A New Paradigm for Sports Venues
Ron Turner in Los Angeles, Sports, Sports Venues New Paradigm

This is the first article in a five part series. Read the Full Report.

It’s no secret that the sports industry benefits from the most passionate, engaged and loyal consumers of all. In fact, “favorite sports team” is at the top of Brand Keys’ list of consumers’ favorite fashion brands—ahead of brands like Ralph Lauren, Armani, Calvin Klein and J. Crew. Many other brands can only wish for that level of customer loyalty that sports teams have achieved.

So how do we create successful sports venues, places that cultivate that passion? What elements create engaging, emotional connections between teams and fans, and turn a field into a home field advantage? Where do corporate sponsors—important, even mandatory sources of revenue in today’s market—fit into the equation, and how can sponsorships become an integrated part of the experience rather than a collection of slapped-up signs? My colleagues and I contemplate these questions daily in our effort to create compelling spaces and unique experiences for our clients and end-users. But as sponsorship standards, technologies, and consumer behaviors evolve constantly, the answers don’t always come easily, particularly when you’re talking about venues that are intended to feel new and exciting for decades.

During the past year, Gensler’s sports practice has examined industry best practices, customer preferences, and sponsor priorities in an effort to answer some of these questions—to address the demands of these two most critical stakeholders. Feedback from our online fan survey and a panel discussion we hosted in our New York office confirms our assertion that sports venues have to be designed differently now and in the future to make sponsored elements feel like an integrated and unobtrusive part of the game day experience, and to create an immersive, engaging environment for the fans. Collaborative partnerships, flexible design solutions, and long range thinking all contribute to a venue’s success. But we still need to turn these big ideas into actionable strategies.

Assuming the primary objective is operating a profitable enterprise, I believe sports venues should focus on three additional goals: maximizing sponsorship ROI, ensuring long term partnerships; maximizing fan engagement, ensuring fan loyalty; and creating a place where people want to be, ensuring community support. Setting strategies to achieve each of those three goals will ultimately help with the first: both sponsors and fans are, after all, more willing to invest time and money in brands, teams, and experiences to which they feel a personal connection.

Supporting these principles, we have developed a four-point checklist of strategies for venues to achieve their primary goals:

  1. Understand the complexities of the fan experience. Don’t make assumptions about who your fans are and what matters to them; connect with them so they can tell you directly.
  2. Engage partners (sponsors, alumni donors) early and take the time to understand their goals, needs, and how they measure ROI.
  3. Make technology work for you to create connections, facilitate communications, and streamline operations. Work with the right partners who understand technology and its future potential better than you do.
  4. Connect with the community that surrounds and supports you; be an authentic, charitable and responsible member of that community.

In upcoming posts my colleagues and I will expand on each of these four strategies. We’ll highlight examples of sports venues that are already getting it right, and will introduce specific tactics that other venues can use to adapt existing structures or plan for future developments. Venue owners, operators and designers have an obligation to create places for that passion to flourish, and there’s honestly nothing more rewarding than seeing it done right.

Click here to download a summary of our research on sports venues’ new paradigm.

Ron Turner
Ron Turner, FAIA, LEED® AP, is Gensler’s director of sports and entertainment, and a principal in the Los Angeles office. A recognized leader in international sports facility design, Ron Turner has over thirty years of experience dedicated to creating iconic event center designs that generate increased revenue, build civic brands, and employ innovative technologies. As a founder of sports design practices for Ellerbe Becket, NBBJ, RTKL and now Gensler, Ron has led design teams for numerous professional and collegiate venues and sports-anchored entertainment districts around the world. Contact him at ron_turner@gensler.com.
Article originally appeared on architecture and design (http://www.gensleron.com/).
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