Enhancing Game-Day Experience Through Technology
Wed, 07/31/2013 - 11:36 — AJ Maestas
For at least 20 years, we have known that when it comes to entertaining a sports fan within a stadium or arena, the product on the field or floor is not enough. Modern stadiums and arenas have been built with this in mind, as evidenced by the kids’ zones and club levels and in-venue restaurants found in virtually every concourse in the country. But an interesting thing has happened in the past few years: the sports industry has come to realize that these relatively recent options aren’t enough either, at least not anymore. Teams are now starting to cater to the notion that, even when fans are sitting in their seats, they must be engaged in multiple ways. You can’t simply provide different destinations within the venue; if fans don’t have entertainment options at all times, they simply won’t show up.
Cisco Sports and Entertainment is at the forefront of developing technology to fill this need, and both Sporting KC (a Navigate client) and Barclays Center employed it last year with great results. Through their mobile devices, fans in Sporting Park and Barclays Center could access live HD streaming video, instant replay footage, and other exclusive video during games to give them more of the access and insight that’s available at home. This is by design and based on a market research study conducted by Cisco that showed 57 percent of fans stating they would now rather watch sports at home than in venue. To further enhance the experience for those who attend games and stay in their seats, the Cisco-developed apps also allow for ordering food – a nice perk over getting up and waiting in line at the concession stands – and provide access to in-game promotions, including alerts regarding special pricing on food and merchandise. The teams are able to custom design this content and push out targeted ads and other sponsorship inventory as well, thereby creating a new platform for their sponsors and increased revenue for themselves. With these case studies now available, it seems inventible that more and more teams and venues will employ this technology in the coming years.
Perhaps a more straightforward example of a team trying to please its fans in venue is the Jacksonville Jaguars’ potential use of the NFL’s RedZone Channel at EverBank Field. In a SportsBusiness Journal article earlier this month, the Jaguars team president said part of their stadium’s new video boards could feature RedZone, which shows live action from all NFL games, constantly switching to whichever is most exciting at the moment. “We know this would be welcomed by the large portion of our fans who are transplants to Jacksonville,” Team President Mark Lamping said to SBJ, “as well as all fantasy football enthusiasts.” To be clear, this is not a done deal. But it’s a great idea, both to keep fans entertained – there’s only 11 real-time minutes of action in a football game – and because surrounding portions of the video board could be used to generate significant sponsorship revenue. Jaguars fans will likely have their attention in two primary places for three hours: the field, which has to remain entirely devoid of sponsorship, and the video board showing RedZone. Therefore, the rate card for ads adjacent to that board should be justifiably high. If the Jaguars execute this plan and it’s as successful as it appears it should be, other teams – especially those struggling to sell out – will certainly follow suit.
One final noteworthy effort being made to please fans comes from England, where Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club is catering to visiting fans to a degree not seen before in most places, especially the US. It’s already common for football clubs in England to have sections specifically reserved for visiting fans, but this has been as much about preventing in-stadium violence as anything. It’s still common at many grounds to see those sections lined with security guards to keep home and visiting fans from attacking each other. The Seagulls, however, don’t have some of the nasty rivals you see in London, so their management has gone to great lengths to attract visiting fans by making their experience as welcoming as possible. Based on the opponent, Brighton & Hove Albion will serve the visiting team’s beer of choice, change the entrance tunnel to their section to reflect their team’s colors, and show highlights and clips of their team in that area of the stadium. The Seagulls, who play on the second level of English football, are already located in a touristy town, and now they've given opposing fans even more reason to make the trip.
As noted above, all of this is just the beginning. With innovative companies like Cisco and creative clubs like the Jaguars and Brighton & Hove Albion paving the way, the in-venue experience for fans is going to keep getting better. These are certainly challenging times when the home experience is hard to beat, but the sports industry is starting to respond to this challenge and the results are exciting for everyone who still wants to see the action live.