Since the record peaked in 2007, NFL game day attendance has steadily declined and teams are averaging an $800K decrease in annual ticket revenue. This fact may be puzzling considering the growing popularity of the NFL, but the explanation is simple. The slump in attendance can be largely attributed to the rise of fantasy football and its 24.3 million participants, who are now opting for their couches over the in-stadium experience on game day. Social media and technology have greatly enhanced the at-home game day experience, providing fans with unlimited access and exclusive content through apps and other online platforms. This occurrence has influenced teams in the NFL to leverage the popularity of fantasy football, social media, and technology by building in-stadium lounges dedicated to fantasy football and the current needs of fans. The thought of attending an NFL game and watching games other than the one right in front of your face may seem ridiculous. However, fantasy team managers and modern football fans now require this in-stadium capability, driving teams to fulfill these needs through the integration of fantasy football and in-stadium technology.
As the preference to stay home on game day has boosted, the participation in fantasy leagues and its revenue has grown. Pras Subramanian of Yahoo Finance’s Breakout, explains that the rapid growth of fantasy sports is due in part to several factors including the amount of youth participation, which bodes well for the future of fantasy. Subramanian also highlights the presence of FOMO, or the fear of missing out as social standing continues to be of concern among millennials. As the future of fantasy sports looks brighter and brighter, NFL teams realize the importance of catering to this large crowd of fans through in-stadium enhancements.
The Jacksonville Jaguars experienced a significant dip in game day attendance, which is no surprise considering the small-market of Jacksonville. An article published by Bloomberg’s, Curtis Eichelberger, discussed an interview with Jaguars Senior Vice President, Hussain Naqi, regarding the Jaguars reasoning behind their new fantasy lounge at EverBank Field…
[“Our fans are consuming fantasy sports and stats at a level they never had before. We want to remove any obstacles to a fan coming to the stadium. The lounge will provide a comfortable environment where they can check their scores.”]
The Jaguars and other small market teams face the constant challenge of trying to keep up and compete with large-market teams such as the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys. Catering to the needs of modern fans through in-stadium technology and WiFi is now becoming standard throughout the NFL. Leveraging the popularity of fantasy sports and enhancing the in-stadium experience will allow NFL teams struggling with game day attendance, a better opportunity for a successful future.
The San Francisco 49ers new Levi’s Stadium, which will open up at the start of the 2014 season, will also include a fantasy lounge for fans to enjoy. Levi’s Stadium, located in Santa Clara, California will be the most tech savvy stadium in America and feature amazing in-stadium capabilities. The Yahoo Fantasy Football lounge will be the “most technologically innovative space in the NFL”, according to the 49ers. Through the integration of fantasy football in Levi’s Stadium, the 49ers hope to satisfy the needs of fans, drive game day attendance, and ultimately drive online traffic, resulting in the online sharing of game day experience.
The days of simply filling stadiums with the allure of a live professional game are long gone. In order to compete with the at home game day experience, teams must now look to satisfy their fans through fantasy football lounges, in-stadium technology, and WiFi capabilities.