SPORTS AND LOCATION-BASED SERVICES

How Sports Fans Use LBS to Connect

Tariq Ahmad
@tariq_ahmad t@tariq.me Summer 2011

Photo source: media.lehighvalleylive.com

© 2011 Tariq Ahmad. Content may not be reused without permission. Contact: t@tariq.me

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Table of Contents
The Big Picture ...............................................................................................................................3 Introduction ....................................................................................................................................4 Key Findings and Recommendations ...........................................................................................5 Why so many people check-in to sports venues ................................................................5 How location affects reward offers ....................................................................................5 How to best integrate LBS with other social media initiatives ........................................7 What sports fan get from checking-in ................................................................................8 Chicken or the egg? ...........................................................................................................10 Study Details .................................................................................................................................11 What’s Next ..................................................................................................................................11

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The Big Picture
This study discusses four critical factors to better understand the intersection of sports and location-based services (LBS): 1. An exploration of why so many people check-in to sports venues o They are passive participants, there for a long time, and in a large group 2. How understanding location can affect the type of reward a sports organization offers o A blend of tangible and intangible rewards is optimal 3. How to best integrate LBS with other social media initiatives o LBS users use Twitter 4x longer than Facebook 4. What sports fans get from checking in o Not much, but this is changing

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Introduction
Location-based services (LBS) serve as a bridge between the physical and virtual world. They are an information or entertainment service, accessible with mobile devices through the mobile network and utilizing the ability to make use of the geographical position of the mobile device (Quercia, Lathia, Calabrese, DiLorenzo, & Crowcroft, 2010). Popular LBS companies include Foursquare, Facebook Places, Gowalla, and Loopt. Are LBS emerging from early adopter status and into the mainstream? Moreover, how do sports fans use LBS to connect with teams and venues? With scores of sports fans using LBS to “check-in” to stadiums every day, it is important to understand why they do it. Maybe to let everyone know they are at the game, pass time at the game, or see if they know anyone at the same game. To better understand this, 245 sports fans that use LBS answered these questions and more. While there has been substantial sports research and LBS research, the intersection of sports and LBS has yet to be deeply explored. This whitepaper aims to fill that gap by examining a study on how sports fans use LBS to support their favorite teams and more.

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Key Findings & Recommendations
1. Why do so many people check-in to stadiums every day…for essentially nothing?!?
Every day, hundreds of thousands of people file into sports stadiums and arenas worldwide to watch sporting events. Among them are those who use their mobile device to check-in to the stadium. But why do fans do it? To date, there are limited benefits for checking-in to a stadium. A panelist at the 2011 Sloan Sports Conference said sports venues and stadiums are the number two most checked-in place, behind airports, on Facebook Places (which is Facebook’s LBS). But why exactly do people check-in to stadiums, just like airports? First, you are at a stadium for hours at a time. Similar to airports, you are confined to a particular space and can’t freely leave without consequences (no re-entry). Since you are there, you need something to pass the time, and checking-in can fill that void. You are also a passive participant, waiting for something to happen, whether watching the game or waiting to board your flight. It’s also a status symbol. You are at Madison Square Garden to watch the Knicks host Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, and you want everyone to know. So you check-in and post to various social media sites to let your friends know you are at the game (and they are not). Solution: Provide benefits to fans they can redeem on-site Since sports fans are in the same location for at least a couple of hours, give them a benefit they can use while at the stadium. When they check-in, give fans 25% off concessions, discounts on merchandise, or discounts on tickets to the next game. There could also be a specific benefit based on the time a fan is at a venue. So if a fan checks-in to the stadium 90 minutes before the game starts, they may receive a free team t-shirt. Or if the fan is still on the premises 60 minutes after the conclusion of the game, they may have a chance to meet the players. Regardless of the type of benefit, reward the fans who checked-in and have spent a few hours at the venue.

2. Nearly equal amount of respondents live within the metropolitan area (< 25 miles) or out of state of favorite team
More than 40% of respondents live in the metropolitan area (25 miles or less) of their favorite team, while nearly 40% live outside the state of their favorite team (Figure 1). This could be due to the fact these people used to live close to their favorite team (possibly raised in area) or have since moved, but still consider that team to be their favorite team. Additionally, it could be based on ‘adopting’ new favorite teams if they have relocated to a different city or state, and choose to support their local team. This is interesting to note because LBS sites, in conjunction with venues, can focus efforts on those attending the game, while servicing fans not in attendance with an LBS-based reward.

