Fan experience at the BayArena of Bayer 04 Leverkusen

By May 28, 2014
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Stephan Rehm, Bayer 04 Head of Eventmanagement & Andreas Hinder, Bayer 04 IT-manager told us more about the achieved and upcoming projects at the BayArena of Bayer 04 Leverkusen. They also explained the importance of fan experience for the club.

Can you tell us more about innovative projects that are implemented in the stadium?

We achieved a lot of projects concerning fan experience since years:

  • For example the access to the stadium, which is crucial to be fluent; for security reasons knowing how many people are at a certain time in the stadium. Thanks to our system we can, and this is very important for us, check for the last seven games how many people were in the stadium one hour to one hour and a half before the game so we can speak during this phase with the police or security when an important amount of fans accesses the stadium. Normally you have 15,000 people one hour before the game in the stadium so when we see in our system only 5,000 fans have entered there could be a problem outside (traffic jam or an accident, etc.). In this case, we discuss with the referee to start a little bit later.
  • Since we came back to Leverkusen after the BayArena renewal we have a cashless payment system, which was an important change for the club. Now we know what people do during the match: Do they drink more beer or buy more sausages? This system helps us to determine how much money we earned after the match so the system is much safer in comparison with the old system.
  • Today (12th February) we start with something else: Google Hangout. We have about 27,000 Google+ users and that is why we start with Hangout today (12th February) after the match. Our stadium announcer and someone of the fan department will introduce it and every fan, with a Google+-account, can communicate with them. It is only for Google+-users but we will send it to YouTube Live so everyone can watch this.
    *Google Hangouts is an instant messaging and video chat platform developed by Google

We never stop innovating; maybe we will start and stop things because they aren’t interesting for our fans anymorebut that is why we work with the fans and the people here. They give us feedback about things they want or don’t want to have.
 

What are current projects Bayer 04 Leverkusen is working on?

We are working a lot on Fan Experience;

  • Our first challenge is to change all the displays here to bigger HD displays so the whole stadium can watch the game and get other information. We’ll have 500 screens in total after the project, the smallest display will be some 42” and standard will be 55”, then we have different video walls and two giant screens in the stadium. At the moment we have three video walls in the west area for VIP’s, next year we will have them in the concourse too for the fans.
  • Secondly is the new WiFi-system: we think the main reason to come to the stadium is for football, but we think in the next years people, which are coming to the stadium might also be interested in doing other things like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. This is why we must give them the possibility to go on the Internet. It is not easy to access the Internet when you have 30,000 people in a stadium so we want to offer our fans good quality. Also for security reasons it can be interesting for our fans to get in contact more easily with their family in case of emergency.
  • Our third project is a new app (launched February 15th 2014). We have two available apps: one is the app for everybody who is outside the stadium and our newest one is a special app, called “Heimspiel” (=home game), only accessible through our WiFi in the stadium. It has special content like statistics of the game (corners, free kicks, etc.) but you can watch the whole game and even other Bundesliga games. Another exclusive feature is the live commentary for blind or visually impaired people. This app is really new and in our opinion a good service for the fans and not only, this is important as well, for a small group like the VIP’s, which have sometimes exclusive service from the club. In the south stand we have twelve to fifteen seats for blind people and now everybody in the stadium can listen to the commentator, which provides the fans of specific information, different from radio commentary. We will analyze if it is interesting for everyone but it’s a special service.
  • Above of this we are inventing the next two years to fasten, to be more liable and to be more efficient by using smartphones to do cashless payments. Our mid-term strategy is even to access the stadium by smartphone, so more or less everything with the smartphone. Now we have the infrastructure, the application platforms are ready and next season we will be reinventing the application. There are so many interesting features we could integrate into the app; we have a list of 230 possible features, which obliges us to pick the useful ones. In the beginning our idea is ‘Less is more’ give people some time to get used to the system and later we will add some new features.
     

Is there any kind of revenue model for the app?

We had a model and came up with a marketing strategy set up by our marketing department. We know what we have to pay and the marketing knows what to do to earn money from our club’s partners. New partners, who are interested in this new system, are tackled down in the revenue model. Thanks to WiFi and the app everything is possible!
 

Can you tell us more about the opportunities?

Making the stay at the BayArena more attractive and having a really good fan & digital experience. Of course this is not for everybody. We want to leave the match as it is but enrich it with some information without dazing the match with a flow of digital fancy stuff, but by increasing the experience at the BayArena.

Communication is a question of generations and we want to enrich the arena with it, to show our modern arena, a kind of marketing tool for BayArena. Being able to present the most modern arena in Germany; we have to provide something special in Leverkusen. Hopefully people like to come and stay at the BayArena and like to come back but you have to keep in mind that the most important thing is what happens on the pitch. There is no doubt about it.

