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.


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Fanalytics: Solving the Fan Data Equation

The professional sports industry in North America is projected to reach $73.5 billion by 2019 (PwC Sports Outlook Study). But how do sports clubs and stadium operators ensure that they’re getting their piece of the industry pie? Let’s do a math exercise to put this into perspective.

Take the top 4 professional sports leagues in North America: NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLB (Statista 2016).

  • NFL is a 32-team league with 16 games per year and an average 68,4000 per game attendance.
  • NBA is a 30-team league with 82 games per year and an average 17,849 per game attendance.
  • NHL is a 30-team league with 82 games per year and an average 17,481 per game attendance.
  • MLB is a 30-team league with 162 games per year and an average 30,366 per game attendance.

This is an average and doesn’t factor into account playoffs, specialty games (like All-Star), minor leagues, or other in-venue events. From a top-down view, that’s a lot of per-game, per-fan opportunity. From a more-detailed calculated view, that is a 35 million (NFL), 43 million (NBA), 43 million (NHL), and 147 million (MLB) fan-impression opportunity. This is just opportunity here. We’re not even accounting for actual spend.

The Fan Cost Index, average cost for a family of 4 to attend a sporting event based on minimum purchase factors, guesstimates an average $85 spend per person for NFL, $55 per person spend for NBA, $62 per person spend for NHL, and $31 per person for MLB (Team Marketing Report). Again, that’s based on minimum purchase factors. But what if I said you could influence fan spend by analyzing, predicting, and prescribing additional or enhanced purchase factors? What if I said you could increase revenue? What if I said you could gain better insight into converting fans? You would ask me how. And the answer is simple, with data.

Data takes form in many shapes and sizes but is ultimately derived from a connected, smart stadium. A smart stadium effectively paves the way for extracting, aggregating, and leveraging data to create new, enjoyable fan experiences through digital touch points. Smart stadiums have socio-economic implications. Data can be pulled from mobile apps, network usage, Wi-Fi access, purchases, ticketing, social activity, content consumption, etc. For all of this to work effectively, stadium operators have to be in it for the long game, investing in the future of the club, the players, the fans, the stadium. This can manifest in starting from scratch or retrofitting existing hard and soft infrastructures to meet the demand. You’re laying the foundation for what comes next.

Information Extraction

A conduit for information extraction at smart stadiums is Fanalytics. Fanalytics (fan analytics) is a cloud-based software platform that connects all of the data trends from digital touch points to visualize the fan engagement journey and create an optimized buying zone that is mutually beneficial to the club, stadium, and the fan. This can be sliced and diced through standard and predictive KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) on a per-stadium, per-event basis or aggregated across multiple venues and multiple events for maximum exposure.

Fanalytics also provide organizations with increased awareness on impulsive fan purchasing triggers. A valuable hypothesis we can test is whether a fan’s sentimental attachment to a sport, team, product, or service directly influences purchasing behavior, which ultimately should enable marketers and clubs to sell to fans more effectively. A deeper, more powerful understanding of direct, indirect, planned or impulsive actions and spending can help organizations increase (or decrease) revenue.

The massive amounts of fan data that can be pulled from digital touch points on a per-person or group basis through the extraction of qualitative and quantitative data enables club owners and stadium operators to create more engaged, satisfied customers.

Let’s take a quick look at some of these touch points:

  • Wi-Fi Network: Gathers device IDs and information from users on the network across location, entity and time.
  • Beaconing: Leverages localized services and automated communications from systems like a mobile app.
  • Ticketing: Processes ticketing behavior trends and transactions in accordance with games and events.
  • Stadium Mobile App: Provides constant connection to user profiles before, during, and after games or events.
  • Geo Location Services: Triggers targeted promotions and messaging using GPS coordinates or proximity for location-based interests. The information can also be used to determine crowd movements in aggregate.
  • Fan Engagement Wall: Delivers insight into engagement levels, popular content, and interactions with fan-generated content.
  • Contact Center: Streamlines communications channels to identify fan-to-venue and fan-to-club relationships.
  • Surveillance: Enables venues operators to access hot zones to help identify and mitigate potential threats or document fan misbehavior.
  • Social Media: Measures actions, sentiment, and trends for pre, during, and post-game fan levels.
  • Merchandising/Concessions: Relates merchandise and concession buying behavior to user profiles and persona groups for predictive insights.
  • Venue/Team/Event Web Sites: Aggregates essential behavioral data across various venues, teams, and events.
  • Team/League/Event APIs: Gathers key data on statistics, scores, and figures from leagues, organizations and events.
  • Wearables: Interact with other digital touch points to incorporate fan and player physio-data sets.

Fans and fan behavior are the primary sources for turning all this data into actionable insights. These sample stadium touch points increase a stadium operator’s ability to identify when the fan is in the buying zone for tickets, concessions, merchandise, etc. throughout the pre, during, and post stages of the fan journey. When stadiums invest in building out digital touch points and creating a connected, smart environment, they are in turn investing in the longevity of the club, the future of the stadium, and the overall satisfaction of the fans.

Keep in mind this can extend beyond the physical space of a single venue—for example to a park or village like at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Barra Olympic Park is the main competition center and meeting point for the 17-day event. The complex covers 1.18 million square meters across 9 venue installations with an aggregate capacity of 95,000 per day.

