As the only peer-led industry conference in the world, the Sports & Entertainment Alliance in Technology (SEAT) recently hosted a conference in Atlanta to build bridges between professionals and executives in both industries. After attending two sessions about the changing tides of sports entertainment in the context of the digital era, I gathered a few key insights.
The first session, From a Fan’s Perspective, featured a panel of sports fans who talked about their experiences with stadiums, motivations behind purchase decisions, interest in season tickets, connectivity, and their social media interaction at games. The second session, Collaborative Discussion: Connected Smart Cities Future Stadium, was an open floor discussion about using technology to drive fan engagement.
Even though the perspectives from inside and outside of the industry created an interesting contrast, the content overlapped significantly. Connectivity was one of the most interesting subjects because fans see it as a requirement rather than a convenience or luxury. During the first panel discussion, most fans agreed that children would be uninterested in going to a game at a stadium that didn’t provide Wi-Fi. Most of the adults agreed with the idea that no Wi-Fi in a stadium would be an inconvenience at best. They would have a significantly improved fan experience if they were able to use their mobile devices to watch instant replays, review stats, and check social media. Venue managers commented that ‘providing connectivity for fans is not optional, it is a requirement.’
Because Millennials through Gen Z grew up in the age of the internet, it is weaved into the fabric of their culture in a unique way that many other generations cannot understand. As the market became saturated with new entertainment options, sports stadiums need to embrace modern technology to fill seats across the country. Fans not only expect to see their favorite team and traditional concessions options at the big game. They want to be able to tweet, use Facebook live, or post selfies to share with their friends and family on Instagram. Providing a well-connected and socially relevant stadium creates a powerful incentive for the younger fan base to attend the events while promoting the venue in the process.
Additionally, a connected venue enables new methods for tracking user behavior and engaging fans with intelligent marketing. By connecting the most modern event technology to your venue, information including how many times a fan goes to the concessions stand, their purchase history (read AutoFocus), and traffic flow through the stadium becomes easily accessible. This new tide of information can seem overwhelming at first, but with the right tools it will create a seamless fan experience and help with allocating resources efficiently.
With fan engagement and fan experience as the buzz words for the event, it’s not surprising that the Atlanta sessions pushed the sports and entertainment industries to pull together in creating the next generation of stadiums and arenas primed for the new age of digitally savvy fans.