With football season underway, the National Football League teams encourage fans to make mobile apps an important part of their gameday experience like wearing their favorite players’ jerseys, tailgating, and feasting on hot dogs and beer.

In recent years, the NFL and its 32 teams have redesigned their mobile apps to enhance the fan experience, both in stadiums and at home. They’ve evolved beyond basic functions such as displaying team rosters, season schedules, standings and team statistics to support digital ticketing, live video streaming, in-seat concession ordering, contest participation and cutting-edge features like augmented reality.

Every NFL team has adopted mobile ticketing and requires fans to use mobile apps to enter stadiums. To reduce fraud, the league and its ticketing partner Ticketmaster no longer accept screenshots. Mobile tickets now feature a dynamic barcode that updates every 15 seconds.

Engaging NFL Fans in the Stadium

NFL teams have invested in mobile apps to improve fan engagement and customer service to help boost attendance and make the in-stadium experience more appealing than watching the game from the comfort of home in front of a large HDTV.

The San Francisco 49ers’ app for Levi’s Stadium, for example, enables fans to immediately view instant replays from multiple angles. Fans can check the wait times for restrooms and those sitting in the club level section can order food and drinks and have them delivered to their seats.

In Detroit, Lions fans sitting at the club level of Ford Field can use the team app to order food from stadium restaurants and receive notifications when the food is ready for pickup. The Lions app also provides a way-finding feature to locate seats or the nearest restroom, concession or merchandise stand. The app also integrates with Waze, which analyzes traffic conditions and provides fans with the fastest routes for arrival or departure from the stadium.

NFL team apps also allow fans to manage their mobile tickets, track loyalty rewards and receive discounts. People can use the apps to buy tickets and parking passes, transfer them to others, upgrade seats and chat to get general questions answered.

Apps Target Audiences at Home

NFL team apps are loaded with features that benefit fans everywhere – not just those attending games. For example, this season the Jacksonville Jaguars launched a new mobile app that delivers exclusive content such as videos, photos, contests and gameday notifications like score updates, injury reports, stats and instant postgame highlights and analysis. Jaguar fans living in Jacksonville, Fla., and nearby cities can also watch games live on the new app.

The defending Super Bowl champs, the New England Patriots, have also blazed new trails with mobile apps. The Patriots built separate team and stadium apps and push daily updates with new video content of press conferences and player and coach interviews. It also shares podcasts and lists fan clubs throughout the country so Patriots fans can convene to watch games together.

The NFL league itself offers fans four different apps: the NFL Mobile App, which provides breaking news, scores and video; the NFL Fantasy Football app that helps fans track their teams and get draft advice and player analysis; NFL OnePass for NFL events; and the NFL Network app to stream the NFL Network on their phones.

AR Creates New Fan Experiences

More recently, teams have experimented with creating new augmented reality (AR) experiences for fans. The Chicago Bears, Philadelphia Eagles and the Tennessee Titans, for example, have introduced virtual face painting on their apps. Fans can take selfies, apply virtual paint and then share the pictures through social media or send to friends and family. In essence, they can sport their team spirit without the messiness.

In Seattle, Seahawks fans are dubbed the “12th man” for their vociferous and loud support at CenturyLink Field. The Seahawks app’s AR capability enables fans to raise a virtual “12” flag up a flagpole when they point their smartphone cameras to a stationary, real-life 12 flag.

Pittsburgh also uses AR to provide an interactive fan experience at Heinz Field. When fans aim their smartphone cameras at the Terrible Towel Wall in the stadium, they can learn about Terrible Towel’s history and see all the different special towels that have been created over the years.

While it’s not augmented reality, the Patriots have built a fun sticker app that lets Apple iPhone users text each other Patriots-specific graphics, such as one of Tom Brady with the phrase, “This is our house!” or “Let’s go!” or a graphic of Coach Bill Belichick pointing with the words, “Next man up!”

Most NFL Teams’ iOS Apps Have Privacy Risks

However, football fans and mobile app developers alike should be aware that many of the NFL team apps have privacy risks, especially on the iOS platform. NowSecure recently analyzed the cybersecurity risk level of 33 team mobile apps available in the Apple® App Store® and Google Play™ store. (The Denver Broncos have two apps: Denver Broncos 365 and Denver Broncos Orange Herd). NowSecure also benchmarked the four NFL apps.

The analysis of the NFL team apps reveals that nearly every mobile app for every team on iOS and Android has privacy flaws, leaking a variety of personal/device information such as device ID, geolocation, or email address. Nearly all iOS apps leak Advertiser ID that when combined with other information, could be used to identify/track a user’s personal information. From a security perspective, it’s important to note that none were found to be leaking highly sensitive data such as passwords or credit card information.

To effectively analyze and compare risk, NowSecure uses our NowSecure Score Risk Range, which is a scoring algorithm based on count and CVSS score values of all CVSS-based findings, the industry-standard method for rating IT vulnerabilities and determining the level of risk exposure. From an overall risk range of 0-100, apps scoring lower than 60 present a high degree of risk, apps in the 60-80 range require caution and those scoring 80 or above are low risk.

 


Overall, we found that 91% of teams’ iOS apps have medium and high-risk scores. On the Android front, only 6% of team apps carried medium to high-risk scores, while most – 82% – carry a cautionary risk rating. The four NFL apps all revealed low risk scores.

The NFL’s results show the privacy and security challenges all organizations face when they build mobile apps. All businesses must ensure that their apps are free of security vulnerabilities or privacy flaws because data breaches can hurt brand reputation and result in lost customers and fines.

In the race to deliver cool new features faster, organizations still need to be sure they test their apps for security and privacy issues. To learn how business leaders in retail, travel and hospitality can better secure their apps, download the new NowSecure ebook, “Why Mobile App Security & Privacy Matter to Consumer Brands.”

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