Tweet-A-Beer

Miami Dolphins and Centerplate take brews social with @BeerMe

  • by Jessica Boudevin
  • Published: January 6, 2015

Collateral material instructed fans how to place beer orders through Twitter. (Photo by Miami Dolphins)

These days, chances are high that fans sitting in seats are concurrently plugged into the world of social media on their phones, tweeting about the experience. Twitter, Centerplate, Appetize and Anheuser-Busch worked together with the National Football League’s Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium to take the social aspect of having a drink to the next level. With the launch of @BeerMe at the last two games of the season, fans in designated sections could tweet their orders and have cold brews brought straight to their seats.

A soft launch serviced about 200 seats Dec. 21 during a home game against the Minnesota Vikings in order to make sure the process and technology worked. For the last game of the season Dec. 28 against New York Jets at Sun Life Stadium, F&B provider Centerplate and the Dolphins extended the technology to sections 150 and 153, comprised of about 1,200 seats.

“This is the next wave of how you’re going to see in-seat ordering take place, so we thought, let’s dive in,” said Tery Howard, Sr. VP and chief Technology officer for Miami Dolphins. “Let’s work through the logistics and operational process to ensure that this is something that is easy, reliable and will work.”

Point-of-sale technology company Appetize created the back end technology and app to make integration with Twitter and Centerplate possible. The company’s Kevin Anderson said that Appetize began working with the other partners about three months ago, but that Anheuser-Busch and Twitter have been brainstorming the concept for about a year.

As far as he’s concerned, the launch was a success.

“There were a number of different times where beers were delivered and fans were applauding the hawker,” said Anderson, who added that the technology all ran smoothly and the algorithm held up even in the case of misspellings.

“We were able to combine what we do on the mobile ordering side and utilize Twitter’s API that would allow fans to order using their seat ID,” said Anderson. An algorithm translated each seat ID to a level, section, row and seat. Appetize chose to use six-digit seat IDs primarily because they are shorter than typing out all of the information, and when you have only 140 characters to work with you have to be discerning.

Basically, a customer sees the promotional material in their cupholder that includes instructions and identification, tweets their seat ID and order (of Anheuser Busch products, and also water) to the Twitter handle @BeerMe. That Tweet is processed through Appetize’s algorithm and the order is sent to a designated Centerplate employee for that section via a tablet on their wrist. Within 10 minutes, the hawker shows up with the ordered beverages and is able to take payment with cash or process credit card transactions through the app.

Kevin Mitchell, GM for Centerplate at Sun Life Stadium, said that he was first approached about the concept in September. According to him, the infrastructure investment for @BeerMe was minimal. Three existing Centerplate hawkers were trained for about two days using the waterproof tablets and app, including how to process a credit card, which is a new capability.

Centerplate bought four iPad Airs at a cost of less than $400 each, as well as Velcro waterproof sleeves for each device. “The investment in the staff was negligible, and the training was minimal,” said Mitchell.

Centerplate’s Diana Evans said that the company looked at the investment as a marketing expense.

“There is a sea change happening, not just in stadiums but everywhere, of kind of wanting to get things on demand, on the platform that you’re already using on your mobile device, at the time and place that you want it,” she said. Due to the small test size, she said that ROI couldn’t really be determined yet. “We really see it as an exploration in increasing demographics.”

From a marketing standpoint, Anderson said that the number of impressions gained by social ordering is limitless.

“It’s the fact that you’re tweeting your order to hundreds or thousands of followers and that your friends know that you’re at Sun Life Stadium, at a Miami Dolphins game, and ordering Anheuser-Busch products,” said Anderson.

Though overall return on investment is still being determined, initial data looks promising. More than one-third of customers who used the @BeerMe service made repeat orders. According to Appetize data, just having the ability to pay hawkers using a credit card will make a huge difference. On average, orders paid with credit cards are 35 percent larger than those purchased in cash.

“There’s certainly the ability to increase per caps, but we just don’t know yet,” said Mitchell. “Right now it’s all about increasing the fan experience.”

PGR_1454.jpgHawkers received @BeerMe orders on iPad Airs attached to their wrists. (Photo by Miami Dolphins)

Howard added that prices for drinks using @BeerMe were comparable to fans having gone to concession stands, with no premium added.

From an adoption standpoint, the team is still gathering numbers as far as how many people were actually in attendance in those sections and had collateral materials in their seats.

“As to success so far, making sure that we received their tweets and delivered the beer as cold as can be — that’s the way to measure success,” she said, adding that the social ordering is more for convenience than to drive per caps. “It’s more of a convenience. Fans don’t have to stand in line and leave their friends and families behind in the seats. They’re still engaging with each other and enjoying the atmosphere as we deliver a service.”

The future looks primed for more mobile device ordering, both at Sun Life Stadium and at entertainment venues in general. Mitchell said that the Centerplate team will meet in the off season to talk strategy and plans to roll Twitter ordering out in a larger way in August or September. The company’s contract at the stadium runs through 2021, so there’s plenty of time to look at new technology. In the meantime, Sun Life Stadium is undergoing a privately-funded, two-stage, $350-million renovation that will add more points-of-sale and new kitchens, as well as putting suites on the 100 level. There will also be new video screens, an added canopy for shading, and all seats within the stadium will be replaced with total capacity reduced to about 66,000 seats.

Social ordering breaks down barriers of tradition associated with mobile ordering, such as downloading a separate app and learning how to use it.

“Twitter brings fans all over the world closer to the events they care most about,” said Christina Bogatsky, Sr. manager, brand strategy, at Twitter. “Anheuser-Busch, The Dolphins and Centerplate have been great partners in developing and launching the first @BeerMe trials and we look forward to more in the future.”

Appetize owns its algorithm and software, as well as the @BeerMe Twitter handle. As the company rolls out the technology to other venues, Anderson said that there will likely be unique Twitter handles for each event. From a company standpoint, pricing will be similar to mobile ordering requiring an annual license fee.

“What’s exciting is that down the road, looking at any venue and team being able to engage in mobile ordering, we see a ton of sponsorship and awareness opportunities,” added Anderson.

Interviewed for this story: Kevin Anderson, (310) 367-8793; Christina Bogatsky, press@twitter.com; Tery Howard, (305) 943-8000; Diana Evans and Kevin Mitchell, (203) 975-5910

  • by Jessica Boudevin
  • Published: January 6, 2015