Engaging Mobile Tech Is Transforming The Stadium Experience

The second screen is becoming the first screen, and sport execs know it. With mobile video gaining popularity every year, it’s no longer just the game that’s important to fans — it’s the entire experience, which is increasingly augmented by mobile technology. If sports franchises want to remain relevant and keep fans enthralled, they must follow this trend by leaning into mobile fan engagement.

Before smart phones — less than a decade ago — there was neither need nor capability for features beyond the game itself. Though the saying goes that necessity is the mother of invention, in this case, invention has been the mother of necessity: once smart devices became ubiquitous, our need for them in every aspect of life did too.

The rise of smartphone ubiquity and technological sophistication is just one reason engaging fans through their phones has become so important. Other factors include changing demographics that include more millennials, competition with big screen TVs at home, and huge opportunities to boost revenues. All these things entail that sports venues have top notch connection, and suggest that interactive extras via mobile device would be to their benefit.

So, what exactly does leaning into mobile engagement entail? The opportunities are vast, and some have already been put to use. Imagine, for example, being able to order food and drinks to your seat at a stadium, or upgrade your seat to a better section — all paid for on your phone. These options are very appealing to younger generations, and are money-making opportunities as well.

To rival the at-home game experience, stadiums are vying to offer new and exciting mobile applications just for game goers. These apps may insider looks at camera footage, behind-the-scenes photographs, or additional statistics and facts on players. Ideally, fans could also access player profiles, fantasy performances, and access instant replays in real time.

The other side of this technological shift is that it gives marketing insiders the ability to collect data on who their fans and their habits, informing the development of new products and apps based on detailed insights. None of this is possible without stadium connectivity, though — so it’s no surprise that every major league in America is working toward getting stadiums completely wireless.

It would be misleading to say they are close to meeting their goals, because with technology evolving, so do the goal posts, so to speak. If and when stadiums and sponsors master the mobile game, there are other types of tech likely to emerge, like virtual reality, augmented reality and drones. How exactly this will pan out is still unclear, but I have a hunch that the fan experience is destined to transform, even if gradually, until technology is absolutely integral: a necessity instead of a bonus.

Photo: Aleksandr Osipov via Flickr


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Thane Ritchie is the founder of Ritchie Capital Management who currently is involved in private equity and energy investments.