How well do you know your fans? The answer to that question is what will determine profitability and success for sports franchises in the very near future.
The last decade brought a tsunami wave of new technology into the home: HDTV, hi-speed internet, DirecTV, LCD flat screens, you name it. That all of a sudden made watching from home a solid alternative to actually going to a game for most fans.
Teams responded by investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in infrastructure. We saw the most beautiful stadiums in the world built, larger than life LCD screens and increased Wi-Fi connectivity. Basically, teams did this these things because they “thought” fans would want it. That’s where things are beginning to change. Teams no longer can afford to think they know what a fan wants. Instead they must know.
Miami’s SunLife Stadium recently invested in a solution with IBM to track the “ebb and flow of humanity” inside of the 75,000 seat-building. Named the Intelligence Operations Center, operations staff will now be able to track everything from parking habits and bathroom break patterns to concession food levels and seating preferences.
In an interview with InnovationNewsDaily, Miami Dolphins CTO Tery Howard said, “We compete with the high-definition TV within the comfort of their homes. We don’t want it to be an effort for fans to come out because of issues with parking and standing in line to buy a hot dog.”
And what it really comes down to is data, which is nothing new to sports. The difference, however, is that most data in the past has always focused on the game – a.k.a. the Money Ball effect. A major shift is happening right in front of our eyes to now collect data about the fans.
Silicon Valley startup YourSports gets that. They’ve raised $1.7 million to build a breakthrough model to capture the “social graph” of sports fans. In a recent interview with PandoDaily, founder Chris McCoy describes the venture as “Facebook meets the sports section”. He goes on to say, “Stanford Football has a semi-digital list of their season ticket holders, but what if they knew who their die-hard fans were that were in their stadium? What if high school sports teams knew this? What if they could sell directly to them? It could change how tickets are sold.” The company aims to eventually index enough social data to extend itself as a platform for third-party developers to build sports-specific games, apps and content experiences on top of.
As part of this shift I also expect teams to find ways to engage deeper with fans. New cloud computing and web-based technologies such as IdeaScale will help teams crowd-source ideas and innovation. Imagine asking a fan base what they think and collectively have the best ideas bubble up. Furthermore, when will we see the first crowd-sourced stadium built?
Teams like the Miami Dolphins get this. Who will follow?