September 08, 2017

How Technology Is Improving Sports

By Special Guest
Andy Steen, head of strategic marketing, Avaya

Sensors in their jerseys, shoes, and helmets. Sensors in the turf, the goal box, the race car, and the golf clubs. 

Athletes of the future will be tracked at every moment to know how fast, how focused, and when they are “in the zone”. The modern sports experience has become a medley of sights, smells, and experiences being stirred up by technology.

With a proliferation of devices, screens, sensors, and installations, does our beloved popculture homage If you build it, they will come still ring true? Undoubtedly, technology is shaping the fan experience. We just have to make sure it’s for the better.

Today’s fans don’t just want to watch the experience. They want to be at the center of it. In other words, they want to be the experience.

This starts with a seamless approach to fan, customer, and team engagement that can manifest in many ways from on-site touch-activated, multi-sensory, virtual experiences to off-site communities. The goal is to enhance the fan experience, not distract from it.

That can be achieved by creating experience-driven touchpoints. Fan engagement is a wake-to-sleep business and requires better, and smarter, mobile, social, and digital-led environments to keep fans coming back to the stadium and being a full-fledged member of the sports/team community.

It’s more than just ordering food to your seat or buying merchandise from a mobile app. That’s definitely important, but fans are thirsty for more. More content, more speed, more data, more info, more social, more fantasy, more experiences powered by technology.

The optimal fan experience includes a tailored mix of digital and physical options that fans can explore and self-design on-site, off-site, on game days, and days in between. But to advance and future-proof these experiences for teams and stadium operators, they need to be tied to the latest and greatest technology. 

The first and most critical part of any fan journey starts with the ticketing experience. Whether you are a season ticket holder or a casual fan, it all begins with buying a ticket. Did you get what you wanted? Was it what you expected? Was it easy to use? Were your tickets useful?

Yes, tickets are useful. The 2016/2017 season saw an average per game attendance of 69,487 for the NFL, 30,163 for MLB, 21,692 for MLS, 17,884 for NBA, and 17,500 for NHL for American professional sporting leagues. That’s a lot of foot traffic.

As more teams come online with digital tickets they’ll be able to capitalize on data to improve not only entry/exit strategies but also the whole fan/ticket/customer experience. They can do that better with online, in-app, mobile ticketing management capabilities.

Let’s face it, what’s the easiest way to sell more tickets? It’s by reducing the barrier to entry so fans can easily make one-click ticket purchases directly from their phones. This consumerism shift toward mobile devices makes it easier for teams to influence impulse sales through personalized messages, geo-targeted marketing, instant offers, and loyalty rewards. Contact centers also can facilitate these ticket buying transactions.

Meanwhile, team engagement technology can enable communications across voice, video, multimedia, messaging, and conferencing. That way, smart stadiums can better allocate operations and staff from the suites to the concessions stands.

Speaking of human asset management, that’s a hot topic in sports right now. Teams spend millions of dollars on sports players and race car drivers. Managing their health via an application allows teams to assess injury times more quickly and assemble the best experts to address them. The ability to communication-enable applications to bring these players together via video and voice to accelerate recovery times can help teams save money and operate more efficiently.  

The game day experiences – from communications, to ticketing, merchandising, and socializing – need to have a robust grid off which to run. At Super Bowl LI, fans used more 11.8 TB of data during the game. Yet as recently as two years ago it was a struggle to get a signal inside some venues. So it’s imperative that today’s stadiums be upgraded or retrofitted with wireless solutions that can guarantee uninterrupted game day experiences.

But the need for technology goes beyond connectivity. It has to be smart. And stadium staff need to be able to optimize workflows. Coaches need make better team decisions based on player and field conditions. Security need to react, predict, and respond dynamically across the environment. Vendors and sponsors need to enhance and deliver personalized offers throughout the facility.

Producing, sharing, and leveraging information from connected devices allows for that. From wearable tech, to seat sensors, to virtual reality displays, to crowd-tracking tools, to smart equipment, the future of sports is connected fans, connected stadiums, connected teams, connected data. 

Andy Steen is the head of strategic marketing at Avaya (www.avaya.com).

Edited by Ken Briodagh

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