How the San Francisco 49ers use real time analytics to enhance the fan experience

Intelligent technology is simplifying the way businesses operate and streamlining various backend operations to present a more seamless customer experience.

I recently caught up on a podcast with Moon Javaid, Vice President of Strategy and Analytics for the San Francisco 49ers football team, and Jenni Lewis, Global Sponsorships Technology Lead for SAP about how machine learning and intelligent enterprise is reshaping the way sports and fans interact.

According to Moon, the 49ers had been looking to build a world-class stadium for the last 15 to 20 years. “The basis of our stadium was around making sure that from the time you leave your home to the time you come back is a great fan experience,” he explained. “A big piece of that is technology, so having the proper wi-fi structure, having a DAS or cellular network, and being able to support what fans are doing.”

Moon says the 49ers aimed to provide a first-class and seamless customer experience by ensuring everything runs smoothly while minimise waiting times and inconveniences for customers.

Jenni noted other work SAP had done in the past around gathering customer data through fan engagement apps, which gives customers a more interactive experience. “It’s also about being able to track from a social point of view what fans are enjoying,” she added.

“Fan sentiment is super important because we can look what’s happening and change things for the next performance – so it’s very much about instant feedback, which is what fans are looking for these days.”

In the months leading up to the development of this new platform for the 49ers, the team needed to understand how intelligent enterprise and machine learning could benefit them. SAP worked collaboratively and consultatively with the 49ers, engaging them in design-thinking workshops to establish the key objectives of this digitalisation journey.

“Design thinking is really important for us to sit together and not think about any limitations – let’s dream big and then build solutions together in very timely fashions,” Jenni explained.

Moon says the cloud platform SAP S4/HANA has digitalised how the 49ers collate and analyse customer satisfaction – eliminating the need to read approximately 30,000 surveys per years.

“We were on this journey to really explore real-time analytics,” Moon said. “We worked with SAP to bring in the Executive Huddle using the Digital Boardroom, which allows us to look at eight different streams of data – looking at the parking lot, looking at entry to the stadium, retail concessions, and restrooms.”

Jenni notes that SAP’s real processing capacity came into migrating those eight disparate sets of data into a single cloud platform and user-friendly interface – Executive Huddle.

According to Moon, Executive Huddle allows management to address issues and reallocate resources in real time. This agility gives the 49ers complete oversight of its customers’ experience while making sense of the immense amounts of data this smart stadium collects each game day.

The success of the project is leading SAP to new potential markets outside American football. “We’re doing some great stuff here in Australia with the work we’re doing with Melbourne City Football Club – they’re also looking to embrace similar sporting technology,” Jenni said. “A lot of the time we focus on how we can get great fan analytics out there, but it’s also great to work with our partners who also really care about running their businesses better.”

You can listen to my podcast talk with the San Francisco 49ers via iTunes, Spotify and Stitcher and learn more about the new The Best Run Podcast channel that I will be hosting on a monthly basis.