It’s that’s time of year again – football season is upon us. As diehard baseball geeks pout about having to share TV time with another major sport, and most of the country goes into New England Patriot-hating mode, the digital payments and commerce industry gets pretty optimistic – and even excited.
That’s because every NFL season promises to bring advances in payments. Think about it: Big football stadium crowds serve as almost a captive audience for payment services providers, who know that any significant attempt to make the procurement of concessions, souvenirs and other goods as frictionless as possible will likely go over well among mainstream consumers.
This year promises more advances in biometrics – both in deployments and in the lessons learned from ongoing and new methods of authentication and payment. As new PYMNTS research documents, over the past year, 18 Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL) and Major League Soccer (MLS) arenas have deployed biometric solutions by CLEAR.
CenturyLink Field, home of the Seattle Seahawks, was the first NFL stadium to adopt the technology. According to Zach Hensley, vice president of operations and guest experiences for the Seahawks and CenturyLink Field, these services are changing how fans experience live games and boosting their overall enjoyment. “Our fans really like the VIP experience of express lanes that shorten their wait time to get into the building,” Hensley said.
The move comes amid a general trend in all areas of payments and commerce to move beyond the limitations and security risks that come with older forms of ID authentication and verification.
But it’s not just payments where the NFL and other sports can shine when it comes to digital and mobile technologies.
As other PYMNTS research confirms, consumers are set to spend $23 billion buying mobile tickets for sports and gaming events by 2023. Last year, in fact, some 80 million people bought mobile game tickets – and it is fairly certain that number will continue to increase in 2019 and into 2020.
Mobile apps, too, are playing a bigger role in football and other major sports. That’s because stadiums and sports teams are looking for more opportunities to connect with at-home and online viewers as they come to represent another segment of attendees. These teams are looking to mobile apps to innovate payments in a way that will revitalize purchases and the game experience.
A decrease in game attendance also could provide more pressure and motivation to improve the at-home (or at-sports pub) NFL experience this year. Attendance at NFL games declined from approximately 17.8 million people in 2016 to 17.2 million last year as many fans have opted for at-home experiences. Bundled sports broadcast packages, social media and high-definition televisions allow them to enjoy games from the comfort of their living rooms.
Not only that, but over the next decade, some 90 percent of sports bets will be made online. Indeed, the general sports world – and the NFL, of course, is included in that in a big way – is also adapting to the increasing popularity of online sports betting, with 10 states passing rules regulating the activity in 2018 after the Supreme Court ruled in favor. Revenue for the online sports betting market is predicted to reach $150 billion, making it likely that even more states will follow suit with regulations of their own.
For the 2019 NFL season – PYMNTS is based in Boston, so Go Pats! – we can also expect more voice-assistant retail as part of the games. That’s because last season, Amazon Alexa and similar technologies upped their own game as the Super Bowl approached, and it’s plausible to expect more such activity given the increasing popularity of such retail technology. As well, last year the NFL rolled out its first standalone voice assistant app, which is dubbed “The Rookie’s Guide to the NFL.” The organizations’ Alexa skill is said to include information about the history of the Super Bowl, as well as provide podcast previews. Those who use the app can ask Alexa questions like “how tall is Aaron Rodgers?” or “what is defensive pass interference?”
Gear up, PYMNTS readers – the new NFL season is about to start, and that means more moves from payments and commerce players.