The connected stadium and enhancing the fan experience

At their first home game of the new season, a group of PSV Eindhoven fans staged a protest against wi-fi being introduced into the Philips Stadion. Their grievance being that you should be there to watch the game and not have your head in your smartphone.

PSV is, of course, Philips SV and the club was founded in 1913 as a team for Philips employees so this is a relationship that goes way beyond sponsorship. I visited the stadium for a pre-season friendly over the summer and the audiovisual tech in the stadium is fantastic – installing wi-fi is the most logical progression and in fact they’re bringing more than that. The “Connected Stadium” project provides wi-fi for the fans, video services and real-time statistics. After all, why should the fans watching at home get the enhanced fan experience through their TV sets? A section of their fans don’t believe it is enhancing their experience but on the day 17,000 from an attendance of 34,000 used the network.

Over in San Francisco the 49’ers played their first regular season game at what Time Magazine hails as the “most-high tech sports venue yet” – the Levi’s Stadium.

It’s clear why Philips would kit out a stadium with the latest tech and provide wi-fi but why a fashion brand? Quite simply, it’s because they want to give the fan the best experience possible under their name. As well as two giant LED screens in each of the end-zones and 70 4k TVs in the executive suites around the complex all 70,000 fans in the stadium will have access to a wi-fi and 4g network. The Levi’s stadium app can be used to guide fans to seats, let them access replays, let them order food and drinks from their seats, tell people where the nearest toilets are and even which has the shortest queue!

Beyond the tech, they will be giving out free drink top-ups and invitations to the 501 club for anyone attending the games in their Levi’s. At the 49’ers themed bar in New York some lucky Levi’s wearing fans will get picked to fly out to San Francisco for the following weeks game. It’s part of their strategy to break into the sports domain and to make you feel that when you wear Levi’s then good things happen. It’s a programme they’ve designed that goes beyond the day of the game and lives outside of the stadium, and outside of the city it’s even taking place in, to reward their customers through creating memories for them. At the time of writing there doesn’t appear to be any backlash from 49’ers fans to their new connected stadium – being in the heart of Silicon Valley will help the acceptance of course.
In my opinion nothing can replace being in the stadium for a game and the fans passion must of course be handled with care but as we enter the era of connected stadiums those fans who pay their money to be there are now getting access to an enhanced experience and to content that, unfairly, they were previously not getting compared to the armchair fan. Levi’s have shown how thinking outside of the arena they can maintain that connection with the fans to create moments and memories to strengthen loyalty and affinity to the brand. The connected stadium is an emerging zone for brands and this is just the start – the NFL has a requirement that all stadiums be equipped with wi-fi for the start of 2015. It’ll be interesting to see how brands make the most of these connected experiences and help create memories for the fans in and outside of the stadiums.

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