How Atlanta’s Pro Sports Teams Are Disrupting Concessions

Live sports attendance is down. Some teams are doing something about it.

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According to many reports, live sports attendance is in a freefall. It’s not for a lack of interest—millennials follow sports as much as any other generation, they just have more options to watch games on their own terms. And while those preferences account for some of the dip in attendance, the teams themselves aren’t exactly hell-bent on getting people back into stadiums, either: Because of lucrative TV contracts, most major U.S. sports leagues can still make tons of money without needing to get people through the turnstiles. This is just where we’re at.

However, there is something to be said about a full stadium, both for the fan experience at the event as well as being a boon to the television experience. Going forward, teams will have to get increasingly creative to get people back into their arenas. We may very well be entering a golden age of live event promotions unseen since the height of the Veecks.

The drop in demand hasn't had any affect on ticket prices. Those keep on rising. Price is still a major pain point and that's what most teams will likely tackle first—several franchises have already introduced dynamic pricing plans. There will likely be continued experimentation on the ticketing front, especially since box office sales aren't the primary revenue drivers anymore. But some teams are focusing on another important part of the fan experience: concessions.

This year, the Atlanta Hawks introduced a new concessions menu that features affordable tiers of options, from $5 beers to $3 nachos to $1 bags of chips. This follows in the footsteps of the Falcons and Atlanta United slashing concessions across the board, which ended up driving more volume; even with the 50 percent price drop, revenue from concessions went up 13 percent. The Hawks have never been a particularly huge draw, but watching an NBA team try out promotional tactics, especially ones that don't usually happen outside of minor league baseball, is an exciting and promising development for fans and franchises alike.

Not every business strategy will have the financial success that the Falcons enjoyed; in fact, a lot of these wild promotions will end up flopping, for the organizations at least. The good will engendered by fan-friendly promotions won't show up on the balance sheet. But if the fan keeps winning, they'll keep coming back.

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