This past week as hundreds of New York City Cabs lined up to receive some of the 61,000 people attending the US Open and another 30,000 at CitiField on a hot Tuesday night in New York, it became apparent that a new category will be opening up in the coming months for those in the sponsorship space, especially those working for clubs in inner cities.
The battle between Uber and Lyft is growing, and sports cannot be far behind. As Uber gains and grows its market share with little to no traditional advertising, Lyft has assaulted the highways and byways of many cities looking to tout its service, its speed and its affordability in the private, mobile transportation category. Still even with both companies looking to draw consumers, neither has set its ties into traditional sports partnerships. Maybe because teams are hesitant to tie to a company or companies that bucks the norm in places where traditional, unionized cabs make lots of money waiting outside arenas, or maybe because the ROI on such services is now playing out (what else can be done other than engaging a driver, which the consumer can do on his or her own), but the private ride category has to be coming for teams and arenas very soon.
Now there probably is no way to get a ride-goers to just choose your partner, but that holds true with any category where there is a choice to be made. Some teams and leagues have already partnered with traditional ride services that are also local, but most of those deals are really for the VIP, not the casual fan. That’s where the opportunity to work directly with Uber or Lyft exists. Channeling millions of dollars in rode money to the “personal car carrier of x team” can have a great spillover for either Uber or Lyft, and the demographic information the companies already have from their subscribers is also very valuable to teams and leagues as people make it to stadia and arena, so there is plenty of upside for both. There is probably also an opportunity for teams to even tie an official car category to the ride of their choice, as both companies use specific cars and drivers for their services in many cases.
The downside exists in ticking off municipalities still battling for their share of the pie, and in the risk that an “official” partner turns up with an unsavory driver from time to time, but both Uber and Lyft are building their businesses in exemplary customer service and the ability to track driver performance almost in real time. After all, many consumers are probably engaging with these services when leaving an inner-city arena already, so why not step it up and expand the partnership?
In an era where new categories are taking hold as teams, building and properties look for new revenue streams, the Uber/Lyft battle could be a very fruitful one, and one probably worth the ride in the very near future.