Photo credit: Streeter Lecka / Getty Images
It’s shaping up to be a big year for the Atlanta Falcons. After beating the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship, the team is set to face off with the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 51 in Houston on February 5.
As if having a dream season isn’t enough, the team is preparing to move to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium later this year. With a retractable roof and an origami-like exterior design, the $1.5 billion state-of-the-art facility is nothing like we’ve ever seen in the NFL.
With a brand new stadium, however, comes higher ticket prices—and even higher fan expectations. AMB Sports & Entertainment (owner of Atlanta Falcons, Atlanta United FC and Mercedes-Benz Stadium) knows that the experience in the new stadium needs to match the building’s beauty and grandeur. The company is engaging with fans now to exceed their expectations by the time the new stadium opens.
In a recent webinar hosted by the National Sports Forum, Kevin Schohl, director of business analytics at AMB Sports & Entertainment, shared how the company uses fan insight to create and deliver the ultimate in-stadium experience. Here are some of our favorite takeaways from Schohl’s presentation.
1. Commit to fan-centricity
At Atlanta Falcons, improving the fan experience starts from the top. Owner Arthur Blank has instilled a culture of fan-centricity, mandating everyone in the organization to deliver a superb experience. Instead of obsessing over the ROI of everything, the company believes that dollars and cents will work themselves out later if the fan experience comes first.
“We want to ensure that all elements of the guest experience are as great as they can be,” shares Schohl. “Our owner repeatedly stresses that the quality of the guest service needs to be excellent in order to match the [quality of the] building itself.”
2. Assemble a team focused on fan experience
The state runs the old stadium so the company had little control over many aspects of the fan experience. That changes with the opening of the new building. The responsibility for every aspect of the in-stadium experience now falls squarely on the company.
To better serve its fans, the company hired leaders with strong background in creating memorable experiences for customers. Two former customer experience experts from Disney joined the company, including Mike Gomes, who came on board as senior vice president. The customer experience team’s mandate is simple but challenging: do whatever it takes to create the ultimate fan experience. Bringing people on board who don’t have a revenue responsibility but focus on the fan experience helps drive the company’s lofty goals.
3. Use tools that engage fans in a meaningful way
Market research is nothing new in the sports business, but AMB Sports & Entertainment recognized that traditional methods weren’t effective enough. Many research methods, including ad hoc satisfaction surveys, flagged issues in the experience but didn’t reveal the insight needed to solve them. Traditional approaches often resulted in low participation rate.
“We weren’t getting enough responses,” explains Schohl. “Even among season-ticket holders, we weren’t getting a consistent set of feedback.”
To better engage with fans, the company launched the Atlanta Falcons Fan Council and the Atlanta United Fan Council. These two branded insight communities allow both teams to engage their most passionate fans in an ongoing conversation about all aspects of the fan experience. Fan intelligence from these communities helps inform business decisions as the company began planning new services and offerings for the new stadium.
"Fans see the investments being made into truly understanding what they think."
The community approach helps the company take fan engagement to the next level because it lets fans know they’re part of something special—that their participation influences the company. “Fans see the investments being made into truly understanding what they think,” Schohl explains.
4. Offer exclusive perks to your raving fans
According to Schohl, food and beverage tend to have the worst ratings among in-stadium satisfaction factors in many sports teams. To set higher quality standards with the opening of its new stadium, the company knew it had to involve fans from the beginning.
The company turned to its insight communities to understand the fan preferences and to optimize price points. For example, Schohl’s team asked fans about their favorite restaurants and approached potential partner restaurants based on that information. In-person events took fan engagement one step further. The company invited fans from its insight communities to exclusive tasting events to get more feedback. Some members also took part in launch parties featuring the stadium’s partner restaurants.
Thanks to fan feedback, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium will offer food and beverage options that emphasize variety, speed of service, quality and value. The company is confident that it has a food lineup that will delight fans and reflect Atlanta’s diverse, vibrant culinary scene.
Learn from fan experience pros
Opening a new stadium isn’t an easy undertaking—it’s expensive and potentially risky. But by understanding exactly who their fans are, what they want and why, the Atlanta Falcons and the Atlanta United FC can be confident that the experience in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium will be just as impressive as the building itself.
To learn how the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United FC are making the fan experience their #1 play, watch our webinar featuring Schohl.