Friday, June 11, 2010

World Cup football takes over

I fear job hunting is about to take a back seat as the World Cup takes priority. Whilst I could continue with recent efforts, I feel it is a wasted opportunity to not watch all the football games on offer over the next 4 weeks. It would be interesting to know whether or not recruiters see a change in behaviour over the next few weeks, I can’t believe I am the only job-hunter with a similar perspective. I also wonder how many people will start new jobs in June, rather than take the opportunity for a convenient break between jobs.

There is still just enough time to write another post. Not least because much of this one has already been written as part of the dissertation I completed for my MBA. It also nicely fits the current theme of football. My wife suggested that I should do my dissertation on something I was passionate and interested in... so I picked beer and football! More specifically, how football clubs could provide more profitable catering to spectators on matchdays?

Contrary to popular belief most clubs fail to make significant (if any) profit from providing refreshments to regular spectators on matchdays. Many football clubs (and their caterers) focus on corporate hospitality and very few consider the average ‘fan’. Most consumer research suggests that football fans think food and drink provided at grounds is too expensive, poor quality and the queues are too long. My research was focused on how football clubs could increase matchday revenue from public catering by addressing the actual needs, wants and expectations of their customers.

The research used an online questionnaire that explored the matchday attitudes and behaviours of football spectators from a catering perspective. Respondents were asked to provide information on their relationship to football, frequency of match attendance and attitude to purchasing food and drink at games. They were also asked for feedback on current perceptions of key service quality factors (cost/quality/queues/choice) and prompted for suggested on improvements that would increase their matchday purchases.

The results suggest performance in terms of quality, cost, queuing and choice was well below satisfactory. However, despite scoring lowest in performance, improved cost was not a key driver of increased sales; i.e. cheaper food and drink would not result in more sales. Respondents clearly identified improved food quality as the number one change that would increase their food purchases. Improvements in queue length were also highlighted as an area likely to generate more sales, BUT only of alcoholic drinks. This suggests that clubs focusing on reducing queues across the whole range of their products may be wasting time and effort (unless they are also increasing food quality). To generate more sales clubs need to focus on queuing ONLY when it involves the sale of alcoholic drinks.

Many of the suggested improvements in the report can already be found at other sporting/entertainment venues, e.g. local produce to raise food quality, early-bird pricing and pre-poured drinks ready for immediate serving at half-time. There seems to be a reluctance to introduce these changes at football grounds, something the results of this study suggest is misplaced. The one clear indication was that the majority of visitors to football grounds would tolerate a higher cost of product if the quality was much better.

Analysis of the results also uncovered a ‘new’ or previously overlooked spectator-type: One-offs. These spectators visit at least one game per season but do not consider football important in their lives; they attend games purely for entertainment and have no commitment to the sport. Despite infrequent attendance at games, this group show the greatest potential for purchasing food and drink at grounds. Typical marketing does not even recognise the existence of this type of fan, most football clubs are only interested in repeat visitors who will subsequently become regular fans. When was the last time you saw a football match advertised anywhere but on the stadium notice board (or the sport pages of a local newspaper)? My report made a few suggestions for how clubs may benefit from target marketing to these ‘entertainment seekers’ and suggested further research around measuring their potential.

The ‘casual’ or ‘one-off’ spectator is someone the World Cup tournament traditionally encourages to break cover. I am very confident that the number of football supporters in England will suddenly increase over the next week or so*. I also have no doubt that bars/pubs/clubs around the country will prove more successful in capturing their related spend on food and drink than most football clubs**. Here’s hoping that at least a few of these spectators consider venturing out to a live game next season and that football clubs start to take more of an interest in providing the catering their customers actually want.

Meanwhile I’m off to watch the first game in my local pub, which has suddenly discovered a real interest in football and installed some shiny new plasma screens around the bar ;-)

* Research from Mintel suggests that 71% of UK adults are planning to watch the World Cup this year.
**According to the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) 9 million ‘extra’ pints of beer will be sold in pubs during the first England game versus the USA.

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