Bringing fans closer to the action – the new sports hospitality experience

Jon Grant headshot v1

Contact Jon Grant, Director, Interiors
jon.grant@benoy.com

As the sports hospitality landscape evolves, sports teams are increasingly looking for innovative ways to engage their fans and create memorable experiences beyond the sporting event.

Here, Jon Grant, Interiors Director at Benoy, considers how teams are leveraging cutting-edge technology, immersive environments and personalised offers to deepen fanbase connections and drive commercial growth.

Return to Future Thinking
Banner mercedes
14994 N35 hd

Across multiple sports and markets, teams are entering a new era of hospitality-driven customer engagement. As Tom Cartledge, Chairman of Nottingham Forest FC, explains: 

There’s been a major shift in public expectation around sporting assets. With new venues setting the bar exceptionally high, people today expect increasingly sophisticated retail, leisure, hospitality and F&B in and around sports stadia. As in other urban settings, they seek a rich mix of uses and experiences, prioritising quality and choice. For asset owners, this shift presents an opportunity to leverage hospitality and commercial elements to create sustained activity and engagement.”

Indeed, sporting institutions understand that building genuine connections with fans involves more than providing matchday snacks and a giftbag. In fact, there are a number of key pillars that support increased engagement and footfall around sports clubs, teams and assets. 

14994 N64 hd

1. Virtual reality fan experiences

Integrating virtual reality (VR) technology into hospitality allows fans to become truly immersed in the excitement of a sporting event. In VR lounges, booths or simulators, fans can don VR headsets and enjoy a virtual trackside or pitchside experience. This not only opens up an additional revenue stream, but also caters for fans who may not have access to premium seating during live events, bringing them closer to their team and their heroes. VR technology can also be used to provide interactive museum or exhibition experiences within a stadium, increasing opportunities for immersive and meaningful connections with a team’s history, heritage and culture. 

14994 N10 hd

2. VIP fan packages with exclusive access

By enhancing traditional VIP experiences, teams can offer curated fan packages that include exclusive access to sports stars and behind-the-scenes action. This engagement strategy could involve meet-and-greets, tours or even the opportunity to participate in warm-up sessions with the team. Enabling fans to get closer to the inner workings of a club – via access to training areas, changing rooms, kit and equipment – can reinforce deep affiliations and emotional connections. Similarly, vantage points that provide unique glimpses of players or management can create the experiential nuance that fans will cherish forever.

14994 N7 hd

3. Interactive fan zones

Transforming traditional hospitality areas into interactive fan zones creates a dynamic space where fans can engage with their team and fellow supporters in exciting ways. These zones might feature interactive games, bespoke activities and live social media integration. By using these spaces to foster a sense of community and camaraderie, teams can cultivate a loyal fanbase while driving engagement in between sporting events. These opportunities in turn allow fans to immerse themselves in a club’s brand and identity, helping to sustain footfall and interaction. 

We’ve recently been working with Mercedes F1 to design new bespoke hospitality spaces at their race sites. Commenting, Stuart Lakin, Head of Commercial Development at Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 team said: Authenticity and cohesion in any fan environment is crucial — and when combining technology to deliver new experiences, this isn’t a straightforward balance to strike. By working openly with Benoy, we are achieving this unique mix and are excited to show our guests and fans.’

14994 N6 hd

4. Culinary offerings and pop-up restaurants

Elevating culinary offerings at a sporting event can have a transformative impact for fans. In new, state-of-the-art sporting stadia, gourmet facilities and even artisan breweries are being built into asset infrastructure, providing a whole new food and beverage dimension for consumers. Teams can also partner up with renowned chefs or local restaurants to create exclusive dining offers. Such offers could involve pop-up restaurants featuring themed menus inspired by the team, or culinary competitions showcasing fan-created dishes. By providing unique dining opportunities, teams and sports venues can attract food enthusiasts and offer an additional layer of excitement, quality and value. 

14994 N47 hd 1

'Authenticity and cohesion in any fan environment is crucial - and when combining technology to deliver new experiences, this isn't a straightforward balance to strike. By working openly with Benoy, we are achieving this unique mix and are excited to show our guests and fans.'

Stuart Lakin, Head of Commercial Development at Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team

14994 N53 hd 1

5. Comfort and unique experiences

A careful balance of tech and interior comfort is crucial to connecting with fans. By creating pleasant and congenial surroundings, and by leveraging all the trappings of hospitality, sports clubs can make visitors feel welcomed, valued and looked after. Comfort and convenience are key to creating a memorable experiences, and clubs need to ensure that customer care goes to the heart of their offer – whether for VIP or general admission – to maintain fanbase commitment. 

14074 N90 hd

6. Branded environments

Integrating brands into hospitality is another powerful tool. By working with luxury brands, sports clubs and venues can make strong retail connections within hospitality space, leveraging product association to enhance their own brand appeal. Mercedes, for example, is currently working with Puma and Tommy Hilfiger, among others, to offer an impressive omnichannel retail experience. These brand collaborations create synergy between the sports asset and the retail product, helping to amplify personality and increase consumer engagement. Indeed, the presence and proximity of partner brands (official team sponsors, for example), and the use of branded hospitality environments, strengthens the link between fanbase and club.

Benoy’s Interior and Branded Environments teams are working with clients and sports teams to reimagine their sporting venues. By embracing innovation and creativity in their hospitality offerings, we believe sports teams can create unforgettable moments, forge deeper connections and drive revenue growth. And by leveraging the approaches explored above, teams can stay at the forefront of sports hospitality and deliver lasting value for fans.

For more information, contact jon.​grant@​benoy.​com

14994 N35 hd
14994 N64 hd
14994 N10 hd
14994 N7 hd
14994 N6 hd
14994 N47 hd 1
14994 N53 hd 1
14074 N90 hd