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Inside the IT challenges of sports and entertainment

Technology allows for better tracking of sports game attendees while venues owners aim to keep pace with the wireless demands of fans

By , Network World
August 07, 2012 10:57 AM ET
Target Field

Network World - BOSTON -- At the same time sports and entertainment organizations are being inundated with data, they're trying to figure out how to boost connectivity within their venues, but also how to monetize the treasure trove of attendee information.

Arizona State University is a good example what many organizations are going through. Associate athletic director Steve Hank says it's been a "walking disaster" attempting to coordinate communications to the various attendees of ASU events. Different departments within the massive, 70,000-plus person university system each independently handle undergraduate, graduate, alumni and donor communications. "We were literally all over the place in attempting to communicate with these people," at least until recently, he said this week at SEAT2012, a conference of sports IT professionals.

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A newly integrated CRM tool designed by SSB Consulting within the last half-year, Hank says, has allowed a correlated communications platform to emerge. Now, Hank in the athletics department can track the football season-ticket holder, who also happens to be a W.P. Carey Business School graduate and a major alumni donor to tailor in-game experiences specifically for him, such as having the business school dean just so happen to stop by his section during the game. "To give them relevant communications that are going to mean something to them, you need to know who they are," he says.

On the other end of the spectrum is John Anderson, vice president of technology for the Minnesota Twins, who in the last two years built the brand new Target Field baseball stadium. When constructing the facility, Anderson says the directive from management was a simple one: "The only things that have to work are the cell phones in the stadium," he recalls being told, only half-jokingly. Anderson and the Twins contracted with a third-party to install a Distributed Antenna System (DAS) that allows connectivity with all the major cell phone network providers. "When you come to the game, we better be able to connect you on your phone, because if we don't do that you might think twice about coming to a game the next time," he says.

Whether it's handling the vast amount of data gathered from ticket sales, merchandise purchasing or concession stand transactions, or allowing fans to have full bars of service so they can update their Facebook friends on the latest [Twin's catcher] Joe Mauer home run, technology demands are increasing exponentially for sports and entertainment CIOs and CTOs, says Chris Dill, one of the coordinators of SEAT2012, being held in Boston this week. And it's one of the reasons the Sports and Entertainment Alliance in Technology (SEAT) group was founded six years ago: To bring together team, league and venue owners, operators and partners to discuss strategy and future planning.

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