31 Jan Proximity Brings New Opportunities to Stadium Advertising: Are Beacons On Your Team?
Sports teams, clubs, and leagues around the world are embracing beacons. Proximity technology are joining the stadium advertising toolkit as the perfect way to transform the fan experience as well as open new revenue streams.
As a product of the intersection of smartphone penetration and major advances in the strength and range of Bluetooth signals, beacons are adding a new dimension to the sports industry and opening new doors for fans and marketers alike. In just three short years since they first became available, beacons have become the go-to solution for building high-tech connections with fans.
How many teams are turning to beacons?
Just look at these numbers. In less than three years, more than half of all venues hosting the four major North American sports have been equipped with beacons and you can be sure the other half is coming soon. 93% of Major League Baseball stadiums now use beacon technology. Even in the league with the lowest rate of beacon usage, the NHL, half of the teams still use beacons.
The beacon wave goes even further, reaching smaller venues. Universities with big-time athletic programs are putting them to work. Golf tournaments are taking beacons outside and going mobile with them.
And this is not just happening in the US, either. Some of the most famous names in European football have also begun to add proximity solutions to their stadium advertising campaigns. The biggest sporting venue in Australia recently completed a testing phase for a massive beacon infrastructure that will interact with crowds at a wide variety of events. Mexican club Chivas de Guadalajara recently deployed four hundred beacons in their incredible new stadium. Even tournaments steeped in tradition like Wimbledon are using proximity technology to put a modern twist on a familiar name.
Beacons are going up on the walls and ceilings of stadiums around the world because of the benefits they bring to both hosts and guests. Sports brands deepen their relationships with fans, venues increase sales, and the event is turned into a better experience for everyone in the crowd. This new addition to stadium advertising methods is leading to several unprecedented opportunities.
No matter what happens in the game, everyone wins with beacons.
Beacons Bring a New Way to Score Points with Fans
One factor assisting in the rapid spread of beacons in sports is the fact that many teams and even arenas already have a mobile application for interacting with fans. They don’t need to create and promote an entirely separate app for beacon functionality, it’s just a matter of placing proximity services inside the existing app and asking fans to enable the new features.
When beacons came along, most teams already had experience in building digital connections with supporters. Even before they added beacon functionality to their team app, almost half a million Minnesota Vikings fans had already downloaded it. It was easy to merge the benefits of proximity infrastructures into these existing channels.
What about outside of the stadium?
Away from the arena, teams get the word out about their apps and proximity-based features through social media, websites, and direct mail campaigns to season ticket holders. On game day, fans can be encouraged to download the app with signage and stadium advertising or through various other touch points when they’re engaged with the team.
Executives within most organizations are confident that, done correctly, adoption of the team app can be successfully promoted among a modern fan base that is rarely more than arm’s length away from their phones.
“Even when a game is close, with five seconds left, everyone has their phone out because they want to record that game-winning shot,” says Kevin Cote, senior director of digital for the Golden State Warriors
Beacons Provide Value to Both Sides
The most profitable application for beacon solutions so far has been ticket upgrades. Sure, other attempts to encourage fans to upgrade to more expensive seats are made when they book online but that can’t compare with the immediacy of an offer to move to an empty seat that you can actually see during the excitement of the game. Other fans are attracted to an offer to upgrade after they realize that the seats they got were cheap for a reason.
Beacons can send a push notification that suggests the upgrade and takes recipients to a URL where they can easily complete the transaction and then get a new bar-coded ticket sent right to their phones. Unlike the often generalized and vague stadium advertising fans are used to, beacons up the ante by providing completely time-appropriate and personalized offers.
As more data comes in with time, marketers can recognize patterns that indicate which seating sections are most likely to respond to push notifications about upgrades while beacons in areas with lower response rates can be optimized to transmit different types of offers.
