Something I hear from a lot of institutions is that their fans don’t show up to games until after the clock starts ticking. We act like this is the fault of the fan culture, but in reality it’s the fault of the organization. The second those gates open, it is your responsibility to entertain the people that went out of their way to be there early. Many of us fall into the habit of not owning the pregame, because we are so focused on what is going to happen in-game. But the reality is that if we want our fans to be there for entire games, we need to start courting them the second they walk in the doors. Well, maybe after they pass security. Ya, definitely after they have to deal with security. The point is it’s really hard to build the kind of atmosphere that garners a home field/court advantage if your fans aren’t even there on time.
So how do you entertain fans for the 60-90 minutes prior to a game? Well the obvious answer is pre-produced content; organization TV show, game previews and interviews, etc… But if you’ve ever met me, I’m very much for minimizing the amount of pre-produced content you use in an in-venue environment. They take a lot of time to put together and they are not very engaging. There’s a time and place for it, but if people wanted to watch TV they wouldn’t come to watch the game in person. People are there to be active and participate, so anything you might do pregame should fulfill those desires.
One of my favorite, new ideas that we will hopefully be implementing in the future is “bar trivia.” Obviously we’re not calling it bar trivia, but the concepts of the game will stay the same. Working with our rewards app developer, the idea is that we will display trivia questions on the video board relevant to the sport and within our rewards app fans will be able to compete against one another. Leaders each night will claim reward points, and boom; suddenly we’ve created not only an incentive for fans to come early, but for them to get involved.
Once fans feel involved, that involvement will turn into energy, that energy will turn into cheers, and those cheers will culminate into the home field/court advantage we are all looking for. If nothing else, I guarantee that the one weird guy that wins your local trivia night every week will start showing up to your games.
Most days we all like to chalk up our failures to the supernatural; “our fans never show up on time,” “the fan energy was dead.” But when we really look at it, we can always find where we as show-runners might be lacking, and better yet, find new, creative ways to engage our fans. What I’m getting at is that there’s a reason for the way our fans act, and it’s typically because we cultivate the culture they take part in. So take charge of your pregame (and post game for that matter!) Give them a reason to come early and stay late! It will pay dividends when you need your fans most.