Best customer experience for live sports – the NBA?

The Philadelphia Flyers appear to have begun a fire sale this past week with the departure of 2 of their top players in Jeff Carter and Mike Richards.   It appears they have decided to rebuild for a future run at the Stanley Cup.

This got me thinking.  I am a long time Maple Leafs fan who has watched many disappointing seasons from the days of Salming and Leeman, with only a glimmer of hope during the ‘93 & ‘94 seasons (Congrats to Gilmour for his induction in to the Hall of Fame).   I wondered what it really takes to deliver quality customer service for major league sports teams.

There are many aspects of professional sports franchises that could be used to measure success.  Revenue, profit, game attendance, team standings and, of course, trophies are some examples.  What is it that really makes for a good customer experience?   If the Leafs are any indication, it’s not winning!

But Toronto fans will tell you the Leafs are an anomaly, perhaps like the Chicago Cubs, and LA Lakers.  Fans will support the team no matter how they perform.  The brand has been built up sufficiently that customer experience doesn’t seem to have the same impact as it does for their competitors.

In general, a franchise in any pro sports league must provide a thriving team that is often in contention to win the championship.   Ticket prices are important but don’t seem to be an incentive or deterrent.  They have a tough time giving away tickets in certain markets, while others have inflated prices and packed houses.

Beyond that, the experience of going to a game must include ways to keep the fans attention.  The NBA, in my opinion, is a trailblazer for the ‘live game experience’.   Laser shows, booming music, loud announcers, spot giveaways, acrobatic mascots, exciting half-time shows and designated rowdy fan sections seem to soften the blow of  a $4 hot dog and $12 beer.   It almost seems like the GAME is the sideshow.  Not to mention those in the first few rows have the opportunity to be crushed by a 7 foot centre trying to save the ball from going out of bounds.

The NBA had t-shirt cannons before some other professional leagues realized they had fans in attendance.  It also helps to have colourful players, coaches and owners to keep games more exciting.

Major League baseball has three frequent exciting plays; the homerun, the double play, and the manager kicking dirt on an umpire.   There is a lot of downtime in a baseball game.  Is the 7th inning stretch enough?

The NFL draws on a fan base that fills college and even high school stadiums.  Besides the actual game, the only entertainment of significance that I see, is the half-time show during the Superbowl (for years the fans at home at least had the benefit of listening to John Madden’s ramblings ).

Professional soccer leagues around the world are able to draw fans with only one half-time break in a 90 minute game and usually no frills.  Where is the effort!?

Readers:  Do pro sports teams need to keep us entertained during every moment of downtime during a game?  How much does this affect your experience when going to a game?  Who has the best show?

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