The European sports industry market is expected to reach $100 billion by 2019. Gate revenues, television rights, and sponsorships are the main driving force behind the sector growth and the key component underpinning all facets of sports media is technology.
Technology has had a colossal impact on the world of sports in recent years. Most fans will be familiar with Hawk-Eye; the line review system used in tennis, and the recent introduction of VAR (video assistant referee) technology in international football. What is less known, however, is the way contactless technologies such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) are being utilised for live sports events.
We have listed 14 RFID applications that can give game-changing results for sports events worldwide.
1. Access Control & Fraud Prevention
RFID can help reduce friction when entering an event. Fans don’t have to carry paper tickets, input their information, or even carry cash; it can all be done with the tap of a wrist. This also helps fraud prevention; each wristband is embedded with its own unique code, making it very difficult to counterfeit. If fraudulent behaviour is suspected, or even if someone loses their wristband, it can be deactivated at the click of a button and a new one administered.
2. Season Passes & Memberships
Game day is everything to super-fans with season passes and memberships. Corporations want the fans to feel like they are part of the team and RFID technology can create opportunities to achieve this. For example, the USA's Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team gifted fans with team jerseys fitted with RFID technology, giving them a unique way for their season ticket holders to enter the events.
3. Corporate Suite Management
People will invest a lot of money into corporate suites for their favourite teams, ensuring they never miss seeing a game in total comfort. Making sure the right finishing touches are in place is key to the ultimate VIP experience. Introducing RFID to Corporate Suite wristbands or replica jerseys allowing members to unlock the door not only elevates the VIP experience, but it can help to cut costs of staff required to monitor entry. RFID chips can be embedded into almost anything making endless possibilities!
4. Cashless Payments
People don’t always like holding onto wads of cash at big events and RFID technology can resolve this issue. RFID has the ability to store credit card information or be used like a top-up card, completely eliminating the need to handle cash. Cashless payments gives fans a sense of freedom to enjoy their day worry-free and can also increase spending habits due to cash not being physically exchanged between the customers and vendors. Corporations can utilise the payment data to communicate special offers and discounts to fans (by text or email) at the right time and the right place, increasing up-sell opportunities and revenue.
5. VIP Club Experiences
Being able to give your members special privileges elevates the whole VIP experience. With the tap of a wristband, you can give VIPs access to exclusive areas and provide them with perks such as redeemable freebies and drinks vouchers that can be embedded into the RFID chips on their wristbands.
What better place than game day to encourage people to ‘play more’? Back in 2014, the UEFA Champions League Festival in London was one of Europe’s biggest ever social media activations. Powered by Intellitix, 30,000 event goers 'joined the game' and used RFID cards supplied by ID&C to engage with UEFA’s sponsor brands and interact with games to win big prizes. Eleven Skill Stations around the event allowed people to compete to win a spot at the top of the leaderboard, while photos were posted across social media channels with sponsor and partner branding. The results saw 85,000 RFID activations onsite and 45m+ page impressions online.
Photobooth stations enabled with RFID technology are a great way for fans to rally support for their teams and post instant photos directly on their social media channels. You can create a connected experience for your fans to feel part of the action while they’re at the game, enabling to share these memories as they happen, creating a strong brand affinity and giving you great engagement stats online.
8. Sponsor Brand Activations
It can be difficult to get fans to engage with sponsors, encouraging them to take the time at a game or event to hand over their personal data is always a challenge. RFID technology takes away the graft; create an instant buzz by allowing attendees to enter instant competitions and opt-in to receive more information with just a tap of their wristband. This also gives you great data to negotiate sponsorship deals in the future and maximise return.
9. Cashless Payments at Bars and Vendors
You can rapidly reduce queuing times at the bar and food vendors with RFID thanks to cashless payments. Bar staff won't need to handle cash and won't even need to request proof of age due to the ability of RFID wristbands being able to store visitors' basic information including their date of birth. RFID technology will ensure bar staff stay compliant with drinking laws, protecting themselves from the risk of prosecution as well as keeping visitors safe. RFID wristbands can also be pre-loaded with a specific number of drink vouchers per person, helping to control and comply.
10. Race Timing
Race timers can now be made smaller than ever and fitted into wristbands, clothing, shoes, or other objects. The embedded RFID chip can be used to accurately collect data on speed, rest, and race times allowing racers, event holders and fans to keep an eye on personal bests and patterns. They can even be used to collect data on the football pitch such as being able to track distance and speed of individual players during a game.
11. Interactive Leaderboards
Get fans involved in the action while at a game. Reward attendees with prizes for knowing the most about the sport, or their team, and rank the ultimate super-fans in a live leaderboard. Encourage friendly competition and a sense of team pride before and during games.
In 2014, we teamed up with the Ryder Cup and Intellitex to give out 100,000 RFID enabled wristbands, turning the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles into a contactless playground for sports fans. Fitted with 7 activation kiosks for brands including BMW and Sky Sports, tournament ticket-holders took part in activities including a 'digital high-five', a virtual 'walk the course' tour and a competition to win a stay at Gleneagles. Fans could tap their wristband and virtually ‘high-five’ the team of their choice, adding a personal message and rallying support. This increased engagement and impressions on social media and fans were more engaged to have ‘conversations’ about who they thought was going to win.
Back in 2011, the USA Tampa Bay Lightning Hockey team embedded RFID chips into replica team jerseys and gifted them to all of their season ticket holders. Instead of using paper tickets or wristbands, the fans could gain entry to events by just wearing their jerseys. What’s more, the chips were loaded with personal data and credit card details, allowing the season ticket holders to make purchases throughout the arena on food and merchandise without the need for cash or use of their credit cards. The RFID chips also enabled them to light up the stands with their team colours. Thanks to the abilities to capture data, the club were able track every single purchase made throughout the event and make the brand connection with fans more personal.
13. Data Delivery
We know that RFID technology can hold data about ticket-holders but did you know that it can also collect data about them? RFID can store basic contact information, and allow guests to sign up for future marketing communications; giving you an understanding of what offers and promotions they’d be interested in. But let’s not forget the intelligent insights you can obtain during a game, you will be able to see where guests have checked in and what they’ve spent their money on. This invaluable data allows you to constantly flex and improve your offering, allowing you to be at the top of your game, every game.
14. Secure Parking
Everyone wants to arrive at the game with enough time to get parked, seated and purchase refreshments. Being stuck in a queue for the car park is not ideal and RFID can be used to streamline the process. It can be seamlessly integrated with fans' wristbands so that upon entry of the parking area via a scanner, their parking permit or payment is detected and they can enter the designated parking area.
It’s not just a game...
The digital reach that can be gained by using RFID technology in the sports and live events industry is enormous. The opportunity to create a connected environment with fans via their wristbands allowing them to interact with their favourite teams and players is inspiring, and we’ve only just scratched the surface with the possibilities of what can be achieved with RFID.