While I usually write about the online and digital media worlds, I have also spent years in the world of offline live entertainment. And, almost always, the physical world ignores the power of the virtual world (among other things). Based on my experience, here are 8 concrete ways to generate significant new revenues in that physical world.
Actively Promote Deeper Fan Engagement Online
Yes, your sports teams and music events take place in the physical/offline world, but your fans are increasingly mobile and multi-screen. Most live entertainment players still don't understand this -- and certainly don't appreciate how significant this is for revenue generation. Here's the deal -- the key is to engage more frequently and effectively first with your existing fans and, second, with prospective new fans. These should not be seen as "one and done" events. The goal should be to extend the overall fan "experience" and transform that into being a daily part of their lives. The online and mobile worlds offer unique power and potential. Now, so long as the content is compelling, fans can be "reached" anytime, anywhere. An ongoing relationship -- never before possible -- should be the new normal. Think ESPN here -- innovators in driving content across all screens. If I were a sports exec, I would make it a priority to explore new ways to reach fans online -- with video being a core focus of such engagement (since video is far more engaging than still images or text). Ultimately, engaged fans spend more, monetize more. They also will generate higher overall NPS (net promoter scores) -- which means expanded positive word-of-mouth that will drive even more new fans and revenues.
As part of such online engagement, I would certainly add premium features (including deeper content) and services to existing team and venue websites that will drive "up-selling" a percentage of fans from the free content to such deeper content and features via a subscription "freemium" model. Again, think ESPN here -- which offers subscription packages for added value-added features and services, including mobile access.
Actively Promote Deeper Fan Engagement Offline
Once again, a key revenue accelerator is both more effective online and offline fan engagement -- a virtuous cycle that feeds and keeps feeding. On the offline/live side, the focus again should be on optimizing the overall fan "experience." That means several things -- better venues, premium services, special events, special access (to the players, to the coaches, to the artists and entertainers) and continuous online marketing of these. Think AEG's AXS service here. AXS offers VIP concert packages that combine prime seats with unique perks, including actual face time with performers. I myself recently became a customer of such enhanced services at the Valley View Casino Center (aka San Diego Sports Arena) via the VIP "Players Lounge" and pay $2500 annually for preferred services. Think of expanding this kind of VIP access even further with full-day events that include pre-game/concert and post-game/concert -- and other innovative VIP perks. Think Taylor Swift here as well, because she is an innovator in monetizing her fan base continuously both online and offline. She regularly engages via her fan club, which means her fans pay more in both worlds. Each sports team should have its own formal "fan club" which gives special perks.
Incentivize Fans to Market For You via Social Media
As noted, the virtual world gives transformative compelling new opportunities to reach fans anytime, anywhere. And, higher NPS means more positive word-of-mouth (more revenues). So, the key is not only to communicate directly online to the fans (and prospective fans), another key is to fan the flames of social media so that the fans themselves directly communicate (i.e. market) to others. Obvious examples of social media are Facebook and Twitter. Less obvious is to motivate fans to make their own videos that are "powered by passion" and are distributed themselves. Think a team or event-focused YouTube-like experience here. Think also of fan user-generated content (primarily video) in connection with special contests. Contests that become viral because the ultimate "prize" is compelling. These kinds of campaigns have worked effectively in the music world (including music fans actually creating music videos used by the bands themselves).
Deepen Community Partnerships & Incentivize Communities and Local Businesses to Market For You
This concept is similar to above, but here the sports team or venue focuses on community organizations and businesses themselves rather than individual fans and prospective fans. The goal is to engage local businesses and organizations to "care" more -- i.e., to have skin in the game by incentivizing them to market your team or venue to further drive their own business success. This includes their overall revenues by sharing in a percentage of revenues they directly drive to the team or venue. Deep partnership experience is critical here.
Expand Out-of-City Fan Engagement (Including INTERNATIONAL)
I am an avid life-long Minnesota Vikings fan, because I was born and raised in Minneapolis. That loyalty stays for me and others, even when we have long left our original cities and states. In my case, I left Minnesota years ago and have lived in Southern California for 25 years. Yes, I watch every single Vikings game on DirecTV. But, I don't shell out cash for any other Vikings-focused "things," because the Vikings do not focus on me. They essentially only focus on the obvious fans who physically surround them. However, I (and others like me) would pay for much more if other meaningful opportunities were available. So, the answer is simple -- give out-of-city and state fans opportunities to be part of the action and close to the team or live event! That means international fans too (which essentially has not happened at all. Focus certain marketing and "special offers" on out-of-state and international fans -- and engage them to be part of the story. Expand the brand!
Here is just one example of a missed international opportunity. When I recently traveled to Europe, I couldn't even watch my beloved Vikes on DirecTV, because DirecTV subscribers like me have no rights to view NFL games outside the U.S. This is crazy -- I would have paid! Wherever there is passion, there is money. And, sports and entertainment events generate lots of passion.
Add Deeper Meaning to Being a "Fan" via High Impact Philanthropic Activities & Contributions
This idea is related to above. Help make fans care more -- invest more -- and, hence, want to spend more, because a meaningful portion of sales go back to social causes that are universal such as education. In this way, the team or music event becomes more than mere entertainment. It becomes larger than life. Think of the company Control Room here -- producers of massive international live events like "Live Earth." Think also of Tom's Shoes here where a certain percentage of each sale is given back. My wife, Luisa, runs a non-profit organization known as "Giving Tree Movement" which focuses on the family and youth empowerment -- causes of broad appeal. Much more can be done. It is the right thing to do. And, it is good business.
Negotiate More Effectively, Negotiate Better Deals & Accelerate Revenues
While this one is obvious, it frequently is lost in the shuffle. Bad negotiating and dealmaking leaves lots of money on the table. Find experienced dealmakers, negotiators and closers (after all, a deal doesn't matter unless it is signed and implemented). Pay them well. The right person can mean tens of millions of additional revenues (if not more). Think of corporate sponsorships -- the life's blood for sports teams and entertainment venues. But, also think of new online revenue streams and streaming rights. You need biz execs who really "get" both the physical and virtual worlds - and how to maximize the overall opportunity by effectively marrying them.
Focus on "Leaner and Meaner" Business Operations/Cost Savings
Expanding revenue generation and overall monetization opportunities is crucial, but don't forget the other side of the equation -- i.e., the cost side. It's not just about the top line, it's about the bottom line too. Too many businesses -- especially in the sports, media and entertainment worlds -- suffer from a legacy of bloat. It is high time for them to become "leaner" and "meaner" operations -- i.e., to learn from start-up entrepreneurial companies that do more with less. And, cost containment does not mean low employee morale and motivation. On the contrary, talented team players will thrive in that kind of environment -- and in the enhanced opportunities it creates.
And, don't forget the greatest motivator -- you and your team are working in the sports, music and live entertainment worlds! The perks alone make it worthwhile!
One final note -- the reverse is true as well. Virtually all online businesses have ignored the physical world, leaving significant money on the table. The online experience should be similarly extended into the offline world to promote the brand, differentiate the service and deepen overall customer engagement. As one example, why doesn't online music service Pandora differentiate itself from all other online music services -- as well as take its customer relationships to an entirely new dimension -- by adding live "Pandora Unboxed" music festivals that drive significant new scalable revenues and integrate a significant "give back" component? That's the kind of thinking I am talking about.