Give Retail a Sporting Chance

The worlds of sports and retail are colliding

7 August 2018

Russell Scott

Head of Commercial

Two of the biggest markets we work in are sports stadia and shopping centres.  On the face of it, very different markets and customer profile, but both facing similar challenges in creating an experience that encourages their customers to arrive earlier, spend more, stay longer and return more often.

And whilst our biggest challenge in sport is helping clubs turn their fans into customers; it’s becoming increasingly clear that the focus of our work in retail is helping turn their customers into fans.

Beyond the 90 Minutes

Sporting organisations, particular football clubs, have customer loyalty that most consumer brands can only dream of, confirmed by the ‘Spurs till I die’ tattoo that greeted me in the gym earlier this week. But that loyalty comes at a price, you only have to look at the fallout from a new owner deciding to get ‘his’ team to play in another colour to realise how carefully loyalty needs to be handled.

Huge improvements in access to content have driven football’s boom.  TV coverage has improved in both quality and quantity whilst highlights on social media and countless websites make football a 24/7 experience. This serves to create greater awareness and engagement with the sport but also means clubs are having to work hard to maintain the appeal of the live event, making sure the match day experience keeps pace with the new ever-present and seductive digital alternatives.

In reaction to this instant coffee has become freshly ground and locked gates have opened early welcoming supporters into fan-zones where our giant screens and production teams deliver a carefully curated mix of content and brand activation, helping to build the excitement all the time accompanied by opportunities to buy merchandising, food and drink.

But the core change is important, the 90 minute match isn’t enough to ensure the audience doesn’t opt for the cinema, a restaurant or just the sofa as an alternative. Fans expectations have changed, new younger audiences expect to be entertained and if the experience doesn’t evolve they’ll spend their time and money on a long and appealing list of alternatives.

Liverpool FC’s fan zone encourages supporters to arrive earlier, stay longer and spend more

Learning from Sport

Retail is facing a very similar challenge.  Competition isn’t coming from the centre in the next town, it’s coming from the device in customers’ pockets.  Choice and convenience used to be enough – acres of carparks and a strong anchor tenant was a recipe for success – but no matter how big your carpark it’s never going to compete with the real convenience of not leaving the sofa and having your purchases brought to you.

So the battleground is shifting, but just as technology is creating the challenge, so it can be harnessed to help address the problem. More and more venues are using big screens to share compelling content experiences allowing audiences to both consume and contribute to the narrative and be used as a platform to create those social moments that help to drive genuine customer advocacy and push them into fan behaviour territory.

But there is a challenge. To date most of the screens we’ve installed in retail have been for advertising, pure revenue generation, capitalising on high footfall to generate welcome additional income but without contributing to customer experience.

A New Beginning

A new approach is needed. One that meets, greets, moves and excites customers and one that recognises that the audience changes, not just by season but also by time of day and day of week. Technology has a big part to play in shaping the audience experience. Physical installations of large format digital canvases create the opportunity to engage people but it’s the content that becomes critical, if the focus is purely commercial consumers are sophisticated and quickly tune out.

Engaging, interactive experiences that drive footfall and revenue at Princes Quay

It’s an evolving model but one that has the customer at its heart, designing content plans that adapt to the needs of the business and the desires of the audience enabling a blend of experience, entertainment and brand partnerships to be delivered. The idea that the physical experience could be adapted to suit the audience is hugely compelling. The appeal of a higher yielding commercial model that’s accurately targeted to the audience is convincing, even more so if it generates enough income to fund the experience. Who knows, if we make the experience good enough perhaps shopping centres can charge an entry fee, or even start selling season tickets…


This article was first published in Shopping Centre Magazine, read the issue here


For more information on our shopping centre and retail solutions please click here or contact Drew Burrow on 01772 708 257

Article author

Russell Scott

Head of Commercial

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