Yes, beacons can get you better seats
With their seat inventory managed through an online database, event organizers can take advantage of constantly updated seating information to send an invitation to upgrade at any point over the course of the game. Real-time updates to seating availability mean that even offers of upgrading to a particular seat are possible: “Want an aisle seat in the first row on the upper level?”
The Orlando Magic generated an additional $1,000,000 in ticket sales last year with upgrades made possible with beacons.
A million dollars in one year for one team in one league. Multiply this by all the teams in major sports and you’ll get an idea of how much beacons can bring in going forward.
This ability to entice fans to move to better seats after the doors close is a key element to the appeal of so-called Mobile Seat Upgrades. It’s a second or even third chance to remind guests that they can pay a little extra for a better view, to get into or out of the sun or get access to a VIP section. The Atlanta Braves report that they get an average of $16 per upgrade, which is all “found revenue” in marketing lingo. Exactly how many upgrades are bought at a typical game is still a secret but taking that average and multiplying by eighty-two home games a year during the baseball season makes it easy to see that beacons help to “find” a lot of extra money for the box office. Other venues have seen similarly impressive results in the number of empty seats they’ve been able to fill with beacons.
Empty seats that used to have zero monetary value after the game got underway are now back on the market thanks to beacons and this isn’t limited to seats that go unsold. With scanned tickets, arenas can now tell if season ticket holders, who often have many of the best seats in the house, have arrived or not by a certain point in a game. Many baseball teams have decided that if these fans don’t show up by the fourth inning – more or less the halfway point in the game – that seat will be up for re-sale to anyone who wants to move there.
Being able to sell the same seat twice has obvious appeal but we’re still only scratching the surface of what beacons do at sporting events.
Beacons Drive Retail Sales in Stadium Advertising
Anyone who’s been to a game in the last decade knows that the days of simple souvenir stands and a fairly limited range of items are long gone. The same applies to concession stands, which now serve up an impressive menu of classics along with modern favorites and even high-end gourmet options. Today’s sports facilities are designed with a built-in emphasis on retail and beacons have a role to play here too.
Beacons found their first widespread commercial applications in the retail space and experience from these deployments informs the way they are used in sports venues today. Beacons can track the number and length of visits by particular fans in the wide range of fan shops, stores, restaurants, and bars that are now standard in big time venues. Data from these interactions can be used to send targeted offers that match the demonstrated interests of particular fans. This could be a promotional code to reward a frequent customer, a special discount for a first-time visitor, or an invitation to Happy Hour. Whatever the message, fans get customized content and rewards for engaging with beacons.
Repeat activity means better results
One important advantage that beacons have in retail in the context of sporting venues is the fact that the strong majority of fans with the beacon app will engage with them over and over. Season ticket holders in the NBA and NHL can visit the arena more than forty times a year and in baseball that number can go twice as high. Data points gathered from that many visits help to refine targeted messages and ensure that marketers have as complete a picture as possible of customer behavior.
Sending the right message to the right person at the right time is key to personalized content and proximity technology makes it possible.
But beacons aren’t just for meta-level retail applications. Think of a message that tells fans about the limited-time offer on t-shirts in the shop just around the corner from their seat, a reminder that the last call for beer is in twenty minutes, or information about which concession stands have the shortest lines at halftime. Sales increase and fans are happy—everybody wins!
Making a Game More than a Game
Beacons are doing more than selling seats, shirts, and soda. Sports brands are using beacons to transform the experience of attending a sporting event into something that is engaging and rewarding no matter what happens on the field or court.
Sports marketers recognized long ago that they had to pitch more than just the team on the field. In the quest to get fans off the couch and into the stadium, they have to compete with television, cinemas, restaurants, big-screen tv’s, the internet, video games, and a number of other entertainment options.
Because that’s what they’re selling—entertainment.
Beacons open up a new avenue for interacting with fans to make the experience of going to a game fun and entertaining even if their favorite team isn’t. They enable fans to connect with their team in ways not before possible and maintain high levels of enthusiasm for the sports brand. When fans have a deep and personal connection with their team, they react that much more strongly to interactions that are tailored just for them.
