If you’ve attended a major sporting event in the past few years, you’ve probably run into an issue with internet connectivity on your smartphone. With the volume of people in the stadium trying to get online at the same time, there often just isn’t enough bandwidth to accommodate everyone.

This raises a big question: should stadiums provide Wi-Fi for attendees?

There are concerns that increased connectivity may mean reduced engagement with the game itself. People glued to their phones may miss key events on the field, which could in turn reduce their desire to attend a game in person.

However, I think that connectivity can help increase engagement, and promote sharing of the event. Investment in a wireless network could open up many opportunities for venues, including:

  1. Free advertising from attendees: If an individual sees friends and family going to games, others/he is more likely to want to join in on the fun. Personal example: one of my best friends didn’t realize we had season tickets to the Philadelphia Union games until recently – he just thought we were watching the games at a bar whenever I said, “We have a Union game.” That’s probably because I decided not to Snapchat and post to Facebook/Instagram during games because my content was taking way too long to upload.
  2. Increased engagement with the game: Knowing facts about the team and its players increases interest in the on-field product. Couple that with the fact that millennials are used to getting immediate satisfaction when they have a question, so not being able to look up information about the team and its players in real time is a major problem that could leave a stain on their at-game experience. Better bandwidth would solve this (and enable fans to confirm in seconds that yes, Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco is only 5’ 4”!)
  3. Sales Opportunities: A facility’s Wi-Fi connection could be sponsored, and direct those who connect to the sponsor’s website. Additionally, strong connectivity could translate to increased engagement with the existing sponsors. I can recall trying to download an app from a sponsor at a game and not being able to do so. Once I got home, the desire wore off and the sponsor’s opportunity to interact with me disappeared. I can also imagine the Wi-Fi being an opportunity for more sales/promotions within the stadium. Teams could send specific messages about specials in the team store, upcoming games, etc.
  4. Research Options: As you might expect a research company representative to emphasize, a stable connection could lead to the proliferation of team-driven mobile-based surveys. Quick surveys could be done via an app or mobile-friendly website to get fan feedback during stoppages in play.

I see Wi-Fi capabilities at venues as a win-win: the investment would result in happier fans and more sales and engagement opportunities. The NFL has started rolling out Wi-Fi in stadiums, and my guess is that it’s only a matter of time until this becomes a standard offering at all major venues.

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