Every year, millions of sports fans gather in front of the television and take to the arena on a coveted Sunday in early February for the Super Bowl, as two teams from America’s most popular game s compete to be crowned NFL World Champions. This year, these two teams are the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengalsearning their spot after a tense playoff season and upsets from both teams against the Mahomes Chiefs and Brady Buccaneers.
What people might not know is that there is a third team that has also earned their place in the match, who are competing for most appearances with Tom Brady himself and who is amid major preparations for the big show: Extreme networks. The wireless network infrastructure company has served as the Wi-Fi network and analytics provider for the Super Bowl in the past. nine years. In one Extreme Networks press releaseMichelle McKenna, NFL Chief Information Officer, said:
“Planning and executing the Super Bowl is one of the most important undertakings each year, and Extreme continues to play an important role in the success of this event. We rely on Extreme to provide operational information and intelligence we need to improve things like foot traffic, concessions, and health and safety protocols, while ensuring optimal connectivity and bandwidth for fans to share experiences and operate in a mobile environment Real-time visibility into network performance provides a substantial advantage in understanding what’s working, how fans are using data, and how to personalize in-stadium experiences so fans come back for more.
Last year they made history with Super Bowl LV in Tampa Bay by operating the first 100% cashless and mobile ticketing NFL game. Wes Durow, Last year’s Super Bowl was just the start of a massive transformation of live sports and the omnichannel experience, according to the chief marketing officer of Extreme Networks.
“It’s not just a smart phone; it is a kind of portable device. It’s not just one or two apps, it’s multiple apps that they use to interact with the game,” Durow said. “Whether it’s some kind of fantasy football activity, whether it’s gambling or NFT, a lot of that is reshaping things.”
According to Extreme Networks, last year’s game revealed that 80 percent fans in attendance connected to the WiFi network using a number of different platforms, totaling a whopping 13.97 terabytes of onsite data usage. These analyzes will not only shape future Super Bowl experiences; they are a North Star for the entire live sports industry to rethink different touchpoints throughout each venue’s season and how they can help deliver unique fan engagements.
“Some of our teams have found that people are using apps they never thought they’d use in a ballpark or venue. Sometimes it’s dating apps, so we help them create not only sponsor packages that they can bring in, but also special nights,” Durow said.
Fan engagement is what every stadium and venue aims for, because naturally more engaged fans mean more revenue and a more passionate community. Much of fan engagement today lives on social media, especially when viewing live sports. Two years ago during Super Bowl LIV, During the last Super Bowl before the COVID-19 pandemic, Extreme Networks found that data usage was nearly 50-50 between pre-kickoff and post-kickoff. Two years later, this trend is confirmed. Durow cites massive increase in data usage in 2022 playoff game between Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills in which both teams scored 25 points in total in the last two minutes of the game. This data allows them to prepare their network infrastructure to respond to fan behavior in the future.
“We could just see the minute-by-minute network usage of what happened in that game and in overtime with such an amazing game, and we have the same idea for the Super Bowl,” Durow said. “Not just how people use the network, but what use are they to the network from a fan perspective.”
Staying alert is key to adapting a network infrastructure, especially one that serves some of the biggest sporting events in the world. Durow says these quick adaptations and changes are good practice for what some teams might implement in the future for their stadium experience.
“We have teams adding robots, adding drones, to help escort people from the parking lot to the stadium,” Durow said. “There are all sorts of constructed ideas; so what does this mean for the network? It should not only be robust and secure, but also flexible and insightful. Again, it all comes down to operational efficiency.