Encouraging fans back into stadiums – the design of the individual FanX

November 24, 2015

The Australian populous continues to grow but recent statistics from the major sports of National Rugby League (NRL) and the Australian Football League (AFL) shows decreases in attendances at live games this year (2015).

So what can be done to reverse this trend and lure the fan back? Just as financial institutions and insurance companies have re-envisioned their businesses to compete on experience instead of price, we believe that so too must the stadiums of the future. With the advancement of technology stadiums have a huge opportunity to provide a personalised fan experience (FanX) that starts at home, builds up to the game and continues through to that inevitable celebration or commiseration.

We know expectations of the rapidly evolving FanX have intensified, and stadiums have to fight even harder for a share of the entertainment dollar. We also know there’s nothing like experiencing a game live with your friends and thousands of others.

Almost 10 years ago to the day, remember how deflated we felt when Mark Viduka missed a penalty during the Socceroos epic World Cup qualifier against Uruguay at packed Populous-designed ANZ Stadium in November 2005. Uruguay’s follow up penalty was then saved by Mark Schwarzer to the thunderous roar of the fans and then John Aloisi sealed the game sending Australia into the 2006 World Cup. Nothing beats being there live!


Fast forward to 2015 and the current global population is about 7.3B. Industry analyst Market Research predicts there will be 8.5B connected phones, tablets and other devices worldwide by 2019. In essence, every fan attending a game now has a smart phone, leaving them with a plethora of content, channels and in most cases mind numbing noise all vying for their attention.

Google talks about ‘how to win the micro moments’ by breaking down the consumer journey into hundreds of real-time, intent-driven micro-moments, which they call the ‘Want-to-know moments. Want-to-go moments. Want-to-do moments. Want-to-buy moments’. This is the kind of thinking stadium owners need to apply. How do they win the small individual moments, as many small moments add up to an increased overall FanX? By understanding more about fans, stadiums need to create dialogue and customise the individual experience to grab a share of voice and bring fans back.

PwC talks about the ‘Connected Retailer’, which explores ‘what the customer experience might look like in the near future with retailers needing to be able to ‘connect’ the dots through technology and their own existing systems to offer a far superior customer experience’. This notion refers as much to the front of house experience customers receive as to the back of house experience that operations deliver. Stadiums need to understand and enhance the operational aspects of their businesses to meet all FanX needs.

The key question at the core of drawing fans back is how do we capture, analyse, interpret and rationalise what we do with all this big data. Stadiums are implementing new technologies to understand behaviours through platforms that draw data down from online and offline streams.

The question is how do multiple stadium tenants get a single view of the fan and who owns the relationship?

The collection of data from multiple sources ensures marketers have a powerful set of insights and can customise and curate messages based on rules and triggers that are overlaid with segmented profiles. A message can then be triggered based on attendance or previous buying habits and behaviours by a fan profile in the stadium. For example this could be an offer for the Members’ bar they just entered (picked up by a beacon) or upselling merchandise following a purchase in a retail outlet, or access to content that’s only available in stadium, such as the goal that’s just been scored from a unique camera angle.

Stadiums around the world are certainly luring fans back by trying to mirror and in some cases exceed the at home experience by delivering innovation. Stadiums need to provide new experiences week in and week out by using data, apps, beacons, screens and other digital innovations that improve how stadiums deal with fans and providing a platform for fans to have a deeper connection with their team or the venue experience.

For example, IBM in partnership with the NFL team Miami Dolphins has retro fitted their 75,000 stadium with the IBM Smart Cities initiative. The App provides their fans with data such as updates to live weather forecasts; POS Systems that prevent shortages of concessions stands and redirecting traffic to notify fans where lines are shorter for other amenities. I go back to Google’s micro moments, where small moments add up to the overall enhanced experience.

Take the NBA’s Sacramento Kings who are building a new arena. Their focus is about putting the fan in the centre of the experience to create, connect and deliver new experiences that keep them coming back. They want the FanX to be frictionless, seamless and intuitive and are designing and deploying a technology stack with that single-minded approach.


Now the big question?

How do you fund all this new technology? Stadium owners are under immense pressure on a number of fronts. They require capital to invest in aging or new infrastructure and need to demonstrate growth in their businesses by getting utilisation levels up. One answer could be the model adopted by the San Francisco 49ers’ fan base, who pre-purchased seating licenses (ranging from $6000 to $80,000) as their own for life to fund their new US$1.3B stadium which is also home to the 50th NFL Super Bowl in 2016.

There is no doubt; nothing beats a live event experience. However like most businesses in 2015 structural changes are taking place with the advancement of technology and the needs wants and expectations of the technologically sophisticated fan. Stadiums, arenas, convention centres and live events need to act on the disruption-taking place and find new ways to enhance the FanX as the fragmentation of our time will continue to evolve.


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