The Future of Stadium Marketing
As consumers begin to safely re-enter stadiums for sporting events or concerts after the COVID-19 pandemic, marketers are looking forward to the opportunity as well. Stadiums have become and will continue to be a marketer’s dream to acquire valuable consumer data and influence purchasing decisions through the innovative technologies that are within newer stadiums.
Use of Augmented Reality (AR)
Stadiums such as AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas have begun to experiment with augmented reality (AR) to enhance the customer experience. AT&T Stadium is one of the premier stadiums in the United States, known for being 5G-enabled and being pioneers in bringing immersive technology into the stadium experience. For example, AT&T installed an AR-enabled photo booth called ‘Pose with the Pros.’
Pose with the Pros puts consumers in a frame next to their favourite football players on the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, giving them a unique experience that is only available at AT&T Stadium at the moment. The photo is then sent to the user’s smartphone, allowing AT&T to receive valuable information, including the use of smartphones, the users’ carriers, as well as consumer activity through the camera lens of the photo booth.
Marketers value this information for multiple reasons. One reason is that they can determine how many fans interact with the AR-booth while others walk past it, gauging the interest level in perhaps adding other AR-related products around the stadium. Further, the photo booth can determine which football players are the most marketable. If fans choose certain players over others, marketers can advertise more player merchandise through the smartphone app. Lastly, marketers can determine if a particular gender favours the booth more. With this data, marketers can further customize photo booth sessions to a specific gender through personalization.
Nexus Studios and Scape Technologies debuted their AR technologies within AT&T Stadium that allow fans to hold up their Samsung 5G-enabled phones and view players and their stats over the field – as seen in the picture below.
Through Nexus and Scape’s efforts, the AR content is correctly positioned onto the field depending on each fan’s location within the stadium, allowing them to watch the game like never before. These enhancements to the stadium experience give consumers additional ways to enjoy live sporting events. This technology gives every fan, no matter their seating, a way to become closer to the action through augmented reality images. Additionally, marketers can capitalize on the AR efforts as well. Marketers will have valuable data, including specific players the consumers have an interest in and when they are viewing these statistics.
Marketers can use the opportunity, through smartphones, to include brand logos and include links to purchase player merchandise when viewing a player’s statistics and information. The smartphone app would lead consumers to the closest fan shop within the stadium to purchase player merchandise.
Use of QR Codes and NFC Tags
QR Codes and NFC (near-field communication) tags are becoming a popular marketing tactic for stadiums. Using these technologies, marketers can direct fans to the latest vendor offerings and collect valuable customer data such as what refreshments and merchandise customers are purchasing, how much they are spending, and how often while attending an event. Marketers can then use this information to target customers through custom maps that direct fans to their favourite refreshments or merchandise within the venue.
Bank of America Stadium, located in Carolina and home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, implements QR codes. Draftserv, an Internet of Things (IoT) beverage technology company, is a vending machine partner for the stadium, tasked with increasing the efficiency of its vending machines. The company offers customers unlimited drinks at $8 along with a QR code attached to their cups. When a fan gets their cup re-filled, they can simply scan the QR code, and the machine re-fills the cup.
This process makes the vending process simpler for fans and both the stadium and Draftserv benefit from using QR codes. When a fan scans the code, marketers gain access to data that includes customer preferences such as more popular soda choices and the number of times they are filled.
Levi’s Stadium, located in Santa Clara, California and home to the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, was one of the first stadiums to offer QR-based and NFC tags for ticket scanning to gain access into the stadium. The stadium created booths that offer personalized experiences from the moment fans scan their QR codes. Fans are greeted using their first names while also displaying their purchasing history and number of games attended.
The QR codes are ‘wins’ for both consumers and marketers. Fans only need their mobile phones to access their tickets while being offered a personalized stadium experience that includes exclusive concessions sales, giving fans incentives to utilize the mobile features the more they visit Levi’s Stadium. NFC tags especially leverage speed for fans to experience seamless stadium experiences; from shorter wait times outside the stadium to grabbing refreshments, the NFC tags are meant to speed up the process needed to get to their seats and enjoy the game. Each time a spectator scans the NFC tag, the person gain points towards receiving exclusive awards that can be used towards in-stadium merchandise.
