How Intel and Cisco are helping the NFL’s 49ers improve the fan experience

Kickoff is four days away, and Costa Kladianos is preparing as if he were San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy getting ready to face the Detroit Lions in Sunday’s NFC Championship game.

Before nearly 72,000 fans stream into Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. — a football’s throw from the heart of Silicon Valley — Kladianos is keeping a close eye on parking, ticketing, food and beverages, security and merchandise sales.

“It may sound like a cliché, but I look at every game as a Super Bowl and [at] what we can do better,” Kladianos, who is the executive vice president and head of technology for the San Francisco 49ers, said in an interview. “It’s all about streamlining operations. This is our biggest game of the year.”

As the technology quarterback for the 49ers organization, Kladianos is tasked with parsing data in real time, and he’s leaning on an all-star cast of tech giants — among them SAP
and Cisco Systems
— to make sure things run smoothly. “We hope to set records in food, beverage and merch sales,” he said.

Priority No. 1 is “getting people through the gates,” he said, with the help of apps like WaitTime that use high-definition cameras to estimate how long it will take fans to enter the stadium.

At the center of operations is SAP Executive Huddle, a one-of-a-kind operation for a North American professional sports team. Built on data collected by SAP’s analytics cloud, it is housed in a suite at Levi’s resembling an air-traffic-control room, stocked with drinks and assorted snacks.

Another app, appropriately called HappyOrNot, collects real-time feedback from fans about concession stands, restrooms and other areas. Should a trouble spot pop up, stadium employees are deployed to rectify the situation.

Also read: Detroit and its football team have long struggled. Could the city be like the Lions and roar again?

“It’s about providing feedback in the moment,” Navin Prasad, vice president of Bahwan CyberTek, said in an interview. The company’s DropThought app measures data in real time on parking, crowd flow, food and the state of suites during games at Levi’s Stadium and at Jacksonville’s EverBank Stadium.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are also using DropThought to gauge the sentiments of roughly 4,000 staffers on Sundays with the goal of improving their performance, according to Kelsey Holmgaard, senior manager of guest experience for the Jaguars.

As the 49ers refine their tech operations, they’re taking copious notes: Levi’s Stadium will host Super Bowl LX in 2026.

“Before all these apps, data was accumulated through an eye test and word of mouth,” Kladianos said. “A lot has changed.”

Related: NFL star Brock Purdy made $870,000 this season — 16 college football players made more from NIL

From the archives (January 2020): San Francisco 49ers hope to score big with digital dashboard of fan data

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