Plus, with the high cost of tickets, diehard fans expect to have a great time, win or lose. Beacons help sports marketers meet the expectations of a new generation of customers that is used to getting frequent notifications from their smartphones and are a bridge to content that can turn a sporting event into an experience that engages fans well before kickoff.
Pushing the Party Inside
Beacons can reach fans even before they’re inside the stadium. Many teams have set up points programs that reward fans for doing things like coming in the stadium early instead of tailgating outside until minutes before the game starts. These points can be used for things like merchandise discounts, VIP parking, pre-game field access, and more. Teams benefit not only from increased concessions sales but also from having a full house at kickoff instead of having the last twenty or so percent of the crowd trickle in after the game starts.
“If we have all 66,000 of our fans in our seats at kickoff, that’s a big deal to the players,” says John Penhollow, vice president of corporate and technology partnerships for Minnesota Vikings Football.
On the way to their seats, fans can get personalized greetings and messages from team members, the latest news from the locker room, or information about pre-game activities.
Some team apps can even identify fans visiting the arena for the first time and send them turn-by-turn directions to their seats. After setting up a geo-fence around the facility, the app can also detect when visitors are in range but not yet inside. For guests who haven’t been there before, the app can send a message that tells them which gate is best for the seats they have. Some teams also include a coupon good for a first purchase in a team gear shop.
Depending on how the app is constructed, beacons can even improve the fan experience by alerting venue management to especially high traffic areas so they can assign extra security or maintenance to clean restrooms or dining areas.
Maximizing Beacons’ Effect on Stadium Advertising
Beacons have come a long way very quickly in the world of sports but these are still early days. There is some fine tuning to be done and teams are still experimenting with different ways to get the most out of proximity-based infrastructures. In order to optimize a beacon-based stadium advertising project, executives must be prepared to deal with the unique challenges faced by proximity solutions. Overcoming these hurdles is actually relatively easy, but ignoring them will lead to mixed results.
One challenge has been making sure that the number of notifications any one visitor receives is kept at a reasonable level. Determining exactly what this limit is can be more a matter of art than science but teams quickly learned that trips to the restroom or concession stand or simply moving around a bit mean that fans are likely to pass the same beacon multiple times during a single visit. Controlling how much any particular beacon interacts with any particular fan is fundamental to making sure that beacon-enabled push notifications remain appealing rather than annoying.
Won’t notifications get annoying?
A marketing manager with the Golden State Warriors put the challenge of finding the right balance in simple terms. “We don’t want to hit fans over the head with messaging to the point where they’d be annoyed with it, but we want to utilize it”.
Another executive summed up the challenge of establishing the line between engaging and irritating like this: “The goal is to, at a max, get a couple of messages so they are not like, ‘My phone is blowing up.’”
Another issue is the need to constantly change and update the content. Nobody wants fans to ignore a notification because they know it will be the same as the last one they got. Getting the beacon infrastructure set up is just the beginning. Fans will keep expecting new capabilities. Creating further content and adding it to the application will require its own team.
On top of this, getting the physical deployment of the beacons right can be a challenge as well given the size and nature of the space being covered. The areas that need to be covered by beacons in stadiums can be enormous and full of nooks and crannies. Also, materials that can diminish beacon signals like steel, concrete, and water (in the form of people) are everywhere. Ensuring complete signal coverage often requires a higher density of beacons and thus a greater degree of fleet management is involved.
The numbers mentioned earlier seem to indicate that these are costs and risks worth taking, though, with the benefits making it all worthwhile. Beacon use cases and applications from the world of sports are now inspiring coaches, managers, and team captains elsewhere in business who are looking for a high-ROI solution for customer engagement and a gateway to new revenue streams. Beacons could be just the thing to enhance your “game” too so why not try out for the team?
You can also test out beacon solutions for yourself in the Proximity Studio. We’re located right in the heart of Berlin.