Teams, properties, and events throughout sports and entertainment are always looking for ways to get ahead and provide a better gameday experience for fans. Often times in today’s world that advantage comes through new technology.
Over the past couple of years in sports and entertainment, there has been an increasing trend of stadiums, teams, event organizers, and more using RFID technology to improve the experience for fans once they arrive on site at an event. RFID, which stands for radio frequency identification, can be used to take away some of the hassle for fans at stadiums by making it easier than ever to get to their seats, purchase food and beverages, and receive personalized discounts.
“The simple, functional answer is that RFID uses radio waves to collect data and track activity from identifiable tags secured to different objects,” Hallie Johnston, VP Group Account Director, Sports Sponsorships at Momentum Worldwide, said. “Currently we’re seeing it in a lot of clothes, wearable objects and cards, but the applications are limitless.”
RFID technology provides event organizers and team personnel a way to rethink the fan experience and make every part of it more efficient. With RFID technology, there is no need for a barcode to be scanned entering the stadium. As long as fans have a chip embedded somewhere in their clothing, wallet, or purse, they can simply enter through an RFID-enabled turnstile with relative ease compared to an old-school ticket.
One of the most popular ways of implementing RFID technology at events has been through branded wristbands provided by event organizers. In sports, it has worked successfully at this year’s Ryder Cup. In entertainment, Lollapalooza in Chicago used these to help mitigate the notorious lines to get into the event as well as at food and drink vendors throughout the festival. In both instances, the attendee’s credit card information is stored within the chip in the wristband, allowing a seamless transaction using the vendor’s point-of-sale system. It’s much quicker than cash or credit cards, and it cuts down on the amount of time each fan/event attendee has to spend in line.
“RFID is all about reducing friction,” Johnston said. “As a fan, you register for a bracelet (or get one pre-registered), and you don’t have to enter any more personal data as you experience the event. You are “unchained” and free to live in the moment, without constantly filling out forms, showing tickets. This freedom from friction is where the value for fans is most obvious — and value for fans is value for brands.”
The advantages are also massive for employees of these events and teams. One of the best features of RFID technology is its real-time nature, allowing users to be tracked and monitored once they register and start using the technology. This is a huge opportunity for data capture for the business side of events and sports.
For example, the Tampa Bay Lightning embedded RFID chips in team jerseys it sent to all of its season-ticket holders before the 2011-12 season. Instead of using traditional tickets, season-ticket holders could show up to the game wearing their jersey and gain admission and purchase items throughout the arena. As an additional incentive, the team offered special discounts on food and merchandise to those wearing the jersey.
For the Lightning, this accomplished two huge objectives:
— Fill the stadium with passionate fans wearing team-approved gear
— The ability to track every single purchase a season-ticket holder made through the RFID technology embedded in the jersey
For marketers and sellers, the data revealed by RFID technology is a dream. It tells you the exact purchase habits of every person that makes purchases through the chip. It also gives team and event personnel a better idea of the flow of people throughout their game day experience. That gives sellers a huge opportunity to offer personalized offers, sales, discounts, and more based on the consumer history built through data collected by the RFID chip.
What is the future of RFID technology in sports and entertainment? According to Johnston, it is combining RFID with other emerging technologies to continue to increase the game day experience for fans as well as the amount of information available to brands, marketers and sellers.
“We’re headed towards technology like RFID combining with the power of smartphones to serve as your gateway to the sporting event,” Johnston said. “Unite RFID with other technologies – like beacons – with the volume of fan data captured, and the ability to micro-target fans, could be a powerful platform for brands or sports leagues. The brand connection becomes that much more powerful and personal.”
Preston McClellan is a marketing coordinator at Navigate Research in Chicago and a contributor for Sporting News, writing about sports business. Connect with him on Twitter at @p_mcclellan and join the dialogue.