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Today’s brands know they have to have a successful game plan when it comes to creating and maintaining the customer experience (CX). That’s because companies realize that is the playing field that involves a significant level of competition with customers at stake.
Research confirms that a better customer experience is the winning strategy. For example, Salesforce reports that 75% of consumers now expect a consistent customer experience across offline, online, and mobile platforms. And they are willing to pay more to have these great experiences, according to ThinkJar research. Other research from Deloitte reaches the same conclusion, indicating it is worth it to a brand to invest in the creation of these customer experiences.

Sports Brands Must Elevate Their CX Strategy

It’s not just consumer brands and retailers that must elevate customer experiences to retain their audience. With so many consumers spending time online, it’s offline events like those offered by sports teams and venues that must improve their customer experiences to be memorable. That way, fans will continue purchasing tickets and season passes.
While some sports brands focus on food and fan events, others create new smart stadiums and venues that leverage technology. From professional sports teams and associations to venues like Churchill Downs and the Kentucky Derby, improving the customer experience has taken center stage in marketing strategies. Those that have made customer experiences a priority have seen increased ticket revenue as well as greater brand loyalty.
Expanding the idea of customer experiences that can go beyond the regular sports season, the National Football League (NFL) has developed an innovative way to keep their brand experience and fan passion ignited all year long. 

NFL Experience Times Square

As an inventive way to keep NFL fans in the game throughout the year and attract tourists from around the world, NFL Experience Times Square opened in December of 2017. It offers the most immersive football experience available. This fan experience allows anyone to become a player and feel like a Super Bowl champion. The permanent sports venue includes a 4D theater with a virtual experience that features motion seats, weather elements, and recognizable football game scents.
Additionally, all 32 teams are represented so fans can see club items and learn more about their favorite players. Guests of NFL Experience Time Square can suit up like their favorite player through digital face-tracking technology. They can also use equipment to train like a real player and virtually meet with former NFL Coach Jon Gruden and join a team huddle. 
And the fun doesn’t end there. Guests get three attempts to pass the football to the receiver on screen and then compare their performance stats against their team’s quarterback. Also, guests participate in a Super Bowl celebration through an augmented reality experience. They get to take home photos of the celebration. This reminds them of what it felt like to be part of the NFL as an avid fan.
Finally, for those who love stadium food, this is the place to go. It offers food from all NFL stadiums. The food court and bar provide a stunning view of Times Square. And, throughout the year, there are also NFL players who visit the experience, including both legends and current players.

Setting a Benchmark for CX

The team behind NFL Experience Times Square sees it as the NFL’s 33rd stadium. The idea was to replicate all the emotions and passionate feelings that fans have about football. Also, they now have a permanent place to interact with their favorite team and sport. Every type of NFL fan has something that personally speaks to them.
Michael Williams, President of NFL Experience Times Square, explained, “That includes a wealth of information for the avid, knowledgeable, and hardcore football fan. Then, there are fun, interactive activities for the casual fan. The entertainment-seekers can indulge in the food and the overall excitement of something thrilling and bigger than themselves.”
Besides personalizing the experience, another CX benchmark is to ensure all touchpoints are connected through a similar high-level experience. That means going beyond the convenient location of Times Square, amazing activities, and ongoing refreshed experiences that encourage multiple visits. Williams added, “We also continually add features and content to our website, mobile app, and social platforms to maintain the engagement and connection for fans.”
Additionally, always make sure that all strategies, tactics, and activities are linked to the overall brand DNA. As Williams stated:
“The NFL brand DNA is found throughout NFL Experience Times Square. It celebrates the fans, sport, teams, and overall passion the sport inspires. At the same time, the CX must be planned around a fun, immersive environment. This is what connects fans to each other, their favorite teams, the sport, and NFL brand.”

It’s a Team Effort

CX also can be successful when the entire executive team gets involved in developing experiences. For NFL Experience Times Square, it helped that Williams had such a diverse background. His former positions included CMO of Grand Prix of America and CMO of the New Jersey Devils.
Williams also previously served as VP of Marketing for the San Francisco Forty-Niners. Through these roles and others, he leveraged expertise related to many critical areas for CX. These included brand-building, strategy, the emotions of a customer journey, sales and revenue goals, brand partnerships, and international marketing.
Additionally, the executive team worked alongside the destination associates. The interaction provided a deeper understanding of how fans wanted to connect with football and their favorite teams. They could also see the technology and tactics in action. This involvement shaped future plans that will further enhance the customer experience, driving return visits.
Lastly, the brand must be built around a culture that the team, including external brand evangelists, can understand and embrace. This culture is what defines the belief and passion that fuels the brand. It also drives the transparency and accountability that a brand’s team must have to win and retain fans. For NFL Experience Times Square, this is a game plan that continues to win the CX competition.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.

By Greg Ricciardi

Greg founded the company in 2002. He’s a graphic designer by trade, as well as a seasoned strategist.

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