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Figure 1: Where fans live in relation to their favorite team

Location
Outside state Outside metro but inside state Outside country Inside Metro

Solution: Give fans both physical and virtual benefits Physical-Physical: Fans should receive instant on-site benefits for checking-in to games, like discounts on concessions, merchandise, even parking. These benefits reward the fan for not only attending the game, but using LBS to check-in and share their location. Physical-Virtual: Fans who check-in to a game should have the option of receiving a virtual reward they can redeem at a later date. For example, a fan checks-in and receives 30% off team merchandise at the team’s online store through the end of the season could be a possible benefit. The fan may not choose to redeem a benefit on-site, but providing a reward that can be used later would be beneficial. Virtual-Virtual: By giving virtual rewards to people who are not able to attend the game, this rewards the fan for checking-in and can hopefully influence them to attend a live sporting event (favorite team or other) in the near future or continue to support their team virtually. For example, Foursquare offered a worldwide check-in earlier this year for Super Bowl XLV. Fans could check-in to Super Bowl XLV from anywhere in the world, and receive 40% off from merchandise available at each teams’ online store (Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers).

3. For sports + LBS users, Twitter usage substantially longer than other social media sites
Respondents shared how long they use social media sites per visit (Figure 2):

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Figure 2: Sports + LBS user’ social media activity

YouTube

LinkedIn 21 min/use Facebook 1-5 min/use

Twitter

0%

10%

20%

30%

40%

50%

Although this is more specifically related to general social media and not LBS, it is important to understand the implications. Respondents spend an average of 1-5 minutes per use every time they log on to Facebook. However, they spend an average of 21+ minutes every time they log on to Twitter, nearly 4 times longer than Facebook. For LBS, since respondents use Twitter for much longer periods of time than Facebook, it may be beneficial for LBS companies to put more information and ‘advertise’ more on Twitter. Cross-promoting information would be beneficial, too, in order to target Facebook users, e.g. a company posts a link on Twitter to an upcoming contest which redirects the user to Facebook. Solution: Tie check-in benefits to Twitter and use multiple platforms to crosspromote If LBS users are utilizing Twitter more than the other major social media sites, it would be worthwhile to promote LBS-related information and benefits on Twitter. When a user checks-in to a game, give them a specific hashtag (like #49ers4sq) upon check-in that fans can use during the course of a game. Additionally, stream some of the tweets with that hashtag on the scoreboard or big screen, followed by an announcement asking fans to join specific LBS sites to earn benefits. Also, running cross-promotions on other social media sites would be beneficial. For instance, if a team announces on Twitter if a fan checks-in using Facebook Places, they will receive a specific benefit, only obtained from checking-in on Facebook Places. Or post a link on the team’s Facebook page connecting fans to the team’s Foursquare page, informing the fans to follow the team on Foursquare and received special benefits when checking-in to that team’s stadium.

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4. Most have never redeemed benefits from checking-in
While LBS companies offer benefits for checking-in, nearly two-thirds of people have not used a discount from using LBS. And that is not just for sports, but in general. There could be several reasons for this, including respondents are not interested in the deal, respondents actually unlock the deal but do not redeem it, or people check-in to locations where there are no deals available nearby. For sports, a few key findings emerge: 4a. Received benefits from using LBS at sporting events Figure 3: Received benefit from using LBS on-site

Never received benefit from using LBS at venue/stadium
Virtual Physical

0

50

100

Surprisingly, nearly every respondent has never received a single benefit from using LBS at venues and stadiums (Figure 3). Why is this? It could be because not many venues offer specific rewards for using LBS. This is an area of opportunity for teams and venues to engage fans to use LBS. Solution: Partner with teams/leagues to provide specific LBS benefits With hundreds of thousands of sports fans checking-in to venues worldwide every day, it is important to give back to the users, who are in essence checking-in out of goodwill. If teams and leagues can partner with LBS companies to provide specific benefits to their consumers, that would be beneficial for both parties. The teams will have fans using the services to gain benefits, and the LBS companies will gain more users; a win-win. The Washington Redskins offered a Redskins Foursquare Badge during the 2010 NFL season to fans that checked-in to FedEx Field during Redskins’ home games. Creating intangible benefits (such as badges, stickers, etc.) and specific tangible benefits (such as discounts off specific player merchandise) are ways to reward fans. Additionally, a game-specific aspect can be tied-in to increase the benefit. For example, if you check-in to Yankee Stadium, and Derek Jeter hits a homerun during the game, then Jeter’s merchandise is 40% off from the time he hit the homerun until one hour after the game concludes. Or teams can do a team-related deal, so if the Yankees score 12 or

