Monday, February 18, 2013

Stepping Up the Connectivity Game in Sport Venues

Technology has become an indispensable part of our lifestyles. We have a second screen (TV), third screen (smartphone), fourth screen (tablet)- you get the picture. The unprecedented level of connectivity we have means that you can engage with technology seemingly anywhere we are... unless you are at a sporting event. If you have ever been at a venue and found it nearly impossible to access your wireless network you are not alone. The gathering of thousands of people in one place, many of whom seeking to access networks, significantly overwhelms infrastructure capabilities at most venues.

Meeting the technology demands of connected sports fans was a main topic at the recent On Deck Sports & Technology Conference. Industry speakers acknowledged that fans' expectations are not being met. Three reasons should compel venues to explore solutions for improving the technology use experience:
  1. Ubiquitous in everyday life - Technology availability should be no different whether we are at home, shopping, or taking in a ball game
  2. Extension of venue consumption experience - Tweeting, sending text messages, or watching video are examples of how technology is used as part of the consumption experience at a sporting event. Viewing content or sharing with other people are ways we respond to stimuli that comprise the environment at a sport venue.
  3. Make fans brand evangelists - Improvements in technology infrastructure will serve to increase exposure via social media communication. In effect, fans become brand evangelists by sharing with people in their networks. 
The reasons why sport venues must step up their connectivity game are obvious; the answer for making it a reality is not so clear. The cost is significant to equip a venue with internet connection capabilities to serve thousands of fans. And, at first glance technology upgrades appear to be pure expense, a cost to please demanding customers. Two potential solutions to the financial challenge of funding technology infrastructure improvements are:
  1. League-pooled investments - Use revenues earned via other streams to develop a uniform fan technology experience at all venues in a league. It would be in a league's best interest to have consistency at their member clubs' venues.
  2. Sponsorship category (in-kind or sell) - Sport properties have creatively developed sponsorship inventory; creating a category such as technology partner or connectivity partner would be a way to offset some or all costs. A drawback to this option is that some clubs would have an easier time attracting sponsors given their brand equity while lesser brands might struggle to secure a technology partner.
Upgrades for technology infrastructure at sport venues offer more promise than pleasing fans that cannot put down their gadgets. Improved connectivity can enhance fans' enjoyment at events, foster communication by fans with their networks beyond venues, and even offer potential revenue generation (e.g., ordering food and beverage via smartphones). But, sport marketers must make technology upgrades a priority to turn these possibilities into reality.

Biztech Magazine - "Sports Stadiums and Wi-Fi Connectivity: Will It Ever Get Better?"