With alcohol consumption slowing, the value of screening live sport to venues is driving innovation and profitability. We talk to the experts to reveal how to make the most of the opportunity.
“We know from surveys that sports fans want atmosphere in venues. Surprisingly, food and drink specials didn’t really feature that highly,” says Patrick Galloway, a sports journalist and founder
of Sports Year, a sports scheduling service for venues. This appetite for ‘experience’ has been cited extensively in millennial reports as a key driver for potential pub patrons. With extensive reasons to stay at home, from streaming options like Netflix to Deliveroo food deliveries and cut-price alcohol available in the home, the trump card pubs can play to lure patrons away from their couches and into venues is the sheer spectacle of live sport on the big screen enjoyed with fellow fans.
“We’re working with over 100 venues, mainly across the eastern seaboard,” says Galloway. “[They’re telling us] the future of hospitality is about creating a venue that’s a magical experience for
sports fans or any patron.”
It’s why venues such as the Ambarvale Hotel, NSW are investing heavily in renos that cater for these segmented sport-loving crowds.
“Our goal was to create something pretty special for the sport-loving community that exists out in the Macarthur region,” says Damian Burcher of Parras Hospitality, the hotel’s owners.
“To do that, we’ve broken it up into a number of different areas. Each has its own little identity and its own purpose.
“The public bar has been put together as an everyman’s bar, there’s a couple of TVs that are sport-focused. But it’s not your traditional TAB jammed-into-the-corner bar. It’s a dedicated public bar, with an outdoor area and its own balcony. It’s located right next to the TAB for die-hard racing fans. We’ve put in an eight-panel multiscreen video wall. That’s got a focus on racing but it has a
sporting element too.
“The gaming room we have a sports theatre. It’s a more reserved sporting area for those that might want to come down on a Monday morning to watch the NRL final, or March Madness, or the NBA finals, but who aren’t that ‘public bar’ style of crowd. It’s all low loungers, meant to be that comfortable, bordering on luxury, style of seating. While it’s not cinema style, it’s
certainly got some punch.”
The changes they have made, with the guidance of Paul Kelly Design, aims to respond to changing sports consumers.
“Sport has been traditionally a male-dominant area,” says Burcher, “we think it’s moving away from that and we wanted to ensure we had some spaces that are comfortable for anybody. We believe that everybody should have an area and breaking it up the way we have has succeeded in that.”
Design changes are a physical response to what the numbers are telling people like Galloway and his team about how live sport is changing. This includes the exploding popularity of US-based sports, the incremental rise of female leagues, and the onset of streaming providers.
“Sports fans want big screens and volume,” says Galloway, citing survey results.
“Communicating to fans what a venue is showing in those areas is really key. Sports fans really appreciate knowing ‘I’m going to see this game, live and loud’.
“I’m seeing the rise of US sport as a major opportunity,” says Galloway. “We’re now seeing the NBA as the TAB’s most popular sport to bet on. It has this massive cult following among males in Australia aged between 20-30. It is huge. So big that the American basketball team are coming out here in August to play the Boomers twice. The NBA knows how important this market is for the future of its sport. Venues are seeing this appetite for US sport really coming through in that younger demographic.”
There are however, Galloway believes, a number of venues struggling to cope with the sheer weight of sports broadcasts on offer.
“I’m seeing a lot of venues [being overwhelmed] by the sports schedule,” says Galloway, “compounded by the fragmentation of broadcast – a lot of venues have the Fox Sports package but it won’t be long before streaming comes into venues, people like Amazon, Twitter, Facebook come into this space in Australia.”
Key to succeeding in this space is ensuring your venue has a quality AV set-up, appropriate décor for your audience, a clear sports schedule and that your total offering is communicated widely and consistently.