Industry Stories

Sports Enthusiasts Experience a Fresh Adrenalin Rush with Stadium Technology

Technology has become so integrated with sports, that there is hardly any sport with an international audience devoid of technology. For a while now, coaches, team managers and players have accessed technology to monitor performance at both the individual and team level, gain feedback, plan strategies before and during matches, and continuously improvise their game so as to get that winning edge. Not surprisingly, technology is making its way to fans as well, and I don't mean to those watching the match remotely- on their television or streaming it on the internet- but rather those of us who throng sporting arenas to take in the energy and action as it happens, live.

Digital native fans crave an interactive and engaging experience

To get a glimpse of how technology is making its way into stadiums, take a look at the Amsterdam Arena in Holland - home of the Ajax Football Club. Technology here is so comprehensive, it can be imagined as a digital layer over the sports venue. This layer is what brings everyone - players, coaches, team owners, merchants, food vendors, parking lot attendants, security guards, and yes, thousands of screaming fans - together for a seamless, immersive experience. So fans can use their smartphone and learn the fastest route to the stadium, see a vacant parking spot as they drive in, access high quality Wi-Fi to view real-time data on players, live stream the match even while at the food counter and stay active on their social media sites. For advertisers, there is face recognition technology for targeted advertising. Stadium owners have the opportunity to offer tighter security and better management of energy and other utilities. Technology at Amsterdam Arena, effectively converges to offer all stakeholders a markedly enhanced sporting experience.

Another example of technology making its way into stadiums and closer to home is the Levi's Stadium where fans can use their smartphone and connect to a wireless beacon from their seat, order food or even check the line at the restroom.

The stadium of the New York Yankees made big news last year. After only seven years of operation, the Yankees organization is paying for a $20 million renovation. It is removing bleachers in the outfield in favor of a family-friendly multiplex. Besides having an 'engaging children's play area,' the new complex will allow 'all guests to enjoy the game from multiple vantage points while having unique food and drink options available.' The Yankee stadium could also go a step further and leverage technology to knit the physical and virtual space, and thus to redefine their fans experience.

Following the trend of mega stadiums are Universities like Southern Alabama, which is partnering with Infosys to implement smart-stadium technology at their basketball pavilion, Mitchell Center.

Technology in sporting arenas has come a long way since the Jumbotron, which gave fans in the higher up seats a quick glimpse of outstanding play on the field as though they were sitting in the front row. Now, technology companies have progressed to offering full-scale, stadium-wide platforms that allow management and fans to connect, engage and enjoy a personalized experience, no matter where they are at the venue.

Today's best sports technology platforms are an acknowledgment that no two fans are the same - so everyone deserves his or her own experience. That includes cutting through advertising clutter and customizing promotions to each and every fan at the stadium.

Converting the physical venue into a digital platform

Imagine you are sitting in the stands and just saw one of your favorite football players intercept a pass and run the length of the field for a touchdown. You can watch the replay as many times as you'd like because of the in-stadium streaming replays available to you on your mobile device. The neatest thing about fans is that they love to converse with each other. They argue about which team is better, which player is having a good or bad day, and whether a touchdown was scored as they watch the instant replays on their digital devices. How could such widespread digital engagement occur? Through stadium connectivity infrastructure that meets today's needs. Or rather todays 'giga-needs'.

Which leads us to the fact that through digitization comes monetization. The transformation of sports through precision marketing translates into the creation of sponsorship value. That's because modern sports technology platforms leverage fan profiling and analytics. They know what their fans like to eat, so that digital devices empowered by robust, in-stadium Wi-Fi, direct them to the right food and beverage stand. Organizers know what team and players the fan follows, so that they are directed to on-site or online stores where they can buy t-shirts and other team/player merchandise. Such an improved customer relationship means heightened fan loyalty. Fan engagement can continue well after the game is over, and go on throughout the season and off the season through digital media, social and customized content.

Because these platforms are multi-tenant, Cloud-based, and highly scalable, they work just as seamlessly at any event that involves a large arena. Contextualized ads and promotions are just as lucrative for an arena or sponsor and allow for monetization. This is especially true where large numbers of people gather, such as at shopping malls, industry trade shows, convention centers, and cinemas.

My favorite part of these new venue technology platforms? Beacons that let you know that a friend is in the arena. You can text him to meet up for a drink after the event. Not surprisingly, smart venue technology would allow users to engage with it much after the event as well, say to access game analysis, watch videos in action replay mode and continue celebrating with one's favorite team.