Meanwhile, marketers have an opportunity to gather important insights, including when people are entering the stadium in advance of an event starting, giving marketers the insights needed to utilize marketing tactics such as experiential marketing experiences outside of the stadium. Additionally, marketers can determine how often fans are purchasing tickets and whether tickets are sold to other consumers. Furthermore, marketers can see which exclusive offers are driving fans to the concession stands and whether fan loyalty programs are worth the investments. Each of these insights gives marketers the ability to make calculated decisions efficiently.
Future of Stadium Marketing
5G allows for endless possibilities
As 5G cellular networks become increasingly available, more stadiums will take advantage of the advanced marketing opportunities that they allow. 5G allows for high-bandwidth but low latency communications that allow marketers and fans to communicate seamlessly. 5G also produces a smoother and more efficient use of other immersive technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) into the stadium experience.
As mentioned earlier, QR codes and NFC tags have already made the stadium entrance process more efficient. However, fans’ bodies can also be automatically security screened using AI, meaning security officers will not need to one-by-one screen each fan. This gets fans into the stadium as fast as ever and decreases the possibility of waiting in line. While the security screening is occurring, fans’ tickets located on their phones will be automatically scanned. A spectator’s favourite food and drink will be pre-saved on an app to give the fans the most efficient way to get to their seats and enjoy the stadium entertainment.
5G will also be used to give fans the option of any live camera angle they wish to watch the game. Cameras will be placed across the stadium, interconnecting through the 5G network to give fans high-bandwidth coverage and not miss any detail. This means there will be more opportunities for fans to enjoy a curated customer experience the way they please.
Although Augmented Reality has made a mark on stadium marketing already, as evidenced through AT&T Stadium’s implementation of AR-related graphics, the combination of 5G and more enhanced AR capabilities will further revolutionize the stadium experience.
In the future, fans can expect to choose any player on the field on their smartphone, and that information may be displayed on smart glasses statistics including factors such as heart rate, their speed, their performance throughout the season, and many more. Through the help of 5G and AR, smartphones and eventually AR glasses will be the key to the ultimate customer experience.
Your Face Will Be the Ticket
Yes, you read that correctly. Although technologies such as CLEAR use biometric screening through fingerprints to verify ticketed fans for entry into stadiums, soon, your face will be sufficient. Biometrics is becoming a large part of the stadium experience as voice cadences, and facial images are becoming such important technologies for marketers.
Your face will be your ticket through the pre-stadium process, including security, into a stadium. But it won’t stop there. Spectators will be able to buy a beer and other merchandise with their face, as well. Marketers can take this customer data and curate the stadium. For example, do you put on a smile when you hear a specific song? If so, then marketers will know what genre to put on next. Additionally, through biometric data, marketers can provide fans with helpful information such as how long it will take you to get to your seat to ensure that fans do not miss a second of the action. For marketers, they have all the data they need to keep fans invested in attending stadiums while fans are provided with the best possible experience.
As stadium technology and marketing improves, and fans become more immersed in the spectating experiences, marketers will continue to gain more power through customer data.
Smartphones, which fans do and will continue to rely on in the future, contain valuable data for marketers to use, such as spending habits, how apps are being used, and frequency. With 5G’s enhanced communications, marketers will have more opportunities to create insights and further personalize each users’ stadium experience. However, through 5G, location tracking has become more precise as fans can be tracked at all times and more accurately than ever before, putting our privacy at risk.
Stadiums install specific surveillance cameras that analyze consumer data such as age, gender, and even if they are on government watch lists to understand the target audience. Additionally, stadiums are beginning to install non-discrete surveillance cameras that can detect spectators’ faces and bodies with or without masks to study their body language and companies such as FanCam, which takes high-resolution photos of every single fan to study age, race, and gender demographics. Although consumers should be aware that these surveillance measures by marketers are implemented to improve the fan experience, spectators should also be aware that they are sacrificing their identities, including their nuances as soon as they enter a stadium. Furthermore, fans may not be directly made aware of how they will be watched, meaning that they must be educated on the measures marketers take to improve the fan experience with the assistance of artificial intelligence and augmented reality, specifically.
Stadiums have the opportunity to change the way live sports are watched forever through immersive technologies such as 5G, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence. Smartphones, smart glasses sand eventually, even just your faces, will be large parts of what marketers can offer to fans within a stadium, personalizing each experience. However, consumers, must be aware that their privacy is at risk in this new stadium environment.
Marketing Specialist, Parleh Media Group
Past Editor: Future of Marketing Magazine
Graduate: Schulich Master of Marketing Program