Supply Chain’s Role in Sporting Events

Supply Chain’s Role in Sporting Events

Fall is fast approaching and for sports fans across the country the turning of the leaves marks the beginning of new seasons for major professional and collegiate sports like football, basketball, and hockey. Fall is a busy time for sports fans, and while the focus will mainly be the play on the field, it’s important to consider the intricate supply chain planning activities that go into putting on big time sporting events.

For several hours each game day, stadiums operate like small cities and must meet the food, water and safety expectations of its citizens, no matter how temporary. Whether it’s analyzing traffic patterns to ensure fans arrive to – and leave from – the contest safely, making sure proper security threats have been identified and contingency plans established or making sure the field is playable, event managers must consider every aspect of the supply chain, often years in advance.

Food & Beverage

Imagine hosting a watch party for your alma mater’s big rivalry game and needing food for 10 guests. In the worst-case scenario, large pizzas are just a couple of clicks away from being 30 minutes from your door. But what if that same watch party was for 100,000 people? The same list of problems one thinks of when faced with the prospect of ordering 25,000 pizzas to a single, albeit large, living room arise for operations managers when considering how to buy perishable goods for a stadium.

Perishable goods in any supply chain present enormous challenges, especially for large stadiums home to professional sports, and managers must ask some important questions before that ballpark frank gets to the ballpark. When should the food be ordered? How much? Where can it be stored? Solving these problems begins with proper forecasting, but even with a good forecast, getting fresh food to the fans isn’t as simple as just ordering on time.

Merchandise like shirts or bobbleheads can face a backup at the receiving dock without being destroyed, but fresh food must be unloaded and stocked quickly or the event will come in over budget on food that just gets thrown away. Buyers must plan accordingly and make sure food is received without too much congestion at the receiving dock, something that allows the supplier little margin for error on delivery days.

So, how do event managers tackle this challenge? Levi’s Stadium, home to the San Francisco 49ers and the host of Super Bowl 50, has a simple solution: source locally. The Food and beverage managers there source 78% of all food used for events from suppliers within 150 miles of the stadium, which is located in Santa Clara, CA. This limits exposure to lead time risk and makes the management of delivery dates easier. Financially, it’s not a bad way to limit pull signals either. Even Levi’s Stadium’s water supply is sustainable – 85% of which comes from recycled sources.

Merchandise & Equipment

When thinking of sports equipment, the uniforms, pads, and gear worn by the players usually comes to mind. Helmets, cleats, gloves, hats, etc. – all must have a plan and storage location. But it’s not just the players’ equipment that needs to be stored. Coaches, trainers, and other athletic staff have tools they use as well. As leagues continue to go digital, teams have a lot of technology to be sourced and warehoused, such as headsets and tablet computers.

This warehousing function probably isn’t a core competency for most organizations. After all, it’s their responsibility to field a competitive team and provide a positive fan experience for their customers. Warehousing is part of that, but it isn’t front and center. That’s why as the sports industry continues to grow, one might see more third parties like Fanatics managing those activities. The Atlanta Falcons’ new Mercedes Benz Stadium has tabbed the company to manage all merchandise sales at the venue, as well as online.

Mega Events

The Olympic Games or the Super Bowl are extreme examples of the day-to-day challenges of managing a stadium and the events therein. Potential risk is magnified by the heightened stakes and extended timelines, and organizers must engage in intense planning activities to make sure the shows go on.

For instance, the Olympics demonstrate the risks associated with long periods of time from initial planning to the actual events. Between the successful launch of a bid for the games and the lighting of the torch, an entire decade will pass, meaning cities must prepare for supply chain events that seem impossible to anticipate. Terrorist incidents, outbreaks of disease or extreme weather, and political and economic turmoil are all elements considered in a risk management plan. Most of which aren’t exactly top-of-mind for the typical supply manager.

The 2012 Olympic games in England provide a good example of how unknown risks can affect a timeline. Due to the global financial crisis in the late 2000’s, the original private contractor for the construction of the Olympic Village was forced to drop out, requiring quick and decisive action from the host city of London. The games then went on without a hitch.

The Super Bowl is America’s biggest sporting event every year, and is relatively about two years in the making each time. The stakes are high for everyone involved; the athletes, coaches and training staff, owners, and event managers all have big responsibilities, and sometimes things can go wrong. For example, during Super Bowl XLVII between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens at the Superdome in New Orleans, the power went out, rendering the game unplayable for over a half hour. The response to that situation was planned out by the organizers, right down to the script read by the public-address announcer.

While fans anticipate the play on the field in the run up to the big game, event managers carefully plan for every conceivable scenario. They do this on top of ensuring every fan’s expectations for food and water are met, the merchandise and giveaways are properly warehoused, the teams’ equipment is properly stored and delivered to the proper location, and all other purchasing and logistics activities associated with getting a city’s worth of people into and out of a stadium without trouble.

Prior Planning & Creative Solutions

Organizations across the country in all the major sports leagues are tasked with putting on thousands of events throughout the year. It’s important that as business professionals attend games this fall they consider the complex supply challenges associated with putting on large events, and how the seamless transition between innings and quarters, halftime shows and post-game rallies is the result of meticulous planning in all facets of the supply chain.

As we move towards the future, supply chains will become more sustainable. Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, is a primary example of what the future might look like. 100 percent of the electricity is sourced onsite, all via renewable energy. The power, four megawatts of it, is generated by 11,000 solar panels and 14 wind turbines, the former being the largest array in the city of Philadelphia.

The future of sports and entertainment management will provide new challenges and fan expectations, requiring creative solutions from event and facility planners. Attention to detail and robust supply chain planning activities will ensure that the participating teams have everything necessary to perform at the highest level so that fans enjoy the experience of rooting for their favorite teams alongside friends and family.