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On Super Bowl Weekend, Mobile Payments Keep Fans Moving

Though just about every fan at Levi’s Stadium will have his or her phone out for pictures at the opening kickoff of Super Bowl 50, odds are that fans aren’t looking to spend their fantasy vacation weekends glued to their smartphones. While the average Broncos or Panthers fans might not care to notice, this Super Bowl will be one of the first to put mobile payments and commerce platforms through a stress test like none it’s had before.

Bloomberg Business reported that for a few Silicon Valley giants, Super Bowl 50 and the crowds it attracts is both a measure of the technical proficiency ride-hailing services and on-demand lodging platforms have achieved over a handful of years, as well as a challenge to their local reputations. Uber, Lyft and Airbnb all got their starts around the Bay Area, and now that the NFL has brought its marquee events in a landmark year to San Francisco/Santa Clara, the not-so-much-anymore startups are pulling out all the stops to ensure seamless consumer experiences.

Uber — no stranger itself to timely promotions — is leveraging its status as a member of the San Francisco’s Super Bowl Host Committee to occupy a central role in many fans’ weekend activities. Bloomberg explained that in addition to designated pick-up and drop-off areas for drivers and riders at Levi’s Stadium, the days leading up to the game saw Uber drivers delivering a number of Super Bowl-related perks, namely chicken wings, stress-reducing puppies and even NFL legend Joe Montana (in case any fans are itching to play some catch with “Joe Cool”).

Not to be outdone, Lyft got in on the San Francisco football celebrity game by sending Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice around the city as an undercover driver  — not the type of stunt that will drive sales, but one that could help Lyft and Uber momentarily break through the white noise of everything else happening over the weekend.

“Knowing that it was in our backyard this year certainly started our thinking about the different ways we would be able to celebrate our city,” Amy Friedlander Hoffman, head of business development and experiential marketing at Uber, told Bloomberg.

Fellow area startup Airbnb isn’t running the same kind of promos that Uber is to attract users, but that doesn’t mean it’s sitting on the sidelines for Super Bowl 50. A spokesperson told Bloomberg that it estimates over 15,000 bookings by Sunday, which would clock in at more than four times the number of Airbnb lodgers that traveled to last year’s championship game in Phoenix, Arizona. Though the average listing for the weekend only clocks in at $225 per night, homes and apartments next to mass transit stations — or located in Santa Clara proper where the game will actually be held — have effortlessly fetched much higher dollar amounts.

With so many people hailing rides and booking rooms — and so much digital money flying around, too, ensuring that every dollar goes where it’s supposed to might be the third most important defensive strategy that takes place over Super Bowl weekend. Fortunately, mobile payments security at the stadium is also top of mind. Hospitality Technology reported that Ingenico Group and FreedomPay have partnered to install 550 smart payment terminals featuring PCI-validated, point-to-point encryption throughout Levi’s Stadium. Whenever any of the estimated 75,000 attendees orders a hot dog from their seats or at concessions stands, the odds of hackers intercepting payment information is now a low-percentage play.

There can only be one winner when the lights at Levi’s Stadium turn down late Sunday evening, but if Uber, Lyft and mobile payments providers play their cards right, they could all come out of Super Bowl 50 weekend looking stronger than ever.

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