As the final notes of Lady Gaga’s performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” echoed in Santa Clara, California on Sunday night, the fans inside Levi’s Stadium performed the most common move of the past five years: they looked at their phones. However, they weren’t just texting their friends back home or monitoring their Twitter feeds. Many of them were using the NFL’s Super Bowl 50 mobile app.
The mobile component at Super Bowl 50 wasn’t simply about looking at player statistics or letting users post photos to their Instagram accounts. Thanks to the app, fans inside the stadium were also part of the bigger experience. They could watch tomorrow’s talked-about commercials as they aired on TV. For fans who weren’t concerned with the advertising efforts of Pepsi, Subaru or Bud Light, the app offered a look at the big names at the big game with cameras roaming the stadium for celebrities and displaying their activities in a live feed. And for thirsty fans, the app delivered a better-than-your-couch benefit; fans could order beer to be delivered straight to their seats.
Now, I know what some readers might be thinking. This app sounds great, but my organization doesn’t exactly have the same kind of money as the NFL. True. The NFL doesn’t appear to operate on any kind of budget restrictions. However, there are a range of lessons that can apply to anyone involved in face-to-face events. As meeting professionals and suppliers work to develop mobile strategies, here are some key takeaways to consider.
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1) Data usage is kicking into overdrive.
The Super Bowl mobile app was loaded with all kinds of fun features. However, all those bells and whistles are only as valuable as the network that supported nearly 70,000 fans swiping their fingers, browsing F&B options and streaming content. The NFL knew that 2016 was going to be a massive year for mobile data consumption. Estimates from the company that carries the San Francisco 49ers — the team that regularly plays in Levi’s Stadium — mobile network predicted 16.5 terabytes worth of wireless data activity at Super Bowl 50. In 2015, there were just 6.6 terabytes of data used across networks. The NFL has been preparing for the continuing surge in data with new requirements for Wi-Fi performance and bandwidth support in every stadium.
The mobile revolution is going to continue to put pressure on convention venues to make consistent internal connectivity enhancements. Remember when attendees arrived with just one device, and it was okay for the occasional service interruption? Those days are gone. Everyone expects fast and reliable Internet access — whether they’re at a sporting event, an annual conference or a coffeehouse. The meetings industry should aim for the same goal as the NFL. “If you’re at one of our stadiums, our goal is to achieve the same Wi-Fi experience as you have sitting in your office or sitting at home,” Chuck Berger, CEO of the NFL’s official Wi-Fi solutions provider Extreme Networks, said in an interview with USA TODAY.
MORE: What The Next Generation Of Wi-Fi Means For Your Meeting
2) The in-person experience should always be improving.
The combination of high-definition TV and high ticket prices has created a serious hurdle for the NFL: a lot of people want to stay home. In fact, a survey from Cisco revealed that 57 percent of fans prefer to watch games at home. That, of course, creates a big problem. What if people stop forking over loads of money for the Super Bowl and instead opt for their cable packages and couches? With that in mind, the NFL’s mobile strategy is built to make coming to the stadium feel as convenient as home — but with the cool factor of being at the venue.
Cheaper costs and compelling technology — that sounds familiar, doesn’t it? In today’s digital landscape, meeting planners are forced to compete with themselves by offering free or low-cost virtual options for participating in a meeting. As attendees earn education credits from the comfort of their offices or kitchens, meeting planners must identify opportunities to use new technology to make the on-site experience more powerful.
3) Mobile app adoption isn’t automatic.
The NFL is making a big investment in new technology, but that doesn’t mean that fans are going to fall in love with a mobile app immediately. For example, consider mobile app usage during the regular season at Levi’s Stadium when the 49ers team-specific mobile app offers even more capabilities like mobile ticketing. Everyone uses it, right? Wrong. Only about 30 percent of the crowd used the app during the 2015 season.
For meeting planners, the lesson is the same: attendees need plenty of motivation to click “download” and “install.” Creating an app loaded with ways to network, explore content or order customized meals is only the first step. The right marketing plan is essential to make sure attendees recognize why an app for a three-day meeting should take up space on their devices.
Looking for more advice? Check out “3 Rules To Keep In Mind With Your Mobile Meeting App.”