Theatre of dreams


Technology, more than ever before, is shaping fan experiences both in and outside stadia. Going to a sporting event today is not just about watching the game; fans want a combination of interactive and social experiences.

Through in-stadium Wi-Fi, apps and other digital innovations, the fan experience is becoming both smoother and more engaging. Christopher Lee, a stadium architect, says “people expect more from the stadium experience and they’re willing to pay more for it”, and a Cisco survey highlighted that 60% of fans would be willing to pay more for connected stadium experiences.

For example, apps used at the Levi’s Stadium and Barclay’s Center in the US allow fans to easily find parking, purchase their food, drinks and merchandise, locate their seats and find the toilets with the shortest lines. They can replay videos, search player statistics and watch exclusive content all from their seats.

Stadia have also been implementing mobile ticketing (phone scanners), loyalty reward programmes and simple social media sharing platforms with exclusive filters. Strong connectivity results in increased fan spend. After Cisco installed its StadiumVision technology in the Los Angeles Staples Centre, they saw a 400% year-on-year increase in revenue from pilot promotions offered during LA Sparks games.

These improvements have also benefitted internal stadium operations by enhancing the experience of vendors, staff, press, and players. Stadia and their third-party operators, like sponsors, can capture information along their customers’ journeys beginning with ticket purchases, social media interactions, food, drink and merchandise sales, app uses, website visits, movements around the stadium and more.

Collection of this data enables stadium operators to more effectively contract with sponsors for customised stadium advertising by using the data to segment and target the right customers. According to research from Stanford University, “30% of fans who use social media to connect with a sponsor later make a purchase because of the brand’s association with the team”.

However, none of this works without the right infrastructure to ensure strong connectivity, which is what stadia are having to factor in to their new development or refurbishment plans.

These technology improvements are happening globally: in the UK, there is speculation that players at Wembley will wear chest cameras to let fans watch the action from the player’s perspective. FC Porto’s fans will soon be able to order food and drinks from their seats via an app. In the US, the new $1.5bn Atlanta Falcons stadium features the world’s first 360-degree video screen.

The adaptation of modern technology has the potential to engage a new customer base and drive increased revenue from attendees, at a time when the revenues generated through TV rights appear to be under pressure. These experiences, unique to watching the game live, are helping get people out of the comfort of their own homes and back into the stadium.

Emily McConnell