The advent of social media has allowed sports fans to interact and engage with their favorite players and teams like never before. Carrying on a conversation and even getting a question answered by a star athlete is now a daily occurrence on platforms like Twitter and Facebook.
Seeing how this has caught on and captured the attention of fans around the globe, sports franchises and event venues are racing the clock to implement the latest technology, not only to enhance their fan experience on gameday and quench the sports fans’ insatiable appetite for seeing and knowing anything going on with their favorite teams and players, but also to add a little to the bottom line of a P&L statement.
Last month, the Indiana Pacers purchased 11 pairs of Google Glass to test and see how they might be able to show Pacers fans a vantage point that has never been seen during an NBA game before now.
Using technology from San Francisco focus-based analytics company, CrowdOptic, the Pacers can outfit everyone from the PA announcer to the Pacemate dance team along with staff members and fans with a pair of Google Glass. At various times during the game, those wearing the Glass can project what they are seeing up onto the massive HD video screens at Bankers Life Fieldhouse so the 18,000+ in attendance can get a unique viewpoint of an NBA game.
The Pacers, along with the Sacramento Kings and the Orlando Magic, have purchased Google Glass to use during games, but the Pacers have been using it for everything.
“We’ve put it on the Pacemates; we’ve had it out on the court during warmup, we’ve even had it up in the rafters to give fans a look from above when we drop prizes into the stands,” explains Rob Laycock, Vice President of Marketing at Pacers Sports & Entertainment, who has been trained on every aspect of the Google Glass himself. “We’ve also used it on non gamedays; maybe when a player is making a personal appearance, or at an event the fans maybe couldn’t attend.”
CrowdOptic CEO and Founder, Jon B. Fisher says the Pacers keep finding new uses for the Glass, and it’s been great that they have been able to give a different look to fans.
“The Pacers played the Kings the first night we deployed (it) for the Kings; so that caught the Pacers interest. I like to think both the Pacers and CrowdOptic wanted great technology to illustrate a great season.”
Laycock explained that it has been exciting seeing what use his team will come up with next for the Glass, but to get to this point, job one has been educating the fans on what they can do with Google Glass.
“I went to the public library and invited anyone for free to come and check it out and see what we are doing,” explained Laycock. “We had 85 people, and I thought I was going to speak for 15 to 20 minutes; I ended up getting 40 questions. At that point, I just invited those interested to come up and try them on for themselves.”
Fans at the 2014 Kentucky Derby will get a closer look at what is going on at the track, and for the first time there may not be a bad vantage point at Churchill Downs.
Meet the “Big Board.”
Designed by Panasonic, this first 4K ultra- high definition video board spans 15,224 square feet and cost $12 million. It’s not only the largest in the world, but it’s capable of showing over nine million lines of resolution.
Believe it or not, this board is so big and visible that the jockeys were consulted during its development and installation.
The design and placement of the board took the safety of jockeys and horses into consideration. The location, height, total size, and actual LED design were looked at to avoid disruptions and distractions in the conduct of a horse race.
Similarly, the NFL doesn’t want to be left out of any technology innovation that their fans might be able to make use of.
Enter the app developer, Experience, and their proven technology in app form that will enhance the fan’s experience by allowing them to do everything from upgrading seats to finding out how to get pregame access to the field and getting an in-seat surprise visit from a mascot or cheerleader.
The app launched with three NFL teams last year and expects more NFL teams and some college teams in 2014.
“(Experience) believes up to half the league will be deployed for the 2014 season,” said Brian Lafemina, the NFL’s senior vice president of club business development.
The Atlanta Falcons debuted the app last season with season ticket holders and marketed it as a way to let fans experience something unexpected at an NFL game. The Falcons plan to offer the app to more
fans in 2014.
So do the Super Bowl Champion, Seattle Seahawks, who offered such perks as gaining access to a post game press conference or the ability to kick field goals after a home game at CenturyLink Field.
Additional teams are expected to get even more creative when it comes to using Experience’s app. Is the day coming where a fan will be able to draw up a play that will be run sometime in the first quarter?
As teams and venues move more and more to giving fans varying degrees of technology and profits can be made, I don’t see this trend stopping anytime soon. The delicate balance comes in play as teams need to make sure it doesn’t distract from watching the action on the field of play.
Rick Limpert is an Atlanta-based writer. You can follow him on Twitter at @RckRoswell.