Rethinking Theme Nights

Across sports broadcasting, one of the consistently best voices is Katie Nolan. She's honest, thoughtful, and reasonable at a time where we're generally lucky to get one of those characteristics out of the voices taking time on the airwaves. This past week she had a take on a Ladies Night a major college had where the tone taken by the male coaches involved was pandering and inappropriate. She then took on other Ladies Night's from other professional sports teams that pandered to gender stereotypes. The more Katie talked, the more disturbed I became...and not disturbed AT the teams, disturbed that I think I've been part of the problem at times, too.

Too often when pro sports teams do nights that deal with gender, race, ethnicity, religion, etc., we create the night to sell to that specific group based on what we've done with the past, based on anything we know about that group, or based off of something we've seen another team do. And many times these groups fail to live up to expectations. The more Katie got me thinking about this, I looked back on a lot of these types of groups where we had success...and something dawned on me.

The worst of these groups happened when we created the night for them, then sold it to them. At best, we often missed the mark on what would excite the group to be involved with us, and their (lack of) excitement towards the event bled through to their promotion of it. At worst we created something that missed the mark or felt like pandering to the potential buyers.

The best groups happened when we went to that group with no agenda, collaborated, and created something that excited that group to be a part of. The more excited they were, the better promotion of the event, the more the components of the event catered TO their audience in a positive way, the bigger the group was.

Here are two things you can do tomorrow to create better groups:

  • In every group night conversation, make sure you ask the potential group: I know this stadium front to back to create solutions, but you know the people in your group better than I do. What would get them to want to come to an _______ game?" This question works because it helps to create buy-in from the group and get away from assuming a night for that group.

  • In every group sale, have an anchor group locked in. That is, a group committed to buying tickets up front. When I've seen big promotional nights fail, it's when there isn't a group locked in to supporting the event from day 1. There's no excitement to support a night when the group does not have skin in the game. The more often you have someone locked in, the more committed they are to make the night great.

Great group nights take collaboration. They don't take making unilateral decisions, guessing on what will work for a group, or copying something someone else does.

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