SEAT founder launches venue business-strategy firm

Christine Stoffel

Christine Stoffel, founder of the popular SEAT conference, has banded together with some top sports & entertainment industry executives to form The Executive Advocates (TEA), a venue business-strategy consulting firm with a wide menu of potential services.

Joining Stoffel in the founding of TEA are partners Katee Panter and Douglas Moss; Denise Taylor, CIO for Westfield Inc., will serve as an advisory board member to TEA.

The 20-year technology veteran Panter, who was most recently senior vice president of enterprise technology for New York icon venue Madison Square Garden, said in a prepared statement that “TEA’s mission will enable businesses to derive value from their people and technology investments.” According to the press release announcing the firm, TEA’s service offerings include: executive recruitment and placement, strategic technology roadmap consulting, tech solution and design, real estate-technology project management and financial oversight, all based on “insights & research from years of technical and executive leadership.”

“TEA are the voices of industry leaders brought together to support organizations with transparency, integrity and candor,” said Stoffel, in a prepared statement. “We are championing the drive for excellence from the top down, in every organization starting with executive recruitment through providing consultancy expertise on experiential technology solutions and design. It’s exciting to bring these offerings to our industry peers, colleagues and friends across the globe with this talented group.”

Venue consulting firms on the rise

Moss, a 30-year veteran of the sports and entertainment industry, has a resume that includes serving as president of the Buffalo Sabres, Phoenix Coyotes and International Hockey League, senior vice president of business operations for the Anaheim Ducks and president of Madison Square Garden Network.

“I look forward to be working with [the TEAM team] and our colleagues around the globe as we continue of journey of connecting technology, business and people,” Moss said.

The launch of TEA follows another recent high-profile gathering of minds in the venue consulting arena. A firm called 27/17 Innovations was formed by former Corning and IBM executive Todd Christner, calling itself in part “a firm focused on the end-user experience as the sustainable source of competitive differentiation, regardless of industry.” May the battles for RFPs begin!

Cleveland Browns: New YinzCam analytics platform produced $1 million+ in ROI

FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the Cleveland Browns. Credit: Cleveland Browns.

FirstEnergy Stadium, home of the Cleveland Browns. Credit: Cleveland Browns.

In sports it’s one thing to have a great playbook, and quite another thing to have a team that can execute the plays.

You can make a similar comparison to the state of sports business analytics — teams and venues are awash these days in ways to collect digital data on fans. But not many teams have figured out how to act on that information to effectively improve the fan experience, and improve the business bottom line, making many digital-fan engagement efforts seem unfinished.

That quest — to find a return on investment for a team’s digital operations — may get a big push forward this week with the announcement of the YinzCam Business Intelligence Platform, which is designed to bring together all kinds of digital fan data info in a place where teams can see it and act on it in a consolidated, structured fashion. According to early users the platform allows teams or venues to establish a highly personalized connection to the fan — while powering more efficient business processes at the same time.

At the SEAT Conference this week in Las Vegas, YinzCam will announce its new product and present a case study with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns, who have been testing the YinzCam software ahead of its general release. In an interview last week with Mobile Sports Report, the Browns said the YinzCam software did the one thing other existing products and services couldn’t do — help them analyze and act on the data they gathered from various digital fan interactions.

Screenshot of YinzCam Business Intelligence Platform view of fan profile. Credit: YinzCam/Cleveland Browns

Screenshot of YinzCam Business Intelligence Platform view of fan profile. Credit: YinzCam/Cleveland Browns

In one test, the Browns said the YinzCam Business Intelligence Platform allowed the team to save more than a million dollars in season-ticket renewals by being able to more effectively target fans who might be thinking about not renewing, and to connect with them via the fans’ preferred method of communication, trying to convince them to renew. According to YinzCam CEO Priya Narasimhan, the Business Intelligence Platform will be generally available on Monday.

New direction for YinzCam

The Business Intelligence Platform is a significant business shift for YinzCam, which to date has made its name by producing team and stadium apps that focus mainly on content, either for fans at the game or (increasingly) for fans at home who want to stay connected with their teams. With more than 150 mobile apps developed for teams in all the major U.S. professional sports leagues as well as in the NCAA and in international arenas, YinzCam is by far the leader in the market of stadium- and team-specific applications.

While YinzCam’s Narasimhan said the company’s apps have always used data to help bring a better app experience to fans, the new twist in the business platform is that YinzCam can combine its mobile-app fan interaction knowledge with other team data stores — like ticketing and concession purchase information from other potential team partners, like TicketMaster or Legends — to present a single, unified view of a digital fan profile. The platform will also allow teams to construct single campaigns across multiple communication channels — like email , phone outreach and social media — without the sometimes challenging task of sharing or merging contact lists.

