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Speaking in the broadest terms there are two main types of people who engage in the sporting events industry - those who enjoy watching sporting events, and those who enjoying playing sports and engaging in specific events whether they be professional or amateur.
Sporting events are usually competitive, inviting a series of different teams or individual athletes to come together and partake in some form of league where at least one team or athlete will be declared the winner. For the most part, the biggest and most prominent sporting events in the industry are team events ascertained and selected by consumers based on location and hometown loyalty (for example football), though the rise in prominence of various individual athletic sports through largescale events like the Olympics has created a consumer demand and appreciation for individual talents – and has seen a huge increase in the number of consumers who are interested in partaking in new sports and activities.
This is one of the major trends which can be seen as a result of the sporting events industry – the increase in participation and the subsequent rise in sporting clubs which are popping up all over the world to serve different styles and types of training and sporting activity – from athletics to running clubs, cycling clubs, and amateur and professional organised sports clubs and courses. What this does is create a blurred line between the provision of professional staged sporting events and amateur events, with more and more crossover occurring as spectator’s transition to become participants.
To track this in action, let’s look at an example of a sport which lends itself to both professional and amateur sporting events; translating well across different platforms and utilising the power of various marketing avenues to increase participation as well as the popularity as a spectator sport. This example is of course running – a sport which dominates the sporting event sector as an event in the global Olympic games, underpinning the world renowned marathon routes all over the world, creating competition across a range of different distances thus appealing to a wider market of athletes, and holding responsibility for the increase in local and community running clubs and consumer initiatives such as Park Run. Running enjoys one of the top spots in popular sporting events primarily because it can be enjoyed anywhere – by anyone, or all abilities and experience levels, and with very little need for equipment beyond a pair of running trainers and potentially a map or sports watch.
Athletes often say that the biggest competitor in any sporting event should be your previous self, and that is what the success of any good runner rests on – being better than they were before.
When we look at the sporting events that consumers want to and are happy to take part in, one of the overriding things to note is the way in which these sports are generally less competitive, instead leaning on a kind of community spirit which invites all manner of different people to take part. Team sports dominate a large majority of this industry, though the rise in running clubs, local running leagues, cycling sportif’s and other unique sporting events has led to an increase in consumer interest towards one-off and individual sporting events. When it comes to cycling in particular, these sportif’s tend to garner a much higher level of interest from a wider demographic when compared with the traditional cycling races, primarily because anyone can enter a sportif, participants do not have to belong to any kind of club in order to take part, and the event as a whole provides a cost effective and cheap day out packed full of entertainment in the form of tons of different races – appealing to the captive leisure consumer audience.
A lot of the charm of participation sports is the spontaneous nature of them, with football being one of the most popular sports where local friends and community groups could join together off the cuff and take part in a small league or single game to determine who the better team is. Tennis is another sport which is often considered distinctly social, with many clubs offering walk in sessions and blocked out periods where players can turn up and have a hit about with others of a similar ability, regardless of membership or not. Some clubs will, in these instances, ask for a small participation fee while others will simply welcome the broader range of users.
Thus, it follows that in some cases, membership and “members only” sporting events can, rather than creating an air of exclusivity, in fact often be off-putting to otherwise captive consumers, as the need to be a member drives the cost of participating up hugely and renders the cost effective nature of any community sport null and void.
Some of the other most popular sports for participation include:
Much of the popularity of different sports and activities can be determined by the quantity of provisions and venues which exist to facilitate them. Tennis courts and golf courses are rife all over the world; just like running tracks and cycle routes are becoming more widely shared and known by interested consumers thanks to the increase in the use of smart map apps, Strava and OS maps.
This is where the sporting event industry becomes a sector which starts to drive profit and make money, with professional and organised sporting events dominating the mainstream media focus on sporting events and showing favour to certain events and sports over others in line with consumer demand the viewer analysis.
