The roar of the crowd – how fans create electric atmospheres

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<p>Since the arrival of COVID-19, empty seats and worrying silences in sports and entertainment venues have highlighted the contribution of fans to live events.  Everywhere from the Olympics to the Premier League and the London Proms, the lack of crowds has meant an absence of atmosphere.</p>
<p>Memorable atmospheres are created when behavior and emotions align within a social gathering.  Groups that share a common goal and respond to events with expressions of contagious excitement create economic value for the organizations hosting the events and fun for their clients.</p>
<p>Places that do it well, like Glastonbury or Anfield, home of Liverpool FC, eventually become known for their unique atmospheres.  And it causes people to come back regularly to relive these magical experiences.</p>
<p>Yet creating atmospheres after closures and extensive social restrictions is a challenge for theaters, nightclubs, stadiums and festivals.  Some events have been canceled, while others are continuing, despite the risk of infection.</p>
<p>So as the customers come back, how will the moods come back with them?  Our study of Premier League football crowds suggests that they are a shared creation between businesses and fans, before, during and after an event.  For example, fans regularly prepare the “ingredients” for moods in anticipation.  By creating songs, costumes and flags, they create resources which are then used as points of shared interest and celebration.</p>
<p>And just as sports teams and musicians warm up before a game or performance, atmospheres are usually set off by smaller groups a few hours before an event.  Bars, restaurants and public transport are animated by fans who repeat songs and gestures that will later unite thousands of people.</p>
<p>On the site, these small groups must be united in a crowd.  This is often achieved by staging formal rituals.  The New Zealand All Blacks haka and Liverpool FC anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone both exemplify the power of formalized moments to activate shared emotion at the start of an event.</p>
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All together now

Atmospheres rarely emerge spontaneously. It is by preparing, rehearsing and engaging that crowds become able to respond as one.

Different contexts reveal different levels of cooperation between hosts and consumers in creating atmospheres. Galleries, museums, and malls tend not to involve shared emotions between large groups. Instead, they rely on multisensory cues like music and smell to stimulate visitors’ feelings and emotions.

With music and sports, fans often want to create atmospheres themselves, and attempts to “pump” an atmosphere can be counterproductive. In the Premier League, for example, bright lights, pyrotechnics and loud music can drown out the sights and sounds of crowd revelry such as singing and chanting.

Crowds also often use long-standing social rituals passed down from generation to generation, such as the tradition of Liverpool supporters applauding the opposition keeper. Without cooperative fans, crowds can become dull and passive, causing atmospheres to turn off.

Following the loss of crowds due to COVID-19, the gradual reopening of entertainment venues portends hope for businesses as well as for people emerging from social restrictions. To get things back on track properly (and safely), our research suggests event planners should recognize and harness the power of fans to influence the success or failure of atmospheric events.

Fan zone

An open dialogue between fans and event planners is essential to encourage social practices that contribute to atmospheres. For example, the introduction of safe zones at some Premier League venues represents a positive example where requests from fans to stand more closely together have been heard. The atmospheres are likely to benefit from it.

Seasoned fans help create an atmosphere and the organizers should encourage these groups to come back again and again. The Glastonbury Festival retains its unique atmosphere in part thanks to engaged and regular ticket buyers. Social media platforms can be used to communicate traditions, contribute atmospheres and foster broad participation.

Finally, event planners should develop partnerships with nearby venues such as pubs and bars to ensure fans have space to warm up before events, initiating the creation of moods even before events. the opening of the doors of the stadiums and concert halls.

Of course, the need to balance security with the possibility of creating atmospheric events will remain an ongoing challenge. But the ability to share emotions with others will be a powerful draw for events that provide the electric atmospheres many of us now dream of.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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The authors do not work, consult, own any stock or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have not disclosed any relevant affiliation beyond their academic appointment.

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About Lucille Thompson

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