Rebuilding Community Trust In A Sports Product Takes Time
One of the strangest mentalities for a franchise executive to have is indignation in why customers and the overall community are not showing up to games. Especially when the sports organization has been long souring the public with outside controversies and factors that have nothing to do with the games being played. When the franchise couples all of the horrible sentiment with a losing performance on the field, as well as a shoddy fan-experience, the experiment can be deadly to the long-term future of the team in that area.
It comes down to a perception of whether or not the customers can believe in the product, and whether they feel that the franchise cares about their involvement in the product nightly, that matters.
But even bad gameplay that convinces franchise executives that “once we win” everything will be okay. Fans will show up again. As if winning becomes a magic elixir that changes all moods, restores all feelings from the public relations disaster nonsense that a franchise or league has been spewing out for years into the community through media outlets.
All of this likely also happens under three different ownership groups of the franchise or several executive changes, each with their own methodology to revel in angering the public sentiment as well as appearing tone-deaf to the idea that they are to be of service to the customer, rather than the other way around.
This happens way too much in the sports industry. Some of it is the fault of the leagues, who see the dollar signs that a new ownership group can bring in, but don’t necessarily check on whether the owners have good sports business acumen. Or that the ownership group won’t decide to hire a bunch of cronies in front office positions who like to send nasty letters to long-time season ticket holders of their publicly financed stadiums, informing the customer of “their obligations” toward season tickets.
When the team starts to revive itself on the field, and it does happen, way too many folks become shocked that there isn’t an “instant” crowd ready to flock to games. That isn’t how the sports entertainment world works, especially when there are public ties to political gamesmanship over stadium financing or leases or ticket policies or media blackouts.
That was one of the issues that franchises used to be able to ignore when it came to the customer. If the customer didn’t care, it didn’t really matter, because there were very few offerings in town that matched the live sports experience. Customers could be as angry as they wanted toward a team, but once the team won, the customer would pay up their money, and winning results would mask the overall community resentment toward team decisions on-and-off the field.
Now that has changed, to a global scale.
Fans don’t show up like they used to when they are angry at the team. They hold grudges over issues that haven’t been corrected by the franchise. And they don’t instantly “snap back” into place and start attending games when a team begins to win, especially after a putrid 10-year streak of being moribund.
Franchises also forget that they are an entertainment dollar factor. The absent public may have also built other entertainment pattern alternatives in place of their attendance at franchise events. That takes time to rebuild and may be lost forever once a family finds another alternative to spend their budgeted dollars.
With one entertainment option attended, another entertainment option goes unattended.
This means that if a team has been completely mismanaged for years, that once the franchise has executives to steer it onto the right track, there should be a 2-to-3 year rebuilding process of trust between the team and community. This doesn’t mean discounting as a way to entice a price point either. It means building overall value – enough that it dismantles the old arguments or slights against attending the great product and makes it worth the time of the consumer to attend and enjoy.