The Tailgating Opportunity

Discussion
Sep 05, 2008

By Tom Ryan

The football season has kicked off on the gridiron, as well as at retail. While the arrival of college and professional football offers ample opportunity to sell team jerseys and caps as well as flat screen TVs to watch the game at home, the biggest emerging trend appears to be around selling food and supplies for tailgating at the games.

Tailgating Times estimates that nearly 70 million Americans will attend the “party in the parking lot” this year before NFL and NCAA football games. And according to tailgating.com, about 42 percent of tailgaters spend more than $500 each season on food and supplies. In response, a number of retailers and food suppliers have aggressively launched major or minor advertising pushes around tailgating.

Walmart has transformed the garden centers at more than 1,700 stores to Game
Time Headquarters, selling team-logo caps, jerseys and armchairs, as well as
coolers, grills, hot dogs, boneless chicken, chips, potato skins and assorted
beverages for tailgate parties. On its Game
Time
page, fans can download team
schedules, send e-mails about game day events and tailgating parties, and find
menus and advice on throwing tailgate parties. They can also play the Pre-Game
Hustle video game, in which contestants use a shopping cart to catch 100 typical
tailgating items spiraling down the computer screen.

On the vendor side, Del Monte and CBS Sports are co-promoting the Ultimate Fan video contest, giving “fruit and vegetable-consuming tailgaters” a chance to win flat screen TVs, tailgating gear, sports merchandise as well as pineapples. On Del Monte’s site, contestants submit a video portraying how Del Monte fruits and vegetables were included in a tailgate party. The videos are judged on creativity, the use of Del Monte produce, team spirit, and web suitability. Participating retailers in the campaign include Safeway, Food Lion, Tops Markets, Schnucks and Aldi.

These campaigns and others are bolstered by additional data from tailgating.com supporting the tailgating trend:

  • Fifty-one percent of tailgaters set-up their tailgate three to four hours
    before the game; 39 percent set-up more than five hours before kick-off;
  • Forty-six
    percent of tailgaters tailgate six to 10 times a season, 21 percent 11 to
    15 times, and eight percent more than 16 games in a season;
  • Fifty-nine percent
    use a combination of grills, stoves, and smokers to cook; 95 percent prepare
    their food at the stadium;
  • Forty-four percent of tailgate food is bought by
    both the husband and wife, 27 percent by just the husband, and 21 percent
    of tailgaters leave the shopping to someone else.

“Tailgating gets bigger every year because of the sense of community,” said Joe Cahn, the self-proclaimed commissioner of tailgating and owner of tailgating.com. “It’s become the ‘New American Social,’ the last great neighborhood. More people are participating and more people are learning ways to tailgate better and with gas prices going up and ticket prices rising it’s great to know that no matter what you put on the grill from hamburgers to lobsters you’re going to have a great time.”

Discussion Questions: How would you rate the market opportunity around tailgating? What do you think retailers still have to learn about tailgaters and the tailgating experience?

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11 Comments on "The Tailgating Opportunity"


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David Biernbaum
Guest
13 years 8 months ago

Tailgating is an increasingly growing specialty market. Supermarkets are wise to research the demographic and buying patterns to be sure they know and understand which of their stores are being most frequented for purchases to be made by tailgaters, then to set up special weekend displays for a variety of mix and match tailgate foods, beverages, and specialties, as well as to provide signs and fanfare for the local teams.

I do recommend some consultation from knowledgeable football fans as the details need to be accurate and the fanfare needs to be right on target.

Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
13 years 8 months ago

Tailgating can be considered another season for retailers. The ones that succeed will have unique displays and sections that offer what tailgaters want.

It is also important to note the popularity of the local franchise to determine what kind and how much merchandise to stock. I can see huge tailgating sections in Foxboro and Meadowlands as opposed to smaller sections in Miami. This is another situation where the store manager must be aware of the pulse of his/her community.

Luckily, tailgating sundries are also year round sundries so the risk is minimal in carrying inventory. Load up on the T-Bones and propane cylinders and let’s get ready for some football!