Screenshot of YinzCam's Browns app

Screenshot of YinzCam’s Browns app

“By combining YinzCam’s mobile app capabilities with all of our sources of information, this platform offers our team the ability to organize, understand and evaluate data in a manner that addresses our main goal of continually improving our fans’ experience by customizing it for each individual,” said Cleveland Browns executive vice president and chief financial officer Dave Jenkins, in an email conversation. “In addition to understanding our fans better and providing an opportunity to accommodate their personal preferences, the system integrates information clearly across multiple areas so our team can communicate effectively with fans, allowing our staff to work more efficiently and successfully.”

Acting on data

As more teams install wireless networks in their stadiums and increase their digital interaction with fans — via such activities as digital ticketing, concession purchases, content consumption and various fan loyalty programs — the business desire is to use that digital engagement to better serve the fan while also increasing business efficiency and support new channels of revenue. However, as our recent Wi-Fi analytics feature found, even the leaders in digital programs are still at the starting points of using analytics to power such ideas.

According to members of the Cleveland Browns’ business analytics department, the team has been trying to build a data-based approach to fan engagement for the past several years, but didn’t find what they were looking for in the way of a product or service until hearing about YinzCam’s new platform. According to the Browns, the YinzCam business platform is a breakthrough, since it provides the means to not just harvest all kinds of data, but to also bring those numbers together to be acted upon in a simple, unified fashion.

Dave Giller, manager of business analytics for the Browns, said other firms with analytics products and services only seemed to offer products that “gave us the data and a container to put it in. YinzCam was the only one who could show us insights, and that really made all the difference.”

The Browns use many methods of communication to stay in touch with fans, including group selfies. Credit: Cleveland Browns

The Browns use many methods of communication to stay in touch with fans, including group selfies. Credit: Cleveland Browns

Joe Moeller, also a manager of business analytics for the Browns, echoed Giller’s view. “There are lots of ways to get data, put it in a warehouse, and then build a fan profile,” Moeller said. “With YinzCam, we have a solution for that third step — ‘here’s what I do with the data I have.’ That’s huge for us.”

Testing the math

To find out for themselves if the YinzCam platform could help the team in a measurable way, the Browns set up a thorough pilot program around the question of season ticket-holder renewals — a business question at the heart and soul of many teams’ operations. What the Browns wanted to find out was whether or not a system like YinzCam’s could help them improve an important process — being able to identify season ticket holders who might be leaning toward not renewing, and to connect with them to try to keep them in the fold.

According to Giller and Moeller, there were two significant factors in the pilot — first trying to identify which fans might be in danger of not renewing, and second, how to best reach those fans with targeted communications. As a baseline, the Browns established control groups that put some season ticket holders randomly into groups to be contacted either by email, or phone calls, or via social media; then other groups were built using the YinzCam platform to both find ticket holders who might not be interested in renewing, and to find the best ways to reach those ticket holders.

Giller and Moeller said the method of communicating to fans and ticket holders is a primary concern these days, since many people have a preferred method of digital communication, with no single method applicable across demographic spectrums.

“Some people respond better through a particular platform,” Giller said. “We worry about whether people will get freaked out if they get a DM from us on Twitter.”

Screenshot of the YinzCam Business Intelligence Platform dashboard. Credit: YinzCam/Cleveland Browns

Screenshot of the YinzCam Business Intelligence Platform dashboard. Credit: YinzCam/Cleveland Browns

At the risk of oversimplifying the process (interested parties at SEAT can learn more details at a panel describing the Browns’ experiments on Monday at 11:30 a.m. Vegas time), what the Browns found was that using the YinzCam business platform, they were able to increase their success rate of renewals by 16 percent over a non-YinzCam method — a process that gave the Browns more than $1 million in renewal revenues compared to the non-YinzCam method.

“We report up through the CFO, and it’s his responsibility to make sure this [analytics] is a viable business,” Giller said. A million-plus, everyone agreed, was among the best ways to show a digital-program ROI.

Where does it go next?

While ticketing operations are usually the best place to show business improvements, Narasimhan and the Browns are interested in additional steps the business platform can be used for, including managing tasks like content delivery, merchandise and concessions discounts, and additional ticket purchases and upsells.

“There are more questions to be answered, like which content do we produce, and which medium should it be delivered through,” Moeller said. He added that the YinzCam platform will also allow the Browns or other teams to show engagement data to potential sponsors for team apps and other engagement platforms, so they can compare how the team-specific connections stack up against other media and engagement programs.