The power of data for multi-space venues like this is just tremendous and even extends internationally to viewers like us at home. Extracting and leveraging data from second screens, access points, purchase behaviors, wearables, etc., can help brands, sponsors, and vendors fine-tune messaging, spark content, and dynamically pivot sales or offers throughout the 2016 Olympics … and after. That’s a potential 4 billion fan impression opportunity worldwide.

Summing It Up

One element that makes Avaya’s predictive Fanalytics platform extremely powerful is that our standard (current and past data) and predictive KPIs (machine learning) are able to gather industry-based data across multiple events, teams, and venues in or outside the same league—providing stronger, premium data sets.

This strategic, mobile-led, data-driven approach to the fan journey increases the probability of converting casual fans to loyal fans or even season ticket holders by creating contextually relevant, meaningful experiences. It’s the socio-economic evolution from carefree to casual to committed to aficionado to fanatic. The more stadium operators and sports clubs succeed in getting devoted fans to invest their time, passion and money into stadium business/experiences, then the higher the potential social and economic impact. It’s our job to innovate today to build experiences that stand the test of time for stadiums of the future.

Basically what this all boils down to is having the tools in place to take your game day experience to the nth degree.

Sample, simple math where n equals 2 results in dynamically doubling your $85 fan cost index (NFL) to $170 for your 43 million (average per game) fan impression based on the power of data.

That’s a potential $3.6 billion opportunity that I’d say is well worth the investment.

Leveraging Data to Understand Today’s Fans for a Better Stadium Experience Tomorrow

Our interactions are increasingly digital. The world is becoming more mobile, more social, and in a word, smarter. With buzz phrases like actionable analytics, internet of things, advanced machine learning, and information of everything—it is our responsibility to increasingly integrate cutting-edge technology and smart solutions for a smart digital world into our everyday interactions. In fact, everyone is moving to a mobile-first mindset considering that by 2020 the number of devices per person will grow from 3.64 to 4.3 (Global Web Index, Strategy Analytics).

Narrowing the scope a bit, look at a single slice of this great big pie by taking a look at what the mobile-first, digital transformation means for the sports and entertainment industry.

The Mobile Mindset of Sports

In this mobile-social world, sports fans are visiting stadiums and arenas with their mobile devices expecting a connected game day experience. This expectation is causing the in-person experience to shift; it’s no longer about being isolated in your seat and more about an experience that combines physical and digital touch points throughout the arena from your seat, to your phone, to the concession stand, to the video boards and everything in between. It’s an all-inclusive experience.

Fans expect technology to play a major role in their game day experience. Fast, reliable, connection speeds. Mobile offerings. Interactive apps and signage. But the all-inclusive game day experience goes even beyond the technology…to what can this technology do for me. And the best way to assess what technology can do for fans is to collect and analyze big data.

The Power of Data

How big is Big Data? Huge, in fact. The massive and varied amounts of data we are producing and extracting through mobile devices, cloud products, mobility services etc. is growing geometrically as more digital touch points are incorporated into the game day experience. But what is happening to all this great data? This concept of big data in sports, or fan analytics (fanalytics as we call it), provides an opportunity for sports organizations to use these vast data sets for maximum impact on and off the field.

Let’s take a look at a few fanalytics trends we’re seeing so far in 2016:

  • Social: Sports organizations are focusing on a tighter integration with social media platforms. Data and fan sentiment can be extracted to evaluate which networks get the most traffic, when and why social activity surges, and which players or teams get the most mentions in social.
  • Mobile: As part of the stadium digitization efforts, it’s increasingly apparent and critical that clubs/venues need to provide their fans with a mobile app experience that provides relevant, engaging information. But outside of that, there is potential for mobile apps to have an even bigger impact on their game day experience, making it immersive.
  • Infrastructure: Because of social, mobile trends, it is imperative for stadiums to invest in either retrofitting or installing 21st century technology that can scale and support heavier loads of digital traffic. Investing in fast, secure, reliable connectivity provides the foundation for stadium operators to support fan access while simultaneously measuring, predicting, and responding to high peak periods.
  • Beacons and Sensors: Beacons and sensors help analyze and streamline different types of location-based activities around the stadium. With insight into different types of queues and wait times, users can plan their activities accordingly to maximize their in-seat viewing time.
  • Second Screens: Fans can be a bit impatient. How can we blame them…there’s just so much to look at. With second screens you’re providing additional digital touch points for your fans to continue to be connected to the game from their seats to the stands to the food stalls.
  • Wearables: Wearables are on the cusp of transformation. We know about iWatch and FitBit and Google Glass and RFIDs. But how do we find a way to use this pulse of data extending our physical selves to an as-yet-untapped segment as market penetration grows? Wearables for the fan and the player can blend to provide a deeper, more human connection.

These are just a few of the trends we are seeing this year, but really they are just the tip of the metaphorical iceberg that has amassed in the big data sea. Winter is coming and that means more icebergs. As you can see, there is massive potential in the sports and entertainment industry to learn from and share with data-hungry fans, and Avaya will help mine the ice, sculpt the data, and use fanalytics to drive innovation for sports and entertainment.