It is vitally important to understand the difference between fads and trends when we consider engagement at our events. Fads are fleeting, they seem to appear out of nowhere, are intensely followed by early adopters and then disappear as quickly as they came. Following, adapting and creating a strategy around fads can be a fool’s errand which will leave you exhausted and reticent to trust anything ‘new’. However, fads can play their part if timed and pitched right for a quick use and are deployed as a tactic rather than a longer term plan.
Conversely, trends are much more predictable in nature and gain momentum over time with mass following. They tend to stick around for much longer, in some cases for decades. Strategy and planning based on trends has a far better chance of success.
By way of an example, a key trend in society is the adoption of mobile phones and how that has played a pivotal role in the way that we communicate, engage, gather and process data. Venues and rights holders know that the way that spectators, fans, corporates consume sport has changed dramatically over the last 10 years. They need to at least compete with what experience you can receive at home. Link to a stable and powerful wifi connection is the enabler that creates that bridge. From it, engagement in their sport, ability to push content, feedback, increased spend can be enhanced. This connectivity enables us to offer customers far more relevant information at well-timed intervals. The introduction of e-tickets this year for hospitality guests at the Investec Derby Festival and Fever-Tree Championships is one thing, but twin that with the reduction of waste through non production of physical documentation and we are reflecting another growing trend to manage our environmental footprint. Engaging with customers through e-tickets, which offers a white label solution for those that require it, provides the ability to push messages designed to enhance the guest experience throughout the day. Whether that is geo-tagging entry points to send welcome messages and directions, updating live information or reissuing accreditation on the fly – it opens up a wealth of possibilities.
Personalisation is a mega trend that sees no sign of slowing down. Hospitality customers, quite rightly, want an experience that suits them and their needs rather than a generic experience. Advances in digital communication and backend systems have allowed this to be possible. Whether that is simply adding bolt on products, booking chauffeur cars or something more personalised such as a player visit to your table, these things are easily achieved.
As has been well documented that informality is fast becoming everyday within sporting hospitality experiences. Customers want a different environment in which to entertain, away from the traditional round clothed table, a premium experience but less formal. The launch of the British Airways Rose Garden at Twickenham Stadium is a prime example of how this idea can be executed well. Informal space which attracts like-minded fans, with a live band, local beers, close to your seats and plenty of street food. This experiential product already has a loyal following which will grow over future years. On a similar theme, whilst the traditional round tables and boxes still have a role to play, there’s been a rise in ‘semi-private’ spaces which offer the best of both worlds; a level of privacy, but with the buzz of sharing an experience with others.
Working with customers and tracking trends ensures our events remain relevant and innovative. Mapping food movements such as the rise of the vegan, flexitarian, hyper local and craft markets to name a few allows us to adapt our offer. We ensure that our chefs pay close attention to these aspects and develop menus specifically to cater for these audiences. A few years ago, vegan diets were not widely catered for, certainly not with any flair; they may have been offered the vegetarian option, minus the diary or egg element (without the dairy or egg items) – afternoon tea wouldn’t have been exciting! A great deal of time is spent working on accommodating a wide-range of dietary needs as it’s important to us that all guests are treated equally. Market research also has a role to play and we have just undertaken an industry wide survey to ascertain people’s perception on the future shape of hospitality experiences. This will form the basis of a White Paper being issued in Spring 2019. If you would like to receive a copy, please email ‘firstname.lastname@example.org’.
It is true that alcohol consumption is on the decline and that low and non-alcoholic beverages are on the rise in hospitality. When designing the cocktail list, we pay equal importance to producing exceptional looking and tasting mocktails. The alcohol-free Mojito at The Championships, Wimbledon is a firm favourite. Feedback from customers when you present a wide range of options, without being asked always goes down well!
Being nimble, staying alert and in tune with trends lays the foundations of a great, memorable event. Failure to do so will leave you behind the curve, with a product that doesn’t stand out, which in turn takes a lot of work to engage the audience.
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