Out of the House and into the Stadium

Out of the House and into the Stadium: The De-Couching Dilemma

I recently attended the Sports and Entertainment Alliance in Technology Conference in Las Vegas. As a panelist, I was honored to participate in a group discussion on the “Smart Journey to Fanalytics” in association with some of the best figures in sports organizations across the US: moderator Charlie Shin, Senior Director of Strategic Planning and Customer Relationship Management Strategy for MLS; panelist Andrew Eiden, Business Intelligence Analyst for the San Jose Earthquakes; and panelist David Burke, SVP, Chief Ticketing Officer for Kroenke Sports & Entertainment.

Betting Against the House

The peer-to-peer consortium brought together over 700 sports clubs, stadium operators, vendors, and top-tier technology providers to discuss and share knowledge, lessons learned, best practices and strategies for the future. I wanted to take a moment to share with you a few of the trends that were circulating the convention floor, however all of the trends and topics pointed to one common denominator: getting fans off the couch, out of the house, and into the stadium. The competition isn’t team vs. team, or stadium vs. stadium. Rather all of the focus and dollars are going into solving the de-couching dilemma, stadium vs. couch. In this version of stadium roulette, we’re betting against the house.

Getting fans into the stadium/venue is an all-encompassing digital experience. What is the primary driver for this all-encompassing digital experience to work and succeed? Connectivity. At the beginning of the year, digital consumers owned on average 3.64 devices (Global Web Index) which is rapidly growing to 5 devices per person, in a world where nearly 60% don’t go more than an hour without checking their mobile devices. That’s a lot of demand for up-time.

Creating the Technology Trifecta

Stadium operators are struggling with identifying the right mix of cellular and Wi-Fi to support their venue’s technology trifecta. Cellular can be problematic because DAS systems (Distributed Antenna Systems) are difficult to install and manage and ultimately may not produce the required levels of connectivity in certain dense environments. DAS however is a good resource to increase connectivity in spots of poor cell range and inside large buildings.

Wi-Fi, on the other hand, poses cost issues for some stadiums because it can be expensive to install and requires more maintenance than DAS. Wi-Fi, however, provides good bandwidth and connectivity when designed and deployed efficiently and optimally for engagement activity.

Another concern for stadiums as they look into the future is 5G. While 5G may be too far out to worry about—estimated commercial availability is 2020—it does drive new use cases for stadium operators to be future-proofing.

Is Connectivity the Jackpot?

All this connectivity yields the ability to have great fan engagement experiences along with team applications within a venue. If part of the drive to get fans off the couch and into the stadium is a reliable, connected experience, then that is where the stadium/technology investment needs to be. Access to email, social media platforms, phone calls, videos, stats, etc. are all simple functions a fan wants to be able to do on their mobile device while watching the game. However, the power of connectivity goes beyond users’ devices. We can parlay connectivity into other stadium activations.

With increased connectivity, we’re also looking at improved business outcomes: an unwired workforce, faster transactions, enhanced mobility, expanded digital touch points, increased business efficiencies and operations, and improved customer and partner engagement. The faster and smarter stadium operations become, the faster and smarter the stadium experience becomes, leading to increased attendance, loyalty, and retention.

Of course other factors come into play—tasty food, great beer, fun activities, and a sense of community. All of these experiences can be enhanced through connectivity: better visibility into wait times and wait lines, access to maps for best traffic and transit routes, special offers via mobile (2 for 1 on beer), exclusive in-stadium content, and faster, reliable, secure transactions with all of the great vendors that make game day…game day. If you can fulfill the social, mobile, digital needs on-site and in-stadium, you’re more likely to get the fan to want to stay longer and come back.

The hope is that with increased mobile, digital touch points stadiums can begin to extract better data on their fans and visitor to assess, predict, and optimize the game day experience and kiss the couch goodbye. The high value endgame here is analytics. Analytics give us knowledge and insights into consumer behavior.

With knowledge comes power. The power to use analytics to elevate the in-person, in-stadium experience. With power comes the responsibility to make the transformation to the digitally all-encompassing experience to get fans off the couch and into the stadium. In the de-couching dilemma of stadium vs. home…it’s time to ante up.