Now that fans are making their way back into venues, stadium operators need to ensure that fans feel safe and regain their sense of trust. Innovative technology partnerships are helping venues implement solutions that directly solve these most recent industry challenges that have surfaced as a result of the pandemic.
The graph below demonstrates average capacities from seven states across the U.S.
Given the various capacity numbers, stadiums have been developing protocols for ingress, egress, mobile payments and ordering, and mobile ticketing. To ensure these protocols are appropriately deployed and made available to fans, venue operators need to have a strong connectivity infrastructure in place. With the proper infrastructure in place, venue operators can implement mobile-first experiences that will help fans navigate the venue safely - before, during, and after the game. In preparation for the return of fans, many venue operators have had to rush to fit years of technology innovation and planning into a single year’s time.Thankfully, most states have had a staggered approach as it relates to fan capacity allowed, granting teams a solid testing period for rolling out these new protocols and contactless-focused technology solutions.
The graphs below show some of the requirements and specifications that stadiums in the U.S. are implementing.
The pandemic has clearly accelerated the fan journey becoming a predominantly mobile-first experience. The data is showing that people want to go to live events again and that there is pent up demand, but they also want to feel safe. In order to instill consumer safety and confidence, sports franchises and venue operators have had to invest significant resources into technology and infrastructure upgrades. While these upgrades have been directly focused on safely bringing fans back to venues in the near term, there should be plenty of longer-term benefits that are a byproduct of these most recent investments.
The data tells us that consumer expectations for visiting venues has shifted during the pandemic. By offering services that cater to these new self-service and frictionless expectations, venue operators can benefit significantly. The initial results from fans being back to venues are showing more transactions per fan, higher per caps, and more efficiency related to ingress and egress times. While it can be difficult to find silver linings from this past year, the new technology solutions being deployed in 2021 across sports and entertainment venues should pay dividends for many years to come.
The month of March can either be one of major disappointment or incredible happiness for college basketball teams and their respective fans. However, this year there seems to be a new winner and in a big way: mobile-betting operators. Recent legislation allowing for mobile-sports betting has led to a meteoric rise in gambling and profitable returns for these operators. This year alone, Forbes estimates that March Madness will lead to a record breaking $8.5 billion in betting transactions. March Madness has always drawn sports gamblers at significant engagement levels. Now, however, mobile betting has offered an easy and convenient way that has driven demand to extraordinary lengths. The future of interactive fandom has arrived, and mobile sports betting is leading the way.
Among the states that have legalized sports gambling, Michigan has quickly emerged as one of the states with the most room for growth. Michigan is a "No. 1 seed for online growth" in sports betting and iGaming, Bank of America Securities analyst Shaun Kelley said Monday. The betting numbers out of Michigan illustrate a clear desire for mobile betting and just how successful the industry will be as more states relax their gambling laws. Legal Sports Report writes, “Michigan posted the largest full opening month for any online sports betting states, topping $300 million in handle in January."
A rising star in the Michigan mobile betting space, BetMGM, maintains 25% of online betting in Michigan sitting right behind FanDuel. Yet, BetMGM is the only operator that made a profit as DraftKings and FanDuel ended up losing money by the end of January. This is most likely a result of the competitive bonuses operators are paying out as more companies enter the state of Michigan. Companies like WynnBet sportsbook, a relatively new operator in Michigan, is offering a $500-risk free bet for new users during March Madness. These promos and bonuses are standard among the operators—established or new—as they compete for new customers.
Michigan isn’t the only state where BetMGM is making headlines. In early March, BetMGM partnered with Buffalo Wild Wings to offer exclusive betting deals to individuals betting on the BetMGM app inside the restaurant. Using geolocation, the operator can target restaurant patrons and customize the betting experience along the way. This corporate partnership strategy is live in Colorado, New Jersey, Indiana, Iowa, Tennessee, and West Virginia, and points to interesting and creative ways these operators are trying to gain new customers.
Venuetize is working with our clients to integrate sports betting and gamification options into the mobile experience for fans. Whether delivering timely communications about an upcoming game, live odds and insights in team and venue apps, or using a geofence in venue to let VIPs know about a special offer they are eligible for if they visit the ‘sports lounge’ at the stadium - all bets are ‘on’ the table when it comes to the madness of mobile betting. Certain betting integrations allow engagement in a way that makes the sporting event more personal—essentially, there is more skin in the game and more excitement. The success witnessed with mobile sports betting from home will continue as fans re-enter stadiums. Teams and venues now have a measurable and proven tool to increase engagement and create a better (or bettor?) fan experience, which ultimately is increasing their bottom line.
Venuetize works with the PGA TOUR and last week members of our team hosted clients at THE PLAYERS, which took place at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. Below are our team’s top seven takeaways from this great event.
THE PLAYERS is an ideal event to entertain clients, partners and employees on a reasonable budget. The event is highly accessible when you consider the overall costs (event tickets, airfare, hotel, transportation, etc.) and the location of the event. There are entertainment options for everyone, including hitting golf balls onto a mini-replica of the 17th island green.
The PGA TOUR has clearly succeeded in engaging a younger fan base, while at the same time still catering to their core demographic. Mobile engagement appears to be at the core of this strategy and was on full display at THE PLAYERS. Large digital boards could be seen throughout the golf course with fan pictures and selfies displayed for all to see with tasteful sponsorship backgrounds mixed in for activation.
You will be hard pressed to find a sporting event where for an $80 ticket you will get any closer to the action and the star athletes. Being 10 feet away from a pro golfer while they are teeing off or hitting out of trouble from the woods is a very unique and accessible entertainment experience.
