Voices of the future: Why the hospitality experience is so important in the events sports industry?

Written by: Sebastian Sorondo, a Hospitality professional focused on Sports Hospitality with more than 15 years’ experience in developing customer journey and sports marketing. With a background in economics and communications & marketing, Sebastian studied for a Master’s degree in Hospitality Strategy & Digital Transformation at Les Roches, Switzerland. Sebastian is a competitive cyclist and trail runner and outdoor sportsman.

Why the hospitality experience is so important in the events sports industry?

According to FIFA, the 2022 World Cup Final achieved a global reach close to 1.5 billion viewers. Almost a quarter of the world’s population saw that final game. Six billion engagements on social media, with 262 billion cumulative reached across all platforms. So, what is so special about it?

The answer: passion. Sports have passion, and that is what makes them so special, but is how we treat passion in hospitality as driving unforgettable experiences to the customer still on the table to discuss. Normally we associate “hospitality” in events as synonymous with champagne and fine dining in VIP lounges but, is it that way?

Through their marketing departments, companies relay the responsibility of taking care of the customer before and after an event, so as to generate engagement and promote it and treat hospitality in a way that is some specific part of the event. We believe hospitality is there to support the customer journey that delivers the whole experience.

This journey begins way before the event starts, when we realise this is coming and we want to generate customer engagement. We have to think customer journey in the event around three pillars: ticketing, broadcasting, and location. Passion drives the people in sports, but a good experience for everyone will make them come back and boost the event time after time, edition over edition.

Ticketing provides the heart of the event experience; this is where people will feel the most out of it. This experience will be tied not only to what we can do with the spectacle itself but also with the crowds and sponsors. The atmosphere is one of the most important subjects in sports for feeling the experience we want to share. Sponsors can help with ways to deliver the experience, but ideas must be owned and in line with our plan as hospitality professionals.

We believe experiences must be somewhere between digital and physical, and for that we have to improve connectivity in stadiums and natural areas in the case the event happens outside e.g. Tour de France. Broadcasting not only at home, but also in the same place of the event is a great idea for getting the “figital” experience and not missing any detail. Infrastructure, connectivity and working with platforms and social media are essential for this matter, and must have a script and structure in advance with a strategy behind.

Once we are confident the overall strategy of the customer journey is done, we need to think not only on the stages of on-site spectators but also on the digital ones. We do not have to mention that the broadcast of the event is essential for going worldwide and for the experience of it. With this we mean people watching the spectacle live from the stadium, outside it, and from all over the world. The experience we can get out of it must reflect the passion that drives us to the event and curate the information we are giving out.

Also, technology already allows the delivery of different content depending where the customers are. For example, we can have a different broadcast image for inside a stadium for the ones that are not there, or different follow-up of athletes on a trail race depending on their nationalities to broadcast at home. We must start personalising more and more, understanding the passion of our audience. Technology is already there for doing it.

Working with local citizens (fans or not) and local governments is one of the most important things for the success of the event over time. Adding local flavour to the event and getting local people to feel the event is a great asset that we have to try to achieve. Locals must be proud of their event, it is part of their culture and town. As examples we can name Sierre-Zinal, a trail running race that this year is celebrating its 50th edition in the Swiss Alps, and Patagonia Run, an ultra-trail race in Argentinian Patagonia that started 14 years ago with one-day event in low season and now is a whole-week event involving all the local community and filling up hotels and Airbnbs.

The difference between a trail race, rugby or football match, a bike or car race and sports event relies on hospitality and how we create the atmosphere that propels forward the passion that drives the competence. Hospitality in Sports is essential for living a true passionate event and showing it to the world because the passion not only relies on the athletes but the fans, those how are waiting for it with that mixture of anxiety and happiness.

At the end, we believe this is all about the experience.