Talking Point: The Disney Institute Blog

A New Game-Day Strategy: Re-Imagining the Fan Experience

November 13, 2014 by Bruce Jones, Senior Programming Director, Disney Institute

A recent article, College Football’s Fight to Keep It’s Next Generation of Fans, sheds light on a disconcerting trend in the world of college sports: declining ticket sales and game-day attendance at football games. According to an analysis of 50 U.S. public colleges by The Wall Street Journal, student attendance at college football games has dropped 7.1 percent since 2009. U.S. professional sports leagues are seeing similar trends: Keeping Fans In The Stands Is Harder To Do.

Why is this happening? A number of factors are at play, with the convenience of live television coverage being the most obvious factor competing for fans’ attention and impacting their decision to attend (or not attend) a game. But, if we dig a little deeper, perhaps there is another reason: fans’ expectations for the game-day experience have evolved to include points of contact that extend well beyond the action that takes place on the field or court.

So, what can teams do to retain fan loyalty? In short, they must focus on enhancing and perfecting the total fan experience. Just as the team develops and executes a strategy to win on the field, athletic departments and stadium/venue operators must now also refine their experience for fans on the phone or web site, in the parking lot, at the box office, and in the stadium.

As the article mentions above, our Disney Institute team is now working closely with a number of collegiate athletic departments, professional teams, and sports venues to help them refine and deliver exceptional game-day experiences for their fans. While it may be surprising to some, our businesses are remarkably similar.

From managing multiple third-party vendors, and training their employees to act as ambassadors for the team’s brand, to personalizing the premium experiences available to club-level and suite guests, to parking, ticketing, concessions, crowd control/guest flow, bathrooms/custodial, live entertainment, and everything in between…the manner in which we operate our business offers a unique perspective for the sports industry to tap.  

So, where do we begin with developing the game-day experience? It all starts with a focus on customer service. At Disney, we strive to consistently deliver the highest levels of service by intentionally designing every detail of our Guests’ experience. And, since we know that customer service manifests itself everywhere an organization touches the customer, the key to success is to intentionally manage the entire service experience beyond the obvious customer “touchpoints.” 

Here are just a few of the questions we might ask to help teams evaluate the vast array of touchpoints in their fan experience:

  • Do ticket takers greet every fan with a warm, engaging welcome when they arrive? 
  • Does staff genuinely thank fans for attending as they leave?
  • How convenient is the arrival and departure from the venue?
  • Is parking perceived to be safe and hassle-free?
  • Are restrooms clean and well-stocked?
  • Are food concessions appealing and high quality?
  • Are there enough options to meet special dietary needs?
  • Are credit cards accepted for purchases throughout the stadium?
  • Does venue staff engage with fans on an emotional level (or do they treat interactions as merely transactional)?

While it’s true that wanting to meet or exceed fans’ expectations in these areas is a common business objective, what we at Disney Institute have found through our work is that implementing these consistently is not necessarily common practice. And, that is a key source of what differentiates an organization in the marketplace.

If your organization was a sports team, what would your customers’ ideal “game-day experience” be? What customer “touchpoints” could you improve or enhance?

We would love to hear from you!
Post your response below, or respond to us on Facebook or Twitter using hashtag #DThinkBlog.

Disney Institute uses business insights and time-tested examples from Disney parks and resorts worldwide to provide relevant illustrations and engaging stories that help you deliver the type of long-term results your organization is capable of delivering. Ultimately, Disney Institute can help you operationalize and sustain business results through leadership, culture, service and more. Explore our solutions for a team or an organizational initiative by visiting Our Approach page. To learn more about options available for an individual, please explore our Scheduled Courses.

If you’d like to learn about our work with professional and collegiate sports leagues, and sporting venues worldwide, check out these articles and case studies:



Disney Institute is ready to help you apply strategic rigor to your customer experience efforts - call us at 321.939.4600 or complete our Contact Form

Posted in Quality Service | Tagged Customer Experience, Fan Experience, Game Day Experience, Game-Day Experience, Customer Service, Service, Service Differentiation, Service Training, Sports, Football, Basketball, Baseball, Bruce Jones

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