US Consumers Eager to Return to Stadiums Provided Certain Changes are Implemented

Thursday, March 25th, 2021

Last year was rough on stadium goers, some (21%) even cried over missing their favorite sports and concerts, according to a new Oracle Food and Beverage survey of 1,000 consumers in the United States. Moreover, they can't wait to go back. Thirty-two percent of people plan to return to stadiums immediately and 54% within the first four months after stadiums reopen.

But this enthusiasm comes with caveats. Fifty-six percent of respondents said social distancing measures should remain in place with stadiums operating at a reduced capacity. Many also want operators to rethink concessions, such as offering in-seat delivery to reduce crowded lines, and are willing to pay more for that option.   

"From season ticket holders to casual fans, consumers are looking forward to the return of in-person events, but like so many industries, sports and entertainment won't return to the status quo for some time, if ever," said Simon de Montfort Walker, senior vice president and general manager, Oracle Food and Beverage. "Operators have worked hard during the shutdown to create better, safer experiences that customers not only want but have come to expect. Technology will play a key role in the evolution of the 360-degree fan experience."

The survey, conducted by Untold Insights in January 2021, polled 3,000 consumers in the US, United Kingdom and Australia on their sentiment towards returning to stadiums this year. Access the complete Back in the Arena: Consumer trends in AU, UK and US report here

Fans really missed their sports and concerts (not to mention hot dogs)
Almost everyone (83%) missed attending live events, but some took their absence harder than others:

  • 35% of males and 24% of females noted they were "devastated" about missing live sports

  • 23% of males (19% of females) admitted to "shedding a few tears" over it

  • 37% of respondents missed the buzz or atmosphere of the live event, while 22% missed the sense of community with other fans

  • Consumers also missed the food! Hot food (hamburgers, hot dogs) topped the list at 33%, followed by cold beverages (16%), and local fare unique to the stadium (17%)

Mobile ordering in lieu of lines
Ninety-three percent of consumers surveyed said they were nostalgic about stadium food – but many want operators to rethink current models. On average, consumers don't want to wait more than nine minutes for food and beverage, both for safety reasons and because they don't want to miss the event. 

Nearly half of consumers want to skip the line altogether:

  • 48% of consumers would feel safer if their food were delivered to their seat

  • 51% said they would pay more for in-seat delivery options

  • 47% of consumers said they'd pay more to cut the line for food

Many consumers would prefer to place their order before they arrive at the stadium:

  • 67% of people would buy more if they could pre-order and avoid the line, and 56% would like to schedule their order so it will be ready at a set time

  • 57% would love a 'fast pass' system to gain priority access to food, shops and facilities; this was most popular with families with 62% rating this option as 'awesome'

  • 51% would like to plan their itinerary in advance so they can visit concessions and stores at set times to avoid the lines

Extending the fan experience beyond the arena 
The 360-degree fan experience will extend outside the arena as consumers are increasingly interested in "making a day of it." In fact, 59% of consumers said that personalized offers and promotions for nearby restaurants/bars would impact their likelihood to go out before or after the event. 

"The 360-degree fan experience starts before fans arrive and extends well beyond the park," said Joe Rembold, Technical Innovation at Delaware North Companies. "Building partnerships and introducing ways to leverage technology to engage all our fans will simultaneously improve their experience and create new revenue streams."

More than 30 major pro sports franchises rely on Delaware North to provide their fans with dining and concessions at their home venue. Hear Rembold talk more about the 360-degree fan experience at the SportsTechie 'State of the Industry' event on March 24.

In addition, although many people are eager to experience events in person again, not everyone plans to rejoin the crowds immediately. The survey found that 25% of event goers have no plans to return in 2021. This holds particularly true for Baby Boomers, 43% of whom plan to stay away this year. 

Extending the fan experience to connect and engage fans everywhere requires new engagement models: 

  • 50% of respondents said they were excited about the possibility of pre-ordering game day food and drink delivery packages

  • 39% said that getting these deliveries via drone would be "awesome"

  • 38% felt that being able to interact live with others via chat communities would enhance their enjoyment of the event

Download the full Back in the Arena: AU, UK and US consumer trends report.