UBS Arena’s Opening Was A Memorable Night, Having An Item To Remember The Evening…Not So Much…
This weekend the Milwaukee Bucks gave away to their first 10,000 fans attending a game, a small piece of their championship court. Not big, but big on impact, and it showed how much a team can make an impact with the old fashioned, tactile memento which will hold great value for fans of all ages.
On Saturday night I was lucky enough to attend the opening of UBS Arena, the new, and well deserved, home of the New York Islanders. What was the giveaway to commemorate the opening of the state of the art building to all in attendance? A ticket? A program? A poster? Nope.
Couldn’t buy a poster or a program, download a stub or purchase anything that was a memento for the evening. To be fair, season subscribers were sent a well-deserved item as were corporate partners, but for the families or couples or general fans who entered to celebrate and remember. Sadly, we are left with downloaded images and faux tickets you cant print if you wanted to. Just to make sure I wasn’t missing an opportunity, I went on eBay and for the over 31,000 Islanders commemorative items listed, none had anything to do with Opening Night at UBS Arena.
Now go in the way back machine to when e attended the opening of the Prudential center. There on the wall of my 22 year old son’s bedroom is the small poster still hanging, a tangible reminder of a great night shared with friends. Yes we have photos on phones from long ago, but we also have the tangible, something which teams, in an era of collectable madness, are missing a growing beat on.
Now I understand the changing mindset and the ability to have and share digital items and goods. I get it, but the all or nothing route is a disservice to many, including teams trying to build a cross generational fan base that enjoys, remembers and grows experiences in different ways. I have no issue with teams, leagues, events having data, knowing who is in the building and when, but not to have the ability for something tangible, even at a cost I would be willing to pay and leads to the on demand economy that so many are embracing, is shortsighted.
Three more issues on the lack of tangible items at events. On Saturday as UBS worked out the bugs, Wi-Fi was at a premium. So what happened? My phone drained. When I asked a very nice customer service person what happens if my phone dies and I can’t show where I’m going to my seat, the person did not have an answer other than to figure it out when it happens. Also on Saturday you had scores of newbies in addition to islanders diehards coming to experience the arena, and a team that had six players out with COVID restrictions. Several people around me asked…who are all these guys? Well if you could get a program with rosters, not just go to the website which was zapping your Wi-Fi, maybe you could have an answer and learn as to who? Also, maybe the program is a pass along to take home and read while in traffic or on the train. Not for everyone for sure, but for an interested and engaged audience, why limit your chances of growth beyond the game?
Now this is not an Islanders issue, it’s an all or nothing issue. For sure the giveaway collectable world as a means to draw fans may have gone to the extreme with limited interest items in recent years, but to go from overload of Bobbleheads and backpacks every game, to not being able to access simple, shareable and informative items for casual and diehard fans, is a miss at every level from colleges to concerts to professional sports.
Now there are teams that don’t miss, and provide at least some information. While at a university of Georgia football game in Athens last month, I asked about a lineup card and was directed to a line,,,where over 50 people of all ages were picking up something to follow and learn with. The Mets still sell game programs, along with most MLB teams. NBA and NHL and even NFL? Good luck trying to find something outside of a suite level.
This is a transition period, but part of the transition is making sure you are not alienating your base, and giving people a reason to engage more with content in any way. Simple service, which lends itself to technology for on demand ordering. Having no option is a bad one.
Was I glad to be at UBS and share in opening night? For sure, it’s a momentous night for the Isles organization. Would it have been great to have something to remember it by other than the images on my phone. For sure.
And on we go.