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STATS: Connectivity and the Fan Experience (Boldyn Networks)

A new study from Boldyn Networks confirms that high-quality Wi-Fi and mobile devices are essential to ‘fan experience’ at live events. In this article, we analyze the report’s findings and what they say about the importance of high-density Wi-Fi solutions.

Live events are making a comeback. After years of COVID-depressed attendance and the rise of digital streaming, audiences are once again returning to stadiums, arenas, and other venues to watch their favorite teams, rock out at concerts, and enjoy authentic in-person experiences.

However, while it may feel like a return to the status quo ante, one thing is almost entirely different. Fan expectations have evolved drastically. Yes, they want to enjoy the unique and memorable experiences that come with live events, but now they want to amplify them. They want to share their experiences on social media, livestream important moments, send pictures to their friends and families, and engage in real-time conversations on chat apps and platforms like X and Facebook. What’s more, they want to amplify the experiences themselves, using devices for seamless ticketing, in-venue transactions, navigating amenities, ordering food, hailing rides, and more.

In other words, the return to live events has come with elevated demand for high-quality Wi-Fi. To persuade more sports fans, concert goers, and other audiences to exit the friendly confines of their living rooms, venues need to take this demand seriously and invest in robust wireless networks to ensure and expand on top-notch experiences. This will help them draw larger crowds, better acts, more sponsorship opportunities, and more revenue.

In this article, we review the key findings of Boldyn Networks’ latest report: “Sports, Gaming and Rock & Roll: Connectivity and the Fan Experience.” It reveals how fans view in-venue connectivity and emphasizes the importance of high-density Wi-Fi solutions.

Here’s what we cover in this article:

Need connectivity solutions for your high-density environment? Learn about high-density Wi-Fi.

In-Person Experiences and the Value of Fan Loyalty

Recently, a lot has been made of waning interest in in-person experiences, with industry professionals pointing fingers at COVID, rising ticket prices, inconvenient travel, and a general apathy towards braving the elements to sit in large crowds. However, to the extent that live event attendance has suffered, it hasn’t been for entirely negative reasons. Indeed, at home experiences—especially for sports fans—have improved drastically over the past decade. Between streaming, all-inclusive “league passes,” and ever-improving entertainment systems, the bar for leaving home has been elevated. So, to maintain attendance numbers, venues need to rise to the challenge.

Fortunately, there’s one thing that’s working in their favor: fan loyalty. If the 2023-24 NFL playoffs are anything to go by, then, given the right stakes, not even historically inclement weather can stop diehards from risking life and limb to support their teams. In fact, for many sports fans, braving the elements is the ultimate show of solidarity. Likewise, attending concerts is a way for fans to demonstrate support for their favorite artists.

Boldyn Networks’ report bears all of this out. According to it, 93% of event goers say live events offer an experience they can’t get at home. Of these, 60% say the experience itself and creating memories are paramount, while half of respondents say attending live events is a way to support their favorite teams and artists.

Wi-Fi and the Importance of Shared Experiences

Whatever the reason, in-person experiences are something event-goers want to share. Not just with those around them in the stands, but with friends and family back home and online communities on social media.

According to Boldyn Networks, 87% of event-goers post while they’re at an event, while 77% say they hate it when there is no mobile coverage and they can’t upload or post to social media from inside a venue.

To put a finer point on it, Boldyn Networks found that nearly three-quarters (72%) of attendees use venue Wi-Fi to share photos and videos, browse social media, access tickets, make digital payments, find contact information, and more. Here’s a full breakdown of their findings for the most popular uses for in-venue Wi-Fi:

  • Accessing e-tickets (42%)
  • Posting to social media (41%)
  • Using messaging apps (35%)
  • Paying via e-wallet or other mobile technology (30%)
  • Showing identification (20%)
  • Finding specific amenities (17%)
  • Streaming (15%)
  • Gambling (13%)
  • Checking event highlights (13%)
  • Watching other sports or events (13%)

As for attendees that don’t access in-venue Wi-Fi, the reasons are just as enlightening:

  • Around one-third (35%) say they avoid accessing Wi-Fi because they don’t have enough data on their phones
  • Others say they forget to use it (28%)
  • Many have concerns about security (33%) and reliability (27%)
  • And some say the registration process is simply too hard (24%)

To enhance fan experiences, network managers should emphasize popular in-venue uses, like e-ticketing, social media, and messaging, while addressing common concerns like data limitations, security, and overly complicated registration processes.

