Stadiums get smart
Why your phone will keep you engaged at the footy
WHEN former Parramatta rugby league star Jarryd Hayne runs onto the field for the San Francisco 49ers later this year he will be playing at one of the world’s most sophisticated stadiums. Opened last year, the new Levi’s Stadium, the home ground of the 49ers football team, has become a benchmark for communicating with fans. Some of the best minds and companies from nearby Silicon Valley collaborated in the design to deliver the best Wi-Fi and technology infrastructure, and develop the ultimate fan experience via the smartphone.
Marketers at sports venues around the world are slowly realising the opportunities and expectations of fans with smartphones. They realise the fan experience is as much in the hand as it is on the field and the concourse. Not only do fans want to share their experiences socially, but they also want to see replays and statistics whenever they want. Fans are starting to align what they do with their smartphones in day-to-day life, and wonder why stadiums aren’t keeping up. With a smartphone they can pre-order something, have it delivered to them or pick it up, and pay with the near-field communication chip in their phone. They can provide instant feedback, use maps and redeem coupons, but they don’t want to flick between multiple apps to get the information they want.
When smartphones first hit the market in 2007, the biggest issue inside sports venues was the lack of bandwidth in the 3G network to cope with people wanting to upload on social media and access other related apps. The arrival of 4G helped, as did telcos boosting capacity around venues, but it’s still often a struggle to access your telco’s network when there are 70,000-plus fans in a stadium.
Step one for venues has been to install Wi-Fi to control their own destiny. Flemington Racecourse was one of the first in Australia, announcing in late 2012 that Cisco would install its Connected Stadium Solution in time for the following year’s Spring Carnival. Not only was it important for Flemington to be a first mover due to the social nature of its