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There’s a high probability you’ve been to a sportainment venue before.

And there’s a 99.9% chance you’ll be going to one in the future.

Bowling alleys started it, Dave&Buster’s expanded it, TopGolf commercialized it, and now every sport seems to be getting its own social venue.

This is a trend worth understanding.

Let’s Dive In 👇

WHAT IS SPORTAINMENT?

In a nutshell, sportainment has been described as a guest experience that involves food & beverages dining before, after, or during sporting activities.

There are a handful of names for this emerging category:

  • Eatertainment
  • Social Entertainment
  • Competitive Socializing

*(some people say they’re all different…I think they’re all similar at their core and not worth separating)

group of friends at sportainment venue

These ideas combine traditional sports experiences with hospitality, technology, and gamification to create a new proposition that appeals to non-traditional sports fans (and younger generations).

And we’ve seen them explode across every sport.

Some of the most popular:

  • golf
  • surfing
  • bowling
  • baseball
  • bar games
  • basketball
  • racquet sports

Here’s a current market map:

sportainment market map landscape
*there are thousands of mom-and-pop venues so the map aims to reflect franchised models

Why the explosion?

Sportainment facilities offer a place for all skill levels to enjoy sports, not just the enthusiasts — creating environments that foster growth by building larger player communities.

It’s part of a bigger trend where people want to go out and experience the entire evening at one place—dinner, drinks, and games all under one roof.

HISTORY AND STATS

Though growing rapidly, the sportainment segment isn’t necessarily new.

Bowling alleys with food/drinks have been around since the early 1900s and gaming concepts like Chuck E. Cheese’s and Dave & Buster’s emerged in the late ’70s.

dave&busters facility

Over the last handful of years…

New concepts have taken sportainment to the next level in hopes of meeting consumer demands for a more elevated experience.

According to a survey conducted by Datassential:

  • 60% of all consumers said they were interested in visiting a sportainment concept
  • 30% of consumers said they had already visited one
  • 40% of those surveyed said they were interested in visiting an arcade bar, bowling restaurant, or social emporium
  • 26% were interested in visiting a golf entertainment venue.

This has led to an influx of new concepts across the world.

COMPETITION IN SPORTAINMENT

So who are these new facilities eyeing up as competition?

Interestingly, they don’t see fast casuals adding entertainment as major competition, but they do see casual restaurants, movie theaters, and bowling alleys extending their offering.

bowling alley with high end food

Perhaps the fiercest competitor of all — streaming platforms and social media.

Why?

It’s so easy to not leave your house, fire up a new TV show, call a food delivery service, and never have to get up and go out.

This doesn’t seem to be slowing down the industry:

  • TopGolf sold to Callaway for $2 billion.
  • Puttshack received $150 million from BlackRock.
  • Bowlero has over 300 entertainment centers across the U.S.
  • Travis Kelce and Patrick Mahomes invested in Chicken N Pickle.
  • GoodSurf has $100 million in debt commitments geared to their U.S. rollout.

There’s also no concern about saturation in the sportainment space, primarily because the size of the operations alone is a massive barrier to entry.

WHAT LEADS TO SUCCESS?

I’ve spoken with a handful of veterans in the sportainment sector (including the two podcast guests below) who credit success to five things.

5. Location

Real estate is at the core of every sportainment facility. So you’ll often hear the “location, location, location” mantra from owners.

Big cities with high-income younger areas are the main targets.

4. Team

Like anything, the people running the operation are who you’re betting on.

Do they understand all the different dynamics? Have experience in the space?

3. Inclusion

You can’t just target enthusiasts of a certain sport/activity.

You have to break the barriers down making it a fun experience for everyone of all skill levels.

topgolf aerial view in corporate area

2. Corporate

Being near corporate areas is crucial to filling the venues during the weekdays.

Leagues and other competitive formats are important to bring people back.

1. Technology

The technology stack is extremely important — many of the venues license the tech to third parties (adding to their top-line revenues).

TopGolf isn’t golf, but a ball-whacking activity with enhanced trackers in the golf balls.

OTHER SPORTAINMENT DETAILS

All ownership groups have unique preferences such as:

  • How much money they want to make per square foot.
  • What countries, cities, and demographics they understand.
  • The percentage mix of food/beverage sales vs. activity sales.
ping pong eatertainment

So who’s investing in these concepts?

Sitting in a unique position between VC and PE — it’s often a mix of angel investors, celebrities, real estate funds, and family offices.

And we’ve started to see specialist firms focused on just investments across sportainment.

LEARNINGS

Many indicators suggest golf sportainment experiences have been instrumental in taking what was a shrinking pool of players and expanding it beyond anyone’s expectations.

According to a National Golf Foundation survey:

  • 23% of new golfers say they were inspired by a TopGolf experience
  • a record 3.2 million people played their first on-course golf in 2021
  • one-third of the nearly 40 million golf experiences in 2021 took place off-course

If you zoom out, you can see that many sports would benefit from these kinds of spaces.

LOOKING AHEAD

This trend is much bigger than any sportainment concept — it’s about consumers wanting competitive socializing.

Modern-day consumers have two unique attributes:

  1. have shrinking attention spans, meaning they need constant stimulation.
  2. crave experiences rather than goods — and expect quality, value, and convenience.
new sportainment facility

History has proven that sportainment ventures can be quite lucrative, and act like a gateway to traditional sports.

INDUSTRY TRENDS & ANALYSIS

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