Tailgating is a modern American pastime that brings together food, fun and people like no other outdoor event. The devout fanfare exists against a stadium backdrop, and countless fans take delight in the real game at play: figuring out how to throw the ultimate tailgating party for family, co-workers and friends that is sure to make them the favorite son, boss’s pet and everyone’s overall best bud.
In doing so, many tailgating enthusiasts opt to give away their tickets — like a boss — and enjoy the game in a level of comfort and style traditionally experienced in the confines of home.
Welcome to the jealous art and Epicurean swing of tailgating in modern America. It’s where food, friends, football, ingenuity and fun converge in a fall festival driven, not unlike popular culture, by the hippest of crowds: the tailgating professionals.
One does not simply assume “professional” status in this realm. Rather, pro tailgaters are skilled at transforming vast, open spaces into a carnival-like, living room atmospheres where good music, televised games and conversation can be had, all with uncommon grace and flair. That means they’ll be looking for products to help them achieve such lofty endeavors!
Following are a few basics that tailgating consumers crave to help them on their climb up the figurative ladder to the esoteric, professional ranks.
(Editor’s Note: The following is not an endorsement of any specific product mentioned. Rather, they are examples of options that are available on the market. Visit sportstailgateshow.com for more information on these and other companies that exhibit at the Sports Licensing and Tailgate Show.)
- Tents and Shelters. This is the basic infrastructure. It shields tailgaters from the unforgiving sun and rain, making for a much more pleasant, and fun, experience. This is a must-have for any level of tailgating. EZ-Up Tents are inexpensive, ranging from $119.95 for the basic 10’ x 10’ variety, or up to $320 for the 10’ x 20’ model for larger parties.
- This is the main draw. Some prefer to outsource food preparation and hire a caterer. However, cooking requires a heat source — preferably one that is easy to transport and set up. The Coleman RoadTrip LXE propane grill is an example of grilling options, and retails for 189.99.
- A Cooler. Beverages are another popular tailgating draw, and today’s tailgaters provide water and non-alcoholic varieties for their guests. For large parties, additional coolers could be necessary to accommodate the throng, which means bigger bucks spent at retail. The Party Bar by Igloo features 360-degree, patented Liddup LED technology. This multifunctional cooler is available for $169.95.
- Chairs/Furniture. True relaxation comes only when one can take their weight off of their feet. Group options for seating include an inflatable couch or sectional. Bean bags and hammocks also are gaining popularity at modern tailgating gatherings. The Gander Mountain Sportsman’s Chair is a padded, foldable, one-person version that includes a drink holder, for a retail price of $79.99. Other licensed seating options featuring team logos are available from numerous suppliers.
- Entertainment: Many tailgaters like to view games in the hours leading up to kickoff, including those in live play across the country — and particularly those within their collegiate conference or region. Multiple TVs and speakers always are a plus. The Dish Network Tailgater Bundle package provides network access and coverage of games. This satellite package comes with its own digital receiver for $449.95 at retail. Among the more expensive tailgating options, many enthusiasts also regard it as the most important, as it can add excitement and attract other like-minded tailgaters.
Offering some of these options in your retail establishment could help you attract serious tailgaters, as well as the sales and revenue potential they carry in their pockets.
Chris Warner is a freelance writer and author of “A Tailgater’s Guide to SEC Football, Volume IV,” which was featured on the History Channel documentary “Tailgating in America,” with Tom Arnold and Jenny McCarthy. He resides in Perdido Key, Fla. Visit his website: southernbeachreads.com.