Consider this – Soccer finals are scheduled in the city. A 43” LCD TV is up and running at home. Chips and popcorn packets are stocked up. A comfortable couch, soothing air-conditioning and high-speed Wi-Fi are all in place.
So why should I get out of my PJs and make that trip to the local stadium?
Because nothing beats the stadium experience! Thousands of charged spectators, the electric atmosphere, screaming fans in team jerseys, painted faces waving team flags, all watching sports idols upfront – the sheer exhilaration of the numbers.
But the flip side of that are the serpentine ticket queues, the parking jams and the concession stands running out of hot dogs midway into the match.
However, none of that would be a challenge if you happen to be in a “connected” stadium. With traditional stadiums finding it challenging to fill all seats, even on game days, the only differentiator that can draw in the crowds is the level of fan engagement–the fun factor that is being offered. Wi-Fi could well be the game-changer that lets stadiums whiz past their competitors.
Using Mobility to Enhance the Fan Experience
Just as professional sports cannot be played while using outdated equipment, an under-performing wireless capability can wreak havoc with plans of getting the stands full. Having expansive high-speed wireless coverage will lure mobile-toting fans back into the stands and bring in fresh revenue opportunities for both sports teams and stadiums through the following channels:
Social Media – Since sharing the unique in-stadium experience through social media is so vital to today’s constantly online generation, give fans an experience they cherish with excellent wireless connectivity. Imagine what one positive encounter can accomplish: It will not only ensure repeat customers for the next event, but generate glowing recommendations and happy pictures on social media that will bring in the friends for the next game, neatly adding to ticket sales.
Mobile Apps – Change how fans connect to their favorite sporting teams with mobile apps that stream instant replays from various angles, show scoreboards and schedules updated in real-time and help buy tickets. Introduce an aspect of gamification through an app-based game and you have your audience hooked beyond the walls of the stadium. Include a rewards program based on app usage and you have a captive audience for long-term engagement.
Targeted Advertising – Turn connected stadiums into perfect venues for brand promotion among targeted user groups. Sponsors and event management companies can track fans’ behavioral patterns, monitor their location or decision-based data and push appropriate offers accordingly. For instance, if a fan checks on a particular sports star’s profile more than a designated number of times, a message can be sent to him to inform him of the pop-up shop selling fan memorabilia. Such data analytics could help marketing departments gain better insights into consumer behavior and tweak their sales strategies accordingly.
How Wi-Fi Can Make the Little Things Count
Additional value-adds can propel fans back into stadiums, regardless of rising ticket prices. If you think about it, it’s evident that it is the little things that add up to make a big difference.
Hassle-free parking assurance – Mobile apps ensure that fans can order valet parking in pre-booked slots of their choice before they arrive at the venue. When offered such add-ons at the time of booking tickets, fans wouldn’t really mind paying a slight premium.
In-seat food deliveries – An outing is incomplete without lip-smacking food that adds to the experience. Popular food items, served through mobile food carts that make in-seat deliveries, can be another significant value-add. Operating mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) machines that utilize the in-stadium Wi-Fi make it possible for food vendors to accept secure credit card payments as apps help fans choose and order their food without having to miss out on any of the action on the pitch.
Engaging and secure atmosphere – Digital signage displaying paid advertisements or pointing out the location of restrooms and exits is a familiar sight. But this information-sharing ability can multiply if the signage is controlled by the venue managers through wireless connectivity to display relevant, engaging content during an event. Wi-Fi can also be a lifesaver in case of medical emergencies or unforeseen events impacting public safety, as venue managers can simply flash evacuation directions through the digital signage and move both fans and players to safety.
Technical Deployment Challenges
Deploying Wi-Fi in stadiums is challenging, mainly because of the crowd volume involved. When 50,000 or more people in an enclosed area try to connect through their mobiles at the same time, bandwidth capacity really counts. Newly-built stadiums are taking this factor into consideration by increasing access points, connecting them through fiber optic networks and using multi-directional antennas to cover the black spots.
After all, a fabulous fan experience is key to a stadium’s success.