Want to improve connected experiences at your venue? Chat with our team!

The Whole Experience Matters

From the moment fans click ‘find tickets’ online to the moment they get home after the event, they expect frictionless experiences. This is important to consider because, from the venue’s perspective, friction is synonymous with lost revenue. Case in point: if the ticket-buying process is too onerous, fans will be less inclined to complete purchases or make purchases in the future.

The fact of the matter is that going to live events is one giant friction point. It’s just that, for fans, the negatives that come with attending an event are outweighed by the event itself. Still, there’s room at the margins for improvement. Whether it’s shorter wait times at concession stands, easier merchandise transactions, or better connectivity experiences—everything is an opportunity to reduce friction and improve experiences.

To this end, it's important to understand fan behavior. In order to create seamless connectivity experiences, network managers need to understand what appeals to attendees. Boldyn Networks provides some interesting insight. For example…

  • Most People Arrive Early
  • The Main Attraction Isn’t the Only Attraction
  • Convenience Is King

Let’s address these one at a time!

Most People Arrive Early

Most fans don’t arrive just in time for kickoff or the opening act. They like to settle in first—find their seats, grab a drink, buy a t-shirt, send a few selfies, etc. Arriving early gives them more time to enjoy everything the event has to offer.

According to Boldyn Networks...

  • Event-goers arrive 50 minutes before an event starts on average.
  • More than one-third (37% for sports; 38% for entertainment) arrive with an hour or more to spare.
  • Finding their seats and finding a bathroom are among the first things event-goers do when they arrive (61% and 45%, respectively).
  • Meanwhile, 50% look for food and drink vendors, 29% seek out merchandise, and 31% post or check in to social media.
  • 22% actively look for in-stadium entertainment, like selfie walls and augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR) experiences.

From a venue’s perspective, early arrivals are great because they mean more revenue potential. It’s a pretty simple calculation: the longer fans are on-site, the more they’ll spend at the event. 

High-quality connectivity keeps these early-arrivals engaged and enables a host of added benefits, like band activations, promotional opportunities, etc. This encourages fans not only to return in the future, but to arrive even earlier next time around.

The Main Attraction Isn’t the Only Attraction

Fans that attend live events want to “make a day of it.” Obviously the main attraction is the key thing, but it’s not the only thing. As the world becomes increasingly “online,” mobile and connected technologies will continue to play an important role in facilitating well-rounded experiences. For example, Boldyn Networks found that an astonishing 87% of event-goers post to social media while at an event.

From cutting-edge AR/VR interactions to “made-for-Instagram” sponsored extras, the ability to weave mobile devices and online networks seamlessly into the fan experience is key to fostering participation and engagement among event-goers.

Moreover, each shared moment and interaction on social media is an opportunity to extend the venue’s brand, along with those of the teams, bands, and live acts that perform there. In essence, by providing attendees with Wi-Fi-powered digital experiences, network managers can turn every attendee into a potential brand ambassador, boosting event ROI for the venue, fans, and everyone in between.

Convenience Is King

Finally, if there’s one thing that stands out in Boldyn Networks’ research, it’s that convenience is king. According to their report, 77% of event goers access their tickets digitally, while 73% want to order food and beverages from and to their seats. So, no matter what venues do to create lasting memories for attendees, they need to make them easy. Without well-managed venue connectivity, many of the elements intended to boost fan experiences are not only frustrating, but sometimes impossible.

Who’s to Blame for Bad Connectivity?

