In the sports industry competition is mainly talked about when discussing things that would prevent people from attending a game – the other things that people would choose to do. And one word that gets thrown about is substitutes.
You know what this word means. And in sport it’s the same. There are narrow and wide versions and views of substitutes.
The narrowest view of competition and substitute is that there IS NO SUBSTITUTE. This tends to be a popular belief in Australia and one that makes much sense – people don’t see anything as a replacement for their favourite sport. This means that if you have $30 to go to an AFL game… there is nothing else that you can do with that $30 that will be as satisfying or comparable to attending an AFL game. This may be true for some sports fans, particularly the die-hards… I, for instance, have cancelled plans and travelled hours to see the Boston Celtics play… but what some people forget is that most sports fans aren’t die-hards – they’re casual fans. And for them, there are substitutes.
A slightly broader, but still narrow, view of substitutes for a Swans game, for instance, could be a rugby game, a GWS game, or any sporting event that is broadcast on free-to-air TV, or even pay TV.
An even broader definition says that a substitute for a Swans game is anything that can be considered entertainment such as a movie, a play or performance, free events (VIVID Sydney comes to mind) or going out to dinner.
The widest definition which sport economists (and most people who work in sport) tend to ignore is that EVERYTHING is a substitute. People could stay home, they could exercise, they could be at work.
Most people like to ignore this because they think it’s uncontrollable. If we’re talking about summer sports in Australia, for example, you have cricket, baseball and basketball. One way to avoid direct competition is to schedule games at different times. If a baseball game is on in the middle of the day… make your basketball game in the evening (bonus points if you collaborate with the competing league and create a two-for-one ticket deal!). There are ways to accommodate the other types of competition… but people who want to stay home, on the couch, under their blanket? How do you even compete with that? Lots of people think that you can’t.
The thing is… you can. You just need to be creative.
That concludes this mini-series, for now. But, as usual, watch this space – I have tons of ideas on how to get people off the couches and to your games!