For some NHL teams, it can be a struggle to fill seats at each game. The two more obvious culprits for this are lack of success in play and lack of interest or investment of fans within the market. The former is the purview of the coaching staff and upper management, while the latter tends to be the sole focus of the marketing efforts by the organization. Although this is certainly a crucial element to be addressed by team marketing departments, other factors can be left by the wayside.
Arena location pops up as a topic of conversation by NHL commentators with some regularity. For some reason though, it is spoken of only in the context of what team ownership can and cannot do to move teams to more ideal locations. It is rarely, if ever, spoken of as a marketing focus. Why? Well certainly a marketing department in and of itself can’t pick up and move the arena to a more accessible location. But that does not mean that it is not a marketing issue and can’t be ameliorated as such. The Encyclopedia Britannica states that marketing’s principal function is to promote and facilitate exchange. Promotion is the obvious focus, but facilitation cannot fall by the wayside. This means lowering transaction costs for the fans.
The transaction here is paying to go to the game, but setting aside the amount paid for the tickets, fans have additional transaction costs, of which travel to the arena is an important one. Time and money spent on transportation are a particular problem to fans or potential fans of teams in less-than-ideally located arenas. While short-term, nothing can be done about the location itself, other steps can be taken, such as lowering the parking cost for fans with a high monetary transaction cost like gas, or having the option of valet parking for fans with a high time management transaction cost. But parking is just one example of how the cost of attendance for fans can be ameliorated. The main point from a marketing standpoint is not to look at an issue such as this only in the context of how it can’t be helped and start looking for ways that we can lower its negative impact on fans.