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Volume 20 No. 45
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Technology adds critical value along its path of disruption

From the rise of esports and drone racing to the quantified athlete and smart arenas, the sports industry is exploding with innovation, as technology continues on its wild path of disruption across all aspects of the business. The North American sports marketplace is expected to reach $73.5 billion by 2019 (Source: PriceWaterhouseCoopers), and leagues, teams and rights holders are capitalizing on this growth by employing new technologies as a differentiator for their businesses. This disruption is creating new revenue streams for owners, changing how we define category exclusivity for marketers, improving performance for athletes, and influencing real-time decisions for coaches and managers.

But no one is benefiting more from the adoption of new technologies than the fans themselves. Sports fans worldwide are reaping the great rewards of enriched experiences, improved wireless network solutions, state-of-the-art mobile apps, virtual reality and 360-degree replays. And for their part, fans have increasingly demanded a mix of personalized physical and digital experiences tailored to their passions across all consumer touchpoints: ticketing, concessions, retail, in home and more.

The growing number of livestreaming options, such as the NFL’s partnership with Amazon, is enabling a more flexible viewing experience for fans. Fast and reliable connectivity has become a priority for the game-day experience, with state-of-the-art facilities like Levi’s Stadium and the Barclays Center now offering more than 700 wireless access points to satisfy this need for game attendees.

These technological advancements have paved the way for brands to innovate new opportunities, allowing them to integrate into the fan experience in a meaningful way and shift from interrupting what fans are interested in to becoming what they are interested in. Over the course of the past two decades, and through hundreds of research studies conducted among tens of thousands of sports fans, we identified two key predictors of a sponsor’s success: brand relevance and experience enhancement, both of which can be directly affected through the adoption of new technologies. When fans can make a logical connection to the brand’s role within the sport (relevance) and that brand is perceived as adding value (experience enhancement) to their enjoyment, there is a direct correlation to impact on key brand metrics.

A partnership with the NFL has allowed Bose to improve the sideline experience for coaches.

When one thinks of technology brands that are actively engaged in enhancing fan experience, companies like Intel, SAP and IBM may immediately come to mind. However, more and more brands are using technology to create authentic stories, bring fans closer to the game, create relevant connections and enhance the overall fan experience.

Every Sunday this fall, Bose has its technology on full display through its partnership with the NFL. NFL coaches, wearing Bose headsets, benefit from more than 30 years of research, incorporating the technology used in the company’s military and aviation headsets. The partnership has allowed Bose to improve the game-day experience for coaches while also communicating brand benefits through authentic and relevant brand integration. Bose is a client of CAA Sports Consulting.

During the NFL season opener between the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs, Bud Light distributed their Touchdown Glass to fans featuring the Super Bowl LI banner. The bases of the glasses were designed to light up blue after every Patriots scoring play. The lights are controlled using in-stadium radio frequency technology. Fans will be able to connect to a special mobile app that causes the glasses to illuminate whenever the team scores a touchdown. Through the use of technology, Budweiser is authentically enhancing the game-day experience by helping fans become part of the touchdown celebration.

At this year’s U.S. Open Tennis Championships, fans were able to purchase Snapchat Spectacles for the first time at a professional sporting event. Attendees could purchase the spectacles from an assortment of minion-like vending machines called Snapbots located throughout the grounds. Fans could use the glasses not only for protection from the sun but also customize their Snapchat posts with a U.S. Open branded lens filter for the first time ever on the social platform. This allowed the USTA to deliver a new sense of discoverability for its fans as well as a fun way to share their on-site experience outside of the event.

More and more, our industry is being held accountable for delivering quantifiable results. Technology is aiding our ability to track brand impact and success across key metrics. Real-time data delivered through these types of technology integrations is providing valuable insight into fan engagement with our brand activations, identifying which activations are most impactful and quantifying overall impact on building brand equity and driving revenue.

Technology-driven marketing is creating a win-win situation for our industry. For teams and leagues, it helps deepen fan engagement and creates new revenue streams. For fans, it provides a more enriching experience. And for brands it allows for richer customer connections and stronger brand loyalty.

Jeff Eccleston is global head of analytics at CAA Sports Consulting.