The NBA is one of the world’s premiere sports entertainment powerhouses, and it’s not just because people love watching an orange ball go in a hoop. The league and its franchises invest billions of dollars every year to give cheering fans an unforgettable live experience that’s augmented by a wealth of opportunities to immerse themselves in the talent, statistics, narratives, and highlights an NBA season is sure to create.
Developing the product and maximizing revenues requires harnessing new and mind-blowing technologies, and nowhere is that more important—or on display— than for the fans who buy a ticket to see a live game. From the moment they get to the arena to the final buzzer, every aspect of their time courtside needs to be enhanced and streamlined to create as much value for the price of admission as possible.
Of course, it’s no easy task moving up to 18,000 screaming fanatics through a sports venue all at once. It’s a massive logistical challenge in addition to producing a great sporting event, and the NBA’s mission is to make sure every single one of those guests can enjoy the game with comfort and ease.
Here are some of the top strategies for how to improve the NBA fan experience, ensuring that every tip-off is an unforgettable event for everyone who buys a ticket.
1. Expanding Fan Engagement through Mobile Apps
A crucial aspect of how to improve the NBA fan experience lies in the expansion of engagement through mobile apps. Many teams and the league as a whole provide live game scores, player stats, and a wide range of content and media directly through mobile devices. These apps can also be used as the basis of fan voting for game MVPs, engaging in trivia, and virtual meet-and-greets with players.
All of these products create a more immersive experience, and the NBA is experimenting with augmented and virtual reality apps that allow fans to reach deeper into the game than ever before.
2. Interactive Fan Zones
Fan zones, both inside and outside the arena, are some of the best-loved aspects of live games. These interactive spaces allow fans to compete in virtual NBA games, shooting drills, and even enjoy limited interactions with players. NBA-themed cafes and stores make sure guests are always in contact with the league’s brand even when they’re looking for some downtime. Finally, live shows, music, and other entertainment in these zones ensure there’s never a dull moment.
3. Enhanced In-Arena Fan Experiences
For fans who want to enjoy the comfort and luxury modern venue operators can provide, NBA teams offer enhanced in-arena experiences like premium lounges, VIP viewing areas, and personalized services that make game day a royal event.
These NBA Experiences packages deliver the ultimate fan immersion in the game and create opportunities for guests to interact with players, enjoy incredible food and drinks, and participate in unique events. They can even be expanded to include five-star accommodations, dining, and invite endless customization—for the right price, of course!
While these options may not be affordable for everyone, there are plenty of investments that can make every fan feel like a VIP no matter where they’re sitting. Technologies like facial authentication that speed up lines and delight guests young and old with innovative service boosts make every trip to an NBA game feel like a one-of-a-kind experience.
4. Improved Connectivity and Mobile Integration
Fans in the digital era demand fast internet connections in arenas. With great connectivity, they can livestream their time courtside, sharing the thrills with their followers and increasing the level of online engagement for the league.
By improving connectivity and network infrastructure, the NBA makes it easy for fans to access and engage with league content to build an even deeper passion for their home team and favorite stars. They can also access information about food and beverage vendors to make it easier to grab a bite and a beer, and as services like in-seat ordering continue to evolve, venues will be prepared to integrate the technology seamlessly into the fan experience.
5. Fan-Focused Content
One of the fundamentals for the NBA when it comes to establishing stronger ties with its audience is creating and sharing proprietary fan-centric content. This includes things like behind-the-scenes filming, player interviews, and developing online platforms where they can interact with their favorite teams or players face-to-face. Content is king in 2024, and all of these value-added features bring fans closer to the players they’re watching on the court.
6. Sustainability Initiatives
Sports fans nowadays are paying greater attention to sustainability issues. Using recycled materials in merchandising, supporting waste reduction programs, and providing sustainable transport options can help the NBA enhance fan pleasure by maintaining environmentally friendly practices. Through these green initiatives, the NBA can evolve to match the changing ideals of their guests and make home court a place to cheer your team while doing your part for the next generation of fans.
7. Facial Authentication
Whether it’s accelerating ticketing lines or making concessions and merch sales a snap, facial authentication is one of the only solutions for gameday difficulties that can boost revenues, cut wait times, and delight fans across the board. Express Access lanes let fans scan their tickets with a simple smile so they can quickly get through the gate. It’s much faster than traditional lines, and each Express Access lane can save participating venues as much as $8000 per season in overhead.
The same technology can be rapidly deployed at concession stands to drastically reduce wait times and securely confirm payments in a matter of seconds. Long waits for beer and food are one of the most cited complaints at NBA games, and over 50% of guests say they would happily spend more if it didn’t cost them so much time away from the court.
Finally, biometric authentication can be used to simplify internal operations like IDs for staff and accessibility permissions. It’s one of the only technologies that offers benefits across every aspect of the arena experience for everyone who comes to the game.
Creating a Slam Dunk Fan Experience with Wicket
Wicket is the premiere facial authentication platform for the sports and entertainment industry, and their software is making it easier than ever for fans to appreciate the value of a live NBA game. Delivering 99.7% accuracy with a 0% reported false positive rate, Wicket can confirm a guest’s identity for ticketing and concessions payments in as little as 300 milliseconds. It’s not the only unforgettable experience fans will have at the game, but whether it’s a W or an L on the scoreboard, Wicket makes sure they always have a reason to smile.
If you’re exploring how to improve the NBA fan experience, contact Wicket today to set up a demo of our facial authentication platform.