Andy SteenMay 25, 2018

Digital Technology in Sports: Better Fan Experiences Beat the Competition

When it comes to the world of sports, GOAT—Greatest of All Time—is no longer just for the players. It’s now up to the sponsors, the club, the league, and especially providers to deliver the greatest digital technology in sports. More and more, gameday makers are being inspired by the digital fan engagement platforms that shape what it means to be connected and in the moment. The best technology providers make the entire journey of coming to a game, match, or event, well, the GOAT!

Broadening Fan Options

Relationships among fans, players, and the game are dynamic and constantly changing. Digital technology in sports has brought fans closer to events than ever before, but the channels and methods of engagement are vast and many. Leagues, teams, and the sports industry are now integrating fantasy sports, on-demand, OTT apps for fan-centric social communities, new and safer game-day rules, e-sports, gamification in real time, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality. And they’re getting ready for the Supreme Court’s ruling that would allow states to legalize sports betting and gambling.

Mobile First

This year, the mobile app ecosystem will turn 10. Mobile is one of the biggest industries on the planet and for good reason. Sure, we’re flooded with apps. But it’s not going to collapse, pop, or go away anytime soon. The total number of mobile app downloads in 2017 was 178.1 billion and is projected to grow to 258.2 billion by 2022, representing a 7.7% five-year CAGR.

When it comes to sports and entertainment, apps bring fans closer to the game—closer than ever before. Fans are interacting with players through apps, social media, and other smart tools so they can have front-row, exclusive access to content, data, and the latest trends.

When sports teams lead with a mobile-first mindset,  they are opening the door to a world of opportunities for everyone involved in the match day. With mobile apps, we’re able to collect more KPIs than ever and then leverage those insights in big data workflows, stimulate artificial intelligence systems, and build a network of connected things. This means that everyone and everything is connected to each other, making the in-stadium or in-arena experience smarter, faster, and more exciting than ever.

The 24-Hour Digital Fan

Just as mobile apps keep fans connected on gameday, they also keep team spirit alive on non-gamedays. This is crucial for keeping the momentum of the fan experience pushing forward. Social plays a huge factor in these in-between moments too. Social is one of the major drivers of perpetual engagement—in fact, social networking is the most dominant app category. See how Avaya is using social networking and fan engagement walls to bring all fans into the stadium experience

Mobile apps fuel fan participation within a community. Infusing existing team and sport content with user-generated content, fan stories, and social commentary is a great way to keep up the excitement and energy. Apps are available all the time, and they let fans join in even when the court is empty, stadium lights are off, and players have gone home. Through mobile fan engagement environments, the energy surges beyond the arena.

Even fantasy sports leagues come into the fold by integrating real-time play and player data into their social platforms. People connect over their teams and take pride in being invested in a particular sport. It’s also the fastest way to ramp up education because real-time stats, content, and strategies deliver more insightful opportunities than traditional sports viewing.

All this goes well beyond social as we know it. Mobile-first, socially-inclusive, and real-time experiences are expanding the digital audience. Sports brands must continue to innovate and deliver authentic engagement touchpoints:

  • Contact Centers: Smart ticketing systems, omnichannel customer service, and revamped ticket packages are positioned to de-couch the fan.
  • Virtual Reality: These dedicated virtual experiences mirror or even replicate the in-stadium experience.
  • Live Streaming: Regular season games are migrating towards online channels for exclusive rights to stream, which is building a portfolio of live sports to offset or supplement gameday protocols.
  • Augmented Reality: Enhanced environments keep the atmosphere fresh and new so that fans are consistently searching for what’s new and next in their online journeys.

The Technology Differentiator

Technology is changing. Society is changing. Game day is changing. And the fan experience is changing. New leagues are forming to attract millennial and Gen Z consumer habits. Take for example the new Alliance of American Football league coming next year (February 2019) that will integrate social, free mobile streaming, fantasy, real-time stats, new rules to make the game safer, player-to-fan interaction and next-gen technologies. Imagine if they added reality TV situations. This league is a disrupter and could change how we consume sports in the future.

In fact, the top pro sports leagues in America have been around for nearly 100 years on average (MLB 148, NHL 101, NFL 98, NBA 71, MLS 24) and all of them are using technology to prepare for this shift.

Avaya’s 21st-Century technology and solutions are helping shape smart connected teams, leagues, and stadiums around the world. It’s imperative to plan for in and in-between moments where technology can really make a difference:

It’s exciting to be able to influence the ongoing digital transformation of the world of sports. Technology’s impact on sports and entertainment is here to stay, and the clock is ticking for teams, leagues, and operators to integrate these types of tools to elevate the fan experience. Go for the GOAT!

To hear more about Avaya’s impact on the sports industry, join us at the Sports Business Daily Journal Intersport Brand Engagement & Content Summit in San Francisco June 5-6, 2018. You can also catch up with us at the SEAT (Sports Entertainment Alliance Technology) Conference on July 21-24, 2018.

Digital Tech in Sports: Better Fan Experiences Beat Competition - Avaya

Andy Steen

Andrea "Andy" Steen specializes in leading internal and external strategic communication initiatives with an expertise in managing and developing high-performing communication teams and social, digital, mobile-led business solutions. She also leads Avaya's Sports Marketing Team. Follow her at @andydances.

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