It is the promoters dream to be able to utter the words “Standing Room Only,” even if, in recent years, “SRO” is more a phrase to indicate a big audience than an actual sales opportunity. Lack of standing space, fire codes, handicapped laws for open areas and poor visibility everywhere from theaters to stadia have pretty much reduced the idea of “SRO” to something well in the past; until very recently.
From Yankee Stadium for the playoffs to Broadway theaters, the idea of Standing Room as a marketing is back, and for big events, is a growing trend with technology helping on the upside for added value. Standing Room is certainly not for everyone or for every event. A walk around Met Life Stadium during a Jets game, and the Wells Fargo Center for a Flyers game, saw more millennials queued up and spread wide and far trying to find some prime and affordable areas around the concourse to make sure they got some value add for their spend. At theaters for shows like “Hamilton,” people are queuing up for long hours in hopes of getting a few cramped spots to stand and jostle in before the curtain rises. In major tennis, grounds passes have been sold for years, a chance to cram in a few more thousands bodies at a low cost for fans who can see outer court action but do not have the ability to sit in the main stadia for matches.
In some other locations, oversold SRO has people standing two or three deep and left wondering around the venue in hopes of a glimpse of action, it is more about the shared experience than actually watching all the goings on live; sometimes one is reduced to following on a monitor somewhere away from the line of site to the field or the court or the stage. However most seem to be happy just to be part of a live, shared experience in a time when we are talking more about virtual and mobile. Also new stadia offer more secondary experience than ever before, so finding a way to an interior sports bar or a batting cage to enhance the experience is now more the norm, and select teams have already done a good job (like the Jets) of selling a pass that guarantees you a seat, but one that you don’t know where, until you are at the venue and they determine availability.
However that is where the idea of SRO has even more legs with technology. The ability for teams, stadia and even theaters to geotarget their SRO fans as they find their spots and que up provides some great potential. Identifying where your biggest groups are, and texting them where there are gaps, or actually offering them some special discounts just for being that loyal that they would come and stand and never have a chance to sit, can provide brands with some extra pop on the biggest of stages with the most passionate of fans, those who just wanted to be there.
There is also probably an opportunity for an unusual sponsorship to kick in; like brands that want to tie to fan supporter groups, there is a chance to actually brand standing room areas, or reward those buying standing room with some additional couponing for a company that is all about being on one’s feet…Dr. Scholl’s for example, or a local podiatrist…to stake the standees feel a little more special. It certainly is unclaimed territory; much like the rain delay sponsor is for select baseball venues.
Now of course SRO sponsors and value add are not for the every day. Selling SRO when you have higher priced distressed seat inventory for mid-week theater or mid-season baseball or basketball doesn’t make much sense, and you are literally opening the lower priced door for fans who, if a stadium isn’t full, could find themselves in sold or even more expensive unsold seats, for a fraction of the cost.
However for the big event where SRO is becoming the norm, the opportunity for mobile targeting and building brand affinity with added value for those just wanting to be there is worth looking into, and as stadia and theaters retro fit standing areas, a new revenue course not just for tickets but for merchandise and couponing, is hitting its stride.