• The Connectivity Connection

  • »  21st century fans want 21st century technology

Venues Today | Original article by Jessica Boudevin | Published: July 2, 2012



Charlie Freeman, senior VP of Business Development for the Orlando Magic; Mark DiMaurizio, VP of technology solutions at Comcast-Spectacor; Adam Stass, partner and managing director at Websitealive; Robb Heineman, CEO of Sporting KC; Jane Kleinberger, founder of Paciolan; Claude DeLorme, executive VP of ballpark Operations for the Miami Marlins; Steve Serfling, application engineer at Daktronics; and Scott Lecher, director of stadium development at Xirrus, gather after their panel.

REPORTING FROM MINNEAPOLIS — Technology changes so quickly that its role in the industry is constantly evolving. The addition of internet-based ‘chat’ assistance and sales has opened doors to a new audience, and new wi-fi solutions are coming online at facilities. “The Key to the 21st Century Fan Experience” panel July 2 at the Association of Luxury Suite Directors Conference at the Hilton Minneapolis brought venue and technology executives together to discover new ways that technology appeals to fans.

“Technology is maximizing every piece of real estate that you have and capitalizing on what the fan is experiencing,” said Steve Serfling, application engineer at Daktronics. “We believe wholeheartedly that it’s helping teams bring the fans in.”

Jane Kleinberger, founder of Paciolan, said that the key is to figure out how to monetize a return on technological investments and social websites. She cited the University of Michigan’s Memorial Day social push, where they encouraged fans to ‘like’ them on Facebook.

“Within the first few minutes they got about 2,000 ‘likes,’ and they did a Facebook-only promotion about a week later and sold out the tickets.”

Gathering data about fans remains a strong strategy when it comes to finding out the consumer demographic and targeting new customers.

“We have a big data warehouse,” said Charlie Freeman, senior vice president of Business Development at the National Basketball Association’s Orlando Magic. “We’re going to know everything about our customer.”

Kleinberger added that gathering consumer information helps facilities send targeted messages to a targeted audience.

Some venues, like Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, are offering live chat options on their website.

Adam Stass, partner and managing director at Websitealive, explained what makes their chat product so unique. “A lot of people think our chat line is the same as gmail chat but, with ours, the customer doesn’t have an account and the chat is branded specifically.”

Comcast-Spectacor’s VP of Technology Solutions Mark DiMaurizio said that they noticed an effect from using the chat program right away.

“Our sales results more than doubled when we added chat,” said DiMaurizio. “It touches a set of people who use the internet instead of the phone as their preferred method of communication.”

Stass added that chat is more practical in some situations. “You have to remember the customer,” he said. “A lot of times they’re at home and kids are screaming so they just can’t be on the phone.”

There are sales implications, too. DiMaurizio said that certain sales representatives are actually better at communicating through chat than the phone.

Fans now demand wireless capability at sporting and live entertainment events.

Scott Lecher, director of Stadium Development at Xirrus, said that wi-fi has been quickly replacing wired as the primary network connection and that stadiums are taking notice. There is a huge difference between installing wi-fi at a closed-roof venue versus one that is open air, because the elements and weather can cause interference.

Robb Heineman, CEO of Major League Soccer’s Sporting KC, which plays at Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., added, “wi-fi is a living, breathing thing. You don’t just install it and walk away.”

The initial installation of wi-fi is an expensive process. Freeman said that Amway Arena, home of the Orlando Magic, spent $2 million getting wireless installed and running, and they’ll spend another $400,000 in the off-season on upgrades.

“Cost is a big objection,” said Lecher, “but you can alleviate that by having the right fan engagement tools and attracting sponsorship.”

The investment also pays off in fan experience. Heineman said that a big incentive to provide wi-fi was that the team wanted to grow its 18-35 age group.

Claude DeLorme, executive VP of Ballpark Operations for Major League Baseball’s Miami Marlins, agreed that wireless internet is important to provide for today’s generation. “We had to exceed expectation in order to appeal to the younger demographic.”

Stass said the most entertaining use of wi-fi occurs when stadium-goers use FaceTime, a video chat option, to show friends at home what they’re missing, which generates excitement about the event.

“If you can connect with the fans, they can connect with their friends who couldn’t come,” Stass added.

Interviewed for this story: Claude DeLorme, (305) 480-1300; Mark DiMaurizio, (215) 336-3600; Charlie Freeman, (407) 916-2400; Jane Kleinberger, (949) 823-1679; Scott Lecher, (805) 262-1600; Steve Serfling, (605) 692-0200; Adam Stass, (770) 448-4060.

Venues Today by Jessica Boudevin | Published: July 2, 2012