Case Study

NHL Team Improves Fan Experience With Stadium Wi-Fi

Move opens doors for fan engagement, customer loyalty and new revenue streams

Challenge

With the adoption of home flat screen TVs and home theater technology, professional sports teams have a challenge in getting their fans to continue to support their teams in person. Often the fans can get a great view of the game at home. How do you continue to lure fans to attend games in the stadium? How do you keep the stadium experience exciting and modern?

A National Hockey League (NHL) team was facing these issues and had the vision to digitize the fan experience. They are home to one of the most winning teams in the league, but a lack of wireless connectivity wasn’t winning praise from fans. The team wanted to engage fans in new ways like social apps, push notifications and in-stadium seat upgrades. But without wireless connectivity, they found this extraordinarily difficult.

Additionally, the team’s marketing department wanted to better understand the demographics and expectations of fans, so they could build loyalty and provide targeted offers for services, including season tickets and upgrades. Without the ability to capture and apply analytics, however, staff had to rely on more traditional and less effective advertising.

The NHL team was also asking: how do we reach new fans? In particular, they knew they needed to capture millennials who expect a modern, digital fan experience.

Solution

We proposed an architecture which will provide the team with a solution to close the immediate gaps for their fans, while also providing a platform to build new services and revenue streams. The architecture started with the need for a high-speed backbone network to carry the traffic necessary to support thousands of users and applications. This required nearly 10 miles of fiber optic cables to be installed, interconnecting Cisco Core and Access Switching.

On top of that, we put together a team of Wi-Fi design experts both in-house and a special consultant (with hundreds of stadium designs under their belts) to design and build the optimal Wireless LAN, capable of handling up to 20,000 wireless users. We deployed a Cisco WLAN which offered the most reliable and scalable wireless platform that could also give the NHL team the analytics they were looking for through Cisco’s Connected Mobile Experience (CMX).

Next, we worked with the NHL team to design Wi-Fi splash pages which could contain advertisements and sponsorships, which gave the team a way to monetize the Wi-Fi, offsetting costs, while still providing free Wi-Fi access for fans.

For the future, the network and Wi-Fi architecture provide the platform for new services the NHL team is planning, including a custom mobile app for fans, nearly a thousand digital screens, and in-seat food ordering.

Conclusion

WWT’s stadium architecture proposal based on Cisco Connected Stadium products provided the foundation the NHL team needed to digitize and modernize their fan experience. The system provides many benefits being realized including:

  • Fan-facing Wi-Fi: allowing fans to get connected, access social apps and sites, and share their experience at the game
  • Fan Analytics: providing data to the NHL team on their fans expectations so they can better serve their needs in the venue, and give line of sight into new services
  • Fan Engagement: giving the NHL team new ways to engage their fans on mobile devices, and keep their fans thinking about the team even at home
  • New Revenue: by monetizing ad space via the Wi-Fi, new ad placement allows net new advertising revenue from sponsors
  • Platform for the Future: the foundation architecture can be extended with digital screens and signage, and streaming video to provide an even better experience for fans, while opening opportunities for new sponsorship and revenue streams

By taking advantage of our experience in networking architecture, Wi-Fi design and deployment, and mobile apps, the NHL team was able to capitalize on the business outcomes they needed: enhancing the fan experience while providing a platform for new revenue opportunities.

Both we and the NHL team realize we’ve only scratched the surface of what is possible through our partnership. Ideation sessions now are leading to a growing list of potential projects that can differentiate the team within their industry.

With venue renovations on the horizon, the NHL team is using the analytics from dwell times to consider where to best locate concessions and merchandising. They also are studying gathered data to capitalize on selling more tickets, understand the feasibility of an in-seat ordering service and determine the best methods to provide wayfinding throughout the updated facility. New digital signage will help the team be flexible to changes and more dynamic in how they increase revenue from their sponsors, not just for NHL games but for other events the venue hosts.