July 03, 2014

Understanding the Expectations of the 21st Century Fan

In today’s mobile enabled culture, where ubiquitous mobile connectivity is no longer a luxury but a demand, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that fans attending professional and collegiate sporting events today expect a high quality network experience upon entering a venue.  Not unlike a hospital, university, hotel, or office setting, the ability of a sports organization to offer mobile services while having visibility into how the system is being used, represents an equally essential task.  Distributed Antenna Systems (DAS) alone do not accomplish this level of service and coverage in a stadium environment; a complete system that includes both WiFi and DAS must be employed.  An integrated solution and an understanding of how a solution is leveraged on a day to day basis further empowers organizations with actionable analytics, bolsters the game day experience, and ultimately debunks some of the myths associated with technology and fan engagement in a venue.

Historically, when providing connectivity in a venue, the importance of establishing a reliable WiFi infrastructure has been undervalued and taken a backseat to DAS systems. However, these carrier and neutral host-based systems grant venue teams little to no visibility into network usage or data consumption patterns.  Not to mention these systems are quickly reaching capacity in supporting the extensive data traffic growth in high density environments that are characteristic of stadium or arena settings.  The data harvested from Extreme Network’s WiFi analytics engine, Purview, underscores this theory: during this year’s ‘Big Game’ at Met Life Stadium in New York, a report taken from the peak network usage time showed 1.5 times the outbound WiFi data traffic compared to 3 DAS systems (supporting both 3G and LTE) combined.  A WiFi system supports the necessary offload of data traffic from DAS systems, guaranteeing a high quality digital experience for fans regardless of the connection medium used.

Mobile fan engagement inside a venue has traditionally proved to be another point of contention and ambiguity for sports organizations and technology providers.  While the development and utilization of ‘game day applications’ augment certain aspects for fans attending a sporting event, just how consistent is the adoption rate?  The collection of mobile usage data addresses this very question, and in certain stadium instances has demonstrated only 5 – 10% digitally active mobile fans did so through “game day apps.”  In reality, the majority of bandwidth was leveraged for common applications fans use every day: social media apps (like Facebook and Twitter), streaming media, email, internet, etc. Today, fans expect strong stadium connectivity and desire the flexibility and freedom to define their own experience, where sharing those live sporting event experiences via mobile has become the norm.

Without visibility into network usage and without access to actionable analytics, collegiate and professional sports organizations aren’t able to truly engage with their fan base or intelligently leverage their network as a business asset.  In order to justify an investment and enable fans, a robust mobile connectivity solution including both DAS and WiFi is critical.  With a reliable, high performing mobile-enabled infrastructure in place, organizations strengthen the loyalty of engaging fans by offering mobile experiences that will increase the likelihood of repeat visits and establish a revenue return that justifies the cost of the mobile network asset.

To learn more, please access our SEAT Event Page, where we’ll be speaking to the topics covered in this blog in greater detail. Thank you.

About The Contributor:
John BramsDirector, Sports and Entertainment

John is the Director of Sports and Entertainment for Extreme Networks. He has over 19 years of experience in the data networking and security space. In his current role at Extreme Networks, John leads the Sports and Entertainment Business Unit. His team is responsible for handling all aspects of account management (including strategic planning, product development, and engineering), design, implementation, and support of HD Wi-Fi technology in stadiums and arenas. John started his career with Cabletron in 1994 and has held several positions throughout his tenure including sales leadership, business development and national account management. He earned his B.S. degree in Business Administration from the Whittemore School of Business at the University of New Hampshire.

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