FORBES: Turnkey Tailgating Continues Growth As Tailgate Guys Extends With College Football Playoff



You can outsource almost anything these days that you don’t want to do yourself, from grocery shopping to walking your dog there’s a company for everything. You can even outsource tailgating–at least the part that involves work.

Founded in 2009, Tailgate Guys has been helping fans tailgate effortlessly for ten years now. As a fan, all you have to do is show up to your tent, which has already been set up in a prime location near the stadium. Everything from tables and chairs to satellite television and food can be waiting for you when you arrive.

Tailgate Guys began by renting out equipment to Auburn fans in 2009 and now offers turnkey, reserved tailgates at more than 50 colleges and NFL stadiums across the country. This season, they’ve averaged 3,000 tailgates every game day, serving more than 1 million fans. And for the second year, Tailgate Guys will provide turnkey tailgates at the College Football Playoff National Championship, which will be held Monday, January 13 in New Orleans.

“Being selected two years in a row to offer tailgating solutions to the College Football Playoff is a testament to our leadership in tailgating,” said Parker Duffey, CEO of Tailgate Guys. “We look forward to enhancing the fan experience through our turnkey tailgates at the CFP National Championship in New Orleans. It’s the perfect way to wrap another successful season for Tailgate Guys in which we’ve hosted more than one million fans nationwide.” 

Tailgate Guys has experienced double-digit growth since its early years and is currently on pace for 40% year-over-year growth in 2019 with revenue projected at $24 million. Fourteen new partners were added this year, in addition to the extension with the College Football Playoff.

Duffey says fans have always valued the convenience his company offers, but he’s seen a shift in recent years in terms of what fans want out of the game day experience.

“What we’re starting to see has changed with consumer behavior is the community aspect,” he says. There is so much more hype and interest around the event than when we started this 10 years ago. Back then, it was all about the game and getting in, and the experience around the stadium was ancillary. Now they bounce around to different groups to see people they haven't seen in years. People go into the game when they feel like it.”

Asked if schools ever see what he’s offering as competitive to the game itself, Duffey says he thinks his company helps get more fans to games.

“I don’t think we're creating something that keeps people from going in the stadium. We're getting more people to campus.”

“Even without us ,people might not go into the game. We're making it easier for people to get campus,” he says. “If you have a couple of kids and have to pack up all this stuff from your house, you might not even go. We create ease of access to get people to the games and get them in.” 

Duffey says it’s never been difficult to convince schools to partner with them.

“The conversation has definitely changed. The first few years we were in business, it was never something schools were looking at as a revenue producing entity. They wanted to add something to their game day experience.”

However, Duffey says it’s much more common now for money to be part of the conversation.

“We don't generate huge sums for most of our partners. Some of the old ones do some real numbers now, but they look at this as a new ancillary pocket of revenue that can be found. The conversation with our partners is never about money, it's about the fan and about service and quality.”

Duffey says campuses have changed since 2009, making it more difficult for fans to setup and manage their own tailgates, driving the need for what his company offers.

“In 2009, most campuses had different infrastructure in terms of where you could drive and park that you can't get to now because they're pedestrian-only on game day. Parking is becoming more and more of an issue.”  

Other companies have come and gone in this space over the years, but Duffey says Tailgate Guys has survived and thrived largely because of timing.

“A lot of very smart people have tried to enter the space, much smarter than myself and [my co-founder] Michael [Otwell] that haven't been successful. A lot of the credit goes to being first.”

Duffey and Otwell met at a party and hatched the idea as a side hustle.

“Neither of us come from means,” Duffey says. “We both had student loans. I was making marginal income, my wife was in grad school and Michael had a blue collar job. Michael's backyard was where we stored everything in the beginning. It was bootstrapped, scrappy and lean.”

Duffey also attributes their success to the co-founders both working every job in the company as it grew.

“We know what it's like to be out at 3 a.m. picking up beer cans after a game. We still jump in and help our crews. We know every aspect of every job in this business. The others that have entered this space have had to jump out of a car running at speed to keep up with us at this point.”

Currently, Tailgate Guys can accommodate groups of 5 to 1,000 or more, from small group gatherings to large-scale alumni or corporate groups. The services range from approximately $25 per person for a simple setup to more than $100 per person for a full spread with large structure tents, flat-screen TVs, linen tablecloths and waiter service.

Asked what’s next for turnkey tailgating as the space grows and evolves, Duffey points to technology.

“The difference between tailgating and the game itself is the community aspect of it. Nothing on game day can create the kind of platform for planning your playlist, food, etc. with your friends. I'd love to put their tailgate on the phone the same way you have an app for your flight when you travel.”

“I'm really fired up about what we're going to do next. We've invested a lot in technology,” he says. “Right now it's mostly consumer-focused tech for point of sale and ease of use on the consumer end, but there’s a lot more in our long-term plan.”

Fans attending the CFP National Championship this season will have access to a range of packages for groups of 5-100 or more with Tailgate Guys in a premium location in Duncan Plaza, located across the street from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. From turnkey setup and breakdown to DISH media packages and local catering options, fans attending the game will only need to worry about getting themselves there.

“We want to ensure fans attending the College Football Playoff National Championship have a memorable game day experience,” said Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff. “Tailgate Guys has established itself as a leader when it comes to providing first-class tailgating on game days and we are pleased to have them involved with our game again this year.”

Packages for the CFP National Championship will be available through Tailgate Guys beginning on December 8.

I am the founder of, a nationally-recognized source for news and analysis on the business of college sports. From that site was born a book, Saturday Millionaires: How Winning Football Builds Winning Colleges (Wiley/Turner, 2013). After practicing law for four years, and contributing to Forbes and Comcast Sports Southeast as a sports business analyst, I joined ESPN in 2011 for two years as a sports business reporter. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Politics from Oglethorpe University and a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from University of Florida Levin College of Law. Follow me on Twitter: @SportsBizMiss.