“In 99% of sporting venues using a phone is almost impossible,” says Tina Gunderson, Technical Lead, Sports and Entertainment Solutions Group, Cisco. “The volume of people in one place at one time places such a burden on the network.”
A new development in WiFi, especially offloading data traffic onto the WiFi network, is starting to change this. “In a high capacity, high density environment such as a stadium that would not have been possible until very recently,” she adds.
According to Gunderson: “65% of execs who own sports properties are saying the number one opportunity for enhancement of the experience within the venue is mobility.” CEOs and CTOs are now thinking about how to reach the fans through their mobile device, because they want to communicate in real time while fans are actually in the venue.
Robb Heineman is one of the owners of Sporting Kansas City (KC), and sits on the Board of Governors of Major League Soccer (MLS) in the USA: “We have got a huge population of fans that are using handsets, using tablet PCs to customise content, and shoot great pictures, and great video. We want these to continue to work so that we can share this content in a really cool way.”
Asim Pasha, CIO & Chief Architect, Sporting KC, says: “The owners of our team come from a technology background, so want technology as a differentiator in our fan experience. Fans want to be connected, they are very heavily engaged with social media. So every stadium has got to have a network that can deliver.”
Recently Verizon installed a Cisco WiFi connected network at the Superbowl 2012 venue to help offload its data traffic. Although not advertised, 20% of fans connected at some point, peaking at 12% simultaneous usage. Gunderson says the company saw: “370 gigabytes of data offload go through that WiFi network. That would be a costly undertaking if supported purely over the cellular network.”
The aspiration then is to have real and consistent connection to fans. To start interacting with fans to build an entirely new experience, something US stadia are already experimenting with and which sports goers will see rolling out in European venues this Summer.
- In-venue connectivity is a major opportunity for sports brands
- Delivering real time communications with fans enhances their experience and engagement with the team or league brand
- The USA is a prime market, but there is broad opportunity to apply expertise to sports venues worldwide