November 21, 2013

Digital Doorstep of the NFL

Transformational change is occurring everywhere we work, live and play. Social networks are not new, however use has turned pervasive, nearing addiction, in personal and professional realms for many. Mobile applications are fueling a data feeding frenzy leaving many businesses confused, without understanding, and sadly without relevance or connection to the customers they are desperate to attract.

The NFL, the most lucrative sports league in the world, recognizes the changing technology landscape and is leading a digital revolution destined to transcend sport. You see, the NFL and its 32 teams consider themselves to be social media companies – first and foremost – entertainment and sporting companies second.

Last week the Philadelphia Eagle’s hosted an evening Mobility Summit at their stadium, Lincoln Financial Field.  I wasn’t surprised to learn that over 60% of NFL fans interact with league content on their mobile device. It was noted, by Eagle’s VP of Communications, that their team thinks mobile first and strategize on the type of content they distribute based on social platform and expected engagement. For example, Twitter is used as the team’s primary newsfeed while Instagram is used to share images of the team, players and activities fans would be interested to see. Two platforms, different content distributed, but the same goal – connect with fans by bringing content to their digital doorstep.

Upping the ante, the League has provided technical standards for teams to install hyper-dense Wi-Fi systems in every stadium. Some stadiums, like Lincoln Financial Field and Gillette Stadium (New England Patriots), have successfully deployed and met league requirements for performance and capacity servicing fans this season.

Many discuss, and surmise, reasons why the league is mandating Wi-Fi. Most point to the battleground for ticket sales competing with HD television, couches, and cold beer in the fridge.  An enhanced game-day experience is what the league seeks to deliver – instant replay on demand, live camera views, NFL RedZone, fantasy football, bathroom wait-times, and even concession interaction are elements being delivered today. Future evolution may include amazing enhancements such as live player audio feeds – truly differentiating the experience to something fans can’t get at home. Undoubtedly these enhancements will drive increased attendance across the league’s stadiums.

For some, the technology is a compelling change building renewed interest to attend games – however cynics claim Wi-Fi is just a novelty and doesn’t enhance the live experience. They argue that technology interrupts and actually detracts from watching a live event.

I’ll share an inside secret: the investments being made are not for the cynics that are likely members of an older generation. They are, in fact, deploying these technologies for the fan of the future – the millennial generation (those born between 1980-2000). It might be the grandchild of a season ticket holder entering the building with a smartphone or tablet expecting Wi-Fi access today. In the near future, that grandchild will be part of a globally dominant purchasing force and will expect personal social interactions before spending their money.

Interesting stats to consider: By 2018 Millennials will be the largest purchasing power of any generation. Today, close to 50% of Millennials buy goods or services through their mobile devices and rely heavily on social networks for word of mouth brand introduction, approvals and primary buying decisions.

It is for these very reasons that the NFL, and every team, is in the midst of transforming their business to social media companies. They are building a digital doorstep for their fans to enter and engage on their own terms, and on the platform they enjoy most.  This social connectivity demands guaranteed access inside and outside of the stadium. The league wants to ensure that fans coming to the building are engaged, active and satisfied with their experience before, during and after the game.

These aren’t simple trends to consider; these are transformational changes to the consumer of the future and the way business must engage. Its not just sporting fans, but fans of your company, products and services that will expect the very same personalized social relationship delivered to their digital doorstep before they choose to spend.

The NFL is a revolutionary technology leader that every business can learn from. We thank our fantastic customer, the Philadelphia Eagles, for hosting this mobility event and sharing their valuable insight and business drivers for one great evening.

About The Contributor:
Mike LeibovitzDirector of Mobility Solutions

Mike Leibovitz has over 15 years of Sales Engineering, Product Management and Marketing expertise in the Communications Industry. Since 2008 Mike has been instrumental in bringing high density Wi-Fi solutions to stadiums, healthcare, education and commercial markets for Extreme Networks. Mike’s current role, Director of Mobility and Applications at Extreme is focused on evangelizing mobile and software solutions that drive positive and consistent user experiences. If you would like to read more about his views on mobility, visit his blog Follow me on twitter @MikeLeibovitz.

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