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The stadium as a platform
A new model for integrating venue technology into sports business
Over the past fifty years, transformative advances in technology have occurred. As a result, attending a sporting event is no longer about the sightlines, seat widths, or concessions. The sports industry is moving toward a new model in which the stadium is a technological and commercial platform. While the platform concept requires an organizational and operational mindset shift for teams and stadium operators, sports organizations that embrace it in stadium design, construction, and operation will be in the vanguard of offering their fans the best experience in the stadium of the future.
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Creating and building on the stadium platform
The concept of the stadium as a platform comprises three “layers” of infrastructure, resources, and activities that work together to enable stadium operators and teams to create new experiences for all visitors, regardless of the event.
There are three primary components to architecting and maintaining the technology platform in a stadium:
- Development ecosystem: Stadiums can foster the development of new fan experiences by creating tools like application programming interfaces (APIs), libraries, and software development kits (SDKs) and providing support to developers.
- Business / value drivers: The primary economic force that differentiates platforms from standalone products is network effects. In a platform environment, the benefit to users of a particular platform increases with the number of other users on the platform. As the number of users increases, it becomes increasingly attractive for developers to build applications for the platform.
- Rules and governance: Opening up a platform for third-party development can be risky, as it requires allowing other entities to access core infrastructure and manipulate information in order to build new experiences. It is the stadium operator’s responsibility to create rules on which data and systems can be used, when, how, and for what purpose.
The transformative potential of a stadium platform, however, rests in opening the stadium and its hardware / software infrastructure up to developers, sponsors, and users to build upon. The result is a set of third-party experiences that complement what the team can deliver.
The three layers of the stadium technology “stack”
Implications for teams and stadium operators
- Teams that are building new venues have a blank slate to work with and are thus best positioned to think about creating the stadium platform from the ground up. From day one of planning for the design and construction of a new stadium, think about the technology infrastructure required to create the experiences you want fans to have–including what is possible today, what could be possible by the time the stadium opens, and the future of the experience throughout the stadium’s life.
- Existing stadiums can build platform design into technology refresh cycles to address fan needs that have emerged since the stadium’s opening. The competition between new stadiums to be the best, most technically advanced venue means that each opening sets a new target for subsequent stadiums to surpass. As a result, the “honeymoon period” of a new stadium is compressing, and fans’ preferences and expectations are changing rapidly. Current stadiums that stay the same physically can use technology upgrades to offer a new experience digitally that meets fans’ new needs and competes with newer venues.
- Embrace and encourage development by partners. Due to network effects, the value of a platform–to its users and its owner–increases exponentially with the number of users and developers on it. Stadiums, teams, and leagues have already seen success in encouraging fans to use their devices at the stadium, meaning there is a readily-available potential user base for a stadium platform. Creating development tools and seeding them widely to developers is the first step to creating a valuable platform and tapping into the potential of others to create new, unique third-party experiences.
- Define how you want your platform to operate. Establishing clear guidelines for developers and users regarding data access and usage (especially as it relates to fans’ personal information) and implementing a process to manage the platform is critical to encouraging development and ensuring that the platform operates in line with the stadium’s business goals.
- Create a data monetization strategy. The interaction between fans’ devices and stadium operational and commercial systems generates a treasure trove of data for smart stadium organizations to mine. To maximize the potential of the data generated by the stadium platform, consider possibilities for translating fan data into actionable insight, and pursue the highest-opportunity uses in a strategic fashion.