It has now been over 2.5 years since the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a global pandemic in March 2020. For a long time, therefore, public life was almost at a standstill and most people spent a lot of time at home. Much that originally took place in presence suddenly existed – if at all – only in a digital way and events, such as soccer matches, took place in front of empty stands.
One might now assume that the ghost games have increased the number of viewers in front of their TV screens at home. But the opposite is the case. Viewing figures in Germany for soccer matches – whether in the Bundesliga or international games – fell significantly during the corona pandemic. This also has an impact on fan engagement. It is therefore all the more important for soccer clubs to bring fans back to the stadium. But how can this be achieved when sports are now competing with streaming providers such as Netflix, people’s habits have changed as a result of the pandemic, and the sofa is so much more comfortable than a standing or, in the best case, sitting position in the stadium?
Fan experience is key
What actually motivates fans to watch sporting events like soccer matches live in the stadium? The decisive factor is the experience gained on site: Watching a game or a competition together with other fans, cheering or shaking together – that’s what unites people. The good atmosphere in the stadium, the exchange with like-minded people, an appealing stadium design and the opportunity to pass the time at kiosks or fan stores during breaks. These are all factors that help to create a positive fan experience.
And the more positive this fan experience is, the more likely it is that fans will come back. Not only that, but they are likely to tell others about their positive experience or even motivate others to come along on their next visit.
Improving fan experience with location-based services
In addition to the game itself and the shared fan experience in the block, a positive stadium experience also depends on the surrounding conditions. This is where location-based services come into play. What do these look like?
Imagine you are on your way to a soccer match. Let’s say it is a stadium with a capacity of 75000 spectators. You drive your car to the parking lot, park the car and open the stadium app. There, you have already deposited your ticket and a message pops up that you can now be conveniently navigated from your car to your block through Bluetooth enablement. Sounds good, doesn’t it? You follow the navigation on your phone and in a few minutes you are at your seat. Before the game, there is still enough time to get something to drink at the nearest kiosk or to go to the restroom. Of course, the indoor navigation helps you to reach your destination quickly and easily. And then the game starts. The first half of the match begins and you are fully involved. During the break, you stop by the fan store and a message pops up on your cell phone that there’s a 10% discount on jerseys for app users today. It’s worth taking a look! After the game, you can find your way to your car in the midst of the crowds of spectators and fans. After all, you can rely on the navigation on your phone.
The scenario described works with the help of Bluetooth Low Energy. Bluetooth beacons are installed in stadiums and, by enabling Bluetooth on users’ smartphones, they can be navigated to the desired point of interest (POI) along the beacon signals via app. At the respective POIs, it is also possible to trigger push notifications for users with offers or additional information.
When location-based services are also integrated into an existing club app, identification with the club is further strengthened by color and design as well as club-specific wording. The more pleasant the app makes the stadium visit for the fans, the higher the satisfaction and the likelihood that fans will decide to visit the stadium again next time and not choose Netflix’n’Chill on the couch.
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