“There’s no better time to strike than when you’re winning.” That’s according to Cedric Brown, Interactive Marketing Content Manager for the Miami Heat. On a recent panel called “The Evolution of Sports Fan Experience, Powered By Technology, hosted by Social Media Week Miami, Brown and other Miami tech marketing specialists came together to talk about how Miami teams are modernizing the fan experience–and why a winning team can make all the difference.
Sports teams across the country are undergoing a shift from paper to mobile for tickets. In 2016, this is mostly a welcome change: as Brown points out, “people just don’t use paper anymore.” Four or five years ago, the Miami Heat introduced mobile ticketing at a time it might have not been so popular, if it weren’t for one fact: The Heat were NBA champions from 2011 through 2014. “We noticed that fans hate change,” Brown said. “It’s a lot easier to push a mobile app….when they come to see a great product on the floor.”
Ticketing is just one of many changes disrupting the sports fan experience, but it’s an important one. More people are getting tickets on their phones now than ever, with mobile ticketing expected to account for one in two tickets by 2019. The New York Yankees recently switched over to mobile ticketing entirely, and many teams have apps that makes purchasing easier.
Why make this shift to mobile? There are great benefits on both ends: for fans, there is an element of convenience, fun, and cool rewards; for teams and brands, it is an opportunity to energize fans, bring in additional revenue, and reach sometimes aloof millennial audiences.
Technology can get fans excited, sure, but what excites fans most of all? A winning team. Unfortunately, it’s hard to be excited about poor performance. There’s a cycle: winning teams energize fans, who enable marketers and developers to implement new user-servicing technology, which energizes fans even more, who in turn (hopefully) energize the team to continue winning. Wherever this cycle begins, the idea is simple: fans should have an awesome experience. And losing teams? Fans won’t come out for them, the team won’t profit, less technology will be implemented…. You get the idea.
The relationship between winning, fan experience and technology, of course, begs the question: where does money fit into the equation? The teams with the most wins have the highest payrolls, and are therefore more likely to attract talented CEOs, coaches, and athletes. According to Forbes, “the highly sought-after player is motivated by a combination of the following influences: big money, big money markets where a player can earn bigger-time endorsements, big lifestyles, and the opportunity to play for the biggest time-honored franchises in the history of the sport.”
In a ranking of 2016’s most tech-savvy sports teams, then, it’s no coincidence that the New York Yankees come out on top followed by the Dallas Cowboys.
Where do 2016’s champions stand? The Denver Broncos, who won the most recent Super Bowl, were ranked #14—the second most innovative NFL team. The Broncos having been betting on technology both before and after winning the last two Super Bowls. They have used augmented reality to partner with brands, implementing a “Twitter vending machine” to reward fans, and most recently to host a STEM hackathon.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, who won the NBA champion and are ranked at #10, have adopted 3D mapping technology, virtual reality behind-the-scenes campaigns, and will provide play-by-play “augmented audio” to fans soon.
Then you have the Chicago Cubs, who won the World Series for the first time in over a century. Some have suggested it was their use of big data in analyze pitching performance that helped them finally seal the deal. We’ll have to see if the momentum from the win motivates them to lean into tech trends even more.
All things considered, the Miami Heat remains a great example of how winning empowers teams to take technology to the next level. Their multi-year success brought their fans from a local level to a global level, and ever since the team has been leveraging technology to reach fans across the world. They have redesigned their mobile app and are moving swiftly toward all-digital ticketing. Other winning teams should follow suit.
It’s true that a majority of fans are destined for disappointment regardless of how innovative the fan experience is made to be. But making the journey engaging is worth the while. As long as teams can keep fans on board through the highs and lows that inevitably come, they should be able to make gains in technology too. Just like Brown said—strike when you’re winning, and hope that when you strike out, the fans will stay.
These days, the stadium is more than just a vessel–it’s an experience in and of itself. With new technology cropping up and improving every year, sports venues are doing their best to stay up-to-date. Certain elements are this are more than just nice to have–they are both necessities and opportunities.
