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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.

As for social media, he says it can sometimes be a forum for a lot of negative comments. “But it shows passion for the team.”

Jerry Drobny, vice president of strategic revenue for the San Francisco Giants, joked that he’s the guy in charge of “evil things” like dynamic pricing of tickets.

Non-revenue generating programs are important too

But even the guy in charge of generating revenue thinks non-revenue generating programs are important to the success of the franchise. For example, the Giants offer a free certificate at the Guest Services window where you can get a paper certificate as a confirmation and memento of seeing your first Giants game.

“You often can miss the simple things that are impactful to kids and visitors to the ballpark,” says Drobny. “Their name goes on the certificate and there’s engagement that doesn’t cost us much at all, but makes a huge impression on the fan. Now the challenge is to keep it from being something we try to monetize.”

Naveen Rajdev, CMO at IT and consulting services giant Wipro, says his company works with many sports teams around the world to improve the in-stadium experience.

“How we look at it is that almost everyone we come across loves sports and their sports team is like a religion so we are looking at the 24 hours a day life of a fan,” says Rajdev. Current projects include personalizing the fan experience on mobile devices using artificial intelligence to get them the videos, stats and other information they want in real-time.

Christine Stoffel, Founder and CEO SEAT (Sports & Entertainment Alliance in Technolgy) says the same technology that’s critical to any business applies to sports teams and the companies that support them. “It’s everything from smart buildings and mobile apps to AI and analytics. You can really use analytics to gather as much information as possible and create engaging experiences,” says Stoffel, formerly a vice president of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

However, she says it’s also challenging to decide how much investment to make in the latest technology. “We have small teams and departments and sometimes there simply aren’t enough resources to take it all in,” says Stoffel. “Also there’s the question of privacy. We have to consider how much is too much when we’re looking to collect information from fans and customers and whether we’re collecting too much data.”


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