Elite clubs are the ones that get more return from their stadiums on the matchday. According to the study Money League by Deloitte, in the first five classified teams it means an 18% of income, while the ones in positions 16 to 20 receive 13%. This doesn’t mean that there wasn’t an increase in the number of fans who prefer watching the game at home. In the last few years, incomes generated by broadcasting have increased as OTTs and online interactions keep fans in their homes. Stadiums all over the world have recently shown a slight decrease in attendance numbers.
This tendency has driven a general change in sports around the world. Now there’s a need for live experiences to beat the ones we can get at home. Attending a live game is an incredible experience for any fan, but all the analysis indicate that it’s necessary to provide better services and conditions, so this doesn’t change in the future.
In this way, the last report Money League by Deloitte mentioned Barcelona FC as an example of adapting to the changing market conditions, and of reducing dependency on broadcasting incomes.
The challenge is to provide the right environment for fans to be able to watch the games in high-quality experiences. For example, one of the most recently reformed stadiums was Tottenham Hotspur. The British newspaper The Guardian mentioned it as an example to follow by the rest of the clubs. They praised its catering services, the heating in the stands, and its “sound wall.” Besides, it predicted that, in the future, that spectators will have personalized technological services, which will increase connectivity with the whole stadium. Augmented Reality, the use of holograms, or real time follow-up of statistics and biomarkers coming from devices in smart vests would be just a few of the new attractions in the stadium seats in the future.
Architect John Rhodes, who designed the new Palau Blaugrana, highlighted that in the NFL, the USA football league, “an arms race can already be seen” in terms of facilities and stadiums. Clubs that adapt faster to the demands of new generations and future spectators will have the advantage. The philosophy that should rule modernization in the venues is clear, in his words: “With multimedia revolution, the experience of attending an event should beat the factor of the benefit of watching it at home. Stadium designers need a solid understanding on how people want to use the spaces and to participate in an event.”
The great demand of new fans is not just to be close to their players. They also request to interact with the club at multiple levels. Under these circumstances, strategies to set the offer are necessarily bound to personalization. According to Stadium 2.0: Framework to Improve Sports Fans’ Experience in Stadium Through IoT Technology, attendees’ expectations could be classified into four basic items:
- Safe, comfortable, and clean stadium.
- View from the seats should meet expectations.
- High-quality game.
- Exciting atmosphere.
The fourth item is the most complex and important one. Excitement is contagious, but conditions and determinants should encourage it to be positive. An exciting atmosphere is what defines a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and gets the final objective: the spectator wants to come back. To achieve these collective feelings, the study assured that it’s key to personalize the offer:
- Catering services, food, and beverages.
- Commercial, the chance to get merchandising.
- Entertainment before and after the game.
- Seating close to spectators who share interests.
For its matchday, Barcelona FC has a double marketing strategy. The greatest number of seats in the stadium are occupied by members, but in the case they don’t attend, the club has a system which encourages the member to notify it, so their tickets can be released and sold.
Since the system started, there is a significant number of members who decide to release their seats in each date. A second marketing campaign is focused on selling these tickets. Once the process has finished, the challenge posed by the system is the short time there is left for the club to set the club’s marketing offer for those visitors in its stadium.
However, the IoTwins project that Barcelona FC develops together with BSC (Barcelona Supercomputing Center) is working on a system to optimize a strategy that allows the personalization of the offer and the services. IoTwins consists in the creation of a Camp Nou digital twin using the historical data of game attendance. It will predict different scenarios for each matchday.
There are many factors influencing the profile of the fans who go to the stadium. The type of competition, the time of the game, the day of the week, the weather, the opponent the local team is facing… Predicting scenarios based on data is useful to fit the services the club provides. Not only in terms of comfort, facilitating a quick access and exit from the venue, eliminating queues and congestion, but also in terms of a commercial offer with suitable stock for the profile of the fan who goes to the stadium, and placing the sales points according to the prediction on the behaviour they may have.
The outcome of this project will be a tool, with the collaboration of the European Union, that will be adapted to any type of commercial or entertainment venue. Predicting the behaviour of a massive attendance, based on the external determinants known, optimises the offer and the commercial return, improves the spectator’s experience, and ensures better safety conditions.