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High-flying 49ers set the pace off the field with real-time tech

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London (AFP)

The NFL's San Francisco 49ers are blazing a trail for sports clubs and franchises across the globe with their innovative approach to improving the fans' game-day experience at their Levi's Stadium.

The 49ers' perfect start to the season is even better news for concession stallholders because, as chief revenue officer Brent Schoeb says, the food and drink taste better when the team are winning.

An analytics team at the stadium in Santa Clara, California, monitors real-time data in areas such as ticketing and attendance, parking, food and retail.

All this feedback appears on screens in a suite specially devoted to the award-winning Executive Huddle project, created in partnership with German software company SAP.

The statistics flooding in provide information on everything from whether there are queues for the car parks or long lines of fans at the gates of the stadium to whether the toilets are up to standard and the satisfaction levels with the concession stands.

"We do surveys after every game and we have conducted 300,000 surveys since the new stadium came into play (in 2014)," Schoeb told AFP after picking up the Leaders Sports Award for Innovation at a ceremony in London.

"Now we are getting to the point of understanding of a good win and a bad loss.

"A hot dog is warmer and tastes better, the car parking is a lot easier, the beer is cooler when you are winning than when you are losing."

- 'A few more beers' -

Schoeb, who is in his second spell with the 49ers having previously worked in the NBA with the Memphis Grizzlies and for Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Indy 500, said the aim was to progress from being proactive to predictive.

"With Ticketmaster, the minute a certain amount of scans hits in certain areas we can immediately react," he said.

"For instance, if a queue is backing up for a car park we can switch the digital arrow to tell them to go to the next car park.

"We can tell how many people are coming through a gate in a certain time segment and we can switch them to one round the corner which is completely empty with digital signage or alerts through the stadium app or tap them on the shoulder."

Schoeb says once alerted, the analytics teams can direct employees to the relevant area of the stadium to resolve the issue.

"The nice thing is with a year-and-a-half of data we can compare week one with this year from last," he said.

He gave the examples of a problem at a concession stand that fans particularly like: "There are a couple of unhappy faces and none last week so we can see that comparison and it sends out a signal to our teams."

Schoeb said around two dozen teams globally had declared an interest in implementing the same system and it is thanks to 49ers president Al Guido that they have such an envied system.

"We were one of the quicker teams to turn data round post match or event, managing it in three days," he said. "It allowed us to make decisions for next week's match.

"However, Al said it was not quick enough even though it was the NFL best practice at the time.

"So one of our executives, Nikki Hawkins, went to meet SAP and visited Bayern Munich and a couple of their other partnerships.

"She came back and said 'with their software platform I think we can get real time data on game day and take decisions on game day'."

Schoeb said the system meant both staff and spectators were satisfied.

"It gives us peace of mind and getting you through in the quickest possible time is no doubt better for selling a few more beers," he said.

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