It’s time for UK teams, stadiums and rights holders to future-proof their businesses

By Nick Addecott, 1 April 2022 | 5 mins read

Every team, stadium and venue owner will tell you the fan comes first – but is that the reality? In today’s technological age, are they doing enough to keep fans happy and returning week after week? Historically, UK sports have enjoyed fierce loyalty from their fan bases, but times are changing. As new generations become sports fans, it’s time for rights holders to step up and raise their game.

Meet the new, digitally-savvy fan

The way Gen Z and millennials consume their entertainment has changed, and so have their expectations. In today’s technologically-driven society, it’s not just about sticking on a scarf and heading out to watch the match. With a vast digital universe surrounding sports and teams, many fans approach the whole experience in the virtual sphere. Betting, predictions, teams news, fan base communication – everything’s done online. No game is approached without consulting a device.

Rights holders have an incredible opportunity to tap into this world by embracing an increasingly sophisticated array of technology. Retaining and winning fans starts with enhancing the fan experience – both the virtual and the live event. By creating a true ‘fan first’ experience, that’s designed for today’s digital audience, rights holders can future-proof their business. There are tremendous opportunities for teams to support their fans’ passion and loyalty.

Make match day about more than the match

The key is to create a seamless, frictionless, engaging experience that excites fans as much as their team’s performance. To make match day about far more than the match. A lot of stadiums in the UK are old buildings that rely on season ticket sales to fill seats. It’s the traditional model – but that doesn’t mean the fan experience has to follow suit. By applying a data-driven digital strategy, stadiums can improve the fan experience and engagement, leading to a more personalised, relevant and enjoyable experience. The revolution has begun, but it’s in its infancy.

With the majority of UK stadiums at the early stages of their digital journey, we need to look abroad for inspiration. Let’s take a trip across the pond for a truly 21st century fan experience.

What can we learn from the United States?

The recent Super Bowl LVI at the newly built Sofi Stadium in LA is a fantastic example of a full-blown, well-designed digitally immersive experience. Earlier this year, Sofi’s owners launched the Hollywood Technological Alliance, a strategic steering group made up of 12 industry behemoths: Google, YouTube, Verizon, Samsung, Ticketmaster and Square to name but a few. Their remit was to help develop cutting-edge, modern interactions and solutions for their guests across sport, entertainment and retail. And, if some of the initiatives in play at the Super Bowl were anything to go by, the group is smashing it.

With the Sofi Stadium, the fan’s experience starts well before match day. Everything is perfectly packaged in the Sofi Stadium app, from the ticket purchase to the pre-visit info. You use the app to scan your digital ticket, pay for everything within the stadium, and log all your benefits, rewards and offers. The app is a true match day companion – and that’s not all. It’s also a playground for the multitude of Sofi’s partners to engage and excite fans at the event and those watching around the world. For marketeers and brands, the virtual experience is becoming as important as the live experience: look at how Verizon used their technology to offer fans the opportunity to engage with seven different camera angles to watch the game the way they wanted. And their AI-powered Airship Battle was insane and brilliant!

What innovations are kicking off in the UK?

Although the United Kingdom doesn’t yet have its Sofi Stadium, smart stadium transformations are making headway. Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium app includes features to help fans plan a visit to the White Hart Lane complex, including dining, retail, and other entertainment experiences. Wi-Fi and beacon technology deliver real-time push notifications to direct fans to specific food and beverage outlets and toilet facilities. The app also helps stadium operators deploy staff to the most congested areas while predicting future demand. Meanwhile, fans can access team news, videos and highlights, goal alerts and live commentary from matches in addition to exclusive content. The club is clearly working hard to make the virtual destination as attractive as the physical.

What does this do for the venue owners? What doesn’t it do?!

Firstly, and most importantly, it’s about data – these days, what isn’t? Giving an organisation the ability to own meaningful and insightful data is the most powerful thing we can do. As the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, once said “Data is a precious thing and will last longer than the systems themselves”. Being able to fully understand who is at your venue, who is watching virtually and how they behave is the only way to effectively grow your business.

Through data and insight, venues can create a more personalised, enjoyable and relevant experience for every single fan. It will allow them to create a truly 365 business and to have the power to engage with their fans every day of the year. At the same time, data will enable venues to create more meaningful and creative partnerships and grow their global fan base. It’s the marriage of thrilling physical competition and next-generation technology. Everyone’s a winner.

At The Maverick Group we are excited to be going on this journey with stadiums and rights holders in the UK. Our combined expertise means we can create a truly integrated and connected ‘fan first’ experience for iconic sports venues and help grow and future-proof their business. Our team of highly skilled experts is here to advise and support clients as they build compelling digital worlds around their events and venues. To get the right result, call us to talk tactics.