Marc Gordon
Guest
Marc Gordon
13 years 8 months ago

As someone living in a county where tailgating is known as “that thing Americans do,” I can only look at this from a marketing perspective. Hats off to Walmart for adapting to the local markets. I have always been a firm believer that if you make it as easy as possible for people to spend money with your company, they will.

As for the vendors, I am surprised more have not jumped on board. It sounds to me like any company that could introduce a “tailgate BBQ in a box” would do well.

Ben Ball
Guest
13 years 8 months ago
In contrast to Marc Gordon above, I write as a man who actually tried to secure my South Lot season parking pass and then ditch my Bears tickets one year. (I didn’t get away with it, so I took the tickets again so I could get the parking pass.) Tailgating at Soldier Field used to be a religious experience. When they redesigned the stadium and eliminated most of the tailgating opportunities, many (moi included) ditched their season tickets all together. So I doubt that Jewel and Dominick’s would do that well with a tailgating promo now, but they sure used to! The key is understanding the intricacies of the tailgate chef. He or she must prepare a minimum of two (sometimes three) meals on a grill or portable propane stove through the course of the day. Lunch is a given. The post-game meal is traditional for most. And the real aficionado serves their guests a fresh hot breakfast complete with Bloody’s and champers all around. Refrigeration is mandatory–although the Chicago temperatures help quite a bit… Read more »
Jeff Hall
Guest
13 years 8 months ago

Walmart may very well have hit upon the key to success here: consolidating the primary tailgating products into a centrally themed area (not to mention leveraging garden center real estate that would otherwise go unused into an ongoing revenue source). One of the more interesting statistics is that nearly 1/3 of tailgating supplies are bought by the husband alone. The more retailers can do to make the shopping experience convenient for this demographic, the better chance of seeing higher cart sales per trip.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
13 years 8 months ago

Now this is what I call an opportunity. Full fans and reluctant fans alike can enlarge on the pleasure of the match by eating and drinking together. Almost what I call fun. And even tempting. If there is anything that would get me to attend my first football match since I was a booster in high school, it would be the idea of an on-the-spot party before, during and after the game.

Anne Howe
Guest
13 years 8 months ago
One vendor that understands tailgating very well and was not mentioned in the article is Kingsford Charcoal. Over the years they have orchestrated some very successful tailgating promotions that include grills in the home channel, meat in grocery with KC Masterpiece sauces and even Glad food storage containers and wraps. At one time they sponsored grilling events in Walmart parking lots with huge success. What is important for retailers to realize about tailgating is that the opportunity extends beyond the parking lots at the games. So many fans “tailgate” out on the deck or in the backyard with a group of friends, family or neighbors. The dynamic of home-based tailgating is a big opportunity and extends across more than just football. Just ask us northern hockey fans who party on the deck all winter for big Red Wings games (okay so our brains are just frozen solid) but we’re still buying lots of charcoal, steaks, beer, wine, etc. Retailers would do better if they could market to the mindset in a more encompassing manner!
Joanna Kennedy
Guest
Joanna Kennedy
13 years 8 months ago

Agreed–I’m not intimate with the market–but it seemed a little bizarre that Del Monte was the brand actively pursuing the tailgate crowd.

John Crossman
Guest
John Crossman
13 years 8 months ago

I think the key here is to leverage the opportunity into more consistent sales. For example, marketing items for tailgating and making the consumer aware that they can be used for other events. With baby boomers retiring, looking for nostalgia, and having plenty of time, I see tailgating getting bigger over the next 10 years.

Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
13 years 8 months ago

Opportunities lie in packaging meals or appetizer buffets for consumers during key weekends. Offering products and ideas in one location is important–it saves consumers time. Easy (and even healthy) recipe ideas can be offered. I like the idea of including game wear and accessories as well as online games and information.

Del Monte’s promotion of fruits and vegetables for tailgate parties is novel and healthful. And don’t forget to make store associates part of the promotion as their involvement adds to the visibility, fun and overall creativity of tailgate marketing efforts.

Cathy Colon
Guest
Cathy Colon
13 years 8 months ago

Tailgating has been a category that has seen tremendous growth over the past couple years. We have a built-in audience that loves their teams, so we need to give them reasons to buy for each and every game, by keeping assortments fresh and adding new items. You are getting repeat customers, so “new” and “innovative” are key.

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