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Ole Miss leverages beacons to engage sports fans

The system, which will be in operation when the Ole Miss football team plays its home opener Sept. 13, will be integrated into an updated mobile application which provides users with scores, schedules and personalized dashboard content. It shows how collegiate sports organizations are beginning to follow the lead of professional teams in using beacons to build brand engagement. 

?Through the university?s successful preexisting rewards program, Rebel Rewards, the athletics department realized the power of creating loyalty and rewarding fans,? said Erik Bjontegard, president and founder of San Diego, CA-based Total Communicator Solutions, which developed the Spark Compass marketing platform that underpins the system. 

?The old system was rather cumbersome and needed a lot of manual check-in, both for the fans and Ole Miss staff managing the system,? he said. ?Integrated with Spark Compass, the new program connects with users instantly and rewards them in real time.? 

First in collegiate sports 
The Oxford, MS, research university, whose sports team play in the Southeastern Conference of the National Collegiate Athletic Association and has a $70 million athletics budget, said its beacon system is the first in collegiate sports. 

The system uses more than 100 Gimbal beacons with Apple?s iBeacon technology placed throughout athletic venues on the 1,000-acre campus. 

?The platform uses beacon technology to automatically check-in event attendees and assign points to those individuals, tallying up points for fan rewards,? Mr. Bjontegard said. ?This is the first level of the app and it is already active.? 

Rewards will include branded game-day attire, accessories, game tickets and more. 

Since Apple introduced iBeacon in mid-2013, professional sports teams and organizations from Major League Baseball to the National Basketball Association?s Brooklyn Nets have used it to enhance engagement and expand their fan bases. 

IBeacon allows users to target offers with pinpoint accuracy, as well as to simplify payments and enable on-site offers. Its low energy demands and low cost also are big selling points. 

Data drawn from beacon technology is also used to monitor consumer behavior and decisions, helping to improve communications and marketing programs. 

Engaging fans with technology.

At Ole Miss, the beacons activate a mobile phone when it is within range and sends a query to the Spark Compass platform. The platform then sends relevant information back to the device based on what the user has opted in for and the exact location of the user. 

The technology can improve the fan experience by facilitating faster check-in at sporting events, helping guests to find their seats and sending alerts to special food offers within the stadium. The technology can also reduce operating costs by automating many manual procedures, such as use of scanners and QR codes. 

The updated Rebel Rewards app is available in the Apple App Store. It will be available on GooglePlay around mid-September. 

Campus-wide installation 
The service is already available and installed in numerous areas on the Ole Miss campus. All sports facilities on the campus will soon be beacon-equipped. 

?End user experience is the main focus,? Mr. Bjontegard said. ?We have an active in-app leaderboard creating gratification for earning points.

?Characteristics of the app include alerts on special offers in the stadium, benefits for alumni and season ticket holders, availability of branded merchandise and rewards programs ? the first of its kind in collegiate sports,? he said. 

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter with Mobile Marketer, New York.