It has become cliché to hear sports executives say they are fighting for a piece of the consumer’s entertainment dollar. That line is now said so often that it qualifies as one of those “no duh” statements. However, it got me thinking about how fragmented the pie of the entertainment dollar has become over the past 20 years, and wondering how it will continue to evolve in the future.
Case and point: my personal entertainment spend used to be focused on the common events; that is, movies, concerts and professional sports. Today, though, it seems like there is an entrepreneur developing the next Color Run or professional Ultimate Frisbee League every minute, each of which threatens to take my entertainment mind- and wallet-share away from my beloved pro teams in Philadelphia.
15-20 years ago, professional sports properties primarily viewed other professional sports properties as their competition. The Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Pistons, Detroit Tigers and Detroit Lions, the professional sports in Michigan, represented the area’s primary entertainment options. They followed each other’s business practices, and fiercely competed for ticketing revenue, sponsorship revenue, viewers and attendance. I do not think these organizations were overly concerned when the Lansing Lugnuts launched in 1996. Though the “major league” teams deemed University of Michigan and Michigan State Athletics as competition, they were not fixated on potential threats from lesser-known properties.
Today, however, a sports property of any size recognizes that it is fighting for a share of my entertainment dollar and my time against concerts, movies, rounds of golf, trips to Disney, flat-screen TVs, Tough Mudder events, food and wine festivals, Broadway shows, etc. The recent season of sparsely attended FBS Bowl games is a prime indicator that big time sporting events don’t carry the “must-be-there” vibe they used to, despite the fact that the popularity of collegiate football is at an all-time high. This may be due to the fact that the prevalence of “lesser known” properties and entertainment options has increased, and such events should now be seen as legitimate competition. The fight for the entertainment dollar has morphed with the fight for share of time, and it’s a battle that every property, large or small, is fighting hard to win.