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more runs, Yankees merchandise is 30% off until one hour after the game. These deals would only be provided to users who check-in before the homerun or 12th run scored. 4b. More likely to check-in based on rewards Simply put, fans are more likely to check-in if they receive a reward (Figure 4 and Figure 5): Figure 4: More likely to check-in if tangible reward was offered

More likely to check-in if tangible reward was offered
No Indifferent Yes 0 20 40 60 80

Figure 5: More likely to check-in if intangible reward was offered

More likely to check-in if intangible reward was offered No Indifferent Yes 0 20 40 60 80

The results are similar among tangible and intangible rewards. Among respondents, 74% would be more likely to check-in if they received a tangible reward, and 71% would be more likely to check-in if they received an intangible reward. This is beneficial because if venues/stadiums give people a reason to check-in, they will be more inclined to do so.

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Solution: Loyalty programs Loyalty is important in creating benefits. More specifically, benefits should be scalable in order to reward loyal LBS users. A user who checks-in to the stadium for the 8th time that season should receive a better reward for the user who is checking-in for the first time. Making the rewards better due to loyalty might increase overall LBS usage, just as Foursquare “mayors” often get special perks for their loyalty. For example, checking-in to the stadium for the first time, you will receive 10% discount at the concession stand, checking-in for the fifth time you will receive 25% off merchandise, checking-in for the eighth time you will receive 50% off tickets to another game, etc. By giving scaled rewards, users may be more likely to check-in to unlock bigger rewards. Solution: Tipping point Sports venues are unique because of the large number of people at each event. Taking advantage of this can increase new LBS users, if done correctly. For example, if 300 people check-in to the venue, users unlock a special video related to the team. Also, there can be a tracker or a counter shown on the scoreboard every few minutes to let fans know how close they are to unlocking the video (“225 fans have checked-in, only 75 more check-ins to go before a special team video is unlocked for those fans that checked-in to access”). Or you can use the daily deals method, where a certain number of people check-in to unlock the video, then the video is shown on the big screen at the stadium for everyone to view. This can be interpreted three ways: 1) people who check-in to the stadium may not feel it is right for the other people who didn’t check-in to view a video they should only have access to; 2) for those who don’t use LBS, this is a great incentive for them to sign up on the spot to unlock the videos; and 3) for users to tell friends to use LBS to help unlock the video. By getting large numbers of people to use LBS, and give a specific reward at a tipping point, this could be useful for teams and LBS companies alike both immediately and down the road.

Chicken or the egg?
The last two solutions, loyalty program and tipping point, highlight the classic problem of the chicken and the egg. Which should come first: the check-in or knowledge of the reward? Are users rewarded by checking-in first because they want to or does knowing that a reward will come entice the user to check-in? There have been multiple implementations of both. Traditionally, we have seen the check-in come first but are seeing a shift toward informing users of the reward prior to check-in. Either or both can be used effectively, though.

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Study Details
Some demographics about the study’s respondents. For mobile devices, the Apple iPhone accounted for nearly 50% of the respondents’ mobile devices. Blackberry and Android were 2nd and 3rd, respectively, while other devices such as Nokia Symbian and Windows Mobile accounted for less than 5% of devices. For gender, nearly 3/4 of the respondents were male. This is in line with LBS companies’ demographics, as males are much more likely to use LBS than females. Some companies have shown closer to 60M/40F. One explanation is that women are more protective of their location, and do not want to advertise where they are at, for fear of stalking or other types of harm. For age, nearly 50% of the respondents are 25-34, and 1/5 of the respondents are 18-24. These demographics may be seen as the ‘techies’ and the age group more likely to use LBS and technology in general. However, nearly 30% of respondents are 35+, which indicates a possible shift in the age that people use certain types of technology.

What’s Next
LBS usage is growing rapidly. Although it is not yet as commonly used as other social media sites, there are numerous possibilities for growth. LBS have only been mainstream since 2009. While easier said than done, it would be beneficial for LBS companies to implement these recommendations to better engage users and gain new ones. Testing programs and offerings initially, gathering user feedback, and making updates regularly will also be critical to the success of using LBS at sporting events. And with only a handful of teams currently using LBS to connect with fans, it’s not too late to start. As time goes on, benefits will improve and more users will sign up to take advantage of services LBS companies have to offer. Be sure to checkin to that.

About Tariq
Tariq Ahmad is a doctoral candidate, currently conducting his dissertation research on social media and the NBA, as well as researching the intersection of sports and location-based services. He can be reached via email (t@tariq.me) or Twitter (@tariq_ahmad).

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