• New technologies are being integrated into live sports experiences through brand partnerships and sponsorships
• The passionate, highly engaged community of sports fans, and the ability for brands to enhance their experiences, makes sports a uniquely valuable segment for the integration of new emerging technologies
• New experiences powered by emerging technologies have become increasingly valuable in the creation of continuous engagement opportunities which reward fans for their participation, and in return create more love and loyalty for the brand
• This value exchange is set to keep growing, so expect to see brands at the forefront of these emerging technology integrations, completely reimagining how we as fans engage with our favorite teams
REIMAGINING THE FAN EXPERIENCE
Sports provide fans with dramatic highs and lows, adrenaline surges, and opportunities to become part of communities with like-minded enthusiasts. The experiences make you feel like something bigger than yourself.
However, this love of sports and being a fan is affected in large part by how positive your fan experience is, whether that’s watching from home or live in the stadium. Win or lose, if sports brands and the brands that sponsor them don’t provide experiences that create a positive impact on fans, they risk losing fan engagement, support, and revenue through ticket, merchandise, and concession sales.
To continue to provide positive experiences that make the participation of fans more seamless, many teams and sponsoring brands are turning to emerging technologies to keep fans more engaged than ever before.
A REDEFINED CONSUMER JOURNEY
Imagine you are going to see your local NFL team play live.
You purchase your ticket online, receiving a digital ticket available on any digital device, allowing seamless and contactless entry into the stadium. Along with your digital ticket, you are also invited to download a free app that grants you exclusive access to perks that you have yet to fully discover.
While exploring, you see that this app and its digital integrations are made possible by a sponsoring brand, one that you’ve heard of but never really thought much about otherwise. You spend some time exploring all the app has to offer.
As you head towards the game, you notice a pop-up activation set up right by the stadium parking lot. There you are informed that not only can you get great discounts on team merchandise for being a loyal supporter, but every purchase also comes with a free NFT collectible offered by the brand sponsoring your team, which can be transferred straight to your digital wallet.
These NFT’s act as virtual trading cards, collectibles that you can share digitally around the world. Once purchased, you get an email inviting you to create an account with the NFT producer, allowing you to browse more NFT collectibles to add to your collection.
You arrive at the stadium, and being the savvy consumer that you are, you immediately head to a local pub near the stadium that is a participating partner of your team. Using your exclusive app rewards, you grab yourself a discounted tasty pre-game meal.
As you leave, you see a group of people congregated in a pop-up space. You enter and find yourself in a sports betting suite, made possible by one of the team’s sponsors. Inside, a sign invites you to follow a link where you can win exclusive rewards by placing your first bet through their website. You place a smart bet for your team to score the first touchdown of the game, thanks to the advanced AI analytics provided by the brand that shows that your team scores the first touchdown in 75% of their games and their opponent concedes the first touchdown of the game 60% of the time.
You enter the stadium, hardly spending any time at all in line as each person scans their ticket. You head for your seat, and when you arrive, you see a QR code at your seat.
You scan the code, which allows you to use augmented reality (AR) to either take selfies with digital versions of your favorite players or to digitally overlay live stats over the field as the game starts. The QR code also alerts you that there are other exclusive AR opportunities at different locations throughout the stadium, each accessible through a unique branded code that provides exclusive rewards and experiences. Your selfie is automatically entered into a contest for the most creative AR selfie, where the winner wins a free ticket to the next home game.
In addition to all the aforementioned brand touchpoints you receive a beacon notification that your telecommunication provider has recently deployed new high-speed, low-latency 5G Wi-Fi for free throughout the stadium.You use this unlimited data access to watch replays from your favorite players, gain some last-minute insights into the game that’s about to start, and watch the final score predictions live from your favorite pundits.
As the game progresses, you get a live notification from the stadium app pinging you that the community thread is at peak engagement right now, with fans posting their immediate thoughts about the game all in one place.
You feel more connected with the fan community around you and even add your own live reactions and photos about the bad calls from the referee and the excitement when your team ultimately wins the game. You feel grateful that you now feel connected to the larger fan community and appreciative that the brand that made this integration possible has created such a community-oriented platform.
After the game is over, you start heading home when you receive an email from a major fast-food brand that since your team scored over a certain threshold of points, every fan gets a free taco at the participating locations citywide, so you decide to stop in.
You arrive home and check back on the sportsbook site where you can collect your winnings, watch post-game pundit breakdowns, celebratory content made by fellow fans, and get some early insights into your team’s next game through an analytics breakdown made by AI.
Welcome to the new world of sports fans’ experiences.
THE VALUE BEHIND THE INNOVATIONS
In the previous section, we outlined a hypothetical sports fan’s experience watching their team play. This is already a reality for many sports fans and may become the reality for all sports fans soon.
Integration of new technology – from mobile concession ordering to AR experiences to NFT collectibles and metaverse integrations – are already happening across major sports leagues.
As an example, IBM has partnered with major sports competitions such as Wimbledon and The Masters to release their own sponsored app, which provides high-level AI-powered analytics and educational content to help fans bet smarter and be smarter about their favorite players and sports.
This, in turn, provides more engagement opportunities for the fans, IBM, and the competitions themselves through this fully integrated digital experience.
Likewise, the NBA has been at the forefront of metaverse activations including the release of limited edition NFT collectibles for the 2022 All-Star Game in Cleveland. Not only did these NFTs provide fan engagement in the metaverse through trading and collection, but they also integrated experiential marketing by placing these collectibles at historic sites in Cleveland. The activations encouraged exploration and heightened engagement with the local community at the All-Star game.
These integrations don’t just benefit fans and their experiences, but they also benefit the brands behind them. By creating more engagement opportunities through technology integrations, brands can parlay the love and support that fans have for their teams into affinity for the brands who have just showcased their ability to create more memorable fan experiences.
Besides showcasing how new technology can augment and enhance people’s experiences more generally, these emerging technologies provide stellar avenues for brand integration and engagement with sports fan communities.
By creating more seamless experiences for fans, more content for them to consume before, during, and after the game, and more ways to integrate non-traditional experiences they may be seeking, such as metaverse and augmented reality integrations, brands can translate that engagement from fan communities into broader engagement outside the sphere of sports.
What makes the use of these emerging technologies by brands so valuable is the creation of continuous new engagement opportunities that reward consumers for their participation, creating love for the brand and showcasing the value that these partnerships with emerging technologies in sports can have.
LOOKING AHEAD TO FUTURE GAME DAYS
Technology is changing experiences for consumers in almost every facet of their lives, and brands are at the forefront of these technological integrations.
What makes sports a uniquely valuable segment for these integrations is the passionate, highly engaged communities that sports fandom creates, and the ability for brands to enhance these sports fans’ experiences, which builds brand love through engaging and valuable experiences for those fans. And while the hypothetical consumer journey we highlighted above showcases what these integrations could look like now, we expect these integrations from brands to be even more advanced as technology continues to develop.
As technology continues to become more advanced, the value that brands can bring to those fan experiences increases, which in turn leads to greater value returned to the brand from increased fan loyalty. As for what emerging technology integrations brands could provide to fans in the future, we see abundant opportunities surrounding the increased adoption of the metaverse and how brands could bring sports fandom to life in those virtual spaces.
Being able to activate those virtual communities into hybrid physical and digital spaces hosted by brands will increase brand affinity through meaningful fan engagement.
Expect to see brands be at the forefront of these emerging technology integrations with fan experiences that completely reimagine how we as fans engage with our favorite teams.