This blog post first appeared for Crowdsight on SportTechie.com, a leading SportsTech news and information resource.
With the construction of this new fully connected stadium (Parc OL), Olympique Lyonnais is the first French club aiming to offer a complete fan experience to its supporters with their in-stadium app. The app is relatively new to the market, released in December 2015, and we at Crowdsight got to check it out recently at The Ligue 1 match against Guingamp to see how it lives up to stadium, fan and sponsorship potential within the app.
Stadium Experience - Navigation, Map & Eat
World-class facilities have been included for all fans and visitors to Parc OL which was opened in January of 2016, including bars, meeting rooms, banqueting halls, more than 100 executive suites and eight corporate lounges. Add a new in-stadium app to this list, where Parc OL hopes to give a complete fan experience to the approximately 60,000 spectators that will be able to attend events here.
For such a state of the art stadium with cutting-edge arena experience, one would expect the app experience to match. The app, has a lot of interesting features, including food ordering and pickup, as well as additional video content for fans and detailed transport and navigation guides for the visiting fan. For the Olympique Lyonnais, it’s also a great way to gather data about its fans at the stadium. Here’s a walk through of our experience of it in action:
Come match day, the app has a nice layout and when you launch it including a countdown on the top, indicates the time before kick-off. From the main page, it is very easy to access both your match and transportation tickets (that you would have had to previously register in the app).
In the ‘Transport’ section of the app, there is nice feature that shows your current location in Lyon, and on a google map the location of the nearest public transport from this point. It also tells you how long it will take to reach the venue from your current location, and if you decide to take your own car or bike, there is guidance on the best route to the stadium. This is all good and useful information for the travelling fan visiting the city who may be unfamiliar how to get to Parc OL. As Parc OL is located outside of Lyon, it can be a little more tedious in planning your route so we liked this feature ensuring you get the right directions to the stadium, without having to reach for your phrasebook.
Once you reach Parc OL, the app can be used as your ticket so you don’t have to print it out. The QR code can be scanned at the gates of Parc OL. Once in the stadium the club is also planning to launch a geolocation service within the app, helping fans locate their stand and seat in the venue when entering.
Naturally a critical part of any mobile strategy, requires connectivity - and in this respect, the club has worked closely with CISCO on its fan engagement program. The stadium boasts a powerful WIFI network to ensure the quality of the connectivity inside the venue and encourage the fans to download and use the app even when large crowds are gathered in Parc OL.
As OL Stadium manager, Xavier Pierrot explained “The biggest number of simultaneous connections to our WIFI was about 20,000 spectators against Paris Saint Germain.. It represents only a third of the fans who attended the game but that is the figure we forecasted. In fact, we have the possibility to have up to 25,000 people connected at the same time. When we built the network with Cisco, they advised us on this number based on their experiences with Real Madrid and other clubs in the US.”
Once inside the entry gates — and past the scanners, we began testing the wifi speed in earnest. We found the app successfully delivered on this front, having no issues with the stadium network connection and being able to perform all type of actions requiring a good WIFI connection (sending tweets and streaming video content for example).
The app has been downloaded over 40,000 times since its launch in December 2015 and the stadium manager says the club is pleased with this number “Especially considering that we did not set any objective. We just wanted the app to be working fine and we knew it was going to take a few games to achieve that.”
The ability to pay for food and have it delivered right to your seat sounds like a sweet deal... if the system works. In order to purchase food or merchandise in the stadium fans need to buy a “MyOL” card and top it up. This cashless card must be used for every payment in the venue. It is possible to register it on your app so you can buy things without having to show your “MyOL” card every time. You can also top up your card within the app.
For fans in Parc OL if you don't want to miss one bit of the action, you can order food on your mobile phone from your seat. You can easily scroll through the products and select your order. Your “MyOL” card will be automatically charged, but for the moment, you will have to collect your food at a special cashier indicated on a map on your app. Follow the indications and you will be able to pick up your food by scanning the QR code at the catering stand.
“For the moment, all the fans who use the app have to pick up their order at the nearest catering stand indicated on their screen. We are going to test a second mode of food delivery in some parts of the stadium: spectators will not have to move from their seat and the food will be delivered directly to them in the stand” says Mr Pierrot. Even if you have to leave your seat for a few minutes, it is really not for a long time and you are back at your spot very shortly after you left it. It is interesting to remark that a fan spends 20% more when he uses the app to order food than when he goes directly to the catering stands at Parc OL.
Additional audio/visual content unique to attending fans is the perfect way to engage fans further during a game and build emotional connections. The ‘Videos’ section of the Parc OL app currently promotes the ability to watch four different video streams before, during and after a game which is exciting stuff for the devoted, always engaged fan.
The first two streams consist of video content from the stadium stream using the cameras inside the stadium and the second is the official TV channel of the club with pre and post-match interviews and analysis.
A third stream continuously broadcasts the highlights of the match and the last stream shows exclusive videos of the team locker room, all content unique to the fan attending the game. The overall quality of the video streams are strong and having the ability to watch the match with multiple camera angles certainly creates a further air of excitement especially for those pivotal moments in the game.
Whilst we found the video section interesting and robust in its current format, one section that is currently missing however, is the fan controlled replay selection function, giving fans the power to select the moments they want to see again and not just view the full highlights as it is now. We have been advised that this element is due to be added soon and we believe it will go along way to adding further value to this section of the app.
A few other cool features of the app include live game statistics for the attending fans (such as goals, shots on goal, possession etc.) ensuring plenty of material for fan analysis and talking points before during and after the game.
The SociOL Wall is a feature of the app that gathers together all the pictures, videos and tweets shared on the social networks (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram). The club attempts to feed it with contributions from current and former players in addition to the content from the supporters in the venue. The hastags #teamOL and #sociOLroom are promoted on every post and fans are encouraged to share their pictures in the stadium. A selection of these images are then shown on the big screens before, during and after the game.
Whilst there are numerous fan engagement elements included within the Parc OL app, such as the SociOL Wall feature for interacting with other fans at the stadium, there was a lack of varied offerings to fans, such as rewards, gamification elements, etc to really drive further value to sponsors. As Parc OL continue to add value and seek new ways to engage fans in the future we see this element in particular as a key way that they can improve the fan experience in their app.
With regard to the absence of sponsors in the app, Mr Pierrot clarifies this point: “We have not been working on how our sponsors could be integrated in the app yet. This is something that will be implemented in the next months when the app is running smoothly. Also, as the club is still working on the stadium naming, we are waiting for a deal to be settled before we can use this future partnership for the app and the different fan experience services.”
The strategy of the club is to collect as much data as possible before launching new features which would require a greater comprehension of the fans. “One thing is sure; the data collection is much easier thanks to the app. We are now able to understand and classify more precisely the types of supporters who come to the stadium. Also we gather lots of statistics about their use of the app and the different services. That way we can adapt them according to the wants and needs of the fans.” This way the club is hoping to compile enough data to ensure a positive integration of its sponsors in a few weeks.
With an improved app (including an addition of digital sponsorship components and new fan engagement features), Olympique Lyonnais may well become an example to follow in Europe for stadium fan experience. The club is planning to increase its match-day revenue by 80 to 100M€ within the next 5 years and the Parc OL app will surely contribute to this success.