Our approach is to improve the show a little bit and we do this as best as we can.

Can you tell us how the app could be useful for other reasons?

I saw a system in Brooklyn that integrates security aid into the app. People can warn the club’s security when there is an emergency, for example a fan that received a heart attack or fans that are throwing pyrotechnics. We spoke about it with our head of communication if it is interesting for security reasons and other commissions like when you see a rest room that is not clean.

People will more easily provide us with this information through an app instead of sending us an e-mail. For example if the sausage is good, the beer to cold, nobody sends us an e-mail, -or only a few -. This is one of the future things. We call it project BANGI, which means BayArena next generation Infotainment. It is a good explanation of WIFi, about the approaches. BANGI is a strange data not used very often and if you write it down you understand the thinking behind everything. It’s infotainment and to make it as interesting as possible.

In the end the app will be the key for new fan experience. Having a successful team still has to be the most important but the app, which will improve in the future, starts with the live feed, statistics and ticker. In the future it might be possible that you will be able to see where the next rest room, caterer, or beer encounter is. This is the service we would like to provide our fans with, if they are open to it, but if they don’t want to use it they can come with their card, watch the game and go home afterwards.We have a lot of ideas, for sure but we think that our fans will give us new ideas, maybe the same ideas will pop up but then we know we are on the right track.
 

Which initiatives do you take to keep fans in and around the stadium?

The general problem for stadiums is that the people come very late because the biggest part is season ticket holder and they know they have their seat reserved. They don’t like to come early because it is much cheaper to drink beer at home or in the city. For security reasons it is a problem when you have so many people entering the stadium in the last minutes before the first whistle.

So we are thinking what could be done before the match to attract more fans by ‘selling’ interesting information. Our idea is to show on a normal Saturday match a second league game live before; maybe the fans might like that. We will analyse this but we are still looking for better alternatives. I think we tried everything: from football match of the youth, football on a pitch, fan matches, little children who played football…

We’ve had a few happy hours (selling beer cheaper when you come one hour before kickoff) but it is very difficult. Luckily it’s not only here, we spoke about it with the colleagues in the league and they have the same problems.
 

Does Bayer 04 Leverkusen organize special things for children?

We have special things for children like a ‘Kindergarten’ here: the members’ children can come before the match and the parents can watch the game but this is not a special thing, everybody in the league has something like this. We are always thinking about what we can do for these kinds of groups, for sure.

You once told Leverkusen doesn’t need a bigger stadium. Can you explain why?

Currently we have a bigger one: In 2005 we had 22,500 seats and now around 30,000. The problem is not the fan experience, but Leverkusen is just a small city with 160,000 citizens and you have a lot of clubs next to Leverkusen like 1. FC Köln, Borussia Dortmund, FC Schalke 04, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Fortuna Düsseldorf, etc. So at the end 30,000 spectators in the stadium for us is really big. We do a lot to get the people here; it is not like in Dortmund where they have 80,000 people every fortnight. It is very difficult and the fan experience besides the football match, the most important thing, is by having the best sausages, best internet, etc. but if the team is not successful, nobody is interested in things behind the team. The team must work very hard for us and then we can bring all the other fan experience to the people as well.

We are looking at other markets because the other teams’ fans won’t leave ‘their club’ because of sporty reasons. Instead of doing this we try to reach new fans, for example of the ‘Bergisches Land’ (Regio Nordrhein-Westfalen), 10-15 km from the East of Leverkusen. We think there is a lot of potential. We will see what happen, but if you just look at Leverkusen it is very difficult to fill the stadium with just local guys from Leverkusen.

We don’t like it when you watch the game of Leverkusen on TV and we have for example 27,000 people here. It’s quite good if you know that 160,000 people live in Leverkusen people, but free seats on television gives us a bad feeling. So it is sometimes difficult to find a good solution between both things in the end.
 

Final question: Do you have a fan experience idea for other ESSMA members?

The most important thing to know is that every market is different. It isn’t possible to bring fan experience from the German market to France, Russia, Poland or Italy. They all play 90 minutes football every two weeks at home but in the end people in Germany don’t like what people in Italy enjoy for example.

A major problem is that people try to copy everything from the United States and bring it to Europe. In Europe there are already so many different countries and cultures, which makes looking to Europe as a whole really difficult. For example in Italy they have problems to bring the people to the stadium because of the quality of the stadiums. The most of the stadiums are more than 25 years old.

We should learn and copy from each other but keep in mind the cultural differences and adjust it to obtain the best fan experience.

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