Some technological advancements made out of necessity stuck around, proving their benefits beyond a pandemic setting

A fan’s experience with live sports is drastically different than it was pre-COVID. How do these changes impact how fans view games today?

Out with the physical tickets, in with the digital check-ins.

When was the last time you handed someone a ticket at a live sporting event? SeatGeek determined that in 2019, only 32% of people used printed tickets. The transition from physical to digital began pre-Covid because mobile tickets are more secure and convenient, limiting the possibility of fraudulent copies.

During the pandemic, ticketers made the official switch to mobile tickets to limit the physical contact between patrons and people collecting tickets. With physical tickets, at least two people were touching the ticket, whereas digitally, only one person needs to touch the phone. In 2021, the NFL became the first league to require mobile ticketing throughout all of their stadiums. Other leagues shortly followed suit. Today, it’s very unlikely that stadiums will even accept a physical ticket.

The benefit of mobile tickets today? You don’t have to worry about losing your tickets. It’s rare that you will forget your phone. In fact, the average American spends almost four-and-a-half hours on their phone every single day. Additionally, 55% of people have never gone longer than 24 hours without their cell phone. It’s easier than ever to access tickets on a mobile device, and it’s not going away anytime soon.

Transactions became cash-free.

Cash carries germs, and the exchange can be seen as unnecessary person-to-person contact. At the beginning of the pandemic, grocery stores, restaurants, and department stores went cashless to prevent the spread of COVID-19 through dollar bills (which couldn’t be sanitized).

Now, it’s rare to find a seller that is cash-only, and some don’t accept cash at all. It’s expected that sports attendees will have access to a credit or debit card they can use on different merchandise. Because of many stadiums’ bag policies, people are often only permitted a small wallet. Only having to bring one or two cards is easier than carrying a wad of cash.

Stadiums took it one step further, carrying out transactions without a person at the register. At some stadiums, a patron can scan their credit or debit card, enter a market-like room with drinks and snacks, pick what they want, and leave. It may seem impossible, but cameras in the room track what each person picks up, and it accurately charges your card once the transaction is finished.

Ultimately, people are at the stadium to watch the game. Making their experience efficient will leave them feeling positive and ready to watch their favorite team compete. With these advancements, they don’t have to worry about missing half the game to get a hot dog. Instead, they can take a five minute break and avoid missing the action.

Buy online, pickup in store skyrocketed in popularity.

“Buy online, pickup in store” (BOPIS) is not a new phenomenon. But, its popularity drastically increased during the pandemic. For live sporting events, this method was implemented to decrease line congestion and keep people separated as much as possible. People attending live games were able to shop for t-shirts, hats, and foam fingers ahead of time, picking them up at the merch stand once game day arrived.

BOPIS is still common in stadiums, and it comes at a high value for true fans. Instead of spending time waiting for merchandise, fans can spend their time getting snacks, chatting with family and friends, and watching the game while still looking sharp.

Even fans on devices are watching the game differently.

Streaming has changed the way people view games — and where.

Tailgating is a time for fans to come together prior to the game to celebrate their teams with food, drinks, and team pride. It wasn’t uncommon for fans without tickets to attend tailgates, but with games now playing on streaming services, they don’t have to leave once the game begins. Instead, they can continue tailgating throughout the duration of the game, without missing a second of it. Without buying a ticket, fans can still enjoy the energy and excitement of a live sporting event.

People have the option to watch live streamers discuss the game rather than just watching the game itself. Two of the biggest stars in football, Eli and Peyton Manning, host a cable show where they discuss Monday Night Football games. They bring different celebrity guests on the show to talk about the game, including football players like Travis Kelce and Rob Gronkowski, and other celebrities like Kevin Hart and Snoop Dogg.

Because at-home viewing improved so drastically over the past few years, 77% of Gen Z sports fans and 75% of Millennials say they prefer to watch sports outside of venues. This number is lower for Baby Boomers (53%) and people over the age of 70 (32%).

People attend live sporting events because they want to feel the energy of the game beyond their screen. There’s nothing like the power of a live sports game to make you feel connected to your favorite team and other fans. Researchers say that live games can even improve public health, and many who attend live sports games have higher levels of life satisfaction and lower levels of loneliness. That’s why the fan experience at sports events is so important, from where they purchase their food to picking up merchandise.

As a business, consider ways that you can innovate and offer enhanced experiences for your customers. In an ever-changing world, it’s important to stay up-to-date with advancements and the mindsets of your audience.

Make sure every customer experience is a touchdown. Connect with The ExperienceBuilt Group today.


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