There’s one last finding from Boldyn Networks’ report that merits some attention. It has to do with who bears the ultimate responsibility for bad connectivity from the perspective of attendees.

While a plurality (42%) are likely to blame their mobile providers, a sizable portion (35%) blame the venue itself. This may not seem so bad when taken at face value, but it’s worth putting it into some context.

Let’s say a venue can host 17,000 attendees. We know that, at any given event, approximately 87% of these will post to social media. This means at least 14,790 will connect to a mobile or Wi-Fi network at the venue. If these attendees experience any service interruption at all, then 5,176 of them will go home after the game or performance blaming the venue—regardless of the true origin of the interruption.

In other words, the stakes are high. Fans that leave an event blaming the venue for a bad experience are less likely to attend a future event at that venue. So, with something as important as connectivity, it’s not worth taking risks. Investing in high-quality venue Wi-Fi is essential for guaranteeing the very best fan experiences.

7SIGNAL for Venues

This is where 7SIGNAL comes into the picture. With its unique combination of hardware and software elements, the 7SIGNAL Wi-Fi optimization platform enables IT teams to build and manage efficient high-density Wi-Fi environments from the outside in. 

7SIGNAL uses Wi-Fi sensors to gain visibility into WLAN performance and the RF. These enable you to measure traffic to various APs and identify interference, design flaws, settings problems and areas in your network where performance is lagging - with the root cause data.

In addition, 7SIGNAL leverages a SaaS agent, which is installed on wired and wireless devices (Windows, Android, MacOS, Linux, GoogleTV, iGEL) and used to enhance digital experiences from the client perspective. Think point of sale tablets, ticket scanners, IoT and more.  This means you’ll have insight into how various manufacturers, software versions, adapters, drivers, and other specifications perform on your network.

Finally, 7SIGNAL’s performance monitoring dashboards enable you to observe and visualize everything in one place. This will help you catch issues in real time, prioritize how you address them, and reduce MTTR (mean time to resolve). 

By providing a comprehensive health overview and allowing deep dives into specific issues, 7SIGNAL ensures that network engineers and IT teams are always a step ahead in ensuring optimal Wi-Fi performance. By complementing WLAN vendors and offering a distinctive outside-in perspective, 7SIGNAL is setting new standards in Wi-Fi network performance and user experience optimization.

7SIGNAL's List of Top Large Venues: (for the best digital fan experience)

  • Madison Square Garden, New York, NY, USA (Concerts, NBA, NHL) 
  • Etihad Stadium, Manchester City, UK (Concerts, Premier League Football)
  • MSG Sphere, Las Vegas, NV USA (Immersive music and entertainment) 
  • Radio City Music Hall, New York, NY, USA (Live music and entertainment) 
  • Lumen Field, Seattle, WA, USA (Concerts, NFL, MLS)
  • Spectrum Center, Charlotte, NC, USA (Concerts, NBA)
  • All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, London, UK (Wimbledon) 
  • Crowne Complex, Fayetteville, NC, USA (Concerts, SPHL, NISL, Fairgrounds)
  • Toyota Stadium, Frisco, TX, USA (Concerts, MLS, National Soccer Hall of Fame)
  • Honda Center, Anaheim, CA, USA (Concerts, NHL)
  • Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, Cleveland, OH, USA (Concerts, NBA, WNBA)
  • And many others!

7SIGNAL Use Cases: Improving Fan Experiences at Madison Square Garden and Sphere Las Vegas

Learn More From the 7SIGNAL Experts

We’re always here to answer your Wi-Fi questions at 7SIGNAL. Our enterprise Wi-Fi optimization platform helps you plan and execute a healthier network. Contact us to learn more.

7SIGNAL® is the leader in enterprise Wi-Fi optimization, providing insight into wireless networks and control over Wi-Fi performance so businesses and organizations can thrive. Our cloud-based platform continually tests and measures Wi-Fi performance at the edges of the network, enabling fast solutions to digital experience issues and stronger connections for mission-critical users, devices, and applications. Learn more at www.7signal.com.