NFL Tech Preview: Trends for the ’19-’20 Season

Ryan Hall Manager, Vertical Solutions Marketing Published 26 Aug 2019

With the beginning of the ’19-’20 NFL season underway, the League and its players are fully prepared for another exciting, competitive year.  NFL team and their stadiums are also prepared to deliver an all-encompassing ‘game day experience.’  Behind every live football game is reliable, seamless Wi-Fi connectivity and innovative technologies that contribute to an effortless, high-quality day spent in the stadium.  These are some of the game-changing technology trends to look for this season.

Customizing for a Touchdown

Welcome to the National Football League, where stadiums are filled from end zone to end zone with the latest, innovative technologies that seamlessly come together to create an augmented experience.  Whether you’re a new fan entering the stadium for the first time or it’s your 100th visit as a season ticket holder, the thrill of game day never fades.  Still, the team and their stadiums are looking to strategies that connect audiences on a more personal level, ensuring the crowd is staying entertained, engaged, and wanting more.

Through the new advancements with projection mapping and AR/VR, the in-stadium experience continues to excite fans with enhanced, highly-tailored experiences on game day.

Projection mapping, seen throughout the Mercedez-Benz Stadium during Super Bowl LIII, customizes fan involvement by displaying event graphics and building wraps with promotions admired by all.  Simultaneously, AR/VR gives the chance for fans to have a unique, mesmerizing experience whether you’re in the stands or on the field.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are embracing technology advancements by creating their own virtual reality department, allowing the team’s players to take part in the pilot programs.  Not only is the team giving fans access to a 360-degree world at Heinz Field, but the technology provides insights into player performance, with recent talk about determining salary based off results seen through the lens of VR.  Technology can deliver compelling results to the stadiums and the teams themselves, but it’s equally essential to consider technology investments that positively impact the fan. 

Staying Offensive with Security

One constant that remains a venue priority is the need for reliable, trustworthy technologies that increase security and decrease the concern of any possible threats.  Providing a strong sense of safekeeping to fans instills confidence in the stadium and creates a greater likelihood of future visits.

The option of mobile ticketing is not only an environmentally friendly route for stadiums, it reduces the potential risk of fraud. The NFL plans to utilize SafeTix by Ticketmaster in 27 stadiums this September, giving each buyer a specific barcode, which has the capability to refresh every few seconds, eliminating the likelihood of screenshots or other copying methods.  Now more than ever, customers are utilizing mobile ticketing through their phones as a convenient way to gain access into the stadium – in addition to other offerings inherent in the applications.  Mobile options have become a hot commodity as they eliminate the hassle that comes with printing tickets.  Purchases are easily accessible through the touch of a screen.

In order to ensure fans who are granted this access don’t pose a hazard to others, facial recognition can scan and decipher faces that are restricted from entering stadiums.  Found at Gillette Stadium, facial recognition is installed to keep fans safe and identify repeat customers, greeting them on a first-name basis in a further effort to personalize the game day experience.  A seamless fan experience is not only about saving time and enjoying new applications that stadiums have to offer, it is the underlying security technology which is central to the successful outcome of a memorable game day.

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Tackling Connectivity

Despite the countless number of technology advancements appearing in the NFL, one technology expectation remains a priority: Wi-Fi connectivity.  The NFL must complement what fans experience from the comfort of their couches, in the stadium, by delivering a similar (and strong) mobile experience.

From the second fans enter the stadium, they expect easy to access Wi-Fi with a secure connection that remains strong throughout the entirety of the game and throughout the stadium environment.  The next generation of Wi-Fi, known as Wi-Fi 6, will allow for increased network capacity and efficiency, meeting the increasing demands of users and their devices.  With Extreme’s Wi-Fi 6 technology features three new wireless access points, specifically designed to deliver robust connectivity in the most dense and most challenging RF environments – like an NFL stadium.

With the increased features of Wi-Fi 6, networks have the power to enable other experiences and services.  Once fans are automatically connected to Wi-Fi, they can begin using applications and devices that are offered from stadium to stadium.  Mobile kiosks allow fans to connect on a more personal level through activities, appearances, signings, and upgrades.  This tailored idea of connectivity took place during the NFL Draft where fans had the chance to visit a kiosk to register for the event through the Mobile Fan Pass, granting them access to prizes up for grabs.  With the growing expectation of customers, Wi-Fi connectivity and engaging mobile options help NFL stadiums to stay one step ahead of digital trends.

Future Plays

With the era of digital transformation changing how technology is implemented into daily lives, it is vital for organizations like the NFL to continually adapt to the cultural changes and needs of its customers.  By investing in technology to enhance the fan experience, such as mobile ticketing, stadiums are appealing to fans and how they engage on a day-to-day basis.  In the upcoming months, new additions like 3D ticket viewing through RateYourSeat.com is looking to give fans an inside view into their seats before making their final purchase.  Through a 360-degree photo option, it ensures that customers are satisfied with their seats prior to attending the game.  While it is impossible to predict the future, if NFL stadiums continue to invest in strategic technologies and pilot innovative use cases, they will appeal to their existing customer base and attract first time fans. 

To learn more about the latest, contemporary technologies trusted by the National Football League, be sure to visit our Sports and Public Venues landing page.

This blog was co-written by Ashley Iannuzzi, Vertical Marketing Solutions Intern at Extreme Networks.  To connect with Ashley, visit her LinkedIn page.

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