The Minnesota Vikings Fan Experience (and Where It’s Headed)
Tod Caflisch has been in pro sports IT for almost 30 years, so he’s seen the incredible transformation in the fan experience at sports venues.
In college, he used to go to Celtics games, where the crowd was all men smoking cigars and cigarettes. Halftime would come, they’d play the organ, then the basketball game would finish. That was the fan experience of the day.
We’re light years from there today, with mobile integration and high-tech access control everywhere. The presentation of the game itself has changed dramatically, and everybody’s looking to up their game.
We recently interviewed Tod, who is the Vice President and Chief Technical Officer with the Minnesota Vikings. He described how the team is taking fan experience to a new level. Tod also shared the number one worst thing you could do when selling to someone like him.
Here’s a portion of the interview between Tod and Chad Sanderson, host of the B2B Revenue Executive Experience.
Tod (on a “frictionless experience” for fans)
Wi-Fi is an expected staple as fan demographics have changed. In the case of a lot of sporting venues that haven’t kept up with that trend, fans have flat-out told them they’re not coming.
Fan experience will continue to grow, whether it’s augmented reality replays, text-to-win gamification, or fantasy gaming. We’re leaning that direction, and seeing down the road also gives teams the ability to connect with fans and season ticket holders.
There’s also the idea of “frictionless experience.” Teams that are up-to-date on tech also usually tend to be wary of the entire fan experience, from parking to getting to bathrooms to all other obstacles to fan experience. It’s not just “I don’t have the right beer.” It’s removing the “pain-in-the-ass” factor, all around.
A certain level of digital interaction is expected at sports venues. The evolution was from no connection with the team, to technology being a hindrance to fan experience, to now having it enhance the experience. Is that what you’re seeing with the new Vikings stadium?
This is everybody’s goal: to offer the cornucopia of options, whether fantasy sports or replays or whatever.
The key is capturing the data behind the device used. You get a 360 degree view of your fans by the type of content they use on their devices, which gives you a great idea of your demographics. Then it’s about pinpointing target marketing to those individuals.
You send Jaguar ads to those in the suite level and Ford or Chevy ads to those in the upper deck. It generates a lot more engagement, which generates more revenue. Sponsors want more engagement, after all.
How have you positioned yourselves to capture and capitalize on that data?
Simple things, like digital ticketing. We can generate a lot of insight by seeing where fans are entering at what time. We can even see what their path was to the stadium so we know where it’s best to put up booths.
There are also in-seat food orders to know what type of food people like, to better craft menus. Any time that device is used, we can track data and figure out next steps.
I remember when people were freaked out about GPS tracking on their phones. Have you had fans push back on that type of visibility into their behaviors?
When I was with the Red Wings, we did work on beacons that required bluetooth to be enabled. We found out it had limited success because fans would turn off their bluetooth, maybe because they didn’t want to be tracked but probably because they didn’t want their batteries to drain.
So there’s been no active pushback, but the younger demographic understands that’s just how it is. Look at what people post on social media: there’s no privacy these days.
Our goal is to increase fan experience and of course to increase revenue, above-the-board.
Do you spend a lot of time getting partners used to your vision, and do you see them struggling with it? The concept of “frictionless experience” can be amorphous to some.
No, they seem pretty receptive. They’re sharp. Obviously, there are motivators for them, because our development will be a showcase for them to display their products and services.
I love working with our partners.
What resonates with you when you’re “sold to”?
As high-profile as we are, it’s easy for Joe Salesman to find out a “desk number” at the Vikings and call and say, “Hey, let me talk to your guy in charge of technology.” They patch them through, I get the spiel, and honestly, it turns me off.
I’m also easy to find on LinkedIn. But the phone calls irritate me. Some of the pitches sound interesting. They want to send me more information, and they say, “Great, give me your email address.” I say, “OK, it’s my name@blahblahblah.” Then they say, “OK, what’s your name?”
You don’t even know my name? That irritates me the most. As easy as it was to find the phone number, it’s probably almost as easy to find out at least what my name is.
Find out a little about who you’re talking to.” I tell people to go back, do their homework, then call me back. One, maybe two people have actually done it.
Everybody’s time is valuable. I’m as willing as the next guy to listen, but do your homework.
In each episode of the B2B Revenue Executive Experience, we’re going to ask our guests for one nugget of wisdom they would impart to a sales professional. Here’s this one:
“Make it relatable. I consider myself an innovator; make it applicable to what I’m doing. Don’t tell me you’re selling a data mining tool. Tell me how I’m going to use it.
Save money, make money, be more efficient. That’s what I want to hear.”
If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.