How Sports Stadiums are Creating Highly Personalized Fan Experiences

Super Bowl LI was one for the history books with the New England Patriots making their record-setting ninth Super Bowl appearance – and I was a lucky man to have experienced this incredible showdown firsthand. After a nail-biting fourth quarter, Super Bowl LI launched into overtime for the first time in the game’s history. The Patriots overcame a 25-point deficit to win, breaking the record for the largest deficit overcome to win the Super Bowl.

As I looked around me, I thought it safe to say that the 70,000+ fans at the NRG stadium were fully engaged with what was happening on the field, as was everyone watching from home. Based on industry statistics, attendees were also busy with their phones – snapping pictures, posting on social media, watching replays and more. Fans used over 11.8TB of data during the game, breaking last years’ record of 10TB of data usage.

Fan expectations have become game-changing: attendees enjoy seeing the games live and being part of the crowd but they also want more high-tech amenities and stadium owner/operators are paying attention. Likewise, professional sports organizations know they can score big points by using technology to increase fan engagement. CenturyLink has personally coached winning technology plays for U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis; Sports Authority Field, home of the Denver Broncos; Target Field, home to the Minnesota Twins; and most recently, CenturyLink Center in Omaha, NE.

The details really do count in today’s fan experience. Before a fan will spend their hard-earned money on a ticket, they want assurance of an experience that is ten times better than sitting on their couch at home. Innovative stadium and team management are leveraging paperless ticketing, easy and free WiFi access, game day apps with special promotions, and online concession ordering to help enhance a fan’s game-day experience. Some arenas are taking it a step further by using technology to help attendees navigate to their seats, find less crowded restrooms and upsell patrons to higher priced seats.

At CenturyLink, we work with our customers to facilitate not only the WiFi and network access technologies, but also to gather powerful location data and customer analytics so they can gain real business insights to create highly personalized experiences for customers in their venues. As the fan engages with the venue’s network for a more immersive experience, we’re learning their favorite seats and where they go while inside the venue. For example, we can help stadium managers understand peak concession times or the popularity of special game-day promotions so they, in turn, can have the appropriate amount of food and drink ready for ticket holders and continue promotions with the most audience appeal.

Most recently, we’ve developed a technology innovation plan to amplify the fan experience for CenturyLink Center Omaha. We provided the venue with an integrated IP network designed specifically for the venue’s physical shape and seat layout. Our unique consultative approach measures signal transmission based upon structural design so that the nearly 300 WiFi access points can best facilitate Internet access for 18,000+ attendees. Burstable gig connectivity ensures that the correct amount of bandwidth is always available.

The U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis is also leveraging CenturyLink technology to enhance the Minnesota Viking’s fan experience. This CenturyLink-powered WiFi network and its 1,300 WiFi access points is designed to accommodate 66,000 fans accessing the Internet simultaneously and as many as 70,000 during special events. CenturyLink cloud-based technology and predictive analytics will enable the Vikings to enhance the fan and game-day experience, via the Vikings mobile app, made possible as a result of CenturyLink advanced and robust WiFi and networking infrastructure.

Digital technology has absolutely transformed the way we live. We expect to be connected everywhere, whether we’re at work, at home or at play. I can’t wait to see the part technology will play in Super Bowl LII next year at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Hope to see you there!

Learn about the solution CenturyLink Business developed for the CenturyLink Center.