How The NFL Plans To Use Wi-Fi Analytics At Superbowl XLIX

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Extreme Networks explains how the NFL is trying to increase engagement with fans and boost attendances

This Sunday, over 70,000 spectators will flock to the University of Phoenix in Glendale, Arizona for US sport’s greatest spectacle, Superbowl XLIX.

Fans will have access to a high speed wireless Internet within the stadium, part of a concerted effort by the National Football League (NFL) to engage fans and increase attendances across the league’s 30 teams.

Extreme Networks is the official Wi-Fi solutions provider and the official Wi-Fi analytics provider to the NFL. Its equipment has been used to build the networks at eight NFL stadiums and provides Wi-Fi analytics to 13 teams.

Its Purview Wi-Fi analytics platform was used at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey for last year’s Superbowl and will again help the NFL gain insight at this year’s extravaganza in Arizona.

Wi-Fi analytics

NFL SuperbowlPurview can sit on top of any network, whether built by Extreme Networks or a rival like Cisco, and is able to analyse application data, location data and device information and capture it into a single database.

The Arizona Cardinals, main tenant of the University of Phoenix Stadium, are not one of the eight teams whose network has been built by Extreme Networks, so the company is using it as an example of how the Purview can work with third party vendors.

The New England Patriots, one of the teams contesting this year’s championship game, were one of the first to recognise how Wi-Fi can help improve fan engagement and helped Extreme Networks test the Purview platform, but why is the NFL so keen on using wireless technology?

Personalised experience

“There are a number of teams who don’t sell out every game so they’re really looking at fan engagement and fan experience to ensure fans are coming to the stadium for every game,” explained Mike Leibovitz, director of mobility and applications at Extreme Networks. “The league recognises it’s not just the fans today, it’s the fans of tomorrow. The children are coming with their parents or grandparents and expect Wi-Fi or expect connectivity.”

He said that by understanding patterns of behaviour and types of visitor, teams can tailor offers to different people. For example, first time spectators could be steered towards the club shop or given introductory offers.

“Maybe you want to sell more beer or give away a football,” said Leibovitz. “When do you do that? In the third quarter, the fourth quarter, do you do it through Facebook, do you do it through a Gameday app?”

Wi-Fi coaches

While some network platforms can detect location just by detecting a device in the vicinity of an access points, gathering much of this information requires fans to actually use the network.

To this end, Extreme Networks and the NFL deploy ‘Wi-Fi coaches’ at certain venues and will be present at this year’s Superbowl in an effort to get them connected.

“Just putting infrastructure in place isn’t good enough – you need to get people on the infrastructure,” said Leibovitz

Beyond the NFL

NFL Superbowl 2Extreme Networks has also signed up the National Hockey League (NHL)’s Detroit Red Wings and plans to get into other sports, but says the UK – especially the Premier League – presents a different challenge as many teams continually fill their stadiums.

“The opportunity around monetising the wireless network is more prevalent that the need to engage fans,” said Steve Johnson, UK and Ireland regional manager, who added that sponsorship, and in-play betting are particular areas of growth.

Of course, the NFL is a high profile example for Extreme Network to show other industries and Leibovitz says the association gives the company a “stamp of approval.”

“There’s a saying that ‘Gameday is every day’,” he said. “We believe our customers in other verticals have their own gamedays. The network just has to work.”

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