vivek ranadive kings technology nba

Demarcus Cousins may very well be one of the most talented young big men in the league, but basketball has always been a team game. The 30 franchises that make up the league have generated a revenue pie in excess of $5 billion. The digital age has enabled this game to reach its worldwide audience anywhere, anytime. Teams can build up their own local fan base through the sundry of platforms available.

Much like our #NFLTechSeries, this time SportTechie delves into the digital strategies–from web, social media, mobile apps, and any other technological connection–of each team and analyzes them, including insights from some of the digital executives involved. Today, the #NBADigitalSeries 2013-14 continues with the Sacramento Kings. Stay tuned to for ongoing coverage of the #NBADigitalSeries.

Less than a year ago, the Kings hit rock bottom. Seven straight losing seasons and middling attendance figures had Sacramento destined for relocation to Seattle.

Enter Vivek Ranadive, a successful entrepreneur responsible for digitizing Wall Street and using data analysis to coach his 12-year old daughter’s basketball team to the National Junior Basketball championship. Ranadive bought a majority share of the Kings on May 16 keeping them in Sacramento, but more importantly, revitalizing the organization’s fan interaction tactics using big data and real-time technology.

Ranadive’s goal for the Kings is ambitious yet simple: make Sacramento the world’s team, not just Sacramento’s team. And if there was anyone with the innovative ability to accomplish this, it’s Ranadive.

In less than a year, he has used social and digital media to transform the Kings’ organization and expand their appeal to other regions. While China has been a major target for NBA grassroots programs, the Kings have begun broadcasting games on Indian television, and even created an online team page written in Hindi.

sacramento kings hindi digital series nba

The new-look Kings have expansive plans to invigorate their fan base, and a modified official team app is a good place to start.  Of course, the reinvented Sacramento Kings app features all the basics: news, scores, standings, and stats; but the app stands out with its focus on fan interactivity.

Half of the home page is dedicated to a live social network feed, full with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts in real-time. Their social media feeds are pretty standard compared to other NBA teams, capturing highlight plays and relevant news while allowing for fan-to-fan interaction. But its integration with the team app is what draws attention to each social media outlet individually, boosting followers and “likes” while drawing attention to the Kings’ organization. The app goes far beyond social media activity, though.

Royal Circle is the Sacramento Kings’ official loyalty program developed by Ranadive & Co. Fans interact with the team through Royal Circle and gain digital points, which can be redeemed for stadium concessions, team merchandise, and even tickets. According to Ranadive, this program puts the Kings a step ahead of the rest of the NBA when it comes to fan interaction: “We are the only people to have actually created the science of understanding what it takes to provide the right psychological experience. We know the action to take to convert sentiment into intention and then intention into action. That’s key to turning customers into fans.”

Royal Circle, just like the social media feed, make the Sacramento Kings official app a desirable commodity. Reinventing the app with “loyalty science” in mind has been huge for the Kings despite another season in the cellar of the Western Conference. Attendance figures are as high as they’ve been since their last playoff appearance in 2005, and a general buzz has been established behind changes since Ranadive’s inauguration.

Aside from the new app and increased social media attention, the Kings have turned to Bitcoin and Google Glass to enhance the in-arena experience. They will become the first professional sports team to accept Bitcoin virtual currency beginning in March.

Another example of Ranadive pushing technology on the Kings’ organization, he believes that removing cash from the equation will provide convenience for fans and the concession staff. The thought of virtual currency is worrisome and futuristic to many consumers. However, the Kings have little to worry about. Using Bitpay, the Bitcoin processor, the virtual currency the Kings will receive is automatically converted to hard cash.

Sacramento has also experimented with Google Glass, a pair of glasses with a small computer mounted on the frame. The initial plan was to broadcast Google Glass views from around the stadium on the Jumbotron—whether it was from a courtside dancer, sideline reporter, or even a coach. The Kings tested Google Glass on January 12 against the Cleveland Cavaliers and released footage from the test run over social media.

Jumbotron displays are just the beginning when it comes to the potential of this device. Kings President Chris Granger discussed the long-term potential, citing the possibility of viewing other fans’ Google Glass vantage points to observe concession and bathroom lines as well as the view of a buddy who is also at the game.

The Sacramento Kings were on the down and out just months ago, but Ranadive’s vision has injected new blood into this franchise. The Kings advanced approach to generating fan interest and interactivity has both proponents and critics, but there is no arguing with its success so far. The Kings may not be winning games, but they are gaining fans—and from a technology standpoint, that’s all Ranadive and the Kings can ask for.