• Richard Ayers

Connected Fans, Not Connected Stadiums

Whether you are the consumer looking to create a ‘smart home’ or a brand looking to increase knowledge about your customers through the data collected, there is huge excitement about the possibilities that will be gained from connecting up objects and devices. And in the world of sport, smart stadia are a very hot topic.


There is an element of the wild-west about these “smart” products and services, many of which driven by the technology rather than customer need. The classic example is the Internet Fridge, a product so pointless given the increase in mobile device usage that the term is now entering into the lexicon as shorthand for a product looking for a problem to solve. There is even a Tumblr dedicated to the idea.


The concept of a connected stadium is similarly new. We remember the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games as being a watershed for the ability to engage fans through digital, however, the Olympic stadium had no wi-fi capability. Only in the last twelve months have the 49ers’ Levi’s stadium and Manchester City’s Etihad shown the kinds of venue capability that clubs are starting to look at and fans will expect.


Conversations about connected stadiums tend to fall into one of two buckets: 1) The technical implementation; how many contact points, which supplier, where are the black spots? 2) How much will it cost and what are the commercial benefits?


Both of these approaches fundamentally ignore the first principle of product development - what does the customer – fan - need? The current approach looks at the stadium and considers how it connects to the thousands of fans that attend a match. The more constructive approach would be to consider it from the perspective of an individual fan, moving the concept from a “connected stadium” to a “connected fan”.


Consider this common example of a Connected Stadium: A club is in the process of building a new stadium and as part of the plan installs wi-fi that will allow 75% of the fans in the stadium to connect to wi-fi. This will then let them connect to the club app that will allow them to order food from all the concessions in the stadium to pick up at half-time.


Then consider it from the perspective of the Connected Fan: the fan is a season ticket holder, their ticket is on the app. The fan enters the stadium by using the e-ticket on their phone. Once in the stadium they get a message from the team captain or manager about the day’s game. The app continues to give them exclusive content but also allows them to share their experience with other fans who aren’t at the game. At half-time they get to compete in a sponsored game and then after the match they get an update on how to get home. The stadium becomes just one part of the club which is connected to the Fan.


By putting the fan’s needs and concerns first, clubs and venues have a golden opportunity to enhance the matchday experience, entertaining fans whilst increasing loyalty and revenue. If this isn’t the approach, then a club may be in danger of spending money on connectivity that fans will engage with about as much as that internet fridge.

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