Celtic FC strikes the UK’s first ‘full-scale’ Wi-Fi-stadium commercial deal

Celtic FC has become the first club in the UK to commercialise its high-density Wi-Fi network, signing up Unibet as its first major backer in a deal hopes kickstarts efforts advertiser interest in the benefits of being able to target fans with real-time promotions during matches.

Fans of the Scottish champions will be able to use the stadium’s wi-fi app to place bets with Unibet as they unfold, such as penalties, cautions, next scorer and result predictions.

Unibet wants to raise its profile in the crowded football market and will be the only betting brand to use the service despite Ladbrokes being one of the club’s official partners.

Ladbrokes trialled the technology last season, according to Celtic but was not yet ready to commit to using the relatively new technology. It means that supporters will be able to place online bets with Unibet from their smartphones or visit a kiosk within the stadium to bet with Ladbrokes.

The Unibet tie-up is the first full-scale commercial service to run on the stadium’s wi-fi since it launched last October. Celtic sponsors Magners and Ladbrokes have tested the app for several matches with the former using its “Man of the Match” voting feature, while the latter ran in-game betting prior to Unibet coming on board.

Moving forward, Celtic says it will accelerate sales plans for the service, using Unibet as a live case study to demonstrate how reaching supporters via their smarpthones can elevate the matchday experience rather than dampen it. Industry observers have voiced concerns that the prospect of fans looking at their phones rather than the pitch could have a negative impact on a stadium’s atmosphere.

All commercial activity using the wi-fi service is limited to the app and will be brokered by media agency Sports Revolution to both Celtic sponsors and companies in general. The restriction to the app gives the club greater control over the data of those fans that opt-in for targeted offers, which it is contractually obliged to share with the partner brands.

Kevin McQuillan, head of marketing and multi media at Celtic FC, says the club is building a “second-screen proposition” so that fans “who want to come to Celtic Park when weighing up the other places to watch football don’t feel they’re missing out on things they could get elsewhere”.

“Very few” commercial opportunities have arisen to date, admits McQuillan but those brands that have shown an interest have looked at how they can drive sales from the app. Celtic’s kit maker Nike has had talks about how it can promote new launches.

McQuillan adds: “It’s taken a while to get a commercial partner on board but we didn’t expect to bring a partner on board later this season, so the fact that we’ve achieved this [commercial] target within the first half of the season is pretty much in keeping with the time scale we set ourselves.”

Football clubs view the notion of a connected stadium as a way to lift matchday revenues but have been reluctant to commit due to tie raft of unproven solutions on the market.  Manchester City is the only Premier League to offer free wi-fi throughout its stadium, while other clubs have opted to hold off investments due to Financial Fair Play rules to comply with.

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