Football is an analytics-driven sport. Game stats help coaches understand what works and what doesn't. Gaining insights into team performance data such as yards per carry, completion percentage, and red zone efficiency helps coaches make informed game-planning decisions. Similarly, Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi analytics equip sports leagues, teams and their venues with valuable data to elevate the fan experience. This insight enables organizations like the NFL to make informed decisions about how to optimize fan experiences and more efficient venue operations.
The Super Bowl is the biggest event in football, if not American sports. This creates an opportunity to showcase the critical technologies that contribute to its realization and are shaping the sports industry today. Wi-Fi is unique in that it provides the added benefit of enabling the NFL to gather significant intelligence into fan behavior and preferences. For the 10th consecutive year, Extreme’s Wi-Fi Analytics has played a significant role in providing insights that enable the NFL to continue to optimize the fan experience. Below, we'll explore a few key takeaways of fan Wi-Fi usage and why it matters.
As technology advances, the NFL and the Super Bowl are embracing the trend of mobile engagement and the ever-evolving mobile technology industry. The proof is in the numbers, with a staggering 155% surge in Wi-Fi usage since the 2014 NFL regular season. Despite the average number of unique Wi-Fi customers and the percentage of connected users stabilizing, fans' passion and excitement continue to drive the demand for more advanced and immersive experiences.
Fans fantasize about attending the Super Bowl, and when they are fortunate enough to witness it in person, they want to share every moment of excitement with the rest of the world. SBLVII recorded the highest average usage per connected device in history, at 633 MB per fan. Wi-Fi bandwidth spiked during the most exciting game moments, and this excitement was reflected in data usage during the halftime show. When Rihanna floated into the stadium on a glowing platform suspended by wires, users connected to the Wi-Fi network experienced a +450% increase (in Mbps). The singer’s electrifying performance saw connection bandwidth reach its highest peaks.
SBLVII generated 31.5 TB of data transferred across Wi-Fi. To put that in context, that's the equivalent of watching every single one of the 2022-2023 season’s NFL games in HD more than 10 times or listening to more than 700,000 hours of music via a streaming service. It takes careful planning and preparation to pull off an event of the Super Bowl's scale. Fortunately, the same data has served as a roadmap that guides the league in operational and seasonal planning, allowing for improved efficiency and security while providing better experiences the following year.
The need for bandwidth will keep growing as fans increasingly rely on their mobile devices to access and share content. But with the introduction of Wi-Fi 6E and 5G/LTE technologies, fans can look forward to an even more enhanced and connected experience in the future. The Super Bowl will always be an event that ignites excitement and passion, and technology will continue to advance to ensure that fans can experience it to the fullest.
The NFL and its teams can gain valuable insights into fan behavior and preferences by leveraging Wi-Fi analytics by analyzing which apps fans use when they use them, and how much bandwidth each app consumes. By studying fan preferences, the league gets a better sense of how to better align things like sponsorships, concessions and experiences at the stadium.
Data is the lifeblood that drives the success of individual teams and the League. With the growing popularity of fantasy sports and sports betting in legal markets, tracking app usage has become even more important for identifying potentially lucrative partnership opportunities and activations. During SBLVII, the top "sports betting" moments occurred immediately after each team's first touchdown in the first quarter. During SBLVII, the top “sports betting” moments occurred immediately after each team’s first touchdown in the first quarter. This just scratches the surface of application analytics available to the NFL related to sports betting and beyond. This knowledge is a goldmine for the League and its teams, constantly learning and adapting their strategies to capitalize on new trends and categories in the sports industry.
As mobile behaviors and trends change, the NFL can track changes in app usage from season to season and event to event. For example, TikTok emerged as one of the top five social media apps in data transfer at the SBLVII and Apple Music was the most used streaming app in client count. These examples demonstrate how fans engage with technology on a deeper level, making it an exciting time for sports technology—every piece of data counts and the experience of every fan matters.
Two fundamental connectivity technologies continue to be part of a quality experience in high-density venue environments: Wi-Fi networking solutions and cellular/LTE technologies. Historically, offloading data onto the Wi-Fi network is a tactic commonly used to ensure the performance of the carrier-based Distributed Antenna System (DAS). This performance benefit still exists today as demand for bandwidth incrementally increases, but sports organizations like the NFL have recognized the added value of owning the network asset to gain insights into fan engagement and venue operations.
The densely populated nature of venue environments nearly requires smaller-cell Wi-Fi technologies to meet elevated coverage and capacity, in addition to cellular-based DAS systems installed by carriers or a neutral host provider. Improvements to LTE will continue but this is the same for Wi-Fi, demonstrated by the advent of 5G with cellular and the availability of the 6 Ghz spectrum with Wi-Fi 6E. The marrying of both wireless technologies will create even more innovation opportunities for sports leagues and teams moving forward – and deliver the best mobile experience for fans.
Technology has changed how fans connect to live sporting events, resulting in a more immersive and meaningful experience. Fans can now stay connected in previously unimaginable ways thanks to connectivity technologies - especially Wi-Fi.
In sports, data is power, and nowhere is this more evident than in the stadium. The requirement for real-time connections between fans and sports organizations has opened new and endless possibilities for improving the overall experience. Technology and emotion collide in this new era and fans are at the center of it all.