Technology-Enabled Sponsorships Drive Innovation in Sports Marketing

January  31,  2017 / By Samantha Baier

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The evolution of technology is permeating all industries, but perhaps none is more focused on engaging and elevating the participation and enjoyment of its audience than sports.

Sports leagues and franchises, along with a growing number of category-leading brands, are capitalizing on technology in a competitive effort to engage consumers and capture a greater share of an industry with a projected worth of $73.5 billion by 2019. To become an integral player in this expanding universe, enhancing the fan experience both at home and in stadium/arena is critical.

For example, when the Falcons and Patriots square off in Super Bowl LI on Sunday, viewers will have a chance to witness 360-degree replay – an innovative, immersive technology from Intel – that enables viewers to see things where there isn’t a physical camera, such as Tom Brady perspective when he looks to pass. “Our belief is that it will allow fans to experience the game in ways they haven’t been able to before,” James Carwana, Intel Sports Group General Manager recently told Geekwire.

In the stadium or arena, experiencing the game has evolved into something much more than a view from your seat with a beer or nachos in hand (not that there’s anything wrong with that.) Instead, fans expect a tailored mix of physical and digital experiences across their mobile devices, as well as via in-stadium kiosks, concession stands, retail locations, and in virtually every corner of the facility. For this reason, the competition is becoming more fierce – and not just between the teams competing on the field – but between properties, owners, and sponsors who, in order to keep loyal fans engaged and attract a new generation of fans, must create an on-site experience that rivals or exceeds the comfort and convenience of being at home..

Understanding the enhanced value sports sponsorships can and must deliver in today’s fully connected environment, including top-of-mind brand awareness and loyalty, new customer acquisition and revenue generation to name a few, blue chip brands like IBM, Mercedes-Benz, Intel, SAP and Verizon are among those raising the bar on technology as a gateway to more powerful and enriching sports and entertainment experiences.

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Fan behavior, increasingly influenced by mobile platforms and high-definition screens, is motivating brands and their partners (leagues, teams and facilities) to respond in a big way to meet the expectation of the consumer.

For avid and casual fans alike, a growing number of live streaming options currently exist, such as the NFL’s partnership with Twitter that enables a more mobile and flexible viewing experience. By and large, industry experts and fans have rated the experience a great success, but the live stream is not simply enough to provide value to users. Creating an experience with behind-the-scenes access and analysis that goes beyond what a TV broadcast can offer will make this partnership even more valuable.

For the in-stadium experience, a top priority is fast, secure and reliable connectivity in-stadium. Some of the newer facilities like Levi’s Stadium near San Francisco and Barclays Center in Brooklyn offer more than 700 wireless access points, while providers like Verizon are delivering end-to-end wireless service. Other examples include:

  • An app introduced at Barclays Center that streams high-definition video feeds during Nets games for stadium visitors that mimics multi-screen in-home set-ups.
  • More than 1,200 distributed antenna systems within Levi’s Stadium that enable more than 70,000 fans to connect with Wi-Fi and 4G.
  • Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta (a Taylor client), when it debuts in July, will redefine the boundaries for technical and design innovation in a sports and entertainment facility. With support from technology partners like IBM, the stadium will offer:
    • More than 4,000 miles of advanced fiber optics that support 1,800 wireless access points, and 2,000-plus video displays, and a one-of-a-kind, 360-degree, 63,000 square foot “halo” display that encircles the entire stadium ceiling.
    • The infrastructure also will create opportunities for first-of-a-kind experiences on mobile apps, and by managing fan data to provide sponsors with efficient and profitable tools to engage fans at live events. Applications delivered through IBM’s (also a Taylor client) cognitive computing solutions can combine and understand unstructured data from multiple sources to maintain the stadium’s supply of water and beer for example, by checking the weather forecast against ticket sales and when necessary, recommend a supply increase prior to a game.
  • Speaking of IBM: up the road from Atlanta, in Augusta, the global technology leader has been transforming the way fans experience golf for the past 20 years. In 2016, IBM launched a new version of its popular Masters app with several major enhancements. Among them was the innovative Track feature available on iPhone or other mobile devices, delivering a real-time shot-by-shot breakdown in both distance and position of every shot for every player on each hole of the course. On tablets and desktop, Track introduced a picture-in-picture capability to watch live and a player comparison feature.

We are living in an age where technology-driven sports marketing is creating a win-win all around. For the franchise, it drives fans into the stadium or arena for a unique game day experience. For fans, it provides a visceral opportunity to experience the live environment of proximity, comradery, and lasting memories (many stadiums and arenas are included among the most instagrammed places within a city, including Wrigley Field in Chicago, Madison Square Garden in New York City, Coors Field in Denver, and AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, to name a few.) And for sponsors, technology-enabled sports sponsorships provide the ultimate platform to build fan engagement and brand loyalty.

Research shows that 30 percent of fans who use social media to connect with a sponsor later make a purchase because of the brand’s association with their team. Moreover, overall brand perception is impacted as sponsors align themselves with a team and provide an invaluable experience for fans.

Without question, we are witnessing an ongoing evolution in the way fans now experience sports that technology has played a key role in creating. Franchises, leagues and brand marketers have leveraged this opportunity to gain competitive advantage, grow their customer base, and position themselves as innovators in the marketplace. But the real benefactors are the fans, who will take with them some of the most unique, captivating and memorable experiences of a lifetime. And there’s so much more to come…

 

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