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How sports execs use tech to improve fan engagement

David Needle | Nov. 2, 2016
Winning is great, but sports teams are making major investments in technology off the field to attract fans and keep them engaged.

HALF MOON BAY, CALIF. - If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed much in sports it’s that winning cures a lot of ills. Fans generally don’t want to follow or pay to see a team that’s always losing, but competitive teams with a shot at a championship typically attract more fans and can generate more revenue via merchandise, media and other ancillary deals.

But one thing that has changed, sports are not the only game in town. From live performances to outdoor activities and the many choices in big and small screen entertainment, consumers have more options as to how to spend their free time and money than ever before.

As a result, professional sports teams are investing in new ways to attract and engage fans both inside and outside the ballpark or stadium and technology is a big part of those investments.

Tech can improve the fan experience

A panel of pro sports executives at the Connected Enterprise conference last week shared some of the ways they’re leveraging technology, including what is and isn’t working.

“We are in the experience creation business, we’re about entertainment,” says Kenny Lauer, who heads marketing and digital initiatives for the Golden State Warriors NBA team. “We try to focus on fan behavior and design based on that behavior, rather than the other way around, though sometimes we probably are guilty of going for the shiny new thing.”

connected enterprise sports panel with sign
Constellation Research Connected Enterprise conference

Lauer says the Warriors have a very “tech forward” ownership group headed by venture capitalist Joe Lacob and minority owner Peter Guber, a high-profile movie producer and entertainment mogul. Lauer said social media efforts to promote the team have been positive, but with some surprising results. For example, he says the Warriors don’t have the most followers on Facebook compared to some other NBA teams, but claims it has the most interactions on the social media site. “We also have more Facebook followers in the Philippines than in the U.S.” Go figure.

Jason Lumsden, director of technology for the Boston Red Sox, says his job entails more than what happens at the ballpark. “We define the fan experience from the time you’re leaving home to when you get back from the ballpark. We want all of that to be enjoyable including the voices you hear from the broadcasts on mobile devices. Tech helps with all of that.”

Lumsden says getting the fan experience right is especially important because many Red Sox fans only get to the park one-to-three times a year. But some things remain a challenge. “We’ve had five entrances for years, but no matter what we do there are only one or two entrances they almost all use.”


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