Traditionally, sports events follow one of two typical patterns. Either they are attached to a home arena of a team, resulting in home and away games for individual clubs. Or rights holders are looking for host cities and venues bidding for their event. Either way, fans typically have to travel, often a lot.
This hasn’t been a problem so far, but it could soon become one. With the ever-improving possibilities for the virtual consumption of sports events, the challenge of attracting fans to physically attend sports events is becoming greater.
This results in a very fundamental question that event organisers have got to ask themselves: Why would fans travel many kilometres and pay admission for a product that they can so easily consume in their living room?
For sports organisations, the answer to this question may come from the entertainment industry, and its success of hosting broader music festivals, as opposed to single concerts. Perhaps sports events should be designed more like these festivals, rather than simply a single fixture.
This can have major benefits for sports evens organisations.
Fundamentally, systematically establishing a forum for like-minded people to meet up and experience the sport they all love with each other is the main unique selling proposition for a physical event, helping to entrench core support. Indeed, with the rapid development of VR and other technologies, it might become the only source of legitimacy in the long run.
Moreover, effectively broadening an event’s offering by designing a diverse framework programme can also help sports events to tap into new, additional audiences, too – providing appealing elements to a diverse group of interests.
Economically, there is another significant benefit. With high demand for security measures, single sports fixtures often present an economic burden to their host cities, rather than an opportunity. Spreading events over several days turns the tables: multiplied accommodation nights can equal additional benefits for the local economy with more catering, sightseeing and transport usage, all presenting a significant economic potential to any city. This, in turn, facilitates the search for host cities in the future, and directly benefitting the sports organisation itself.
Interestingly, it was the relatively young phenomenon of esports that first put this concept to the test. With its events transcending the local boundaries of traditional sports with an obvious digital presence, the esports industry early on faced the question of how much emphasis to place on hosting physical events.
Despite not being tied to a physical location, the e-sports industry continued trusting in the physicality of their events – seeing significant potential in assembling travelling crowds in one place. And, with large and ever-growing attendances, they proved to be right.