How sports marketing can provide a new fan experience with the help of location-based services and why “small” teams in particular benefit from it.
Digitalisation is not stopping at sports marketing either. Especially when it comes to the management of sports facilities. Initially, the view from the European perspective is across the pond, where the top-selling sports leagues are at home in networked arenas. With a turnover of 1.7 billion euros, the DFL only ranks sixth in the list of leagues with the highest turnover. The first three places are occupied by basketball, baseball and football. The NFL, with its teams at the top, has a turnover of 6.7 billion euros. By 2027, sales are expected to rise to around 25 billion euros (27 billion dollars). An average of 67,000 spectators flock to the arenas for the games, making the NFL – 75% of whose stadiums are already equipped with iBeacons – the league with the highest number of spectators worldwide. On the European market Favendo has the know-how to set up large iBeacon infrastructures.
Large numbers of spectators in the USA meant exactly what they mean in Europe: Traffic chaos, crowds of people, block and seat searches, long distances to the toilet, queues at the stalls where you pay with weird prepaid cards that you have to charge before the visit, but from which you can never debit the remaining amount again. Therefore, on both sides of the Atlantic, what Sean Kundu of the San Francisco 49ers said is true: “Our biggest challengers are not other teams from the region or perhaps other events, but our biggest challenger is the couches. Right in the middle of it not just there: without traffic jams, stress and bad weather – but in excellent visual quality and on the best seats. And even the WLAN works. As banal as the last point may sound to many ears, fans with a smartphone in their hands are the best brand ambassadors and create tons of content per game. It’s a shame that in most stadiums the net is too weak to distribute this content. In a survey in the UK, Australia and the USA, over a quarter of all visitors said that they were frustrated by weak connections and network access.
The 49ers have taken on the challenges that the technological expectations of their fans mean for every club. What’s more, they use the technology for their own purposes. Their new stadium has over 600 kilometres of cable, 1300 access points and over 2000 beacons. With the help of the app, the club has also created a never-ending matchday that begins long before the kick-off.
With the eTicket on the smartphone, the user not only receives all relevant traffic information for the route to the stadium, but is also informed in the stadium about the points of sale with the shortest queue and guided to any POI. But why queue up? Via the app, food and drinks can be ordered directly to the location. A loyalty program automatically collects points for merchandising purchases. As a result of the launch, Levi’s Stadium recorded an increase in sales of $1.25 million from sales made directly from the app. An attractive app with live content from the game and the opportunity to connect with other fans in the stadium also captures the so-called “Displaced Fans”, who have little or no opportunity to experience their team live. Fanatics – an online store selling licensed merchandising from the NFL, NBA, NCAA, MLB and NHL – found that 74 percent of NFL team fans are not locals. All in all, this applies to half of all large North American sports teams. Similar figures will only be reached by the very big football teams in Germany, but it is especially true for the “small” teams that they have to build a stable and success-independent relationship with their fans and that the sports managers of these teams in particular cannot afford to let this potential lie fallow.
While football clubs can profit from TV revenues even far into the lower leagues, sports marketing for other sports is almost completely excluded. Starting with the 2017/2018 season for a period of four years, the German professional clubs of the DFL will receive a total of EUR 4.64 billion for the sale of their national media rights. The 18 clubs in the Basketball Bundesliga, for example, will receive a mid-five-figure sum from their deal with Telekom, which has secured the broadcasting rights, as well as from other advertising revenues. Stefan Holz, Managing Director of the Basketball Bundesliga, is therefore quite right to say: “Indeed, we don’t have large budgets, which is why we have to engage in intelligent marketing. But the fact that this includes the appropriate technical equipment only gets around very slowly. After ALBA BERLIN, the EWE Baskets Oldenburg and ratiopharm ulm, Brose Bamberg is only the fourth club in the Basketball Bundesliga to offer free WLAN in “its” hall. After all, the stable connectivity of the arenas is an important prerequisite for the use of location-based services.
Stadium operators and teams that show the right level of digital commitment will get loyalty and additional attention back from fans who share their experiences with even larger digital communities. Photos, videos, real-time game information – fan-generated content goes far beyond the stadium and allows friends, family and an increasingly wider online audience to participate.
The trend towards public posts, especially in the younger age groups, is a sign that far more user-generated content will come in the future. Stadiums can take advantage of this public spreading in order to increase their media reach, strengthen loyalty to the team and direct interest towards a future visit to a live event.
What does the fan want?
Sports fans have clearly defined wishes for the digitalised stadium and for location-based services:
SERVICE AND SPORTS-BASED FEATURES ARE VERY RELEVANT. PUSH MESSAGES WITH RELEVANT SERVICES OFFERED ARE CONSIDERED INDISPENSABLE. DISCOUNTS ENSURE ENTHUSIASM. GAMIFICATION ELEMENTS ARE DISPENSABLE.
These results are supported, for example, by a survey for which 5,000 people were interviewed in April 2016 who had taken part in a live event in a large stadium the previous year and who had a smartphone. The respondents come from Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. It can be assumed that the identified trends can also be transferred to continental European fans. A recent online survey conducted by Facit Digital among German fans impressively confirms the results.
Catering has proven to be a top priority for stadium visitors, with fans saying that they find catering too difficult to access. 70% of respondents said that their matchday experience would improve with vouchers and discounts! Many of them also said that it would be a plus to get information on available food!
The Adler Mannheim from the DEL are responding to these needs with an outstanding fan app: The “My Home Game” feature sends exactly these special Food & Beverage match day offers requested by 80% of all fans directly to the fan’s mobile phone. A previously implemented indoor navigation allows comfortable navigation to any point of interest – including the next hot dog or pizza stand.
The results show not only the expectations of the fans, but also the extent to which there is a change in behaviour towards the use of new digital channels and personalised functions and the need for digital information.