How Football Stadiums Can Help Your Tech Strategy

As you might be aware, there is a big game this Sunday in Phoenix, Arizona. The New England Patriots vs. the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl 49. (I don’t do Roman numerals so I hope I read that right.)

So, in the spirit of Super Bowl hype, I thought it fun to look at an article that highlights what football stadiums are doing to attract Millennials. Lessons learned from here are easily applied to what most of you do in your role as CIO.

The TechRepublic.com article starts off by imaging a stadium scenario (which I’ve condensed a little bit). “Imagine walking into a stadium and your smartphone immediately pings you that a $30 premium seat upgrade is available … [you then] use your smartphone to order a sandwich and beer delivered to your seat. When your favorite player scores a touchdown, you … watch an instant replay at multiple angles and a stadium-exclusive video feed of the players on the sideline. When nature calls, the app directs you to the closest restroom with no wait time.”

The article says, “There are three reasons that stadiums are pushing to improve connectivity:

  1. Changing demographics
  2. Luring fans away from their big-screen TV at home
  3. Boosting revenues

“‘There’s a bar that was set by the latest arena or stadium that was built, and to open up the next venue you have to be above that bar,’ said Chip Foley, vice president of technology for Forest City Ratner Companies, which owns Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, New York,” the article says.

Sound familiar? Are new stadiums (i.e. competitors) opening up and treading on your footprint? Are they dealing with Millennials and other consumers better than you are? Will they be hosting the Super Bowl while you’re host to the Taco Bell Bowl?

The article continues, “The changing demographic of fans is one of the reasons stadiums are adding Wi-Fi. Connectivity is especially important to younger fans, particularly those in college. At college games, fans often leave at halftime if they can’t connect to the internet or upload photos to social media. The pro teams are taking notice of this phenomena and taking early action, before the college-age fans graduate and can better afford to attend pro games. ACisco report revealed that the internet is as important as air, water, food and shelter to one in three college students and young professionals.”

Michelle McKenna-Doyle, senior vice president and CIO of the NFL, told TechRepublic, “It does bear out in the research that as generational shifts happen, the expectation level goes more from a ‘this would be nice to have’ to a ‘what, you don’t have it’ kind of feature. I have a lot of contacts in college sports, and it is definitely the case where they are seeing some of their younger fans leave if they don’t have connectivity.”

Joe Inzerillo, executive vice president and CTO for MLBAM, the interactive/digital media subsidiary of Major League Baseball, said in the article, “The younger generation of fans, if they’re cut off from Twitter or Facebook or their email or instant messaging or whatever, all of that is vitally important to their life. It makes sense that we’re supporting that the best we can so they don’t feel like they’re going into a black hole of connectivity where the internet doesn’t exist.”

The article also says, “Teams have faced the reality that it’s a lot cheaper, and a lot easier, for a fan to watch the big game in their family room. So the teams have to make it more appealing than ever before to lure fans to the stadium. A recent Cisco study showed that 57% of fans prefer to watch the game at home. The connectivity, the added services and apps all aim to provide a vastly improved fan experience at the stadium and keep people coming to games even when they have a 50-inch TV and comfy chair at home.”

So, the lesson learned from stadiums during Super Bowl week? It’s old fashion customer service. You have to give the customers (or as you may call them your clients) what they want. It’s time to step up before your competition does.

Keith Griffin
Keith Griffin is an award-winning business writer and editor with more than 30 years experience as a journalist. His work has been published in The Boston Globe, Medical Economist, Good Housekeeping, About.com, the Hartford Courant, CT Law Tribune and numerous other regional publications.