How Barclays Center Uses Technology to Keep the Modern Fan Experience Current

Dancers and mascots aren’t enough these days

The Hashtag Sports Fest concluded Thursday after three days of panel discussions, workshops and networking events about all things sports, technology and digital media.

High-level execs from companies like Twitter, Fox Sports, MLS and The Players' Tribune joined startup CEOs, digital agencies, sponsorship firms and student volunteers in Brooklyn for the industry showcase of technology and the millennial and Gen Z sports fan.

Adweek conducted Wednesday's keynote interview with Barclays Center CMO Elisa Padilla, the brains behind the Brooklyn Nets' highly successful "Hello Brooklyn" campaign, which rolled out when the NBA franchise relocated from New Jersey.

Stadiums and arenas are in a race to keep up with the modern, connected fan. Teams are targeting millennials and using mobile apps to improve fans' game-day experience in a variety of ways.

Padilla oversees marketing for Barclays Center, which opened in 2012 is home to the Nets and NHL's Islanders. 

"Everything we do surrounds enhancing the guest experience. We understand that mobile and what used to be the third screen is now the first screen. No one leaves their home without their mobile phone," Padilla said before explaining that fans are greeted with a push notification alerting them of free WiFi upon entering Barclays Center.

"We're in a society where we're connected 24/7. If we didn't offer free WiFi, it would be awful; it would be an awful guest experience. We know how consumers are behaving," Padilla said. "It's our job, as marketers, to anticipate those needs of our customers."

Padilla has also created a loyalty program that rewards fans for engaging with the team via social media and a mobile e-wallet sponsored by American Express. Fans can even order food directly to their seats through the Barclays Center mobile app, which Padilla considers a utility app—as opposed to the Nets and Islanders apps that have a different strategy.

"The Barclays Center app is about making your life easier in the venue," Padilla said. "We promote our apps through all of our institutional assets, but the team apps are about building the brand and the connection between the fans and team."  

Padilla says all the in-stadium technology is designed to improve fan experience rather than increase her company's revenue. 

"We haven't figured out how to monetize all of this stuff," Padilla said. "It's about the guests coming to Barclays Center and having the best experience, staying connected and being able to share content."

The arena holds over 15,000 people, and Padilla considers each one a potential brand ambassador if they discuss the event on social media.  

"If they're in Barclays Center and able to share their story, that, to us, is the payoff," Padilla said. 

Barclays Center isn't the only arena with state-of-the-art technology, and Padilla says she stays in touch with folks from other venues and other teams. She's willing to share information because she's been on the other side of it, and members of her team travel to each arena on a regular basis.

"It's all about sharing best practices," she said. "From all of the site surveys that we've done, we've instituted a few things to enhance our experience. On the NBA side, we as marketers have the best job. We have 29 other consultants that we can call."