The hotel impact of NFL games depends on various factors, including the day of the week and the teams involved.
Editor’s note: This is the first part in an ongoing series looking at the impact of NFL games on hotel performance in the U.S.
BROOMFIELD, Colorado—With another NFL season underway, there is a plethora of storylines, from the reintroduction of the Los Angeles Rams to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady finally surrendering to his Deflategate suspension. Meanwhile, football fans everywhere have been anxious to see their teams take the field once again, but not before sifting through an abundance of stats in preparation for their fantasy football drafts.
This led to the idea of connecting hotel performance data with NFL schedules to see what we would find.
We matched up every NFL game since 2008 with the respective home city to determine their impacts on the local hotels. Looking at each city, we determined normalized levels of demand and room rate performance based on weekly and monthly fluctuations as well as overall seasonality. We then compared this baseline hotel performance to actual performance. Overall, we determined that the NFL had a net impact of $77 million—excluding neutral-site games like the Super Bowl, Hall of Fame Game and International Series games in London—on hotel room revenue in 2015.
Factors affecting impact
The importance of the game and the popularity of the two competitors are not the only ingredients that influence demand and rooms rates. A team’s schedule—not only who they play but when they play—can skew their impact on hotel room revenue.
One key element is the time of year and how that compares to the seasonality of the host market. For example, a game in December would have more of a positive impact to Chicago hotels, where weekend occupancies are low, than a game in San Diego, where occupancies are a bit higher from snowbirds and vacationers.
On the flip side, some games could have a negative impact on their city if they displace other business and/or hotels needlessly discount rates. Quite often group events will avoid the busy atmosphere in the stadium’s submarket on game day, whether it’s by choice or by their inability to find available rooms for the event. Moreover, if price-sensitive fans are displacing expense-reporting corporate travelers during the week, average room rates will slide.
While the NFL “owns Sunday,” there have been games held on every day of the week over the past eight years. The chart below shows the average room revenue impact per game by day of week since 2008. Sunday and Monday games have the largest positive impact, while games on Wednesday and Saturday tend to have a negative impact on room revenue.
Stadiums located in smaller markets and suburban submarkets tend to be the most consistent in terms of positive impact. NFL games almost always provide a positive impact to hotels in areas like Green Bay, Wisconsin; Orchard Park, New York; Landover, Maryland; Glendale, Arizona; or Arlington, Texas.
However, due to the smaller hotel room population, the absolute impact is not always as significant compared to larger markets. The table below shows a comparison of two games from last season and illustrates the calculation of overall impact to their respective markets. The expected average rates and expected demand levels are based on the typical hotel market performance for those days during that specific time of year.
The distance of fans from both the home and visiting teams also plays a factor. For example, games in Denver attracted Broncos fans from all over the Rocky Mountain region, whereas Jacksonville Jaguars fans are primarily situated in the immediate area.
Among fans for the visiting team, the distance, appeal and accessibility of the host city, as well as the draw of the home team certainly plays a role. In many cases, games that are within a short flight or at least a day’s drive for visiting fans generate a noticeable increase in room revenue. Typically such games are between division rivals, which enhance the interest level. Some examples include games between Atlanta and New Orleans, Kansas City and Denver, or San Francisco and Seattle. In some cases, the proximity of the two teams minimizes the need for hotel rooms. For instance, games between the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles or the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers are only a short drive for their fans.
The general strength of the visiting fan base cannot be ignored either. The dedication of traveling fans for the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers is well-documented. And winning teams typically are more of a draw for both the home and visiting fans.
The win-loss records of the teams are not necessarily a primary part of the impact equation either, since many fans purchase their tickets and plan their trips well in advance of the season. However, the expectations or macrolevel reputation of a team or destination can make it more attractive. For example, the appeal of watching the Packers play at storied Lambeau Field can override the desire to see a highly competitive game.
To provide additional color to this analysis, the dashboard below allows you to select each NFL team to visualize the impact of each game during the 2015 season.
Notes: excludes neutral-site games (i.e. the Super Bowl, Hall of Fame Game, International Series games in London, New York Giants/Minnesota Vikings game moved to Detroit in 2010 and New York Jets/Buffalo Bills game moved to Detroit in 2014); excludes Buffalo Bills home games played in Toronto; San Francisco 49ers moved from San Francisco to Santa Clara in 2014.
In the upcoming segments of our series, we will investigate the overall impact of each game as well as the net impact of each visiting team.
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