SBD/December 12, 2014/Intercollegiate Forum

Beacon, Geo-Location Technology Among New Ways Schools, Marketers Reach Fans

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Thompson said implementing beacon tech was a seemless transition
Advancements in mobile technology are providing new ways for sports marketers to reach fans, including using beacon and geo-location technology to reach fans with customized digital content based on where they are. Ole Miss used such technology this fall, and Senior Associate AD/Communications & Marketing Michael Thompson said at the ’14 IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum Thursday morning that the program has been met with great reviews. Ole Miss worked with Spark Compass to install beacon technology with a rewards program for students and fans, where users get points for attending games and events. Thompson: “The beacons have us a way of automatically checking students or fans in. When a student walks in and they’re a part of this program, they’ve got their points. It became completely seamless for us without having to add more personnel.” In addition to the point system, Ole Miss also used the technology to get a breakdown of heavy traffic lines for bathrooms and concession stands. When there was a long line, Ole Miss would send a push notification alerting fans that there was a shorter line nearby. Thompson: “We did a lot of focus groups to find out what type of content our fans want, what do they not want. We’ve been trying to find that happy medium of how much communication is too much and overbearing, and how much is not enough. What are the fans really craving content-wise, and can we use this system to deliver it? The technology can do anything we want it to do, it’s just a matter of us thinking it up and doing it. It’s really that simple.”

COSTS ARE MINIMAL: CLC VP/Innovation & Operations Wes Richard said, “For minimal costs to entry, you’re benefitting so many things for the school. Everyone can join in and learn from this and accelerate all of the other fan engagement activities we’re trying to do on campus.” Thompson added that Ole Miss is looking to add more uses for the technology. Thompson: “People have a lot of ways in their mind of what a beacon can be. We’ll definitely do it at the Peach Bowl, where we sprinkle beacons in sections throughout where our fans are sitting. We took them to several road games this year, and it’s one of those surprise and delight things that people can get.”

Smeaton said his company has seen no issues with
the latest in-stadium mobile technology
CONNECTIVITY PROBLEMS
: One of the issues that has impeded mobile technology growth is the difficulty of connecting in a packed stadium. But Lemon Founding Partner & CMO Gordon Smeaton said his company’s research shows the latest technology has been able to get through to fans. Smeaton: “Even if there are 3 million people sending Instagram photos or selfies, we didn’t see an issue. Technology is evolving, every venue is different, so there are still going to be connectivity issues across the spectrum, but we’ve been fortunate to date.” Said Thompson: “We haven’t seen a single issue, and we’ve had an absolutely packed football stadium. It’s just a totally different frequency.”

QUICK HITS
* Richard, on not sending too many push notifications: “It establishes the channel because you’re gaining credibility by sending useful notifications, like shorter lines. You’re helping them, so you’re opening the channel, which gets you astronomically higher success. As long as you deliver valued messages, even if they’re small and minute, and from a marketing standpoint meaningless, it delivers value to the consumer so they’re more receptive to other opportunities.”

* Smeaton, on other avenues for this technology: “When young high school students are there for campus tours, is there an opportunity to communicate with their family? The campus bookstore is a terrific opportunity, not only from a student standpoint, but also when you’re working with vendors and other sponsors that are affiliated with the school.”
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