September 03, 2013

Why the NFL can no longer ignore the need for Wi-Fi in stadiums

One thing’s for sure, sports franchise executives are quickly coming to realize the importance of supporting both cellular DAS and Wi-Fi systems within their venues.  The SEAT2013 Conference offered great insight into the psyche of both CIO’s and business leaders as to the evolving technologies needed to keep pace with the enhanced in-venue fan experience.  Wi-Fi has become a bidirectional engagement platform to communicate with the fans, however according to a recent article, less than half of all NFL stadiums have implemented Wi-Fi access for their fans.  According to the article:

“In May 2012, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced an initiative to outfit all 31 NFL stadiums with Wi-Fi. But with the start of the 2013 regular season just days away, less than half of the NFL’s venues are Wi-Fi enabled and no stadiums have launched new Wi-Fi systems this year.”

This initiative by Mr. Goodell was the result of a multi-year study that determined that at-home viewing was keeping fans away from the stadium experience.  With the advent of high-definition television, surround sound, and the invention of the “man-cave”, the NFL decided they needed to think differently to get fans back to the stadium.  The answer seems so simple, invest in technology and the fans will return.  But the question is why are only a select few stadium owners deploying Wi-Fi to their fans such as the Kraft Family did for the Patriots fans at Gillette Stadium?

Historically, sporting venue IT executives have had difficulty justifying to ownership an investment in technology like Wi-Fi, but it is now considered a valuable business asset and a means to generate revenue by getting fans back to the field as well as providing a way to connect with fans like never before.  Progressive franchise and venue owners realize that failure to act on Wi-Fi is a lost touch point to the fan; a lost opportunity to immerse them in an enhanced digital experience as well as a way fans can connect with the players that isn’t possible at home. Ultimately, not investing in stadium data infrastructure is also becoming a loss in future revenue opportunity as well.

Purposes like presenting unique offers, understanding the needs and desires through fan polling and loyalty programs, participation in digital game production (personal tweets or photos on the stadium/ arena digital screens), as well as the back office assessing of mobile behaviors and movements for further creation of new services to enhance the live venue experience.   The ability to quantify all the potential revenue  generating opportunities on the Wi-Fi platform will benefit the business discussion on when and how quickly the stadium will deliver wifi.

If Wi-Fi adoption at today’s pop music live events is any indication of the future of in-venue attendance, we quickly learn that today’s younger demographic will begin passing on live sporting entertainment for the opportunity to engage with the community of fans in the comfort of their own home while watching the event on television.   The NFL cannot afford to lose an entire generation of fans because they are slow to adopt a pervasive technology that is available to them at home, school, restaurants, and at the mall.

If you would like to read more about the Wi-Fi at Gillette Stadium, or learn how to enhance the fan experience at your sports venue, please click here.

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Extreme Marketing Team

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