Take wifi, for example. While a decade ago, fans might be content to keep their smartphones away during a game, the stakes are higher now. Connectivity is a priority for younger fans, and Cisco reports that Internet is “as important as air, water, food and shelter to one in three college students and young professionals.” This may sound hyperbolic, but think about it. Many of us live a significant portion of our lives online, with our social and professional lives hinging on Internet access. Without wifi, you’re probably going to lose your fans at halftime.
Then, there’s improved home technology. High definition big screen TVs make viewing a game at home just as awesome, twice as comfortable, and much cheaper than visiting the game physically. So there has to be something at the stadium fans can’t get at home. How about in-arena interactive hotspots? Sports leagues and brands are both leaning into this trend by building high-tech experiences that enhance fans’ stadium experience.
But don’t forget, the smartphone might be the biggest opportunity of all, and with fast, easy-access wifi, both advertisers and national leagues can hook into fans’ phones. Think seat upgrades, easy food and beverage purchasing, insider facts and insights, or any other number of modern, digital conveniences.
For an example of a high-tech stadium, look no further than Brooklyn’s Barclays center, one of the most connected stadiums in the world. Thanks to smart design and innovative ideas, fans can upgrade seats and even get notifications when the restroom line is shortest.
There’s also the in-process Mercedes Benz Stadium, which I’ve blogged about previously. In partnership with the Atlanta Falcons, IBM, and Daktronics, the smart stadium will give fans 360-degree views of the on-field action, employing state of the art sustainable technologies all the while. The goal is to give fans the best experience possible, complete with awesome technology, while using as little energy as possible.
If the stadiums of the future keep integrating technology that delights fans, provides perks, and saves energy to boot, the world of sports is in for an exciting ride in coming decades. After all, sports are all about connecting communities over shared passions. What better way to do that than going all in on digital?
The progression of getting the Atlanta Falcons’ new stadium constructed was an effort that began in December of 2012. With it slated to open next year, the architectural marvel will be soon realized, and the Atlanta Falcons will finally have their state-of-the-art stadium. In collaboration with some tech and entertainment leaders, the arena is touted to ensure the best user experience.
The Falcons along with Daktronics, a company that creates large display systems, are working together to produce a venue that will offer a 63,000 square foot HD Halo video board, giving every fan a 360-degree view of the action. And if that isn’t enough, 2,000 video displays will be available for fans to watch the games — each of them connected through a stadium-controlled IPTV (Internet Protocol Television).
Along with Miller, the Atlanta Falcons Scott Jenkins, general manager of the then named “Atlanta stadium”, will work alongside Jared Miller, CTO of AMB Sport & Entertainment Group, to oversee the operations of the arena. Miller, who has been responsible for bringing tech-to-field, takes great pride in the project, “I’m very proud of what we’re deploying and I’m also very excited to see it all come to life.”
Another collaboration will include working with IBM, who will make sure the stadium’s tech will function without any incidents, creating — according to them — a “smarter stadium”. This intelligent playground will feature state-of-the-art sustainability technology, as well as IT prowess. Passive Optical Network (PON), a fiber optic network to ensure super-connectivity, which will actually consume less energy. With its 1,800 wireless access and over 4,000 miles of fiber will serve 75,000 occupants, while increasing efficiency and overall energy costs. This is expected to be a huge accomplishment as PON will have its maiden voyage within an NFL stadium.
PON is just one of the conservation initiatives the stadium will bestow. According to Mercedes-Benz Stadium website, the stadium will be “[…] the latest sustainable advancements related to design, construction and operations, becoming a model of healthy environment for healthy bodies.”
WATER LEED (U.S. Water efficiency credits): which will include rainwater acquisition and reuse
RENEWABLE Solar PV panels and electric vehicle charging stations in parking areas.
ENERGY USAGE REDUCTION Natural energies and LED lighting that will reduce usage up to 50 percent.
The ultimate goal for the venue is to create the best possible fan experience while maintaining a conscientious design using ingenious concepts, tech, and architecture. No doubt, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, will be a stunning display of next-level sustainable technologies that Atlanta, the Falcons, and fans are anxious to see revealed.
But if you’re a fan who can’t wait, you won’t have to. The newest iteration of the video game “Madden” combines renderings of the stadium, where players can experience it ‘first-hand’. This is a fitting tech response to an upcoming tech wonder.
If you don’t intend on buying the video game and want a tour, click HERE or below for a virtual tour.