Every sale solves a problem.
Any time you buy something, you’re solving a problem you have. You’re hungry so you buy some food. Your car is old and broken down and you need to get to work, so you buy a new one. You forgot your wedding anniversary so you send flowers to apologize. No matter what you buy or why you buy it, that purchase at least attempts to solve a specific problem.
When I was growing up, buying tickets to and attending sporting events solved numerous problems for me. First, I grew up in on a farm in Oklahoma so my list of things to do on any given Saturday afternoon were pretty limited. Driving to Norman to catch the Sooner game solved a huge “lack-of-entertainment-options” problem for me. Beyond that, attending often solved the problem of not getting to watch the game at all. Growing up, we were lucky to get a few games on TV each season, and when they were broadcast, it certainly wasn’t in HDTV. Being there, in person was the only option and nothing compared to it.
Buying tickets and attending events solved these problems for me from the time I was a child all the way through to just a few years ago. Slowly, one-by-one, all of those problems I was solving by attending Sooner games in person started to dwindle. Today, the number of entertainment options that are competing for my time are at an all-time high. While for me, nothing comes above Sooner Football, I do have a wife and four children to consider. Since we often have different views on how to spend a Saturday afternoon, I can watch the game wherever we are on my smartphone, so there’s no need to attend.
As the problems that were solved by attending events slowly faded away, the cost of attending those events skyrocketed. 🚀
I don’t know how much my dad paid for tickets when I was a kid but I know that face value for the Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State game this year is $150 each. That means that if I wanted to take my wife and just two of my children, I’d be spending $600 on tickets (plus whatever donation I had to make for the right to buy those tickets), another $100 or so on a babysitter for my other kids (saving $200 by leaving them at home), $20 on parking, $60 on lunch outside the stadium and then, if I’m lucky, I’ll get away with only spending $10 on each of them inside the stadium between the $6 souvenir cups and $4.50 water bottles.
The $800 I just dropped to attend this football game didn’t solve a single one of my problems, it actually created more. I missed out on time with two of my children, I wasn’t sitting close enough to the action, I couldn’t easily watch other games during breaks in our game, I was too hot, I had to sit on a hard bench next to some obnoxious fan, who sat too close to me and complained about every play call and I had to go into debt in order to do it.
Collegiate athletics has created a situation where there’s been a complete reversal on the selling-solves-a-problem scenario. As recently as 15 years ago, buying tickets to and attending sporting events solved a number of problems for fans. Now it just creates them.
If we’re going to reverse the trend of declining attendance at sporting events, we have to start solving problems again. The home-viewing experience isn’t getting worse, access to game streams is only going to get easier, and most games aren’t getting cheaper to attend.
Currently, the only problem attending live events solves is that you’re there, not somewhere else. Unfortunately, the number of people that care about being there is dwindling. So when you’re trying to sell a ticket and convince a fan to attend, ask yourself what problem you’re solving. If you can’t answer that question with something fans actually care about, there’s work to be done.
In the coming months, we’ll be publicizing studies we’ve recently completed for schools. One school hired us to solve one problem, only to realize through our research that they had multiple, bigger problems to tackle. Another school didn’t realize there was a large pocket of fans in a nearby zip code that they spent little time and energy marketing to.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to sports marketing. Old Hat can help you identify a path toward increasing attendance at your events and building a game experience they’ll keep coming back for.