Although we are, finally, seeing the return of our beloved sports (with some changes, and a few questionable developments in the realm of baseball), it will not change the fact that when we return to a “new normal”, if we return to a “new normal”, the landscape for our favourite sports will look very different, at least for a while. Organizations might have found a way to set up their teams for the time being, but you can guarantee that they are still deep into planning what exactly a return to sports, full time, will look like for players, fans and employees. The organizations need to be prepared to hit the ground running and use this as an opportunity to bring back fans, regain lost revenue and grow!

To be set up for success, it is more important than ever for technology teams to be thinking strategically and as business partners because this is where the innovation is needed.

There are 3 main areas that tech will help organizations win: data science, stadium experience infrastructure enhancements and fan engagement technology. Let’s look at each area and the role they play in Sport 2.0. This by no means is an exhaustive list but more of a thought starter to get organizations thinking how best to work with tech:

Data Science

Forward thinking organizations were already in the data science space pre-shutdown. Now it’s time for all teams to catch on and create a full throttle data strategy. Data science is the foundation on which a comeback strategy must be built. You simply need to know the who, what, where, why and when of your fan base and business to understand where you want to go. Ask the right questions of all your teams and more importantly understand why you want the data because garbage in is garbage out. This needs to be a collaborative process with departments because they understand the business and tech teams understand the technology. One can’t exist without the other.

A seemingly infinite number of touchpoints exist to gather data and it can be overwhelming (ticketing systems, wifi, apps, surveys etc) as the tendency will be to want it all! Go back to your strategy and make sure the data you gather is relevant to what you want to accomplish and again follow the garbage in garbage out principle. Your tools and results are only as good as the data you collect. Make sure this data is relevant, accurate and actionable.

After strategy and collection, comes the analysis. Work with analysts and the business to deliver relevant (there’s that word again) reporting to groups to enhance marketing, corporate partners and ticketing comeback initiatives. This is the value in your strategy and where you will help the organization drive revenue. Create a scorecard to show ROI and keep tabs on metrics such as tracking conversions, new accounts, upsells etc, anything that will show the value of the data. What gets measured, gets done.

Stadium Experience Infrastructure Enhancements

Fans will be back in stadiums. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. When those gates open, the fans will come back and be ready to have a great time. This is an area where technology’s value is critical and needs to be an important business partner. Short term, we need to think about innovations that support social distancing such as contactless ticketing/POS systems, technology that will monitor lines and crowding to give the ability to redirect traffic (looking at you wait time) and apps and innovations that allow for maximum experience while also enhancing the new rules of the game as we open up to our fans. Use your data science strategy to see what fans want and build enhancements around that. For example, are you noticing most fans want to socialize and talk with friends or clients while enjoying the game? Build out your social spaces to create areas where this is not only possible but is encouraged. Do your fans want to be closer to the action? Look at building out your VR experience or augmented reality where they can take pictures with holograms of a player. The possibilities are endless and if you are building upon your data and really understand what the fans want you are positioned for success.

The value in enhancing your fan experience is not only based around per cap and attendance growth but also is exactly what potential sponsors want to see as this gives them a built-in audience. It may be a struggle to attract corporate partners in the near term but creating authentic experiences for them will make it that much more attractive for companies to come back and spend sponsorship dollars to be a part of the game.

Fan Engagement Technology

You can only sell so many tickets and the majority of fans will enjoy your product from outside the arena. How do strategies such as Streaming, Esports and other OTT platforms evolve now that live sports are back and how can fans at home integrate with fans in the stadium (once they return) and grow revenues? It’s all well and good to have some cool esports and streaming activations but if its not growing your sport or revenue then it becomes a cost centre. The focus in the past was always how do we get people off their phones and to the arena/field/court? The question should actually be, how do we engage fans through their phones to encourage them to attend a game or play a sport. Building online communities through esports, fantasy sports and A.I. will encourage people to be social and attend sports live as they become more engaged in the sport ecosystem. Always focus these innovations around these questions. An app is great if you can engage your fans through contests, connections to like minded fans and games (also a great data collection and sponsorship opportunity) but it must be focused on growing revenue and fan support.

These are just a few thought starters on how teams can win back fans and grow their organizations using technology when sports enter a proper post-COVID relaunch. I’m just scratching the surface here and would love to know your thoughts and feedback in the comments below. Let’s work together to bring back sports and bring back the fans!