Jeff Hastings, CEO of BrightSign
Five years ago I authored a blog post about the emergence of digital signage in sporting venues. At the time, we were starting to see strong indicators that network-connected displays were going to play a larger and larger role in the spectator experience at these venues. I recall thinking how much of what I wrote was quite forward-thinking. To read that article now and to contrast those predictions against what has transpired both in our industry and in the sporting world, I see that I had underestimated how pervasive digital signage at sporting events would become.
As I view the current landscape of digital signage in sporting venues, three trends emerge that I believe will significantly shape the fan experience at sporting events now and in the future.
Passive Viewing Becomes Active Engagement
Something we’re starting to see more of at sporting venues is the shift from signage used as a passive medium that spectators consume visually, to an interactive medium that invites participation. This engagement can be utilitarian – for example, luxury boxes including touchscreens to place food and beverage orders. It can also be very novel, such as being presented with the option to view the game from various angles as if you were seated in another section of the stadium altogether. Another great example of engagement-based signage is the Dallas Cowboys’ use of interactive photo kiosks whereby spectators can take virtual selfies with their favorite players. This sort of creativity is up-leveling the viewer experience, ensuring that entertainment doesn’t stop when the spectator leaves his or her seat.
Leading the Way with Wayfinding
Attending sporting events in today’s modern arenas is about much more than the sporting events themselves. Arenas are built with concessions and fan experiences at every turn. To help spectators get the most out of their visits, many arenas are integrating wayfinding solutions that help people navigate with ease, and discover new and interesting experiences along the way. Digital signage has proven its worth as a medium that not only entertains and informs, but also lends a helpful hand to ensure fans maximize their time in the arena. So you can expect wayfinding solutions to become much more commonplace in the coming years.
The Rise of Esports
Professional esports isn’t yet able to rival other established sports in the United States in terms of revenue generation, although it’s growing at a rate that far outpaces other pro sports. Esports is attracting investment from high-profile celebrities and athletes. Even ownership groups like the Madison Square Garden Company are getting in on the action, bankrolling their own teams. As the esports industry continues to go mainstream, it’s beginning to structure an economy similar to other pro sports, able to attract sponsors, recruit players and sell tickets to events. Esports events are being housed in larger and more elaborate venues with each passing year, and I suspect we’ll start to see a growing number of purpose-built esports venues in the near future.
How exactly all these trends play out in the future remains to be seen. But I’m confident our industry will continue to be an integral part of experiencing live sports. Perhaps I’ll revisit this blog in another five years to see how well my newest predictions hold up.