YinzCam’s Narasimhan said that the business platform could be customized in many ways depending upon a team or venue’s desires for outcomes. From a market perspective, the YinzCam Business Intelligence Platform seems to be a significant shift in direction for the Pittsburgh-based company, one that might help fend off the growing competition from new players like VenueNext, a company whose team- and venue-app strategy is focused on fan services, like ticketing and concessions, over content, with its own analytics platform to help teams better assess the performance of digital operations.

Whether or not teams pick YinzCam or VenueNext or some other competitor to help turn data into profitable actions, the good news for teams and venues is that the biggest player in stadium and team apps is now bringing its playbook to back of the house operations; like in any sport, increased competition can only lead to a better final outcome for all.

Stadium Tech Professionals: LAST DAY to take our 2016 stadium tech survey!

2015_SoS_thumbIf you are a stadium technology professional working for a school, team or stadium ownership group, it’s that time of year again — we need your participation in our 2016 State of the Stadium Technology Survey. Now in its fourth year of existence, the “State of the Stadium” survey is the only independent, large-public-venue research that charts deployments of stadium technology like Wi-Fi, DAS, Digital Signage and Beaconing, and the use of digital sports marketing tools like Wi-Fi analytics, CRM and social media. If you are part of a stadium operations group and know what goes on inside your venue, take the 2016 survey right now!

Because this is an ANONYMOUS, AGGREGATED INFORMATION ONLY survey, that means that answers aren’t tied to any school, team or individual. Just look at last year’s survey to see how the answers are reported. That also means that all answers are completely confidential, and will not be sold, marketed or otherwise communicated in any way, shape or form outside of the ANONYMOUS TOTALS used in the survey report.

So since we’re trying to find out aggregate numbers — not individual details — it’s just as important for all of us to know who doesn’t have Wi-Fi as well as who does. So even if your school or team or stadium doesn’t have Wi-Fi — and may never have Wi-Fi — you should still TAKE THE SURVEY and add your organization’s information to the total. The more answers we get, the better the data are for everyone.

Survey time is time well spent

And that “everyone” thing leads me to my next point: If you’re a regular reader here you can and should consider the few minutes it takes to complete the survey as a small way of “paying back” to the rest of the members of this fine industry, many of whom make time for the interviews, visits and emails that form the core of all the excellent free content available here on the MSR site and through our long-form reports (and now our podcasts as well). We know you are busy, and that spending time answering a list of technology questions may not seem like the highest priority on your to-do list. But a little bit of your time can really help us all.

That’s because we also know, from our website statistics and from our report download numbers and just from conversations with many of you, that our audience of stadium technology professionals appreciates the honest, objective stories and analysis we provide. (We humbly thank you for continuing to make us a regular reading choice.) And now, by taking the survey, you can help make the site and our work even better, just by adding your team, school or stadium’s technology deployment information into the 2016 State of the Stadium Technology Survey. The more results we get, the better and more informative the survey becomes — and that’s something that’s truly a win-win situation for all involved.

Once again the State of the Stadium Technology Survey will be exclusively delivered first to the attendees of the SEAT Conference, being held this year in Las Vegas, July 17-20. Production of this year’s survey is made possible by the sponsorship of JMA Wireless, and through our partnership with the SEAT Consortium, owners and operators of the excellent SEAT event. All those who participate in the survey will receive a full digital copy of the final report, whether you attend the SEAT Conference or not. As a bonus, all SEAT attendees will get a print version of the survey results. If you haven’t already, you can sign up to attend SEAT.

Final reminder: This survey is meant to be taken ONLY by stadium technology professionals, executives, and team or school representatives who can accurately describe the deployments in place at their organization. It is NOT a survey to be taken by everyone, only by those who have a deployment to describe. If you have any questions about whether you should take the survey or not, send an email to me at kaps at mobilesportsreport.com. Thanks in advance for your time and participation!

Taylor Swift shows card 3+ TB each, and push Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi past half-million user mark

Taylor Swift at Levi's Stadium. All photos: Levi's Stadium (click on any picture for a larger image)

Taylor Swift at Levi’s Stadium. All photos: Levi’s Stadium (click on any picture for a larger image)

Because her humungous stage kept Levi’s Stadium from filling to capacity, Taylor Swift’s Aug. 14 and 15 shows didn’t come close to setting a Wi-Fi capacity record at the venue, as some had predicted. But with almost 20,000 unique users the first night and almost 24,000 the second, the “1989” tour events pushed the cumulative Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi user number past the half-million mark, just more than a year after the venue officially opened.

