The Big Game is big business. Americans spend close to $15 billion annually on football watching parties, or just over $81 per person. Fans who actually attend the biggest football game of the year shell out even more. The event generated $450 million for Minnesota in 2018, and $400 million for Atlanta in 2019. It’s why stadiums, teams and cities — not to mention the entire hospitality industry — are spending big themselves to make sure those fans keep coming.
The problem is technology. Americans’ living rooms these days are decked out with supersized television screens, surround sound, climate-controlled environments, easy access to the kitchen and no bathroom lines. Plus, there’s WiFi and instant replay. So the football-industrial complex is using technology as a means to lure folks to their stadiums and produce a Customer Experience (CX) that can’t be matched at home. A host of new technology is in the hopper — some of it yet to be developed — and coming soon to a stadium near you.
Let’s take a moment to imagine what we might see at the Big Game in just a few years.
It starts at the airport as fans head to the game. Apps will be able to hold places in security lines and passengers will be able to use biometric scans of their faces or fingerprints to breeze through security. Alerts can be sent ahead letting airlines know late passengers are on the way, and how far they are from the gate. Don’t be surprised to see biometrics at the stadium, either, which could significantly cut back on scalping and ticket fraud, and put an end to people forgetting their tickets.
The Internet of Things (IoT) will allow luggage to alert you that it made the flight, and send a heads-up when it’s been delivered to the conveyor belt. Airlines will remember your preferences — not just whether you prefer a window seat, but what your beverage of choice is. And that drink will be waiting at your seat when you sit down.
Rental cars will drive fans to their hotels. No longer worried about driving, you can check in on the way. With your phone also functioning as a key, there will be no need to stop and pick one up. Instead, you can breeze right to your room. That will ensure your personal data stays secure, instead of being imprinted on a magnetic strip. And that “smart” room will automatically adjust to your preferred temperature, turn on the lights and maybe even crank your favorite tunes as you arrive. When it’s time to go, you can use Alexa to call for your car so it’s waiting out front, or ring for a rideshare. Using an app designed exclusively for the event, you can even find out if it’s faster or cheaper to use public transportation. If so, a route map and ticket will be delivered right to your phone.
At the stadium, you’ll find more of the same. 5G will enable lightning-fast WiFi. Your game app will alert the concession stand to your favorite beverage, and whether you want nachos or pretzels, and tell the merchandise staff your size and color preferences — and which team you’re rooting for. Order and pay for it on the app, then bypass the lines for quick pickup. Nosebleed seats won’t be a problem, because VR headsets will let you feel like you’re down on the field as players warm up, or standing right in the huddle. You can even dance onstage with the halftime act. If you don’t want to miss any game play, seat-side screens will let you order beer and hot dogs to be delivered on-demand, and you’ll get a heads-up for special flash sales and other discounts. You’ll be able to call the photo drone over for a selfie, and broadcast it to the jumbotron (for a fee) or send it to all your friends and family back home.
Holographic LED technology will display player and team stats in real-time. Chatbots on your game-day app will answer any and all questions, from a player’s height to his hometown. They’ll advise you on offensive strategy and even explain the shotgun formation to newbies. Families will be equipped with RFID tags so lost children can be located in seconds. Perhaps most importantly, apps will alert fans to which bathroom has the shortest wait time.
When it’s over, your event app will find the fastest way out of the stadium, leading you directly to your car, which can then drive you to the celebratory afterparties. You’ll be able to reserve seats for the victory parade back home, and even preorder hot chocolate and reserve a few stadium blankets to ward off the chill. Of course, they might not be necessary if you’ve bought a heated seat ahead of time in the activities section of the app.
Back at the hotel after the game, you can use Alexa to order a little room service to ward off any impending hangover — and send a message to the front desk that you’ll need late checkout. You’ll be able to use your voice to control the TV, turn off the lights and close the curtains from bed.
But even with all these advances, for the foreseeable future, you’ll still have to tuck yourself in.