(Shameless Venuetize plug alert!) – The PGA TOUR used geofence technology and their PGA TOUR mobile app to deliver a personalized and convenient experience for those attending the event. From mobile ticketing, to an interactive course map, to live player tracker and statistics, to expediting the (very busy) merchandise store line with mobile payments. We were also lucky enough to have PGA TOUR’s own Scott Gutterman, VP of Digital Operations, give Venuetize and some of our clients a sneak preview of some exciting Augmented Reality technology being tested at The PLAYERS for future TOUR events.
Ingress and Egress continue to be a leading contributor to a fans overall satisfaction level associated with attending a sporting event. The TOUR clearly put a lot of thought and planning into this for THE PLAYERS, and partnered with Uber and Arby’s to deliver an integrated experience. Our people on the ground had high praise for what they experienced both going to and leaving the event at peak times.
Whether playing golf or attending a PGA TOUR event like THE PLAYERS, the sport continues to stand the test of time as a top-notch way to spend quality time with clients, partners, and colleagues. The TOUR has also evolved with ‘the times’, by allowing mobile phones at TOUR events and also investing in the infrastructure to support the connected worker while at a golf tournament. No easy task when you consider the layout of your typical golf course and the importance of noise control that is unique to the sport.
Final Takeaway: Whether you’re an avid golf fan, Gen Z or millennial looking to do something fun and different with friends, a business person entertaining clients, a family looking for a fun day outside together, or you are just looking for a great party, The PLAYERS should absolutely be on your entertainment bucket list. And when you go, don’t forget to bring your mobile companion in the PGA TOUR app.
We recently sat down with VP of Sports and Entertainment at Venuetize, Craig Duncan, who over the past month attended the Sports Data and Fan Engagement Summit and the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics conference. Craig has responsibility for the Sports and Entertainment (S&E) vertical at Venuetize, and has over 12 years of experience working with leading S&E organizations on how to best leverage mobile, data and analytics to drive deeper levels of fan engagement, sponsorship activation, and business profitability.
What were your top takeaways from the sports data and fan engagement conferences you attended over the last month?
First, it’s a great time to be a sports fan. The diversification of how we can now consume sports, whether digital or live, and the increasing combination of both at the same time, gives fans so many more affordable and enjoyable options than ever before. Secondly, there are so many new and exciting technology companies out there focused on enhancing the fan experience. This also creates a challenge for S&E businesses, to build a strategy and partner ecosystem that can deliver for today, but also is open to integrate new technologies in this rapidly changing tech landscape. Finally, if you don’t think eSports and the legalization of sports gambling are here for the long run, I would respectfully say you are wrong!
What do you think is the most interesting metric that sports teams are currently garnering from mobile app data specifically?
The fact that some teams are seeing usage of their mobile app as the number one indicator of season ticket holder renewals (for highest users), and churn (for lowest users), is extremely noteworthy considering the impact that season ticket holders have on a sports team’s business overall.
How would you assess the S&E mobile landscape as a whole based on what you are seeing at these type of S&E industry events and from your experience overall?
We are at a very exciting time in the world of mobile engagement for the sports and entertainment industry. Just five years ago, the infrastructure and technologies that enable so many of the ways we engage fans in personalized and useful ways were not available. The technology advancements over the last five years have dramatically changed the way sports and entertainment organizations run their business. More and more S&E organizations are running their business with a mobile-first approach in terms of fan engagement and experience.
I think the PGA TOUR is a great example of this. Eight years ago, phones were not allowed at PGA TOUR events. In 2011, the TOUR started allowing phones in certain areas at tournaments. In 2017, they changed their device policy to allow fans to take photos and video of on-course action during tournament rounds, which of course opens up to sharing on social media and so much more. As a result, they’ve been able to draw in a much younger demographic to their sport overall, which in turn opens the door to significant business opportunities, including mobile content monetization and new opportunities with prospective and current corporate sponsorship partners. In addition, fans are using their mobile devices onsite at PGA TOUR events for everything from mobile ticketing and payments to digital autographs, and so much more.
This all said, I believe we are only now just beginning to see the impact mobile will ultimately have on the sports and entertainment industry. The best is yet to come!
What is your advice for a sports and entertainment business when it comes to defining their mobile strategy?
First and foremost – have one. It’s a common mistake I see that sports and entertainment organizations are so focused on the current season and the ‘here and now’, that they don’t take time to map out their mobile strategy and how it impacts their key stakeholders not only for the current season, but going out at least three years.
I also strongly recommend building a mobile strategy that is truly fan-centric first. It is easy to say, but much more difficult to actually adhere to, with pressure usually coming from above to show immediate ROI on a technology investment. If you deliver a mobile experience to the end user that makes their lives easier and more enjoyable, they will engage with your brand at much deeper levels. Once you’ve built this trust at the fan/consumer level, app downloads and usage will increase dramatically and the monetization opportunities will quickly follow, along with measureable ROI. Pulling this off requires involvement and executive sponsorship from the very top of the organization.
What was the most interesting topic from your viewpoint over the two events?
In my opinion, the single most interesting storyline across sports business for 2018 is the legalization of sports gambling. It is no longer a matter of if it will happen, but when. You could really get a feel for how much momentum this development has at both events. When the short term monetary impact is measured in billions, and it directly impacts fan engagement, venue experience and so much more, I just think it’s a fascinating storyline from so many angles. I’m excited to see the role technology will have when it comes to empowering fans to gamble on sports events regardless of where they are. The new regulations will be interesting to see as they roll out, with laws most likely varying by state, which will only complicate how the on-the-go consumer is able to wager outside of a brick and mortar sportsbook. Mobile will play a huge role, as will the analytics aspect – where brands will be able to derive an enormous amount of data from legal gambling activity. I expect to see this topic gain even more traction, and a more prominent place on the agenda of these events and others in the coming years.
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