Affordable food & drink a winning play at Atlanta’s new stadium

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Affordable food & drink a winning play at Atlanta’s new stadium
Image Credit: Craig Johnson
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The cost of attending a professional sporting event these days can really add up. When you compute what it takes to buy two draft beers, four soft drinks, four hot dogs, parking and tickets for a family of four, the price tag averaged $503 a game in 2016, according to the Fan Cost Index, an annual analysis on sports consumer value. But one NFL team is scoring with consumers by putting forth a conscious effort to make at least one aspect of the game experience more affordable.

The affordable way Atlanta’s new sports stadium won fans over

In August 2017, Georgia billionaire Arthur Blank opened Mercedes-Benz Stadium, a state of the art sports venue and home to the NFL’s Falcons and Major League Soccer expansion team Atlanta United. With the venture, Blank, who co-founded Home Depot in 1978, wanted to apply the principles he learned from customer service in home improvement to the sports world.

Along with the snazzy retractable roof and shiny veneer, what set Mercedes-Benz Stadium apart was that it featured cheaper-than-usual dining options at the concession stands. Instead of $10 or $12 cups of beer, people could get draft for $5, along with $2 hotdogs and more. The incentives went along way with Falcons fans, who turned out in droves.

As a result, consumers have spent 16% more on food and drink at the venue despite a 50% drop in prices, according to the New York Times.

Along with the same good fortune it takes for an NFL team to make it to the Super Bowl, the stadium’s business strategy  was aided by another incidental: perfect timing. Interest throughout the season both locally and nationally was high due to the rave reviews the venue was getting. Also, expectations were up because the team had made it to the Super Bowl the previous year.

“Arthur Blank’s vision, resolve and significant investment to improve the fan experience by listening to the fans, and including them in the process of addressing their stated pain points, drove us to this new approach,”  Steve Cannon, AMB Group LLC’s chief executive officer, said in a written statement. “This was first and foremost a huge investment in the fan experience and training gameday associates in an entirely different way to deliver on it. We’re certainly pleased with what we’ve seen so far, but there is more work to do. Delivering a great fan experience and business innovation are never-ending missions.”

In making the food options cheaper than other NFL stadiums, the team found another way to attract fans to the games. In fact, the concession food at Mercedes-Benz Stadium was cheaper than the same fare at nearly all other professional sports venues.

Whether or not other stadiums choose to imitate Blank’s bold strategy, sports fans show no signs of slowing down from attending games in general. Consumers spent $56 billion in 2016 on sporting events, a 50% jump from the year before, according to a Creditcards.com poll.

“The fact that people are spending this amount of money on sporting events shows the emphasis they’re putting on experience and memories instead of just stuff,” Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst for CreditCards.com, said.

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Craig Johnson is a conscious money-saver who stills read paperback books and listens to vinyl. He likes to write about how technology is making things easier and more affordable — but also sometimes more dangerous — for the modern consumer.
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