Interactive Sports Experience Investments Driving Value
Technology expenditures on the construction and renovation of sports and entertainment venues has increased three-fold over the last decade, now averaging 15 to 20 percent of total construction budgets. And facilities that have not undergone a revamp are on a retrofitting mode, opting for technology upgrades as budgets allow. This push is being exerted by increased consumer technology demands and a desire to create signature technology elements, as outdoor venues like stadiums continue to attract audiences who would rather attend a live event versus consuming the product from home. Executive teams of these facilities are asking the right questions about the costs of these upgrades and their contribution to the bottom line. The impact can sometimes be easily identified as is the case with the advertising dollars for content shown on a video screen. Or it can be a more nebulous experiential impact that contributes to a fan’s good time, eventually leading that fan to a decision to come back for another event.
“Engagement processes may be complex to architect with data exchange and privacy considerations but this is invisible to the fan.”
Sports and entertainment technology leaders have to strike a fine balance managing internal expectations that connect all the way to the customer and the conservative budgets meant to deliver the technology. Delivery in compressed budget scenarios is not something new to the CIO’s role, nor is managing expectations and requirements. But delivering technology solutions in a sports and entertainment venue requires significant partnership throughout the business with an intimate awareness of the strategic goals of the organization, specifically the consumer marketing team and their “go to market strategy” with the fans. This relationship extends to the presence of sponsorship partners at the venues and their goals on how they are trying to connect with the consumers. It requires the technology leader to take on the role of educating those groups on the abilities of the technology to meet those expectations and to be educated on the marketing plans and interpret where technology could add value. That means being able to engage at the marketing department or partner teams’ tables as an active member of the team from the beginning.
The greatest signature technology element at venues of the last decade has been the large screen videoboard. It represents an opportunity to showcase the venue, team, or sponsor’s brand in direct sight of all fans and is the largest content consumption point during a fan’s visit, boasting the longest dwell time. The videoboards are also typically the largest technology budget line item and require the most planning and coordination for a property.
The supporting video elements, primarily the in-house television programming, supplement the in-venue viewing experience and today’s technologies offer enhanced sponsor activation and data elements for viewers. Typically, these elements are just a secondary feed from the main videoboard with modified formats and graphics but they add to the overall experience creating an always-connected feeling for fans as they move about the facality during their visit.
But considering all of this, the content presented is still something that someone else decides for the fan to view. Younger audiences are constantly consuming content about what they want to see and when they want to see it. Thus in recent years we’ve seen the rise of video enabled mobile applications to cater to these desires. And with mobile, comes a significant demand for connectivity.
Connectivity solutions are another large contributor to technology budgets in construction and throughout a venue’s lifecycle. But they can be leveraged as a marketing asset to be branded or as a service amenity to generate revenue. The value they provide to consumers, partners, and staff is unquantifiable. Very simply, everyone needs connectivity. And with connectivity, a whole new spectrum of fan amenities opens up to venues and their partners by connecting mobile solutions with traditional assets, incremental value and revenue opportunities are provided, if the solutions are deployed with a strategic mind to achieve an overarching experiential goal.
Interactivity between traditional technology channels that deliver content and connected devices is commonly used, the ‘Text to Screen’ type Large Screen Videoboard activation is an easy example. But the value is exponential when a feedback loop for interactivity is extended across all content delivery channels.
Consider, a mobile application that is aware of a beacon behind a digital sign that creates a call to action on the mobile application for a consumer to share data. That interaction is much more valuable than just the view of the content on the digital sign. Sponsorship partners understand the value of impressions but the ROI algorithms that equate the value of that view can only estimate the real life reaction of the consumer. Did that call to action perform as desired? Was the consumer won over? Did a sale eventually occur? These are questions that can easily be answered if technology is deployed in the right manner. And they can provide the consumer an interactive experience that is highly engaging and rewarding.
Engagement processes may be complex to architect with data exchange and privacy considerations but this is invisible to the fan. For example, by enticing a consumer that is attending a live event to first download the mobile application, the ability to identify that consumer is unlocked. Then it is a matter of building beacon awareness into the mobile application and planning content for digital signage and alerts for the call to action campaigns. Once the app is triggered by the beacons, it understands the content being shown to the fan on the digital sign and provides alerts on an opportunity to engage. The resulting data exchange creates a connection between the fan, the venue, and the partner, creating a feedback loop that clarifies the ROI for partner engagements.
This merged interactivity of the traditional content delivery channels with mobile channels is the next evolution of fan experience architecture. The maximum value to the sponsorship partner and consumer is when the planned, cross-channel campaigns are designed to elicit interactivity with a rewards program that is focused to entice the consumer to engage from the onset of their visit and as much as possible throughout their stay on property. In 2014, Microsoft Office Labs looked at these types of engagements in their future envisioning videos and they were in active use in marketing campaigns in the United Kingdom last year. The ability to craft these solutions exists and the approach demonstrates how technology investments can deliver real impact on the bottom line.
So much of this business plan is driven by sponsorship partners and the marketing department of sports properties. This is why the Sport’s Technology Leadership has grown beyond simply delivering technology solutions. It is a team effort involving all parties working towards a strategic vision for the good of the sports and entertainment properties, the sponsorship partners, and the fans.