Data and new technology are changing fan experiences at stadiums and venues like never before. Teams and venues are using data, apps, beacons and digital innovation to improve operations, player performance and fan experiences. The top priority is to bring fans to stadiums, put them in the center of the action and create experiences that keeps them coming back.
Across the U.S., teams are spending millions to bringing connectivity and convenience to stadiums. In-stadium fans want to be able to share, interact and stay social during games. While many college teams still don’t provide Wi-Fi access in their stadiums, that’s quickly changing. Even colleges have joined the race to give every fan the best seat in the stadium, from the bleachers to the VIP boxes.
Live events are not just about watching a game or concert from a seat anymore. Fans expect a tailored mix of physical and digital experiences across their phones, digital screens, kiosks, concession stands and pretty much every area of the venue.
So how can teams and venues convert stay-at-home viewers into superfans who pay to watch the event live? Here are the top 10 technology investments that teams are making:
1. A Powerful Wireless Network Solution
The top priority to ensure fan interaction is connectivity, not just for fans, but also for internal staff, vendors, contractors, press and luxury suite guests. Many younger fans are leaving stadiums at half-time if they can’t connect to the internet. And offering better Wi-Fi also means more money from additional food, beverage, merchandise and upgrade purchases. It’s not enough to just provide Wi-Fi. Fans expect a fast, secure and reliable connectivity. On average, larger stadiums are installing 700+ wireless access points and there are multiple third-party companies like AT&T, Cisco and Verizon that provide end-to-end wireless network services.
Most connected stadiums in the world: Levi’s Center, Barclay’s Center, AT&T Center
2. State-of-the-Art Mobile Apps
Mobile Apps are quickly becoming the most efficient and profitable tool to engage and activate fans at live events. Some professional sports teams already have apps that let fans find parking spots, purchase premium seat upgrades, check-in and locate their seats, order food and beverages to be delivered to their seats, find the closest restroom with the shortest line, watch high-definition instant replay videos and close-up videos, view exclusive content, promotions, coupons and statistics, and get traffic information and the fastest route home after the game. This is already a reality and many teams are scrambling to catch up with the ones that already offer these amazing mobile experiences.
Teams and venues with cutting-edge mobile apps: San Francisco 49ers, Barclay’s Center, New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Austin City Limits Music Festival,
3. Mobile Point-of-Service (POS)
Many stadiums and event venues have already rolled out mobile POS (point-of-service) systems so they can have hundreds of vendors selling food, beverages and merchandise pretty much anywhere in the stadium without requiring fans to leave their seats or spend a lot of time in lines. Mobile POS systems enable fast, secure concessions and merchandise sales and also offer savings on space, manpower and time.
While beacon implementation across stadiums has been slow, they’re definitely happening. Teams that already implemented beacons use them to send exclusive, stadium-only promotions and trivia to fans devices. The geomapping also helps alert fans on closest restrooms with the shortest wait times etc. More importantly, teams are using beacons to track fan behaviors, movement and spending inside stadiums. So far, 20 of the 30 MLB stadiums have already implemented beacons.
Stadiums already using beacons: Levi’s Stadium, AT&T Park, Houston Dynamo
5. Digital, Touch-Screen Kiosks
These state-of-the-art, self-service digital kiosks can be found scattered across many big venues. In addition to helping fans find venue maps, restrooms amenities and vendors, these kiosks can also be used for purchasing upgrades, merchandise and placing food and beverage orders.
6. Giant HD Video Screens
Large digital screens were considered extravagant, but they’re quickly becoming a necessity. Not every venue can have a 190-foot screen (that’s three-fourth the length of a football field) like Auburn University’s Jordan-Hare Stadium. It’s more efficient to have multiple small screens spread across the venue so fans can watch HD live streams of the game even when they’re walking to a restroom or standing in line to buy a beer.
Teams and venues with some of the largest digital screens: Dallas Cowboys, Auburn University’s Jordan-Hare Stadium
7. High-Speed Cameras for Ultimate Gameday Memories
New products like the high-speed selfie cameras made by Fanpics are making it easier than ever for fans to take selfies at stadiums and games. These state-of-the-art cameras can be installed at multiple locations and are capable of capturing photos of every single fan in the venue, all at the same time! These cameras can take up to 1 million images during every game and venues can set them up to be triggered during game highlights so the audience’s reactions can be captured.
