Improving the NFL Game-Day Experience

By Charlie Campbell
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How to Better the Game Day Experience

Teams in certain NFL markets are struggling to sell tickets. Blackouts are an issue for some franchises as they are unable to sell enough seats to get games on local television. Despite those issues, NFL teams aren’t being creative and proactive enough about improving the game-day experience.

Tickets are obviously overpriced, but cutting the cost hasn’t been done enough, and owners only do this as a last resort. There are a number of other promotions that teams can do to make going to the game more appealing. With that in mind, this series will focus on some new concepts for clubs to do to help fill the seats and get all the games back on local television.

Feel free to make your suggestions in the comment box below, email them to me at [email protected] or tweet them to me @draftcampbell. I’ll expound on some of the greatest hits. Without further delay, here is idea No. 1.

1. Free DVD to X Number of Fans

Some bands have combatted the transition to digital music by building in the cost of their new album into the ticket to see them at a concert. All the fans who attend the show get the CD when they enter the venue. DVDs and CDs are extremely cheap to make, and NFL teams have their own video departments at their resources that can do the production of the DVDs.

I think teams could make a DVD giveaway for each game. That way, fans get something to take home and enjoy no matter what happens in the game. Seeing their home team lose a close game or get blown out makes fans feel like they were ripped off. At least they bring a DVD out of the game no matter what happens.

The DVDs would only need to be 20-30 minutes long and could be devoted to a variety of players. Teams only have 10 home games a year, so finding 10 subjects is easy enough. One DVD could focus on the head coach with practice footage from OTAs, team meetings and interviews with the other coaches and players. Another DVD could focus on the draft process with interviews with scouts about why the team drafted that player in the first round. Teams can also have DVDs focused on star players with highlights from the previous season, interviews with coaches, teammates and the player. Organizations could also reach into their histories for videos, or devote a DVD to a new Hall of Fame inductee or a player having his jersey retired, or the anniversary of a championship.

We can use a team like the Rams for an example of their 10 games of DVD subjects.

Preseason DVD 1: Drafting of wide receiver Tavon Austin
Preseason DVD 2: Profile of Jake Long
Game 1: Paying Tribute to Deacon Jones
Game 2: Profile of Jeff Fisher
Game 3: Profile of Sam Bradford
Game 4: Profile of Cortland Finnegan
Game 5: Profile of James Laurinaitis
Game 6: Rams History Profile: Great RBs – Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk, Steven Jackson, etc.
Game 7: Profile of Chris Long
Game 8: Rams History Profile: Great WRs – Tory Holt, Isaac Bruce, Henry Ellard, etc.
Teams could reward the fans who pay for the preseason games with the most popular DVD subjects. Front offices may not want be able to give away DVDs to all of the fans who show up, but they could sell the DVDs and the past DVDs at the stadium stores. After the season, the DVDs can go for sale in the teams’ online stores.

NFL franchises have the ability to do tons of behind-the-scenes videos and interviews. These DVDs would bring more value to the ticket and reward the fans who are willing to pay the price of admission.

2. In-Game Sound Effects

One thing the game-day experience has over watching a game at home is more access to the players and the coaches. The game-day experience also has the drawback of a lot of pauses while commercials are being played. In order to improve the fan experience, it makes sense to improve the connectivity from the fans to the game during those lapses.

For example after a home-team player scores a touchdown and there is the TV timeout after the kickoff, the team media host could ask the player about the play. The quick 30-second interview could be on the jumbo-tron and provide fans better entertainment during the break.

It could be something like this: Say, for example, that Texans running back Arian Foster just scored on a 35-yard touchdown run. He could say something along the lines of how the line set up the play nicely and when the inside linebacker committed to the right, he cut it back to the open field. Andre Johnson hit a good block on the safety to spring him. After that, Foster could tell the fans to get loud for the defense and the interview would be over with the game action starting and Houston’s fans getting something they wouldn’t have by staying at home.

Teams could also mic up their own players during some of the breaks. After some quick editing, the team could play some of the family-friendly sound bites from earlier in the game. Coaches or players also could do interviews in and out of the tunnel at halftime. Those interviews are done on TV, why not let the paying fan have something similar?

The NFL should use the access to the teams during the breaks to improve the fan experience and invigorate some of the boring lapses.

3. Bobble Head Games

This next idea comes from a reader. Brandon Maraldo sent in the following suggestion.

“My suggestion is to do what Major League Baseball does and have 3 games where the first 18,000ish fans get a player bobble head. MLB does this and those games generally have people lining up hours beforehand to make sure they get one. The entire atmosphere is just ‘better’ on those nights.

I’d suggest doing 2 active players and 1 retired player per year. For example, the Giants could do Eli Manning and Jason Pierre-Paul games as well as a Lawrence Taylor game. You know MetLife would be packed for LT.

An even bigger draw would be a player who is on his way out, say the Falcons doing a Tony Gonzalez bobble head. Obviously, the teams would pick different players every year. Furthermore, MLB gets sponsors to pay for these bobble heads (Delta, etc), so their own cost would be down.”

I think that is a great idea by Brandon, and I don’t understand why it isn’t a staple promotion around the NFL. Teams should listen to customers like Brandon and create some added value by giveaways like bobble heads.

4. Fantasy Focus

One no-brainer way to improve the game-day experience for fans is to provide more fantasy news. One thing the home experience has over attending games is access to fantasy updates. NFL teams have HD flat screens in the luxury suites for those fans to see highlights from other games, but the fans in the seats don’t have the same advantage.

During breaks in the game, teams should use their jumbo-trons for a variety of fantasy updates. One section could be used for a live feed of the NFL Redzone channel. Another section could run through the top statistical performers of the day. If the screens have a third section available, updates on the performance of the most owned players in fantasy would be of interest. Teams like Dallas and Houston could definitely accommodate that with their top-of-the-line video screens.

NFL teams should also provide wi-fi at the stadiums. Stat screens and TVs with NFL Redzone would be a good addition to the concourse.

With each passing season, there seem to be more fans who are interested in the fantasy side of the league than following an actual team. It makes sense for NFL teams to cater to the fantasy playing fans so they don’t feel like they miss out on monitoring their fantasy team while attending a game.

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