Professional sports franchises in every city throughout the world are facing the same challenge: with technology continuing to get bigger and better, staying home to watch the big game has become entirely too appealing.
So how do teams continue to attract thousands of fans to their buildings each year in the age of smartphones, HDTVs, and surround sound?
It all comes down to the experience, of course. Sports franchises need to make the in-game experience as convenient, fun, rewarding and exciting as the ones fans can get at home—and this all starts with technology. With over 100 stadiums anticipated to be built by 2018-2019 worldwide, the goal of each one should be to make attending a game or event an immersive, connected experience.
Over the years, venues have come a long way. Where fans once carried ticket stubs, with the shift to mobile there’s now ticketless entry, which allows for easy entry to the venue, loyalty and rewards, as well as easy ticket management for a seamless gameday experience. Today, integrated wifi access points also allow for an uninterrupted fan engagement experience, providing a framework for mobile payments for merchandise and concession kiosks, as well as reliable up-time for fans.
Static maps and kiosks have also been replaced by iBeaconing. For those unfamiliar with the technology, built-in iBeaconing allows fans to become even more connected to the stadium, helping them identify the closest facilities to their seat, or special offers and promotions relative to their location in the arena/stadium. Finally, where stadiums once had static billboards, they now have digital signage that allows them to share social, contextual, real-time stadium information right in the arena, including club players, virtual tours, custom-greetings, and high definition videos to excite and delight fans.
While some penny-pinching franchises fail to see the potential for increased profits, many prominent venues across North America have made the leap, and are now utilizing cloud-solutions to deliver incredible in-game experiences. These include Avaya Stadium in San Jose, which features a stadium mobile app and fan engagement wall, Rogers Arena in Vancouver, which boasts wireless solutions on an Olympic-quality network, and the Bell Centre in Montreal, which will host the medal rounds of the 2017 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship this coming January.
Now running Fabric Connect, the Bell Centre can concentrate on providing the ultimate World Junior fan experience with nearly 500 wireless access points that ensure fans have access to wifi no matter where they are in the arena. The network is completely open, with no password and no landing page, allowing thousands of people to surf the Internet on their smartphones at the same time with no connectivity or bandwidth issues. Hockey fans who make the trip to Montreal also won’t have to worry about forgetting their tickets at home thanks to “ticketless” entry.
The new year is the perfect time for stadiums across North America to look at what they’re offering in terms of the in-stadium experience. As watching sports from the couch only becomes better, these stadiums need to use cutting-edge technology to fight back and draw paying customers through their doors by delivering the kind of convenient, fun and engaging experiences that will keep fans coming back.
Luc Deschênes is the Vice-President of Eastern Canada for Avaya.