Sporting stadia have always been masterpieces of engineering and cultural centrepieces, but traditionally, they’ve never been built with technology in mind. That, however, is all changing. In recent years, we have seen sports clubs across the world implement and trial numerous new technologies in their stadia, all in an effort to improve the fan experience and move with the times.
Stadia are now having to compete with Smart TVs as more and more sports fans opt to watch the big game from the comfort of their own home. Fan loyalty alone is not enough to fill stadia these days as fans demand an overall good quality experience. And with soaring ticket prices across all sports, understandably fans want to see more for their money.
“83% of fans say they will check social media sites during a game.”
There has been a lot of talk of the ‘second screen’ being a benefit of watching the game from home instead of the stadium. ‘Second screening’ is a broad term used to describe the notion of viewers engaging with their mobile devices during a game just as much as the actual screen showing the game. This is the case with much of today’s TV content, however the connection between the TV and the second screen is particularly strong when it comes to sport, mainly due to people’s urge to connect with fellow supporters on social media and discuss the game in-play and gain other fans’ reactions and opinions. Fans also have access to a huge wealth of live stats and action replays, all available on their second screen. Historically this is something that has not been available to fans watching inside the stadium.
So, what have stadia been doing to integrate technology into fans’ match experience and how does it benefit the spectator and sports club?
Game Day Apps
To keep up with technology trends and to satisfy fans’ desire to integrate their technology into their fan experience, stadia have had to adapt in order to satisfy fan expectations. Sports clubs are beginning to embrace the second screen concept, but tailoring it to work inside the stadium. By creating state of the art game day apps, which give fans access to exclusive content during the game such as replays, stats, or even the ability to order food from a kiosk to be delivered straight to their seat, stadia are enhancing their core offering.
Game day apps have taken off in America’s NFL with clubs scrambling to roll out their own version. In particular, the San Francisco 49ers have had huge success from their App. Fans inside the stadium got to vote on the half time entertainment and what song their team should come out to in the fourth quarter. The 49ers received 60,000 in-app votes in the first 12 seconds the first time they used the feature. This is conclusive proof that there is a desire for game day apps amongst fans in the NFL and they can be used to maximise fan experience.
iBeacons are not all that new. We have seen stadia across the world have tremendous success utilising iBeacons over the past few years, with Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres baseball team, and LA Dodgers’ Dodger Stadium being the first two stadia to install the technology back in 2014. Things have only developed from there.
The technology works with low-energy Bluetooth that is built into iOS devices. Major sporting teams can put the technology to use by installing iBeacon transmitters on their premises and building proximity-related functions into their smartphone applications. If the user has the app installed on their phone and their Bluetooth activated, the team can send information such as messages, promotions and offers to the phone’s home screen when it comes within range of the iBeacon.
Li-Fi is perhaps the next step in technological evolution in the already successful iBeacon technology. If you have ever been inside a packed stadium then you will know the difficulties of getting phone reception. This can be a problem for clubs who are wanting to implement their game day apps or incorporate other second screen technology to enhance fans’ match day experience. To combat this, there is now a new technology being developed and tested to be used in stadia called ‘LiFi’. NBA team Golden State Warriors will be the first team to trial and implement the new technology in their new, high-tech sports and entertainment complex, which is due to be completed by 2018.
LiFi is the use of LED lights that transmit data to people’s devices using the power of light. The Golden State Warriors fans will no longer struggle to get phone service during the game as data will be beamed at them from lights placed around the arena, and even LiFi street lamps will be installed so fans will be sent data from the club on their approach to the arena. Fans can be sent team news, offers on food or merchandise and even personalised messages as they are entering the stadium vicinity.
Technology as mentioned in this article can really improve and enhance the fan experience, but is it to all fans’ taste? There are always going be the traditionalists who look no further than the action that’s in front of them and people may have concerns fellow supporters are becoming too immersed in their devices whilst the game is actually on. This may eventually lead to supporters becoming more detached from the game, which is fundamentally what spectator sport has always been about.
However, technology is ever changing, and its influence in sport is ever growing. With technology already being incorporated into the actual rules of sports, it seems only natural for stadia to adapt to keep up with this trend. What’s more, we are starting to see the computer literate and tech-savvy, millennial generation in attendance at games. The demand for this technology is only set to increase, so the top sports clubs must start incorporating technology into their stadia now, to ensure they do not get left behind by the inevitable surge of progress.
What are your thoughts on the increasing use of tech in stadia to enhance fan experience? Let us know in the comments below or via social media, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to receive new articles straight to your inbox.