Motives & value from stadiums

Author Ryan O'Rorke, University of San Francisco

Posted: April 10, 2017

Tagged: fan motives

Fan attendance surrounding live sporting events in America is a common area of concern for sports executives. As organizations compete with the steadily improving home-viewing experience, industry leaders are evaluating ways to better attract fans to their respective arenas, ballparks and stadiums. Muret (2017) describes how one of these action items is the trend of developing smaller arenas with less traditional seat capacity, rather utilizing these spaces for more engaging and interactive seating options. “After years of building out massive infrastructure, trends now point to greater flexibility and smaller venues. Facility owners are removing seats in the areas producing the least amount of revenue and replacing them with space for fans to graze, mingle and socialize,” (Muret, 2017, para. 2). This is a unique trend that is the polar opposite of that from the last two decades, when seemingly every developer was trying to one up the other on who could construct the largest arena. As a result, we often see stadiums and arenas with thousands of empty seats on a game-by-game basis.

However, these new stadium trends are a direct result of social awareness by executives. By re-inventing the extra seating spaces, such as the communal, open-air bar on the end of Avaya Stadium in San Jose, organizations are allowing opportunities for all different types of people to enjoy their product. “The distinction between fans and spectators is important to sport marketing practitioners as well. They must recognize that they may have two distinct groups attending games and therefore should attempt to meet their needs and desires,” (Pons, Giroux and Mourali, 2014, p. 26). The avid fan may want to be in a seat consuming all of the action, but the common spectator may want to enjoy a beer over a conversation with a friend with the game in the background. These social areas are a direct result of understanding the types of consumers they are attracting.

Another aspect these organization executives are considering when creating and conceptualizing these spaces is the motives aligned with group affiliation and consumption. By promoting social interaction in these areas, it allows for fans to create stronger bonds and affinities for their team (Pritchard and Stinson, 2014). Often times people rally and socialize with strangers at sporting events simply based off of the fact that they are both wearing their favorite player’s jersey, or something similar of sort. Creating these in-venue social hot spots allow fans more communication points for other fans like themselves.

One of the potential challenges to this new trend is a lack of consideration for one of the most important demographics surrounding not only fan attendance, but also fan development and fan loyalty: families. Economic factors such as ticket prices and promotions is one of the contributing influencers in fan motivation (Pritchard and Stenson, 2017). In phasing out extra seats, teams face the danger of losing out on families who often rely on the family-affordable seating usually seen in upper decks (Muret, 2017). So while organizations are purposefully phasing out thousands of extra seats to create a higher ticket demand and promote social interactivity, they may be concurrently alienating their most important fan demographic. However, it is hard to quantify to what extent this impact may have. Obviously, organizations can still make necessary efforts to continue allowing affordable seating options for family groups.

On the other side of the spectrum, this new stadium trend could be impactful in the development of fan’s attitudes surrounding the experience at their venues. When evaluating the formation, function and effect of one’s attitude, Funk and Lock (2017) say that “a well-formed attitude is more durable and has a greater capacity for impact through resistance to change and persistence of thought regardless of the introduction of conflicting information,” (p. 45). Thus, provide a fan with an incredible in-venue experience where they remain engaged and socially active, then they will be less likely to correlate that experience with a negative attitude or thought, regardless of the outcome of the game.







Muret, D. (2017). Venues 3.0: Smarter. smaller. social. Sports Business Journal, 19(37), 1.


Pons, D. F., Giroux, M., & Mourali, M. (2014). Consumer Behavior and Motivation. In M. P. Pritchard, & J. L. Stinson (Eds.), Leveraging brands in sport business (pp. 21-36). New York, NY: Routledge Ltd. doi:10.4324/9780203108994


Funk, D., & Lock, D. (2014). Sport Consumer Attitudes. In M. P. Pritchard, & J. L. Stinson (Eds.), Leveraging brands in sport business (pp. 37-50). New York, NY: Routledge Ltd. doi:10.4324/9780203108994


About Ryan O'Rorke, University of San Francisco

Ryan is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Broadcast Journalism. His education, coupled with media work experience in the UNC Athletics Department, brought him back to his hometown of Fresno, CA to work in Media Production at Fresno State. After two years with the Bulldogs, he made the move to his current role as lead Media Producer for Stanford Football. While managing the full-time work at Stanford, he is also enrolled in the Sport Management Program at USF and plans to rise within sport administration in the future. Ryan can be reached on Twitter and LinkedIn.

This is an edited version of a paper Ryan prepared for Professor Michael Goldman‘s Sport Marketing course at the University of San Francisco.

IImage by Aaron Sholl, "Quakes vs Fire", Accessed via Creative Commons license.