Will Beacons Make a Difference for Commerce at Sports Venues?

Stepan Shablinsky -
Illustration: © IoT For All

The buzz around the Internet of Things (IoT) is on the rise, but most consumers are unaware of the techniques that go into it, and most companies are not leveraging all the available tools.

Some of the most convenient devices which are still underutilized, considering the potential they have, are beacons. These are Bluetooth version 4.0+ powered gadgets that can communicate with each other and with external Bluetooth-connected objects. They have a small CPU, detect geolocation, perform basic data processing and encryption, and trigger rule-based actions.

Because of its underlying technology, beacons have a physical limitation of around 100-meter coverage, but they work fine both indoors and outdoors. Their primary appeal is a low price, as well as the fact that they can act as customer engagement tools in commercial spaces like malls, concert halls and stadiums.

How Do Beacons Work?

The beacons emit signals to other nearby Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as smartphones. These devices capture the signals which prompt the user that there is a message waiting for them. The initial signal does not carry the final message, only its identifier. If the user accepts this notification, their device sends that identifier to the server, which returns the message offering a discount, promotion, or other valuable information.

This is important for real-time marketing that relies on limited offers and targeted promotions. These gadgets help companies establish straightforward relationships with their clients and gain the crucial advantage of actually keeping clients’ attention long enough to get the message through.

Beacons for Sports and Events Venues

The only condition for a company to be able to use beacons is to have the permission of the end-user. As long as the client accepts push notifications in a company’s beacon-connected app, the sky is the limit when it comes to marketing techniques that this company can use to upsell and enhance loyalty.

In the case of sports venues, communication between the stakeholders involved in the game, such as sports teams, sponsors, media, and ticket holders can last as long as the viewers are on-premises.

Communication can start with a simple check-in on arrival and can also include the person’s agreement to receive further notifications during the game. The small range of beacons work to the advertisers’ advantage, for example when sending a message only to a particular section of the stadium with exclusive deals or, say, free pizza.

This can help event organizers design an enticing and rewarding customer journey, with strategic product placements. From assisting fans in wayfinding around the stadium to offering fan merchandise at discounted prices during the game, beacons can increase both revenue and customer experience at the same time.

On the Field

Starting from the players themselves, beacons can be attached to the team members’ uniforms and used to track their real-time performance for improvement and training purposes. Sports are evolving thanks to big data, and this could open up a new era of understanding the dynamics of the games and the individual evolution of each player.

This is the case of ShotTracker, a BLE-powered app suite, that records the performance of baseball players by taking notice of all the actions performed. Having such data about the players can help a coach design their strategy and give individual advice for improvement.

A Frictionless Experience

Venues that want to use the beacon technology can learn from what Wimbledon did. They installed such gadgets starting at the railway up to the stadium and sent instructions to ticket holders. These messages were personalized in real-time, indicating the best place to queue to avoid long waiting times.

The fans could also use the app to call a hot dog vendor to their seat instead of just waiting to grab the attention of the nearest one.

At the Levi’s Stadium beacons served a humbler yet essential purpose: to help people find their way to the nearest toilet. It might not sound impressive, but for a 1.85 million square ft. location, it is.

Real-Time Contextual Information

In the old days, the sports commentator would give additional information or the jumbotron would be used to give fast facts about the players or teams. Right now, the information can be delivered to the fans’ mobile phones in real-time, with a high degree of personalization depending on their interests.

A creative way beacons have already been used in motorsports is putting them in each car during the race and offer all the results in an app for the fans, complete with drivers’ profiles, car characteristics, and more.


The beacon technology, together with a smart ticketing program, can offer a VIP experience to any ticket holder.

The management of Sacramento Kings is planning to use beacons to create a unique experience for every fan by remembering their birthdays, favorite players, and the drink of their choice. By combining this on-file data with the localization information from the beacons, fans could have their hero of choice wish them a happy birthday on the day of the game, or at least give them a free drink.

Easy Upselling and 1-Click Purchases

Last but not least, beacon technology can also drive upselling. The idea is to take advantage of the euphoric state of the fans during the game and offer them items that make sense in the context, from fresh drinks to caps or key chains. Of course, discounted tickets for the next tournaments or seasons are also a great upsell idea.

Following the example of Amazon’s 1-Click checkout, beacons can help sports and entertainment venues sell more by oversimplifying the painful payment process. If the client inputs their card data in the app, they can pay with their phone for everything they want to buy during the game, without wasting time to get their card out or input the pin.

Beacons are most likely to revolutionize the sports and entertainment world as we know it. This will be done by offering a more personalized experience, upgrading sales, and providing real-time data about the player’s performance to invite fans as close to the field as possible.

Stepan Shablinsky - Lead Software Engineer

Guest Writer
Guest Writer
Guest writers are IoT experts and enthusiasts interested in sharing their insights with the IoT industry through IoT For All.
Guest writers are IoT experts and enthusiasts interested in sharing their insights with the IoT industry through IoT For All.