Case Study: Denver Broncos Reenergize the Fan Experience, Growing Partnership Opportunities With Cisco

Since Sports Authority Field at Mile High opened in 2001, the Denver Broncos knew that technology would play a significant role in creating a differentiated experience for fans. Keeping up with technology transitions like video, mobility, and social media would be critical to delivering the experience fans were going to demand. The Broncos continue to believe this is one of the key ways its franchise is able to lure fans off of their couches and into the stadium to enjoy an unrivaled live game experience.

WATCH: Russ Trainor, VP of IT for the Denver Broncos discusses Sports Authority Stadium’s Cisco network.

WATCH: Russ Trainor, VP of IT for the Denver Broncos discusses Sports Authority Stadium’s Cisco network.

In 2010, the Denver Broncos envisioned a state-of-the-art stadium experience for fans and superior advertising and sponsorship offerings for their partners. But an aging network with inadequate wireless coverage and limited foundation for future services couldn’t support the team’s vision.

The Broncos wanted to reenergize its inventory assets to offer more options, with fast activation, greater targeting capabilities, and an ability to quickly adapt content when needed. Existing signage and sponsorship inventory was limited. The venue offered approximately 100 fixed, backlit signs for partners’ messages. Creative content had to be generic so that it would last an entire season or longer, because changing content on a sign cost $1,000 per sign and required about three weeks lead time. The signs also limited the number of messaging touch points per partner and the locations where their messages would be seen.

Sports Authority Field also hosts approximately 300 special events per year, and those events have their own messaging and creative needs. Special events teams often had to create and post banners and other temporary media. Visual clutter quickly took over.

Advertising inventory was also limited. There were a number of 19-inch tube televisions mounted high off the floor in stadium concourses and branded sponsor areas. Not only were they difficult to see, there was no viable way for the team to combine partner advertising with the Broncos’ specific branding needs.

Managing inventory was labor-intensive at best. With no way to centrally manage signage, displays, and television advertising, staff had to manually program content for delivery and post and remove special event materials. Materials often had to be put up and taken down within 24 hours to make way for the next event. The Broncos realized that they needed a more flexible and dynamic solution to accommodate partner and operational needs.

Fan engagement through mobile devices was similarly limited. They could text messages to win a prize or email photo or video content from green screens or TV anchor desks but not much else. The Broncos wanted a way to increase fan engagement and bring more excitement to every game or event. High-density WiFi capabilities were essential. Even though the team had increased signal strength in its existing wireless network, it wasn’t enough to provide robust, high-performance coverage everywhere that it was needed.

“We needed ‘future-proof’ flexibility to deliver the caliber of fan experience we want to offer,” says Russ Trainor, VP of IT and the Broncos chief information officer. “That meant we needed a solid infrastructure that was flexible and modular so that we can continue to build and deliver new services for our fans, partners and employees.”

A Platform for Innovation and Growth
A high-density WiFi network topped the team’s most-wanted list. “We wanted synergistic network and WiFi platforms, and it turned out that Cisco delivered the whole package—a solid, flexible architecture,” says Trainor. “The powerful Connected Stadium networking platform gives us the future-proofing and high performance we need and Cisco wireless solutions knocked it out of the park.”

The Cisco Connected Stadium WiFi solution supports Sports Authority Field at Mile High and their practice facility, as well as Denver Broncos headquarters at Dove Valley in Englewood. In each of these locations, Cisco wireless supports tablet apps and mobile collaboration for employees.

In addition, the Broncos selected Cisco StadiumVision for delivering real-time, live, HD video from any source. Content from in-house feeds and external local and national channels create an exciting, immersive experience for fans throughout the venue. The renovated stadium now hosts 1,200 displays that are 55 inches or larger for compelling high-definition experiences and high-impact partner content. Large video walls offer a lasting impression and support complementary sidebar promotions and ads, which are a new inventory item for the Broncos. The video and digital ads can be changed independently based on event needs. Luxury suites have 47-inch screens in the front of the suites with customized welcome messages for each suite client. This is complemented by a 55-inch television for live action and relevant advertising and promotions and a 32-inch television on the back wall for live stats and video along with sponsor logo placement opportunities.

Supporting everything is the Cisco Connected Stadium network. With this powerful foundation, the Broncos have more than significantly increased their technological capabilities to power exciting, dynamic fan experiences and support organizational and partner needs. At the same time, they have a modular platform that can support innovative services and opportunities well into the future.

Delivering New Fan Experiences and Capturing New Business Opportunities
With Cisco StadiumVision, Sports Authority Field went from being merely a football field and event center to becoming a powerful marketing platform and blockbuster fan experience delivery vehicle. With the 1,200 55-inch displays, a new scoreboard, ribbon board, audio, and suite upgrades, the entire stadium now offers a brighter, more immersive and compelling environment.

“In addition to keeping our fans engaged in all of the action throughout the stadium, we have so much more to offer sponsors,” says Brady Kellogg, VP of corporate partnerships for the Broncos. “Now we can offer segmentation opportunities for advertisers, sponsors, concessionaires, and merchandising partners. Sponsors can reach a broader range of people through more brand touch points and tailor specific messages to specific levels of fans.” The Cisco StadiumVision platform has both expanded the amount and value of the digital inventory that the Broncos are able to offer their partners.

