Entertainment can add value to sport

Major sporting events must up their game

FredFifty quid doesn’t go far these days in the worlds of sport and entertainment. It is, if you’re lucky, a ticket to a top-flight gig or maybe a seat at a high-profile sporting fixture. But the experience as a fan at either of these can be very different.

A night out at The O2 in London might begin with a gourmet pizza and cocktail at one of the restaurants in the venue. There might be a support act or two before the event. And after the gig you might enjoy a few perks at The O2 lounge or have a backstage pass to meet the band.

At many sporting events, unless you’re on a corporate jolly, you might manage a pie, a pint and a cheap plastic seat. Actually, the corporate jolly can be part of the problem. For hard-core supporters, there’s not much fun to be had at flagship fixtures dominated by a bunch of stiff necks who aren’t even fans.

At the tennis, you’ll have the same cramped plastic seats but you’ll be buying overpriced strawberries and cream. At the rugby, you might have a choice of burger bar, which you’ll get to eat in – that’s right – a cramped plastic seat.

Real sports fans might argue that these things – corporate guests aside – add to the atmosphere. But with ticket prices escalating, competition increasing and sports sponsors dropping like flies, there’s a need to draw in those fans who might consider sports events too grotty or poor value – a great opportunity for clever thinking by agencies in the entertainment space.

One answer could be the coupling of sports events with entertainment (potentially provided by brands). I’m not advocating a Superbowl-style extravaganza, where the game is swallowed up in a wave of lip-synching artists and wardrobe malfunctions, but the sports world needs to make itself better value, and this could mean learning from the world of entertainment.

When done well, entertainment can fit right in to a sporting event. I wouldn’t want to suggest repeating the experience, but Cliff Richard’s infamous impromptu gig at Wimbledon accidentally found a large cross-over market that would rather enjoy that sort of thing. The secret lies in pleasing, surprising and delighting fans.

Despite its issues and the circus that surrounds it, Formula One has bridged these two worlds successfully. Every race attracts a bevy of actors, musicians and supermodels who appeal to fans and broadcasters alike. Few sports attract acts of the calibre of The Who, performing at the opening race in Melbourne. Formula One’s ability to marry sports and entertainment has allowed it to widen its fan base and to acquire global entertainment status. Impressive indeed.

Fred Porro is Managing Director of ignition

ignition is a member of the MCCA

www.mcca.org.uk 020 7535 3550

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