While amateur and participation sports are designed to be enjoyed by the widest possible consumer base both in terms of playing and taking part, and spectating, professional sporting events are designed to showcase the best of the best – utilising various different platforms in order to fulfil demand for spectators who wish to see the sport event being played out. One of the biggest transformations in the last few years has been in the way that these sporting events are presented to consumers all over the world, with new technologies allowing cameras to live stream the event onto mainstream media channels for live viewing – giving consumers a chance to follow the action as it happens rather than hours later when the footage is uploaded.
Of course, the professional sporting event industry isn’t all about live streaming and the capturing of footage – for the lucky few who are local to the event or who choose to invest in the travel time and cost associated with getting to the venue to catch the event live, there are a wide variety of provisions and extra industry features which elevate and create somewhat of a complete consumer experience around and including any given sporting event.
Modern day professional sporting events tend to revolve as much around the venue as they do around the game or event itself – with most top league football teams owning, operating and training within their own distinct stadium which is associated closely with their hometown or city. For those consumers who are especially interested in various aspects of a sporting event or particular sport, for example football, stadium and home team tours are available regularly for fans to get a behind-the-scenes look at the venue for some of the world’s most exciting sporting events – though for those who are only interested in the event itself, the hospitality provision is very different.
One of the most prominent areas of hospitality within the sporting events industry is the creation and hiring out of boxes – something which isn’t exclusive to sports and also features in theatres and live concert venues, all of which capitalise on the concept that wealthier consumers will be looking for a more high end and exclusive experience.
Most of the big sporting venues have some level of hospitality package available which elevates the consumer experience of any given sporting event dependent on the season and the type of game that is being played. These packages often vary, from basic packages which offer consumers a ticket to the sporting event and entry into a pre-match bar; to middle packages which offer a meal and tickets; all the way up to top level packages which may include meet and greet experiences with players and athletes, as well as all the basic provisions of a standard package ticket. With experiences becoming more and more coveted as the world becomes more technological, and as experiences and memories continue to outweigh the ownership of possessions, we tend to find that these kinds of top level packages are not only available for purchase but can also be won at auction and through charity events after being donated by a club or athlete. These charitable endeavours give the sporting event industry a broader air of social responsibility as well as profit and competition and encourage more consumers to become engaged in the provision of live sporting events.
For those consumers looking to enjoy the hospitality packages at a top sporting event but without the cost, it is worth understanding the way that pricing structures are created based on the teams and athletes taking part in the sporting events – for example a premier league football team playing against a team of a similar level would be considered top tier and therefore the most expensive in terms of package prices. However, if that same premium league team were to play a team considered lower league, the package costs might well be bumped down in line with a mid-level or even low level price. It all depends on how much of a league or competition rests on that game, how much coverage it is likely to get, and how crucial it is considered to be under the existing league or competition being played.
And then we have the executive boxes which offer the highest level of hospitality available in the sporting event sector; often hosting team or athlete sponsors, providing corporate sponsors with prime opportunities for entertaining clients and friends, or simply generating extra income through single match sales or rentals to high paying consumers.
One of the major trends which is prominent in the sporting event industry is the increasing gender balance which is seeing more and more women’s team and individual sport and games being televised and advertised across mainstream media. While still nowhere near as widescale as the coverage awarded to men’s sporting events, the growth of the women’s sporting sector is making waves and is bringing about a shift in the way that gender is presented through the sports world.
Another trend refers to the rise in popularity of sports which have long been considered leisure activities worthy of taking part in but not necessarily highly linked with entertainment and spectating. Some great examples of this include a few we explored earlier – cycling, running, and even triathlon – all of which have been given more of a mainstream platform in recent years as consumers come to realise the excitement and tension that can be pulled from the running track of a professional marathon or a velodrome housing some of the world’s greatest cyclists. As proof of this, in looking at the top sporting events on a global scale in the last couple of years, some of the events at the very top include:
What this list shows above all is that no one sport dominates the top sporting events in the world – in fact, popularity relies as much on the way the sporting event is considered entertaining to watch, the teams or players involved, and the overall hype which surrounds it, as the game play itself.
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