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On the Winning Team: Technology Fuels the Fan Experience

Cutting-edge technologies and services create a major-league fan and business environment.
  • August 11, 2017

Stadiums and arenas are going deep on technology, making it a whole new ballgame for fans who enjoy seeing their favorite stars online as well as in person. 

Digital signage, high-density wireless networking and rich content services bring new levels of convenience, insight and interactivity to sports and other entertainment events. “These technologies help venues deliver a more personalized experience to fans by providing amenities such as automatic notifications about seat upgrades and best parking, sharing exclusive video feeds and instant replays from multiple camera angles, and enabling fans to place and receive concession orders without ever leaving their seats,” says Mike Compitello, director of global sports and entertainment infrastructure services for IBM Global Technology Services. Teams, performers and venue operators also enjoy the benefits provided by constant connectivity and interactivity, particularly the revenue generation digital technology brings to live events. 

For sports and entertainment venues, the pressure is on to deliver a digital experience that’s so compelling it surpasses the comfort and convenience of staying home. “Luring fans away from their own living rooms is becoming increasingly difficult to do, especially as advanced wireless capabilities become the residential norm,” Compitello says. “Consistent, high-quality connectivity is key, and young fans in particular are leaving stadiums and other venues that aren’t able to provide it.” 

“Who are the customers who are coming through the gates?” asks Greg Buzek, president of IHL Group, a retail and hospitality industries research and advisory firm. “Very likely, it’s a millennial fan, 25 to 45 or so, who is hardwired to technology.” Such individuals, thanks to loyalty programs and other focused marketing efforts, are now accustomed to almost concierge-level service as soon as they enter a retail store. So, Buzek wonders, “why in the world would you not evolve your fan experience to a 21st-century experience?” 

Welcome to the Show

Digital signage, supporting multiple video and data streams, marks a light-year’s advancement over older mechanical and electrical scoreboards. Networked displays such as Cisco StadiumVision draw fans into an event, allowing them to view live action and replays, as well as game updates, feature reports, advertising and sponsorship content, from virtually any location, including concourses, bars, clubs and luxury suites. Besides enhancing the overall fan experience, the technology presents new and more targeted opportunities for teams, performance acts and venues to generate revenue. 

“Networked displays are critical in a large public venue in various use cases, including digital menu boards, concourse advertising, suite entertainment, wayfinding [helping guests find venue amenities and attractions], interactive touch experiences and scoreboards,” says Jill Miller, sports, entertainment and amusement business development leader for Samsung. “With the right system, stadium and arena employees can conduct all content management and distribution – all on a single platform.” 

High-density wireless networks, currently being deployed in stadiums and arenas worldwide, allow fans to stay fully connected before, during and even after events. Mobile applications, such as Major League Baseball’s Ballpark app, treat guests to device-based ticketing, special offers and rewards, exclusive content, remote food and merchandise ordering, seat and experience upgrades, a personalized history of every game the user has attended, social media functions and a variety of other features. 

“Mobile technologies have paved the way for a more personalized, engaging event experience, allowing fans to get closer to what’s happening on the field and increasing their desire to share it with others,” Compitello says. 

Simplifying attendance-related issues, such as parking and ticketing, and creating unique experiences while at the event make cutting-edge venue technologies a win for fans, teams, performers and stadium operators. “Mobile applications today work to mesh the physical world and the digital world to enable fans to seamlessly enjoy the journey from their home until they get to their seat,” Miller notes. “The mobile application also provides teams with data to further understand fan behavior and trends, and also allows for venues and teams to stay connected to their fan base 365 days a year.” 

Even guests who leave their smart devices at home can benefit from visiting a connected stadium or arena, given the fact that a growing number of venue operators are equipping staff members with sophisticated mobile devices. “Phones, tablets and wearables work to simplify many fan-facing experiences, including parking, suite concierge, security, guest services, mobile point of sale [mPOS] and interactive fan activities,” Miller says. 

Compitello notes that mPOS enables specialty services such as paperless transactions, in-seat ordering and better crowd management to help improve the fan experience. “A mobile cashier can scan items, take credit or debit card payments and issue a customer receipt anytime and anywhere in the stadium, resulting in shorter lines at the concession stands, souvenir shops and other retail locations.”


The percentage of U.S. fans who say they would probably or definitely use in-seat ordering if available at their stadium

Source: Oracle Hospitality, “Oracle Cloud Solves Undiscovered Stadium Revenue Growth as Sports Fans Desire Mobile Food & Beverage Ordering,” July 2016

Continuous Commitment

There is no offseason in the business of sports. “Fans now have 24/7 access to content through multiple channels and devices, with little distinction between game day, non-game day, offseason, in-venue, out-of-venue and individual customer profiles,” Compitello says. 

Delivering an exceptional fan experience hinges on getting the right content to fans at the right time, Compitello adds: “Teams must create multiple, consistent points of engagement with a single IT platform that give their fans a relevant, consistent and personalized experience with the sports enterprise, wherever, whenever and however they want it.” 

Securing the Fan Experience 

An essential part of enhancing the fan experience is ensuring effective network security for end users and venue operators alike. 

Securing a high volume of guest demands concentrated within a relatively small area requires a network access control solution that can rapidly adjust to different users, devices and needs while simultaneously dispensing reliable policy management for automatic rules enforcement. “If fans are connected to a guest network, you’ll want to ensure that policies keep fan traffic separate from internal traffic,” advises Trent Fierro, director of software and security solutions marketing for Aruba Networks. 

Centralized management makes it easy to keep policies updated while generating real-time reports of insightful usage data. “Taking advantage of group- or role-based access features within a policy management system, as well as the Wi-Fi and wired equipment, ensures that access policies can be built that understand what belongs to a guest and what does not,” Fierro says. “This allows you to set and enforce quality-of-service values, provide internet-only access and a good guest experience.” 

Strong, reliable security can also prevent guests and staff from inadvertently damaging IT and network security. “Firewall features built into next-generation Wi-Fi equipment can even limit access to websites that carry a poor reputation or are located in countries that are known to exhibit poor practices, which helps protect against new malware and other issues,” Fierro says. 

CDW’s solutions and services for sports and entertainment can help your venue make sure fans have a great experience. 


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