Stadium Text Messages and SMS for Event Security

Forward-thinking sports venues are encouraging fans to use SMS to report security incidents.

Updated: 08-5-2011
Abbreviated by SUMOTEXT. Full Story Published Here

I spent this past week sweating through my suit in New Orleans, La., where the University of Southern Mississippi was hosting the National Sports Safety and Security Conference and Exhibition. Put on by Dr. Lou Marciani's team at the National Center for Spectator Sports Safety & Security (NCS4), the event brings together venue operators, stadium security managers, university police representatives, and chiefs from organizations like NASCAR, the NFL and Major League Baseball......

One of the consistent messages that came from this conference was how leagues and stadiums are implementing text message programs. These facility operators (like the San Diego Padres, Jacksonville's EverBank Field, and even the NFL and MLB as a whole) are encouraging fans to send text message of inappropriate behavior in the stands. Where fans before were sometimes leery of reporting violators (it's usually reports of obnoxiously drunk fans who probably deserve ejection) for fear of reprisals, they now can text their seating area report directly to the command center without it being obvious that they were the person who stood up and pointed out the unruly person to an usher or security officer.

I want to share some best practices based around these programs:

1. Signage is key. A number of the venues that said they were accepting text message reports noted that they have signage throughout the venue, on program guides and even in parking areas.

2. Expect to have more reports than you had before. If you're tracking incidents, you'll see a distinct increase. That doesn't mean your stands are more unruly than ever before; it just means you're hearing about incidents that you never heard of in the past.

3. Add guest services to the mix. Forward thinking venues weren't just using text messages to report security issues, but also to handle guest services. Where is the ATM? Can you fix my broken seat? Can we get a hot dog vendor over to this section?

Is it effective? Here's what Jeff Miller, the director of security for the NFL has to say:

"Text messaging has been a huge bonus to us. It is an early warning system. Fans in the stands are going to pick up on those [security incident] indicators before police or our security people might know. That allows us to intervene on the early side. We can send someone down to talk to that fan so that we don't have to get to the point where they need to be ejected or arrested."

Most facility managers I spoke with at the conference said that it was a sports security tactic that could also be applied in the corporate facility world as well, especially on corporate campuses and multi-floor office towers. The reality is that a certain percentage of your guests and employees are now more likely to send you a text than to actually call your security office. Adapt to that social change and use it to your advantage!

About the author: Geoff Kohl is editor-in-chief and associate publisher of

SUMOTEXT Sports Venue Security and Guest Assist Programs

Fan Security and Conduct

Anyone who has attended a large stadium event can attest to the patrons who ignore the rules and safety concerns of other patrons. Most of the time their disregard is harmless, but occasionally, situations can escalate out of control in the blink of an eye.

Like SMS Marketing, stadium texting provides patrons the ability to contact a security official and alert them of a problem without ever having to leave their seat.

Stadiums and event centers can also request that patrons opt-in before an event, that way officials can send real-time SMS notifications alerting patrons to a security issue and help ensure their safety at the event.

After Game Marketing

For stadiums that provide an opportunity for patrons to opt-in to receive security alerts, it can also provide patrons with the ability to receive text message marketing alerts and promotions after the event is over.

Multi-use facilities can certainly benefit from cross-promotion of the varying types of events the stadium offers. Building a mobile database of these patrons can allow the stadium to reward these guests with promotions such as early-bird tickets, half-priced concessions, and other amenities for being loyal guests.

By grabbing the optin at a concert, a sporting event, or community activity, the stadium can potentially retain guests who enjoy the events and enjoy the special perks they receive via texting and SMS.

Interactive Games and Contests

With any live event, interaction is a key way to get the audience involved and to assist with gaining a valuable optin. Audiences like to be entertained by the event, but also like to feel that they are a part of the show.

After implementing in-stadium text messages, stadiums can offer patrons the ability to participate in live contests and real-time games. They can vote for player of the game, they can participate in live contests, they can text comments that can be shown on the jumbo screen, they can even give valuable feedback to management about their experience.

The instant gratification of contest entry can immediately increase the participation of patrons as well as retain guests, knowing they will find out the winner during the event. Often times, the winner will be on camera and get interviewed on the big-screen, so fans are more likely to text in when this instant gratification is possible.

Sponsors also love these interactive promotions because it draws so much more attention to their brand. Signage is everywhere in a stadium, but getting the brand's name or logo sent to the audience's phone is a very coveted aspect of stadium promotions.

Traffic and Weather Alerts

When a stadium gears up for an event, it generally anticipates a large volume of traffic in a relatively short amount of time.

Because of this, parking is at a premium, roads are compromised to accommodate the increased volume, and many guests become disgruntled and impatient because they don’t know how to handle it.

For a stadium that offers SMS and texting, guests can text in to find out what roads are blocked, the best route to their entrance, and any possible hold-ups that occur as they are en route to the venue.

This is also a great way for guests from out of town to find out if there are any changes with the event due to unforeseen circumstances like inclement weather.


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From: 501-221-XXXX:
Section 23, Row 44, Seat 5. The man in the blue hat is smoking!

From: 972-323-XXXX:
Visitor section 10 rows up from mid-court. The 3 kids behind us are using foul language in front of my kids.

From: 281-618-XXXX:
Section 23. The man in the black coat and red scarf just poured something out of a flask!

From: 212-430-XXXX:
Section 18, Row 3. We are getting bullied by 2 fans. They keep throwing stuff and taunting us!

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