Thanks to Levi’s Stadium owners and operators, the San Francisco 49ers, we have some very interesting statistics about Wi-Fi use at large outdoor stadiums. Now that 509,524 unique users have logged in to the Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi network during its numerous football and other events, the networking team has some interesting observations, including the fact that concertgoers use more bandwidth than football fans.

Over the 28 events hosted at the stadium in the 54 weeks (not counting this past weekend’s preseason game with the Dallas Cowboys) the Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi network has carried a total of 56.88 terabytes of data, according to figures sent to us by Roger Hacker, senior manager, corporate communications for the Niners. One of the more interesting tidbits was the sustained connectivity during concert events; from Hacker, these direct notes:

Concerts generate up to 65% more load per fan than sporting events.

o For 2014 NFL season, the average fan on Wi-Fi used 100MB.

o For One Direction and Taylor concerts, the average fan consumed 164MB.

Concerts are generating higher sustained loads on the network than sporting events.

o For One Direction, the network was over 2 Gbps for 1 hour and 15 minutes continuously.

o For Taylor the network was over 2 Gbps for a total of 1 hour and 10 minutes continuously.

At many venues with Wi-Fi, the so-called “take rate” or the number of users actually logging in to the network is one key piece of data about how well the system is working. The idea is, the better it works, the more people log on. At the Taylor Swift concerts, the take rates were among the highest we’ve seen: For the first show with attendance of 50,393, there were 19,963 unique users on the Wi-Fi network; for the second show the numbers were 23,885 out of 52,479 in attendance.

Breaking 3 TB twice in a row

Let it be said, that even though the Swift concerts didn’t beat the all-time Levi’s Stadium Wi-Fi mark of 4.5 TB set by WrestleMania 31 back in March, each of the shows passed the 3 TB total mark, with 3.31 TB used on Aug. 14 and 3.807 TB used on Aug. 15. And remember, that’s with just a little more than 50,000 fans in the house, far fewer than the 76,976 who crammed in for the wrassling on March 31.

But even at other events that might not be as high on the “gotta do it” list, fans at Levi’s used the Wi-Fi in high numbers, as another of Hacker’s notes spells out:

On average, nearly 40% of people attending an event at Levi’s use the Wi-Fi.

For the first year, the average attendance at all events was 46,400 based on the VenueNext valid scans. (including smaller events as well as bigger events)

For the first year, the average unique wifi users per event was 18,200 (or 39% of attendance)

On-field Aruba Networks Wi-Fi AP at Levi's Stadium

On-field Aruba Networks Wi-Fi AP at Levi’s Stadium

Part of what might have made the Swift audience bigger users of Wi-Fi was a new, improved temporary Wi-Fi network for the field seats, an innovation crafted by Wi-Fi gear supplier Aruba Networks and the Levi’s Stadium networking team. By putting temporary Wi-Fi APs on both the walls surrounding the field level, on railings in the temporary seats and even underneath the temporary flooring, the stadium provides service to the premium-seat customers, a challenge for NFL stadiums who must keep regular Sunday-game networks from bleeding into the field area (because that’s where the league operates its own Wi-Fi network for game operations). For what it’s worth, we also heard from DAS supplier DAS Group Professionals who said they were going to have temporary DAS antennas on the field as well for the Swift concerts. No DAS stats yet, however.

Earlier this summer at the annual SEAT Conference, we had a very interesting panel discussion about which stats really matter when it comes to stadium Wi-Fi usage — though I will always remain a sucker for top-line totals, I do agree that there should probably be separate categories for events like the Swift concerts, the WrestleMania events, and regular football games. What is catching my attention more lately are numbers like the sustained connectivity and the unique and concurrent numbers of users, since in the end the bottom line on stadium Wi-Fi network performance has to be how many people are using it. A year in, it looks like the Levi’s Stadium network has passed a crucial test, in that people are both finding it and using it, even if they are not regular attendees or season-ticket holders. Those facts say a lot about how well the Levi’s Stadium system works, and should be numbers stadium tech professionals look to when assessing their own deployments.

More Swift shots below. Enjoy.

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Stadium Tech Professionals: Time to take our 2015 stadium tech survey!

SOS14_thumbIf you are a stadium technology professional working for a school, team or stadium ownership group, it’s that time of year again — we need your participation to make our 2015 State of the Stadium Technology Survey our best yet! Now in its third year of existence, the “State of the Stadium” survey is the only independent, large-public-venue research that charts deployments of stadium technology like Wi-Fi, DAS, Digital Signage and Beaconing, and the use of digital sports marketing tools like CRM and social media. If you are part of a stadium operations group and know the answers, take the 2015 survey right now!

