Authored by Manny Spanoudakis, Sr Business Development Manager Sports Media and Entertainment
I have many fond memories of walking through the stadium gates on game day holding my father’s hand in awe of the cathedral we were entering. Every sense was heightened with anticipation. The roar of the crowd, the smell of food, the excitement of potentially meeting the players; my heroes. Nothing deterred us. Not the inclement weather nor the walk from the car, often parked many blocks away from the stadium. Queuing in long lines waiting to go through antiquated turnstiles. This was all part of the game day experience. Sport had the power to change the world and the venue was where we experienced these special moments. Everything was about being at the game!
In 2022, terms like “immersive”, “interactive”, and “personalized fan engagement” are commonplace across the industry, with venues striving to deliver the ultimate fan experience. Despite being in a venue with thousands of people, fans expect their experience to be convenient, personal, and memorable. An event day experience catered for many but tailored for one, me.
In the late 1990s, the introduction of High-Definition TV transformed the live sport broadcast experience and venues found themselves in direct competition with the couch. No need to worry about the weather, traffic, or parking. Fans no longer had to tolerate lengthy queues to purchase overpriced food and beverages, or to simply go to the toilet. In recent years, the emergence of live content on Over the Top (OTT) streaming services means fans can now consume tailored content across multiple platforms in the comfort of their home.
GenZ and GenAlpha, as well as many millennials, are the future fans and they are quite different from the Boomers. They place importance on unique experiences that match their personal interests. They want to have different entertainment options before, during, and after the game, they want to socialize while watching the game and they demand great service! Given these characteristics, it is not difficult to see why the services offered in venues must be different. The question is, to what extent? One thing that is certain, technology is key to successfully enabling these services.
Connected everywhere, all the time
In 2021, Statista released a report saying there are approximate 6.4 billion smartphones worldwide. If you consider the global population is around 7.9 billion, the penetration of smartphones is over 80%. Fans want to stay connected to their favourite team, players, artist, and friends before, during, and after the game. They must be entertained!
GenZ and GenAlpha are ultra-connected and want to use their smart devices wherever they are. It means they want to always have free and fast access to the internet. It means multi-screen and interactive personalised experiences and shareable and unique content that cannot be experienced by watching the game at home or outside the stadium. Wi-Fi 6,5G, Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Artificial Intelligence all play extremely important roles going forward.
Queue Management and AI Crowd Intelligence
Food and beverage (F&B) consumption is one of the most important components of the event experience and remains one of the main revenue generators besides ticketing. Fans do not like to wait in line, as they don’t want to miss the game action. Solutions like WaitTime give fans insight into queue lengths at concession outlets and toilets via the Mobile App or on digital signage. This allows them to make informed decisions on the most time effective moment to leave their seat.
Electronic ordering of Food and Beverages
To improve the fan’s F&B experience, more attention is being paid to the quality of food, speed of delivery, and cost. Technology is a critical enabler. Ordering food via app whilst watching the game from your seat is already happening with varying degrees of success. This will save queuing time, or even better, orders could be delivered to your seat. Who knows, possibly by drone. With that same app, it also will be much easier to implement loy- alty programs that fans can benefit from through tailored promotions and offerings. Besides technology, the variety and quality of food offered continues to improve. Many venues are also investing in major upgrades in concession outlets, clubs, and eating areas to elevate the experience.
The time is now
Venues today need to consider how they can leverage technology to address these forever changing guest expectations. They need to consider leveraging the venue as a media platform, providing engagement, education, influence, personalization, and targeted, hyper personalized messages the guest expects today. Connectivity and the mobile experience are paramount to the delivery. It is fair to say, the gameday experience of my younger years, are indeed a thing of the past. Your guest is ready to experience the venue, and overall gameday experience on a whole new level… The question is: are you prepared to offer that new experience? If not, be prepared to lose to the couch.