Australian Concertgoers Use RFID to Win Prizes, Post Facebook Updates

By Dave Friedlos

Virgin Mobile utilized an NFC-based solution to connect with its customers throughout the three-day Splendour in the Grass festival.

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A select group of concertgoers at this year’s Splendour in the Grass, held in Byron Bay, New South Wales, in July, were rewarded with more than just renowned international artists, thanks to the introduction of Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID technology. Virgin Mobile customers who attended the three-day music festival—which featured a lineup that included Smashing Pumpkins, Jack White, Lana Del Rey and Bloc Party—could also register to receive an NFC-enabled wristband allowing them to win prizes instantly, and to automatically update their Facebook profiles.

With a tap of the wristband in the “Virgin Mobile Posh Pit” VIP area, a concertgoer could win one of more than 1,000 prizes, including mobile phones, headphones, sweet treats and burger vouchers, with each prize generating a different status update to that person’s Facebook profile, thereby letting his or her friends know what had been won. With specific prizes added for female concertgoers, based on their Facebook profiles, it was one of the most technical NFC applications to date, according to Andrew Davis, technology supplier Tapit‘s head of operations.

“The system had to display the different prizes won to each user, as well as an accompanying status update corresponding to the prize the user had won, meaning no status update was the same for all prizes,” Davis explains. “The beauty of this event was making the integration between Facebook and Tapit harmonious. The user just saw things happening automatically, but the development underneath took a substantial effort from our technical team. This was one of the more complex assignments we have had, purely for the fact that all our previous projects involved no Facebook application integration.”

A total of 2,480 taps were recorded during the three-day festival, Davis reports, reaching more than 175,000 people via Facebook.

Virgin Mobile spokesperson Amber Morris says her company approached Tapit a little more than a month prior to the July festival, seeking new, innovative ways in which to connect with its customers throughout Splendour in the Grass.

“We knew we needed to create something that not only showcased technology—since we are a technology company, after all—but stimulated interaction with our customers,” Davis says, “and created a memorable experience for punters attending the festival. We knew what the demographic was for the festival, so it made perfect sense for us to tap in to an audience that were already extremely social—both on and offline—and create something that had huge ‘share ability.'”

Before the festival, Virgin Mobile’s customers could register via a Facebook application to receive benefits onsite, with the Tapit system verifying the Virgin Mobile database in order to ensure that the mobile number entered was for one of that company’s customers. Each registered customer and a friend were then issued a wristband containing a built-in NFC RFID chip, embedded in a wet (adhesive) 13.56 MHz passive inlay measuring 12 millimeters by 19 millimeters (0.5 inch by 0.7 inch), complying with the ISO 14443 standard, and encoded with a unique ID number linked to their Facebook pages. More than 1,200 wristbands were issued during the festival.

“We set up a branded station onsite where customers and their ‘plus ones’ were encouraged to tap their wristband against the station up to twice a day, to see if they had won a prize,” Morris says. “The station worked as a random prize generator, and the punter could see straight away, via the screen, if they had won a prize or not. We were thrilled with the results, and the customer feedback was very positive. They loved interacting with NFC in this way; it is not something we have seen at an Australian festival before, and one that we will see a lot more of, I’m sure. We know we had much better customer engagement at Splendour in the Grass this year through using Tapit. We had more reasons to engage with customers and had increased visibility at the festival, through not only interaction with the Tapit station, but through reach via Facebook.”

Davis agrees that the response was positive, with the Posh Pit coming alive, queues of people lining up to try to win instantly, and plenty of fun throughout the event.

“The key purpose,” Davis states, “was to amplify what has traditionally been an on-the-ground-only experience at the festival, and allow Virgin Mobile customers and their friends the ability to broadcast these memorable experiences effortlessly, using a social channel like Facebook. The feedback was the most exciting thing for us. Seeing people’s eyes light up and having a magical experience was very special.”

According to Davis, Tapit has already been approached by one of the partners involved at Splendour in the Grass, to develop a similar concept for an upcoming concert. As such, he says, the potential for NFC’s use at musical events appears strong.

Virgin Mobile agrees, Morris says. “I think it is fair to say that NFC is moving at an incredible speed,” he reports, “and as a telecommunications company, we would be silly not to consider it for future campaigns and sponsorships. Who knows what the next 12 months will bring, with a number of handsets being released this year with NFC built in? But we would definitely consider using NFC again.”