The average college freshman this year was born in 1997.
Think about that for a second.
That means the next wave of college and major league sports fans were just 10 years old when the iPhone debuted. They’ve likely had high speed internet in their homes for the majority of their lives. These are true digital natives.
Providing connectivity to this powerful new audience – and to the more than 80% of sports fans who tote a mobile device to a game – is table stakes. Meeting fan expectations requires flexible, nuanced networks that can do more than just deliver basic connectivity. Today’s networks must have the power to scale with connected fan behaviors, and deliver a myriad of benefits to venues and partners.
Major sports and entertainment venues see new trends redefining the connected fan experience, including:
The connected fan experience does not begin when the game clock starts running, but rather when the fan steps out of their car at the stadium. Not wanting to leave tailgaters out in the cold, stadiums like Soldier Field are installing outdoor Distributed Antenna System networks designed to give fans and concert-goers comprehensive cellular coverage before, during, and after a game or performance. Connectivity is not an amenity; it is a utility. It’s like the air we breath. Fans expect it. They expect a frictionless mobile experience throughout an average day, so why wouldn’t they expect this same standard on game day?
One Network Fits All is a Fantasy
Mobile data consumption is at an all time high, with no signs of slowing down. As stadium app experiences become richer, and fans increase data-heavy activity on their phones such as video streaming or sharing, the appetite for mobile bandwidth appears insatiable. In order to provide a network that will offer flexibility and bandwidth for the future, experts suggest installing DAS and Wi-Fi networks simultaneously. This provides a dense and scalable network designed to provide multiple services for current and future technologies, while reducing the overall cost of installation. Managed network service providers can also design future-proofed networks that incorporate new technologies such as small cells, providing necessary focused capacity for new devices like wearables in the growing Internet of Everything environment.
Analytics and data have become crucial to teams and venues looking to deliver a fan-focused connected experience, and those hoping to keep apace with changing fan expectations. The anonymous aggregated data gleaned from high quality wireless networks allows venue decision makers to monitor consumer consumption, hot spots, and network load in real time. Not only does this help maintain the integrity of the network, it also allows for a more personalized fan experience. We are at the tip of the iceberg in terms of the data we can glean from these networks, and it is only a matter of time until this information drives many of the major decisions at these venues.
New Network, New Revenue Opportunities
While installing a full service wireless network requires an investment, it also provides opportunities for significant return on that investment. Sports franchises have written the playbook for advertising sales and sponsorships; however, additional opportunities for branding are available on the mobile screen. Beyond advertising dollars, these apps can drive revenue from merchandise and real-time seat upgrades. Teams like the Atlanta Hawks are just dipping their toe in the water with app transactions, but it won’t be long before loyal fans can expect a fully personalized game day experience. Quality networks are built to scale to support future mobile partnership offerings.
Imagine integrating transportation options, or a sponsor’s coupon into the app or mobile experience in-venue. The possibilities are limited only by venue and teams’ imaginations.
Kansas State University President Kirk Schulz captured the seismic change in the stadium environment recently when he said: “All of our fans coming to the game, they bring two things: a ticket and a smartphone.” This trend shows no signs of slowing down, with one exception – their ticket will likely be on their smartphone.