With the explosion of connected devices, streaming services and social-media platforms, today’s sports fans consume the games they love in more ways than ever. This combination of mobility and connectivity results in an experience beyond the big screen to an endless mesh of alley-oop Vines and non-stop social chatter and water-cooler analysis worthy of the Oakland A’s front office. Fans are enjoying unprecedented immediacy, access and insight.
The power of immediacy, access and insight to develop loyal and compelling relationships with the teams we follow isn’t in the additional information they provide, but that immediacy, access and insight actually make us feel like better fans.
Product design guru Kathy Sierra calls this phenomenon the “Post-UX UX”; the experience you have after using a product, as opposed to while you use it.
Immediacy means you know the latest news before anybody else (and get to break it to your friends); Access means you can watch nearly any game, anywhere, any time (for me that’s Manchester United versus Liverpool at 9.30 a.m. on a Sunday in Brooklyn) and Insight means you know not just what happened, but why (and when to bet on it happening again). In this new connected sports world, you can feel like an insider. And who doesn’t want that?
But it’s time to imagine how much farther we can go with all of these tools. Here are a few good places to start:
1. Elevate the In-Person Experience
Forward-thinking stadiums already implemented apps that integrate fans’ ability to book tickets and parking passes with quick ways to order food and beverages from their seats, and find the shortest bathroom lines or best parking areas.
So next, let’s use behavioral and demographic data connected to a ticket buyer’s social profile so stadiums can seat that person near others enjoying a similar experience. Parents near parents, while superfans can cluster a few sections over to enjoy a boisterous atmosphere unimpeded.
Open access to live video feeds around the court can let us see every angle from our seat. Why should the die-hard behind one basket miss the crucial and-1 from the other end?
Proximity-triggering technology can play a part in tailoring a first-time visitor experience to learning the game with an on-premises mobile experience that lets her learn fun concepts (like how a double play works).
2. Arm the Analysts
Today, everyone’s an analyst. Making hypothetical trades and building teams have become as fun as watching the games themselves (sometimes more). Media brands, leagues and teams are sitting on a treasure trove of content and data that could be used to create fan-analysis tools. The NFL offers its fee-based All-22 service, which provides fans with video of every player on every play of the game. For soccer fans, Opta leads the charge with data widgets that sports bloggers and other amateur specialists can embed into their content, allowing greater insight to their analysis.
Now engage the wannabe GMs with smarter and more beautiful interactive, embeddable and shareable tools for analysis:
3. Enable New Perspectives
Engage fans with the game at the same level as the athletes. Put cameras on players during training or games to record footage that teams use to create one-of-a-kind VR fan experiences. A fan gets to go for the ride with Kyrie Irving by wearing a VR headset.
As drones get safer, smaller and more automated, they can transport us out of our seats and into the action with top-down shots at the line of scrimmage, views of what the quarterback sees downfield as a pass play develops, or whatever angle best displays the action.
Why stop at footage? The Players’ Tribune has seen incredible early success by publishing articles written exclusively by current and former professional athletes. Fans get insight straight from the athlete’s thought process as they played the game. This gives players (and coaches and GMs) new platforms to share beyond traditional press sound bites and canned reaction interviews.
It’s up to us as the fans and creators of sports experiences to usher in this new golden age of fandom, one that goes beyond better broadcasts into something unexpectedly exciting. Game on.