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An original NFL franchise approached C+R with a unique research proposition. The franchise had enjoyed success on the field, as well as in the stands, and continued to have a close, symbiotic relationship with the local community. However, quantitative data suggested there had been a recent drop in satisfaction with several critical gameday components. In this environment, team management was interested in conducting qualitative research among several tiers of season ticket holders, with the goal of identifying actionable opportunities to enhance their relationship with their fans and drive greater satisfaction.

Problem

The quantitative data lacked texture as to why this drop in satisfaction had occurred and what forces were contributing to it; clearly a qualitative approach was needed to address these questions. Near-term, the team wanted to understand the origins of this drop and how to stem it. Long-term, management was interested in getting reactions to a variety of new gameday ideas, as well as have ticket holders generate additional ideas to enhance their gameday, as well as non-gameday, experience.

Result

Phases 1 & 2 of the online and in-person qual research revealed several key problem-areas that were contributing to this lack of satisfaction:

  • Perceptually, the team had become more “corporate” and was less approachable than in the past. This was alienating some season ticket holders.
  • As well, the long waitlist for season tickets was feeding the perception that the team was not—or did not need to be—as attentive to their fans as other teams.
  • Some gameday components and programming had become staid, boring, and/or needed to be improved.
  • Rewards and perks had evolved over time and were not consistently applied to the various tiers of season ticket holders—leading to confusion and resentment.
  • Finally, the team had not done anything new or different—or gone above and beyond—to make season ticket holders feel special.

In response, the discussions and co-creation exercises identified a variety of new ideas to remedy these issues:

 

  • Season ticket holders wanted to be recognized, appreciated, and rewarded for their loyalty with perks that convey a semblance of exclusivity and/or enable them to get behind the scenes and closer to the team.
  • Season ticket holders aspired to stadium enhancements that elevate the gameday experience, including pre-game entry/access to areas of the stadium, concourse, concession and pro shop improvements, media opportunities with the team, and exclusive season ticket holder merchandise.
  • Non-gameday perks included better leveraging the locker room and other parts of the stadium that allow season ticket holders to get closer to the team, creating more player/alumni and draft-day events that holders have exclusive access to, as well state-wide events that grow the fan base.

Finally, the Phase 3 Activation Workshop enabled team management to infuse their perspective and vet season ticket holder-generated ideas. C+R facilitators broke the management team out into smaller groups and conducted a variety of creative exercises to better dimensionalize, refine, and optimize the concepts, as well as to generate additional strategies to counter the drivers of dissatisfaction. Management then prioritized the ideas in terms of importance and feasibility. This culminating workshop ensured that management was better enfranchised in the research process and aligned on the results and actions to take. Management is planning to implement these new ideas for the 2020 season. 
 

Solution

C+R designed a multi-phase approach to provide robust learning and actionable results in addressing these issues:

Phase 1: Online Fan Forum

  • This exploratory phase created an online environment where season ticket holders could reflect on their experiences with the team and tell stories and upload photos and videos that helped to dimensionalize gameday, including current dissatisfactions and unmet needs. They were also encouraged to draw comparisons to other sports teams/leagues, as well as non-sports-related entertainment examples. A co-creation activity generated initial ideas to improve satisfaction that were further explored in Phase 2. 

Phase 2: In-Person Discussion Groups

  • For context, these discussions with the same participants from Phase 1 were conducted at the stadium itself. They provided in-depth texture of ticket holders’ expectations, needs, and pain-points regarding specific aspects of the gameday experience, such as fan interaction areas, dining & food/beverage options, mobile-based ticketing options and loaded tickets, etc. We then explored how the brand experience might be leveraged outside of gameday occasions. 

Phase 3: Activation Workshop

  • This facilitated, day-long workshop included C+R researchers and team management. A presentation of the research insights was given to ground team management in what we learned. C+R then lead management through a series of creative exercises to unpack the implications of the findings and brainstorm solutions to enhance the experience of season ticket holders on gameday and beyond.

Ironically, one of the biggest challenges with engaging season ticket holders in order to better understand their experiences and tease out unmet needs was a strong sense of team loyalty and support. The waitlist for tickets and their passion for the team meant that many had never truly confronted the notion of whether they felt valued—or not—as a season ticket holder. Many seemed to initially wrestle with this in the discussions, and the moderator had to create an environment where it was permissible to focus on their personal needs, desires, and satisfaction as a ticket holder. This led to not only breakthrough insights, but also enabled the management team to gain greater empathy for the needs and desires of season ticket holders. This understanding will help with the activation of the new ideas for the 2020 season.