Live Nation Uses Wi-Fi and Geofencing to Connect Sponsors with Fans

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DNCE performing at Atlanta's Piedmont Park for the Music Midtown festival.
DNCE performing at Atlanta's Piedmont Park for the Music Midtown festival. Credit: Chris McKay/Getty Images
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When concertgoers descended on Atlanta's Piedmont Park for the Music Midtown festival in September, brands invited select female fans with over 5,000 Twitter followers to a special viewing area to see acts like Alabama Shakes and The Killers up close.

"Elizabeth, we love your look," a festival sponsor wrote on Instagram when an attendee posted a photo of herself, according to concert behemoth Live Nation, which put on Music Midtown. (It declined to disclose the sponsor.) The sponsor invited her to visit its branded selfie photo area. "We've got a rooftop view overlooking two stages (by the Ferris wheel)."

It was fan marketing and influencer recruitment enabled by Live Nation, which says it produces an event somewhere in the world the equivalent of every 20 minutes. The company used geofencing techniques to help capture data associated with 18-to-34-year-old attendees who might be valuable for future marketing and ad targeting. "We can use social listening to surface really relevant attendees," said Samantha Sichel, Live Nation's VP of digital product and business development, with "relevance" often determined in part by the size of someone's social following.

But that's only part of what tech is allowing Live Nation to achieve at performance spaces that could increasingly be called "smart venues."

The company has embarked on a new three-year partnership with Cisco, which is implementing Wi-Fi connectivity at ten Live Nation venues to ensure that fans have signals strong enough to post photos and videos to social media even in a huge crowd. Cisco will add Wi-Fi—labeled "Fan-Fi"—to 20
additional Live Nation venues in 2017.

That Wi-Fi arguably helps Live Nation at least as much as fans, and not just because it makes it more likely that concertgoers can publicize all the fun they're having at Live Nation shows. It also makes it easier for someone at an event to access the Live Nation app, which can collect the mobile device ID on that person's phone when she's opted in to use it. It then links that ID to information such as the number of tickets she bought at what cost from Live Nation Entertainment subsidiary Ticketmaster or what drinks she orders to her seat during the show. Live Nation can feed all that into its data management platform, Krux, to help build audiences for later ad targeting.

Cisco also provides real-time data to Live Nation showing where attendees are congregating within venues, which food and beverage areas have short lines, or what merch sales areas are crowded and might need more T-shirts stocked. Visitors using Wi-Fi at 10 Live Nation outdoor amphitheaters, including Perfect Vodka Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach, Fla., and Sleep Train Amphitheater in Chula Vista, Calif., might receive discount offers via push notifications on their phones suggesting that they go to a less-busy area to buy merch.

"We have a lot of analytics that we can deliver on foot-traffic and that sort of thing," said Michele Janes, VP of global corporate marketing and branding at Cisco.

And Live Nation learns about its attendees through a geofencing technology that it built. When people make public posts to social platforms such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter via mobile sites or apps, or visit partner apps and sites such as Bandsintown, Rolling Stone, Yahoo or People, the geofence in a venue is pinged. Geofences use GPS signals from mobile devices to tell which devices are inside a predefined virtual perimeter. Live Nation uses social listening software to determine the social media handles of people posting to social channels from within the geofences in its amphitheaters to build data for targeting brand messages.

The data fuels deals with sponsors. "We can start to really develop this great profile," said Russell Wallach, president of media and sponsorship at Live Nation. "We can now go to Bud Light or to Pepsi or one of our other brand partners. We can now work with them to market, whether it's ads or experiences that we know truly make sense."

Of course, it's one thing for a brand to respond to a message posted to Twitter, and something possibly more invasive for a brand to acknowledge someone's current physical location, suggest she stop by its
selfie photo station and later send promotional messages to her account.

People who post to social media from within a Live Nation geofence aren't notified that their messages will be noted and scrutinized for marketers' benefit.

The company said it does not tie device ID data to the social data it gathers. Instead, the information is used exclusively to target messages in those social platforms. A fan who posted a photo from a Live Nation event, for example, might later see a sponsored post in his Facebook feed.

"Since our tools leverage the open APIs of the social channels, there is no fan opt-in or opt-out required," a Live Nation representative said of its geofencing techniques. "The allowances are affiliated with users' relationships with the social channels."