For example, the Broncos can offer exclusivity to complement L-Wraps, (custom content overlaid onto the bottom and side of the monitor, framing the live video) whether throughout the event in branded zones or during specific periods of time in certain instances, such as pregame only. Bud Light sponsors the Mile High Mountain Village pregame area and Coca Cola sponsors the Fan Cave. Advertising can be targeted to section, area, and specific monitors, as well as deliver separate messaging and unique advertising to individual destination bars, entitlement zones, and seating areas. Sponsors can attach promotions to periods of time or critical moments in time. Quick- serve restaurants can do flighted advertising buys for certain games or events rather than full year. Display backgrounds can be changed instantly, such as changing them all to pink to support breast cancer awareness or delivering promotional safe driving messages from an alcoholic beverage company sponsor after the game ends.

This newfound advertising flexibility has already yielded significant benefits. The Broncos achieved a 50% increase in partner sponsorship revenue using the Cisco StadiumVision platform compared to more traditional, static concourse assets.

“We love this reenergized asset,” says Kellogg. “We can slice the pie thinner and bring more partners in. Partners are realizing more value from their investments. We’re retaining inventory. And we’re delivering quality advertising that cycles quickly and is not distracting. It’s a much more resilient asset that our partners greatly appreciate.” In addition, the Broncos have also teamed with Cisco’s content services team to optimize these assets and make the content development and delivery process seamless and impactful for partners.

“We can also offer partners brand blending with video for many more impressions in a high-energy environment,” says Kellogg. “We’re helping partners better align their messages with the content that fans care about, such as the Broncos and NFL Redzone channels. We’ve created a template to deliver quality ads in a manner that cycles prominently, but not intrusively. There is an art in getting this right, and we’re continuing to discover what fans enjoy most as we continue to innovate with this platform.”

It’s also easier to work with third-party events with the Cisco StadiumVision platform. The Broncos can quickly transform the entire venue for events such as Guinness International Champions Cup soccer tournaments or the University of Colorado vs. Colorado State University college football rivalry game. The venue can easily mix third-party event inventory with Broncos inventory.

“Our partners are investing with us to achieve greater levels of business success. We offer the unique ability to blend targeted advertising and branding with game video and other features to a full stadium of passionate fans” states Mac Freeman, SVP of Business Development.

Operationally, everything runs on one network and is easy to control. The operations team can power on and off and tune every screen in the venue from a central control panel. Content for every display is controlled and managed from the same operations console and programmed to run at any specific time on any specific screen. At the close of the event, the Broncos can deliver streaming traffic reports, car trouble assistance, exit signs, and public transit schedules to better manage crowd flow. All of these features make for smoother operations with lower operating expenses.

Enabling New Business Services via Reliable and Seamless Connectivity
The Cisco Connected Stadium Wi-Fi solution is delivering new opportunities and efficiencies. Suite Level concierge staff can present food options to guests and place their food orders using their tablets. Food choices can be beautifully presented and orders are sent directly to the kitchen. Now the concessionaire can reduce the number of concierge staff needed for providing these services, and suite owners love the convenience and level of attention.

One concessionaire partner outfitted 100 WiFi enabled point-of-sale stations on mobile carts to complement fixed positions throughout the stadium. Now, beverage carts can be repositioned game to game to wherever they’re needed to reduce lines, supplement fixed-location concession stands, and deliver outstanding service to fans.

The Broncos have been able to leverage their WiFi infrastructure to extend the fan experience and provide new partner opportunities beyond the stadium walls into the parking lot and the Noble Energy Sports Legends Mall, a fan zone and tailgate area outside the stadium. In addition to providing enhanced connectivity, the Broncos worked creatively with Dish to establish an entitlement position in sponsoring free parking lot WiFi. Now fans can connect and engage from the moment they pull into the parking lot.

The benefits of a reliable, high density WiFi don’t end there. It’s opening up new market of sponsors that want to be associated with a leading-edge organization. For instance, one of the Broncos’ sponsors, CenturyLink, uses a speed theme throughout all of its activations and therefore CenturyLink looks for specific capabilities when it selects a sports and entertainment partner. The Broncos now offer the speed and reliability CenturyLink wants to reinforce the core pillars of its brand.

Fans benefit, too. Beyond the standard uses of their mobile devices, fans are now able to interact with each other at events. They can simultaneously upload photos with hashtags to be featured on the scoreboard and video walls. Fans, and sponsors, can also engage through both of the team apps: Denver Broncos 365 presented by Verizon and Broncos In-Stadium Live presented by Xfinity.

This is Just the Beginning
The Broncos continue to add WiFi coverage, displays, televisions, and unique activation opportunities to meet sponsors’ needs and create a more engaging fan

environment. They are also pursuing opportunities for deeper integration and engagement across all of their digital assets and applications.

“We continue to gather best practices to connect our organization, our partners and our fans to make every experience as compelling as possible,” says Kellogg. “There is a lot of room to grow, but we’re scoring well with our partners already and it’s paying off handsomely for us, for them, and for fans.”