As television and stereo technology improves, watching sports at home is becoming more and more enjoyable. At home, sports fans are also getting used to immersing themselves in their sports experiences: they check stats on their smartphones, tweet their thoughts about the game, and follow their fantasy scores in real time. As the multimedia experience of watching sports at home improves, stadiums are looking to improve the experience of fans in the stadium in order to compete.
A plethora of technologies have been revolutionizing stadiums in recent years, and this trend stands to explode in 2018. By taking advantage of smart phones, which 97% of stadium attendees bring with them, sports franchises are making stadium experiences even more unique and valuable.
BUILDING A CONNECTED STADIUM
The all-important foundation for the new wave of stadium technologies is internet connectivity. Many stadiums are investing resources in adding huge wi-fi systems which can carry incredible amounts of bandwidth. Including Golden 1 Center, home of the Sacramento Kings basketball team, which opened last year with 1,000 wi-fi access points and over one-million square feet of wi-fi coverage, as well as Levi Stadium, the home of the San Francisco 49ers football team, which set a record when 10 Terabytes of data were transferred over its wi-fi network during Superbowl 50.
Both stadiums are new, but it’s also possible to retrofit already existing stadiums with robust wi-fi capabilities, and many teams are going to need to do just that in the coming years in order to keep up with fans’ desire for a complete digital experience.
The connected stadium provides an incredible amount of opportunities to create a more complete and immersive fan experience. One of the most exciting technologies that is currently being discussed is augmented reality. Earlier this year, the Atlanta Braves new stadium opened with full wi-fi capabilities, and, although it has yet to be implemented, the Braves are talking about creating an “augmented reality” application. This would be a simple mobile app that would allow you to point at any player on the field and immediately see their name, statistics, and biographical information. The Braves and other teams could further develop an app like this in order to allow fans to look at the field through their phone camera and see extra information in real time. Augmented reality could forever change the stadium viewing experience, and the technology already exists, it just needs to be implemented.
IMPROVING STADIUM EFFICIENCY
Connected stadiums can also help fans to avoid everyone’s least favorite thing about live events: lines. The Levi app being used in Levi Stadium allows fans to order food and drink directly to their seat right from their phone. It also gives information on different bathroom line lengths for the various bathrooms around the stadium.
There are also apps that serve to create a market for stadium seats. If you purchased the cheap seats for a game that isn’t sold out then there are probably a lot of empty seats with much better views. These apps allow you to bid on those empty seats and pay what you’re willing to pay to get the best experience for your money. There are even apps that let you check out the view from your seats before you even walk into the stadium, so you’ll know ahead of time if it’s worth it to upgrade.
Technologies like these might not be as glamorous as augmented reality, but they will greatly increase the efficiency of sports stadiums.
SECOND SCREEN TECHNOLOGY
Second screen technology is also on the rise in sports stadiums. Second screen use refers to when someone is watching something such as television or a sporting event and they use their mobile device in order to access relevant information, discuss the content online, or otherwise supplement their viewing experience. One of the most immediate and obvious uses of second screens in stadiums is for instant replays. The benefit of being able to see instant replays is one of the biggest advantages of watching sports on a television at home, but stadiums can easily set up systems in which they stream these instant replays directly to fans’ phones for those who missed the play, just want to see it again, or want to see it from a different angle.
But of course it’s not just sports franchises and fans that stand to benefit from the digitization of stadiums, large corporations are also getting in on the action. New technologies in stadiums offer corporations a whole swath of new and creative ways to push their brand, especially using what’s called “digital activation.” Digital activation is when a brand uses digital technologies in order to directly target consumers.
Bud Light has set up what it calls a social media lounge in FedEx Field (where the Washington Redskins football team plays). The lounge allows fans to play a variety of interactive games and also displays tweets made by fans live on the walls. There are also countless opportunities to market to fans directly in their stadium apps, for example the Levi app at Levi Stadium allows fans to shop the Levi’s store directly from their seat.
This kind of digital activation is going to be clear in funding stadium developments going forward. If advertisers are convinced of the marketing potential of stadium technologies then there is little doubt that we’ll see them explode in popularity.
There are many reasons to be excited about advances in stadium technology in 2018. Thanks to trailblazers such as Levi Stadium, Golden 1 Stadium, and the Atlanta Braves, the market has been blown wide open and all other stadiums are going to need to adapt quickly in order to continue attracting fans. It’s an exciting time to be a sports lover.