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Rauri Hadlington: How to enhance fans’ gameday experience

Rauri Hadlington talks to the SportsPro Podcast about improving gameday experience.

Rauri Hadlington, Business Development Director at Relative Insight, recently appeared on the SportsPro Podcast to talk all things fan engagement and gameday experience.

In the 30-minute discussion, Rauri and host Tom Bassam covered a wide range of topics. These included why sports franchises are starting to place greater emphasis on gameday experience, the use of artificial intelligence within sport, and how teams such as the Atlanta Falcons are using AI-powered software to boost ticket revenue and fan experience rankings.

If you want to listen to the full conversation, you can do so here. The rest of this blog summarizes the key points raised within the pair’s discussion.

Text analytics helps the Atlanta Falcons rise up

Rauri recounted how analyzing post-game surveys using Relative Insight had contributed to the Atlanta Falcons becoming the NFL’s number one team for fan experience.

The team primarily splits its surveys by promoters and detractors, examining gameday experience changes week on week. This allows the team to identify problems, then track the impact of resolutions.

Throughout the discussion, Rauri outlined ways that the Falcons had made improvements based on feedback. This included localized issues within the stadium, such as issues with bathrooms, through to wider pricing strategies — with Rauri highlighting that the Falcons had introduced a model that minimized costs associated with attending a game, such as parking and food prices.

This not only had a positive impact on the team’s fan experience rating, but also drove revenue:

“The big win that they have with the platform is the ability to have empirical evidence that backs up the recommendations they’re giving,” Rauri said.

He added: “A year after they began working with us, they were ranked number one for fan experience across the whole NFL. Over the same period, they saw a big boost in ticket revenues — up to an 11% increase.”

Marginal gains elevate gameday experience

While discussing the actions sports teams take to improve fan experience, Rauri and Tom agreed there was no silver bullet. Instead, improvements to gameday experience are a case of marginal gains — making incremental improvements that add up to make a big impact.

“The reality is a lot of the stuff that drives improved fan experience is really boring,” Rauri noted. “Ensuring queues at concession stands are really efficient, making sure that traffic and parking are as painless as possible; these sorts of things.”

On the theme of parking, Rauri raised just how common an issue this was across Relative Insight’s sports customers:

“Don’t gouge them on the price of parking. You’ll be amazed at the number of people who’ll spend $100 to attend a game but then complain about the fact that it costs $10 or $20 to park.”

He also cited the LA Clippers’ work on the Intuit Dome. A key aspect for the NBA franchise is around bathroom availability: ensuring that fans only need to leave their seats for two minutes rather than 20.

Why sports franchises need to enhance fan experience

With TV and streaming companies dominating the sporting landscape, franchises are not only competing with other teams for eyeballs. Perhaps their biggest challenge is persuading fans to abandon the comfort of the couch.

Citing Netflix’s $150m deal to show Christmas Day NFL games, the new ‘Spulu’ streaming group and Fox paying NFL legend Tom Brady $375m to be an analyst, Rauri outlined why teams need to offer more than seeing the game in person:

“You’ve got these huge corporations spending loads of money on keeping people at home and watching games on their television. Then you have these massive organizations with enormous stadiums that are reliant on getting fans into them.

“All of the organizations I speak to draw a link between their fan experience score and ticket revenue, merchandise revenue and season ticket renewals.”

Despite this, Rauri shared some examples where teams still didn’t prioritize analyzing fan feedback. The most prominent of these was after a loss, however, Rauri argued that this was the most important time to act on feedback:

“The biggest misnomer is that feedback is all around on-field performance. We’ve spoken to teams who say they don’t bother fielding a survey after a loss because all of the feedback is about that they lost.”

He added: “There’s a lot of honesty that comes out after a loss. It’s where they’re going to be really critical of the stadium and really critical of the experience.

“If you can cut through fans saying ‘fire the coach’ they’ll start to open up with comments like ‘…and the toilets weren’t clean’ or ‘…and I had to wait 20 minutes to get a bottle of water’.”

The need for specialist gameday experience AI tools

As Rauri highlighted, using the right tool is vital to cut through the noise in fan experience surveys. He and Tom talked about the use of artificial intelligence within sport, including what ChatGPT and other LLMs mean for franchises.

Rauri noted that while there a variety of tools available, it’s essential for fan experience teams to be able to use quantifiable metrics and evidence to convince stakeholders that recommended actions will have an impact on supporters’ gameday experience.

“People are making really big decisions that either cost a lot of money or make organizations a lot of money. As a result, executive leadership teams want to be sure they’re making the right decisions at the right time,” Rauri explained.

While LLMs and generative AI tools can create summaries from fan feedback, those summaries won’t persuade decision makers to take action. Feedback analysis backed by metrics and evidence – that can be audited by decision makers – will.

Rauri added: “It’s very difficult to get alignment behind a summary of verbatim feedback. It’s much easier to get that alignment behind a metric.”

Need to analyze fan experience surveys to boost your gameday experience and drive revenue? Speak to Rauri to learn how you can act on supporters’ likes and dislikes.