Before I get to a deeper explanation of the survey, a quick story: During last year’s survey season, I called a team IT exec that I knew well and asked why nobody from his organization had taken the survey. “Well, we don’t have Wi-Fi installed yet,” the exec said. “We’ll take the survey next year after it’s deployed.” I didn’t have the heart to say it at the time but — his take was completely the WRONG ANSWER. Why? Because this is an ANONYMOUS, AGGREGATED INFORMATION ONLY survey, which means that answers aren’t tied to any school, team or individual. Just look at last year’s survey to see how the answers are reported. That also means that all answers are completely confidential, and will not be sold, marketed or otherwise communicated in any way, shape or form outside of the ANONYMOUS TOTALS used in the survey report.

So since we’re trying to find out aggregate numbers — not individual details — it’s just as important for all of us to know who doesn’t have Wi-Fi as well as who does. So even if your school or team or stadium doesn’t have Wi-Fi — and may never have Wi-Fi — you should still TAKE THE SURVEY and add your organization’s information to the total. The more answers we get, the better the data are for everyone.

Survey time is time well spent

And that “everyone” thing leads me to my next point: If you’re a regular reader here you can and should consider the few minutes it takes to complete the survey as a small way of “paying back” to the rest of the members of this fine industry, many of whom make time for the interviews, visits and emails that form the core of all the excellent free content available here on the MSR site and through our long-form reports. We know you are busy, and that spending time answering a list of technology questions may not seem like the highest priority on your to-do list. But a little bit of your time can really help us all.

That’s because we also know, from our website statistics and from our report download numbers and just from conversations with many of you, that our audience of stadium technology professionals appreciates the honest, objective stories and analysis we provide. (We humbly thank you for making us a regular reading choice.) And now, by taking the survey, you can help make the site and our work even better, just by adding your team, school or stadium’s technology deployment information into the 2015 State of the Stadium Technology Survey. The more results we get, the better and more informative the survey becomes — and that’s something that’s truly a win-win situation for all involved.

Once again the State of the Stadium Technology Survey will be exclusively delivered first to the attendees of the SEAT Conference, being held this year in our home town of San Francisco, July 19-22. Production of this year’s survey is made possible by the sponsorship of Mobilitie, and through our partnership with the SEAT Consortium, owners and operators of the excellent SEAT event. All those who participate in the survey will receive a full digital copy of the final report, whether you attend the SEAT Conference or not.

Final reminder: This survey is meant to be taken ONLY by stadium technology professionals, executives, and team or school representatives who can accurately describe the deployments in place at their organization. It is NOT a survey to be taken by everyone, only by those who have a deployment to describe. If you have any questions about whether you should take the survey or not, send an email to me at kaps at mobilesportsreport.com. Thanks in advance for your time and participation!

MSR releases ‘State of the Stadium’ technology survey for 2014

SOS14_thumbWe cover a lot of news about stadium Wi-Fi and DAS deployments, but how many venues out there in the real world actually have such systems deployed? How are their fans using it? And what about other types of stadium-specific technology, like digital signage, social media and CRM systems? How are teams, schools and stadium owner/operators really using technology to improve the fan experience while also improving their business bottom line?

For the second straight year, we asked those questions and more and bring you the answers in our State of the Stadium Technology Survey for 2014, available for free download. Like last year’s inaugural survey, this year’s takes a look at deployments of Wi-Fi and DAS, of digital signage and CRM, and social media campaigns. It is the only numerical survey of this market that we know of, and with more than 70 respondents across all U.S. pro leagues, major colleges and other venues like race tracks and golf courses, we think it represents a pretty good snapshot of where technology deployment stands right now.

What did we find out this year? Mainly that on the wireless side, DAS deployments are far outpacing Wi-Fi, with 71.4 percent of respondents claiming a full-facility DAS, while just 35.7 percent said their facility had full fan-facing Wi-Fi. Our analysis of this situation is pretty clear as to why — with carriers willing to foot the bill for DAS, it’s no surprise that advanced cellular is ahead of Wi-Fi and in some cases is the only advanced wireless system in a stadium.

There’s more good stuff in the survey that we’ll break out over time, but for now why not just download the report and read through it yourself. We’d like to thank report sponsor SOLiD for enabling the free distribution of the survey results, and we’d also like to thank our partner the SEAT Conference, who once again helped us find willing participants to share their deployment statistics. SEAT conference attendees, of course, have had access to the survey since the most recent SEAT event in July; if you want early access to our survey results next year, just sign up for SEAT 2015 in San Francisco — which is already shaping up as an incredible event.