In every industry, there is a belief system – conventional wisdom that underlies the way people behave and processes are structured. Partially based in fact, but fueled by intuition and common sense, this shared belief system often determines the path of an industry. Once in a while data becomes available that challenges that belief system. Many choose to cling to an industry’s belief system, but those who embrace new information can achieve the next level of success.
Data captured by Wi-Fi systems deployed in public venues offers such an opportunity. It provides a more inclusive sample of event attendees. Wi-Fi data offers new insights that will reshape the way teams operate venues, market to fans, and ultimately profit from events.
The infographic below offers a few high-level statistics gleaned from a Wi-Fi network deployed at a large Collegiate Stadium during the 2016 football season.
Organized into three sections, data is presented from left to right quantifying frequency of fan attendance, volume of visits, and student behavior:
Fan Frequency: 71% of fans attended just one game during 2016 season
Approximately 100,000 devices connected to Wi-Fi during the season, so our sample size is 30% of all fans. 71% of these devices were seen at only one game, and just 2% were seen at all six. 216,500 unique fans attended a single game. Just 6,100 attended all six home games.
Attendance Volume: 300,000 unique visitors attended games in 2016
The reported attendance for the season was 500,000. Using Wi-Fi frequency data filters, we were able to determine the net number of unique visitors to the stadium. The average fan attended 1.6 games during the six game season.
Student section: at least 11% of all Wi-Fi users were current college students
6% of students attended all six games (compared to 2% for other fans) . Just 34% of students came to only one game (compared to 75% of “other” fans who attended just one game).
Understanding the Data
Where did these data come from?
The data depicted in the infographic was gathered from a university owned Wi-Fi network inside the football stadium. Every Wi-Fi enabled device (i.e. smart phone) has a unique identifier that can be detected by the local Wi-Fi network when the device’s radio is on. Even if the device owner never decides to use Wi-Fi, the presence and specific location of the device is known as long as the Wi-Fi radio is enabled. Each unique device is a proxy for a fan.
How were students identified?
To identify student devices, Wi-Fi login data was used to enhance our data set. The login process is managed via an HTML5 landing page where users submit their names and email addresses and accept Terms and Conditions before gaining access to the Internet. We identified students by filtering the login data for university-provided (.edu) email addresses. Overall 11% of all Emails collected contained the university domain, and over 95% of these were in standard student format (as opposed to faculty or staff sub domains). Our university client tells us that 18% of all ticket holders are students, so It’s not surprising that we saw just 11% student email addresses. Some students probably logged in using other personal email addresses.
How large is the data set?
Wi-Fi data set was collected over a six-game season at a Power 5 conference football stadium. During the season, Wi-Fi data was collected from over 100,000 devices representing approximately 30% of of fans attending a game in 2016.
Is the collected representative of college football?
The data presented was captured from a single University, but it is consistent with data that AmpThink has collected at other Universities. While it is possible that fans at other Universities might behave differently, it is just as likely that this data is representative of fan behavior at all major collegiate stadiums.
What about professional sports?
The data presented here is consistent with data that has been collected at NBA, NHL, and NFL venues. While the length of the season and number of events vary, frequency of attendance is surprisingly consistent across venues and leagues with between 70% and 80% of fans attending just one game per season.
How Could Wi-Fi Data Change Sports Marketing?
When our college football clients first saw this data they were surprised. The data was inconsistent with long-held industry assumptions about fan loyalty and audience size. But after discussing the data clients are now considering ways to leverage this new information. They are considering adjustments to existing strategies and improve business results. With more accurate data about fan behaviors, college marketers build smarter campaigns, drive better results from ticket marketing and loyalty programs, and bolster sponsorship strategies at their live events.
At AmpThink we are working with our clients to leverage the new data set. We are testing new tactics to optimize business results. Our clients are using Wi-Fi data to identify fans and sell more tickets. In the near future we believe that the same Wi-Fi data will enable teams to build predictive models that identify season ticket clients at risk of churning and identify previously invisible prospects who are ripe to buy new season ticket packages.
Stadium Wi-Fi networks and the data captured are changing sports marketing. Intuition is no longer an acceptable tool for measuring fan behavior. We can use mobile devices to actually count unique individuals. And beyond measuring fan presence, with Wi-Fi we can capture the time a fans enter a venue, recognize if they are a new or returning visitor, track the paths they walk within the venue, and where they dwell. We can see the apps they use and the websites they visit. We can identify anonymous fans, and we can invite them to join our opt-in marketing lists. This new information improves our understanding of the fan. It will unlock new opportunities to enhance fan experiences and drive profitable fan behaviors at live events.
About the author
Pat Coyle leads Wi-Fi analytics and business strategy for sports and retail clients at AmpThink. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
 In venues monitored by AmpThink in 2016, between 30% and 50% of the fans attending a live sporting event attached to the available High-Density Wi-Fi network at least once during the course of the event.
 The numbers shown here are rounded off to protect our university client’s identity and its private information, but the percentages we use to calculate the net number of fans are real. The net number of fans is approximately 60% of the gross attendance number.