Wi-Fi Marketing Offers a Home Field Advantage

This article was originally posted In SportTechie, on May 23, 2018.


In sports, home field advantage can spell the difference between whether a franchise wins or loses on a regular basis. Making a ballpark or arena feel like home relies on establishing a connection with fans. In a digital world, that connection can be through Wi-Fi.

For popular sports franchises, getting fans inside a stadium is easy. The challenge is converting those fans into ongoing promotable customer relationships.  The key to success is establishing a strong, consented to, direct digital connection to fans and limiting the reliance on third party channels.

Recent regulatory and business practice changes have made the acquisition and handling of data from fans an important detail. The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) ruling, which comes into effect on Friday, will significantly impact how companies dealing with customers in the EU handle data. And even purely U.S.-based businesses are facing increasing scrutiny from the public and regulators. Earlier this month, Apple also started cracking down on apps that share location data with third parties (in many cases this could be the team itself), demanding apps not only get permission from end users, but explicitly state what is done with the data and who can access it.

Data on fans comes from a mixture of direct sources (users of a team’s app, direct ticket sales, onsite marketing, etc.) and non-direct sources (TV, paid social, retail apparel sales, etc.). The problem for teams is that on average, less than 10 percent of data comes directly. That means less that teams have control over only a small portion of that data, and do not have a direct connection to their fans.

Mike Perrone, the founder and CEO of SocialSign.In, a Wi-Fi marketing company, believes that the key to building more direct relationships with fans is Wi-Fi. Through this, venue operators control a channel to identify, engage and nurture visitors who may otherwise be unknown and unreachable.  

Wi-Fi marketing gives teams and venue executives access to their audience directly. Wi-Fi channels can establish connections that allow the teams and venues to market to fans both on-site and after they leave.

“The whole point is that the universe that you can fish from for new relationships inside your stadium is very fertile, often under-tapped ground,” Perrone said.

And almost all arenas, stadiums and ballparks now have Wi-Fi. Unlike stadium apps, which often have low uptake, Wi-Fi is well-used and highly desired amenity. According to Perrone, “Wi-Fi is the only place where you have high customer demand, low friction, no need to change their behavior, but yet, you still capture them at a moment where they are really deeply engaged with the team.”

When teams are able to leverage the most memorable in-stadium moments, the likelihood that those fans will return on a regular basis grows. Each return visit then represents another opportunity to cultivate and grow the relationship that exists between a team and its audience. According to Perrone, that wouldn’t otherwise happen if fan attention was divided by third party apps. “Teams face a very distinct problem of, ‘I have a rabid fan base of loyal people and for the most part I have no idea who they are, I do not have permission to contact them, they’re transactions and interactions are owned by other entities” he said. 

“(Wi-Fi) isn’t a nice-to-have,” Perrone said. “It’s an absolute critical business function if they think about the state of their first-party relationships.” That is the home field advantage that cannot be replicated and that gives teams the mechanism to create these one-on-one relationships. And for teams and venue operators looking to keep that relationship advantage, Wi-Fi is a home run.

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