Stadiums and arenas are going deep on technology, making it a whole new ballgame for fans who enjoy seeing their favorite stars online as well as in person.
Digital signage, high-density wireless networking and rich content services bring new levels of convenience, insight and interactivity to sports and other entertainment events.
“These technologies help venues deliver a more personalized experience to fans by providing amenities such as automatic notifications about seat upgrades and best parking, sharing exclusive video feeds and instant replays from multiple camera angles, and enabling fans to place and receive concession orders without ever leaving their seats,” says Mike Compitello, director of global sports and entertainment infrastructure services for IBM Global Technology Services.
Teams, performers and venue operators also enjoy the benefits provided by constant connectivity and interactivity, particularly the revenue digital technology brings to live events.
For sports and entertainment venues, the pressure is on to deliver a digital experience that’s so compelling it surpasses the comfort and convenience of staying home. “Luring fans away from their own living rooms is becoming increasingly difficult to do, especially as advanced wireless capabilities become the residential norm,” Compitello says. “Consistent, high-quality connectivity is key, and young fans in particular are leaving stadiums and other venues that aren’t able to provide it.”
“Who are the customers who are coming through the gates?” asks Greg Buzek, president of IHL Group, a retail and hospitality industries research and advisory firm. “Very likely, it’s a millennial fan, 25 to 45 or so, who is hard-wired to technology.”
Such individuals, thanks to loyalty programs and other focused marketing efforts, are now accustomed to almost concierge-level service as soon as they enter a retail store. So, Buzek wonders, “Why in the world would you not evolve your fan experience to a 21st-century experience?”
Technology Delivers a Richer Fan Experience
Digital signage, supporting multiple video and data streams, marks a light-year’s advancement over older mechanical and electrical scoreboards. Networked displays such as Cisco Vision for Sports and Entertainment draw fans into an event from virtually any location, allowing them to view live action and replays, as well as game updates, feature reports, advertising and sponsorship content.
Besides enhancing the overall fan experience, the technology presents new and more targeted opportunities for teams, performance acts and venues to generate revenue.
“Networked displays are critical in a large public venue in various use cases, including digital menu boards, concourse advertising, suite entertainment, wayfinding [helping guests find venue amenities and attractions], interactive touch experiences and scoreboards,” says Jill Miller, sports, entertainment and amusement business development leader for Samsung. “With the right system, stadium and arena, employees can conduct all content management and distribution — all on a single platform.”
High-density wireless networks, currently being deployed in stadiums and arenas worldwide, allow fans to stay fully connected before, during and even after events. Mobile applications, such as Major League Baseball’s Ballpark app, treat guests to device-based ticketing, special offers and rewards, exclusive content, remote food and merchandise ordering, seat and experience upgrades, a personalized history of every game the user has attended, social media functions and a variety of other features.
“Mobile technologies have paved the way for a more personalized, engaging event experience, allowing fans to get closer to what’s happening on the field and increasing their desire to share it with others,” Compitello says.
Simplifying attendance-related issues, such as parking and ticketing, and creating unique experiences while at the event make cutting-edge venue technologies a win for fans, teams, performers and stadium operators.
“Mobile applications today work to mesh the physical world and the digital world to enable fans to seamlessly enjoy the journey from their home until they get to their seat,” Miller notes. “The mobile application also provides teams with data to further understand fan behavior and trends, and also allows for venues and teams to stay connected to their fan base 365 days a year.”
Even guests who leave their smart devices at home can benefit from visiting a connected stadium or arena, given the fact that a growing number of venue operators are equipping staff members with sophisticated mobile devices. “Phones, tablets and wearables work to simplify many fan-facing experiences, including parking, suite concierge, security, guest services, mobile point-of-sale [mPOS] and interactive fan activities,” Miller says.
Compitello notes that mPOS enables specialty services such as paperless transactions, in-seat ordering and better crowd management to help improve the fan experience. “A mobile cashier can scan items, take credit or debit card payments and issue a customer receipt anytime and anywhere in the stadium, resulting in shorter lines at the concession stands, souvenir shops and other retail locations.”
Teams and Venues Must Commit to Continuous Improvement
There is no offseason in the sports business. “Fans now have 24/7 access to content through multiple channels and devices, with little distinction between game day, non-game day, offseason, in-venue, out-of-venue and individual customer profiles,” Compitello says.
Delivering an exceptional fan experience hinges on getting the right content to fans at the right time, Compitello adds: “Teams must create multiple, consistent points of engagement with a single IT platform that give their fans a relevant, consistent and personalized experience with the sports enterprise, wherever, whenever and however they want it.”