How Digital Signage Can Help Keep Antsy Young Fans Engaged at Stadiums
A family of four attends a ballgame together. It’s a timeless experience. Or is it?
The parents in their 50s are perfectly happy to just sit and watch the game. But the younger family members — in their teens or early 20s — have different ideas and expectations about entertainment. Once they’ve watched the first inning, they probably had enough sitting. They are curious and want to check out what’s going on around the stadium.
Younger generations want different things from a stadium experience, and stadium technology can help deliver it. It’s a good thing, too, because the changing nature of sports and stadium events is also making new demands for stadium digital signage deployments at large.
Sports as a business and as a platform have evolved considerably in recent years — with pitch clocks, shootouts and replay reviews, not to mention major sponsorship investments and players who are living Brands themselves. The job of stadium signage is evolving even faster, partly because technology makes it possible but more so because the nature of the stadium-going audience demands it.
For more than a century, sports franchises have sold one primary product — a game – with an invitation to all fans to sit and watch it. Multiple generations of sports fans were satisfied with that proposition and spent considerable dollars for the seats that would give them what they really wanted — a view of the action, as close as possible.
Today, that is changing.
Generation Z, the demographic segment that consists of people born between 1996 and 2010, doesn’t go to stadiums just to watch a game. They go to stadiums to have an experience. They’re not going to sit in a seat for three hours, watch the action and soak in whatever information the usual signage has to offer. They want to get up and walk around. They want to sample different activities that provide short bursts of attention. This is largely due to this audience never having to wait or anticipate an outcome. As digital natives, they have the key to information, answers, and distractions — right in the palm of their hands.
This trend will only intensify with younger fans like Generation Alpha, born after 2010. Teams must make the stadium experience more engaging for these emerging fan bases, and digital signage is a critical element of this imperative.
The most forward-thinking teams are recognizing that various types of digital signage, strategically deployed, can not only keep younger fans engaged in the stadium experience but can also serve as new monetization revenue streams for the venue.
Finding your way
Modern stadiums are often more complicated venues than their predecessors. For fans who don’t visit frequently, it can be easy to feel surrounded by chaos when you just want to get to your seat.
Fans who struggle to find the right gate, find their section and get to their seats quickly — not to mention the concessions and the restrooms — will be frustrated if they miss the first inning while actively trying to navigate through the chaos. At its most basic, stadium signage has to serve the waymaking function that helps fans get where they want to go.
Digital signage can keep fans of all ages engaged during an event with activities like cap shuffles, selfie cams, dance contests and the chance to vote on songs for a singalong — along with information about players and the game's highlights.
The game may be the center of the action, but it certainly isn’t the only action. Some teams have mini-amusement parks, while others have music areas featuring live bands. One of the most popular stadium features today is the augmented reality station, where fans can indulge in experiences like posing for selfies (or so it appears) with one of the team’s stars.
Digital signage plays a crucial role in delivering (and monetizing) attractions like these.
Things can be taken even further with gaming experiences, artificial reality and virtual reality. And of course, digital signage can simplify and clarify the concession-ordering experience, where teams often suffer from staffing shortages and sold-out situations of popular items and fan favorites.
Monetizing the experience
The smartest digital signage configuration takes a critical factor into consideration: Can the technology pay for itself or, even more so, become a net positive revenue generator?
It absolutely can.
Stadium advertisers in previous generations could count on their messages getting to the attentive fans in the stands. Today’s sponsors need to consider where younger fans might be walking around or stopping to sample different experiences. They need to have their sponsorship messages waiting for the fans when they show up in various spots — wherever that might be around the stadium. This has spawned some very original placements of technology — even where you might least expect it.
Strategically placed screens are highly sought after as essential vehicles to drive not just impressions but engagement value. That might include a display at a table located in a fan’s lounge area. It might even include screens installed in bathroom stalls, where the advertiser absolutely has a captive audience for however brief a time. The content capabilities of modern digital signage make it easy to integrate sponsor messages with engaging content fans want to see.
Strategically marketed sponsorship opportunities can at least help the team cover the costs of the technology. A somewhat more ambitious effort to sell sponsorships can absolutely make digital signage a dollar-for-dollar profit center.
Rush to the exits
Leaving a stadium after a game can be like a video game experience. “Leave the ballpark” could test the skills of the most advanced gamer, as confusing routes and throngs of people frustrate the seemingly simple task of making for the exits. Effective digital signage that points people in the right direction and offers real-time information as needed, could make the fan’s final experience for the evening a pleasant one instead of a headache.
Is your venue Gen Z/Gen A ready?
The technology is there. The right sponsorship strategies can even make it self-financing. And the imperative is urgent because the younger fans of today will become the primary fans of tomorrow. The time to deploy the digital signage that will keep them engaged — and to keep coming back — is now.
Ask those 50-something parents whose kids disappeared almost as soon as they got to their seats. The family ballgame outing will never be what it was.
Join us next month as we delve into specific technology-based platforms and products that are revolutionizing stadium experiences for Gen Z.
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