16 Apr 2020

Sports organisations urged to revise ticket prices when competitions resume

3:59 pm on 16 April 2020

Fans can be fickle at the best of times but if sports organisations want to see their supporters back after the tough times they will need to change what they offer.

Phoenix fans hold up their scarfs during an A-League match.

Photo: Photosport

Sports organisations will be banking on fans' support when competitions resume, but a researcher warns returning to business as usual will not get supporters rushing back through the turnstiles.

Dr Michael Naylor, a senior lecturer and researcher in sport leadership and management at AUT, said a "ferocious battle for fan attention" would be waged in New Zealand and around the world later this year once the Covid-19 restrictions were eased - and sports organisations needed to be ready.

"Only the most innovative, data-driven approaches will work and those that go back to business as usual will be left with empty stadia, poor TV ratings and little revenue," Dr Naylor said.

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When live sport returned it would be an "ultra competitive" market for fans' attention and Dr Naylor said sports needed to consider their fanbases' diverse and changing circumstances.

The sports organisations that immediately put in place revised ticket packages would be among the few to thrive, he said.

"Franchises ought to be looking very carefully at their fanbases, considering embedded segments of those for whom buying tickets is no longer realistic due to job loss and those that have weathered the lockdown, kept a job and may be chomping at the bit to get back to watching live sport."

How sports clubs engaged with supporters while there was no live sport to watch or react to would play a part in how fans responded when clubs needed them back in the stands.

"It is very challenging to keep sport fans engaged in an off-season let alone in an unprecedented situation like this," Dr Naylor said.

"The novelty of watching replays will soon wear off and sport marketers are going to have to be more savvy with creative engagement ideas to stay connected with fans in lockdown."

The Wellington Phoenix were on a winning run and sitting in third place on the points ladder when the A-League was suspended on 23 March.

Under the current border restrictions on both sides of the Tasman, season members would be unlikely to see any more A-League action in Wellington this season including what could have been home playoff games.

The Phoenix's head of fan engagement James Craw said many fans were "upset that possibly the best season to date" had been put on hold, but overall fans had been positive about the team's success.

Football Federation Australia would reassess the A-League's suspension on 22 April, however, the Phoenix faced the challenge of keeping positivity and interaction flowing during the down time which could last for at least a couple more months.

This season Craw said the Phoenix had required their players to be more accessible to supporters, on match day and in the community, as the club focussed on building better fan engagement.

Under lockdown these interactions had moved online.

"The Phoenix has built a strong online and social media presence over the years, and we're relying heavily on this now as a key communication tool to our fans and supporters," Craw said.

"We've been trying new and different ways to connect our fans to our players as much as possible, through video interviews and challenges, coach Q&As, even the chance for fans to have a video call with players in lockdown."

Craw said season members had not been forgotten and had been thanked for their on-going support.

"Our season members are a vital part of the club's success, and we owe it to them to keep them informed about the latest developments, and to value them for supporting the club - through good times and bad."

Northern Stars Grace Kara and Northern Mystics Phoenix Karaka prior to the first game of this season.

Northern Stars Grace Kara and Northern Mystics Phoenix Karaka pose with fans ahead of their first game of the 2020 ANZ Premiership season. Photo: Photosport

Netball fans only saw one round of the ANZ Premiership before New Zealand's top-tier domestic competition was initially postponed for two weeks, and then put on hold indefinitely.

The Northern Mystics won their opening game against Auckland rivals the Northern Stars but did not get to play on their home court before the competition shut down.

The franchise had "a loyal and long-standing group of season members", many who have supported the team since the start, Northern Mystics operations manager Chris Tennant said

"We've been keeping in contact with them with regular updates and general check-in personal emails," she said.

While players could not entertain the fans on court, they had been asked to do so from home.

"Our players have been set tasks to complete each week to film and gather content for our social pages, giving our fans a glimpse of what is happening within their own bubbles - each day one of our Mystics players takes over our Instagram and Facebook story."

Tickets for individual ANZ Premiership matches that were purchased for the 2020 season would be refunded.

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