Pitch invasion


Stadiums are increasingly being used as platforms for commercial activities that extend well beyond matchdays.

Sports clubs have access to a consumer group with a level of loyalty that most brands can only dream of. For many, a stadium visit represents a form of pilgrimage, and in European and American cities such as Madrid, New York, London and Munich, the home stadiums of world-famous teams have earned their place amongst the primary tourist attractions of the city.

The FC Barcelona club museum, for example, is now the most-visited museum in Catalonia each year, beating both the Dali Theatre-Museum and the Museu Picasso. As the popularity of these trips grows, the experiences offered have evolved to meet the demands of visitors seeking a truly immersive behind-the-scenes view of their club.

Typically, such stadium experiences finish with a visit to the club shop, many of which now bear a close resemblance to flagship city-centre retail locations, offering the scale and fit-outs befitting the high spend propensity of their audiences. Tottenham Hotspur recently opened a 23,000 square foot club shop at their new stadium, proudly highlighting its position as `the largest retail space of any football club in Europe'. Interestingly, it is open well before the stadium is ready for matches.

However, the potential customer base for stadium experiences extends far beyond devoted fans of a specific team or sport, with stadium operators increasingly looking to incorporate more generalist events into their non-matchday offer. Many sporting venues are aggressively pursuing a share of the market for private and corporate events, such as conferences, trade shows and banquets. By weaving elements of a team’s home, history and culture into the event programming, they are able to provide a uniquely differentiated offer that traditional venues cannot replicate.

The Levi's Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers, has capitalised effectively on its proximity to Silicon Valley to offer corporate experiences for up to 25,000 attendees, such as dinners on the pitch or meetings in the most premium matchday suites. Similarly, New York City's Yankee Stadium has taken advantage of its role as a cultural icon of the city to increase its appeal as a venue for an expansive range of events, including marriage proposals, which can be arranged with the stadium management in advance.

Stadia situated in city-centre locations, as is common in many European cities, are also able to cater to the sizeable market on their doorstep, providing F&B options with a sporting twist for local residents and workers. Real Madrid's Bernabeu stadium, situated close to the heart of the Spanish capital, features a restaurant-bar that remains open until midnight every day.

The expense involved in developing large, advanced sports stadia, often in prime locations, is understandably high, however stadium owners and operators are increasingly recognising the immense value that many consumers place on the more intangible identity and history that such venues represent. In this vein, they are steadily raising their game in a competitive market to effectively monetise aspects of their assets that supporters and regular consumers are willing to pay a premium to experience.

Andrew Chandler