Fans can download the free Fanpics app to look at photos by entering the date and their seat numbers. If you've been to a recent Los Angeles Kings, Clippers or Galaxy game, you might have already seen these. All entrance gates at stadiums offering Fanpics have have disclosure signs. On average, about 15 to 25% of fans download the app at games and check in to view photos. In addition to taking advantage of this generation’s selfie-obsession, teams also get valuable data. Teams can find out who these fans are, where they sit, how many times they go to games and even who they’re with.
Where you can find these cameras: Staples Center, StubHub Center, and Viejas Arena.
8. Data Management Platform
Your stadium or venue’s fan data should be the focal point that empowers all your marketing efforts and technology investments. Increasingly, sports teams are using a data management platform (DMP) like Umbel to connect all their siloed fan data from online and offline systems and channels.
DMPs help connect fan data from ticket purchases (e.g. from Ticketmaster), social interaction (e.g. fans on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), concession stand purchases, merchandise sales, e-commerce site transactions, mobile app usage, website visits, video views, beacons, RFID chips and much more. Connecting and collecting all this data from all these sources can be overwhelming, but a DMP helps teams simplify this and make it seamless.
A DMP helps make your data efforts scalable, actionable and adaptable allowing teams to save time, money and resources. Plus, having all your customer data in one place enables you to query this data in seconds to find high-value customer segments and send personalized content to sell single-game tickets, season tickets, merchandise and more.
Teams already using a DMP: Indiana Pacers, Florida Panthers, Circuit of the Americas
9. GoPro Video Streaming
GoPros are becoming increasingly popular with sports teams allowing them to capture and stream unique angles of their venues and games to fans. The National Hockey League (NHL) and the NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA) recently announced a North American partnership with GoPro. GoPros also allow teams and venues to create a lot of virality and buzz based on the stunning visuals that these cameras can capture when used creatively. Here's a video of the Denver Broncos Thunderstorm parachute team dropping into Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium before Sunday’s AFC Championship Game. The Cincinnati Bengals appear to be the latest team to embrace the GoPro video camera to enhance their ability to study game film from a different perspective. In preparation for football clash between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, ESPN installed the HeroCam to give fans a feel of what it's like seeing through the eyes of an NFL player. They did it for several other players and teams throughout the 2013-14 NFL season.
In 2014, before a Houston Texans' home game against the Bengals, a bald eagle named Challenger flew over Reliant Stadium wearing a GoPro camera, and the footage captured is pretty amazing. Also, check out a GoPro video shot by a skydiver as he lands at midfield in Ralph Wilson Stadium during the pregame ceremony against the Dolphins.
10. Targeted In-Stadium Ads
Stadiums and venues are always looking for new ways to improve their bottom line and get fans to spend more at games. The Denver Broncos’ Sports Authority Field in partnership with Cisco created a powerful marketing platform by installing 1,200 displays that are 55 inches or larger for compelling high-definition experiences and high-impact partner content. But these screens aren’t just for keeping fans engaged with videos, photos and stats. Their team offers segmentation opportunities for advertisers, sponsors, concessionaires, and merchandising partners allowing them to promote tailored offers and products on these screens during games. The Broncos saw a 50% increase in partner sponsorship revenue using these new screens as compared to older, traditional static ad units. The screens have tremendously expanded the amount and value of the digital ad inventory that the Broncos can sell.
The ads and offers can be customized and targeted to various sections of the stadium including destination bars, entitlement zones and seating areas. For example, Bud Light sponsors the Mile High Mountain Village pre-game area and Coca Cola sponsors the Fan Cave. The screens have expanded the amount and value of the digital ad inventory that the Broncos can sell. Sponsors can also run promotions during key moments of the game to capture the most eyeballs. Their digital screens are highly customizable to support a brand's’ creative assets and are also used by alcohol brands to deliver promotional safe driving messages towards the end of a game.
The right technology and fan data can help both sports teams and venues connect with their fans, truly understand what their fans want and build experiences that keep them coming back to live events. Teams need to focus on creating amazing experiences from the minute fans leave their home through their in-stadium time and even after they leave the venue. Fan’s also expect reliable and secure Wi-Fi that lets them share their experiences more easily and stay connected during games. Sports teams and venues need to start innovating and collecting fan data to track customer buying behaviors both online and offline and use it to engage and convert their fans into buying customers.
Here’s a great infographic by the Northwestern University’s School of Professional Studies Team that highlights some amazing smart stadiums that are redefining fan experiences.