Tailgating: A big-ticket opportunity

October 10, 2017

Football fans attending live games often reach stadium parking lots hours before the games.

Football fans attending live games often reach stadium parking lots hours before the NFL contests – for their pre-game feasts. They resemble survivalists, dressed for cold weather and with grills (gas or charcoal), chairs, canopies, meats, vegetables, beer, soda, and more. In fact, Tailigating.com reports that 51% arrive three to four hours before the game. 

This Sunday devotion is ingrained in a significant consumer segment, and 46% say the tailgate between six to 10 times a season, and 42% spend over $500 a season. Of these sports enthusiasts, 79% are men, and 60% are between the ages of 25-44. 

But don't discount the involvement of women, because Tailgating.com research also shows that 44% of the tailgating food is purchased by both husband and wife. But even more interesting, 95% say they prepare the food in the parking lot at the stadium with 59% using a combination of grills, stoves and smokers to do the cooking.

For retail channels across the nation that haven’t caught on to the tailgating subculture, these food stores could do more to cash in on this trend. Performance could be richer if stores are in major markets and sync their item assembly and merchandising efforts to home team schedules.  

And The Lempert Report thinks the opportunity could be bigger still – because stores could also tap into the considerable fan base that go to sports bars for the group excitement, the ability to watch several games at once on multiple screens, the tall brews and grilled and barbecue food. (Tip for non-football enthusiasts: people watch many different televised games, not only their home teams, because they’re rooting for individual athletes on their fantasy teams.)

Since so many people have large screens and still love to grill in cold weather, the right supermarket merchandising efforts could excite the much larger market of people who view at home, often with friends. In our view, grilling could occur anywhere football is in the air – not only in a parking lot of an NFL arena. It could happen in a home with friends – or more ambitiously, tailgate events promoted by local supermarkets could connect stores with community at local high school and college sports events, which are often on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons.

Supermarkets that have social media directors on staff should pay attention to the power of Twitter and Instagram and the use of hashtags. Currently Instagram shows almost a half million posts that use #tailgating! Grocerant settings in particular are an excellent opportunity for chefs to set up weekend tailgating food prep demos and sales. And someone on staff should take photos and try to inspire more social media engagement. 

And remember, tailgating isn't just for football fans. There's NASCAR events, music festivals and concerts. Retailers should scope out any special local events that would draw this type of crowd.