Over the past decade, technology has played an increasingly important role in the sports industry, modernizing the on-field experience for players, teams and leagues. Advances such as video assistant referee (VAR) technology, for example, have revolutionized how football games are refereeed and played, while game footage, telematics and heat maps have led to major advances in player performance management.
However, these technology-led advancements have largely been confined to the stadium, and the sports fan experience has changed little in recent years. As technology continues to rapidly evolve, forward-thinking sports clubs now have a unique opportunity to reach their fans faster and easier than ever before, expanding their global reach and appeal .
Modernizing the Sports Fan Experience Through Technology
Sports is a unique industry in that it is arguably the most unpredictable in the world. It’s nearly impossible to predict which team will win, the transient status of players and which players will be affected by transfers or end-of-season injuries.
These factors can significantly affect fan demand and appetite, meaning many sports teams may struggle to keep up with changing fan demands. But with technology changing, clubs can now keep an eye on new trends and produce a lot of fan kit at the same time. This ensures the team is able to meet the needs of their fans and seize opportunities when they arise.
For example, thanks to the tireless work of our world-class technical team, Fanatics is able to meet the huge surge in demand caused by the transfers of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Manchester United respectively in 2021 .
In the mere four hours since it was announced that Ronaldo would be re-donning his iconic No. 7 jersey, sales have surpassed the platform’s website’s all-time high single-day sales outside the United States, with only one hour in the first hour. The sale topped the all-time high on United’s official online store, United Direct, all day. As for Messi, PSG’s official online store, run by the digital sports platform, sold out branded jerseys quickly, with demand breaking the record for a single player at the time just 30 minutes after he was signed.
With its core technology core, one of the world’s leading digital sports platforms – with the largest collection of officially licensed fan merchandise, NFT/digital collectibles, sports betting, iGaming and trading cards – is creating lasting fan experiences. This is facilitated by substantial investments across data, e-commerce platforms, predictive analytics, digital and social marketing, mobile and B2B tools, enabling companies to target the right fans on the right devices at the right time. Vertical commerce (v-commerce) capabilities are critical to helping such companies design, produce and distribute their own exclusive merchandise to fans worldwide.
How Technology Brings Local Teams to Global Audiences
Evolving technology has revolutionized the way fans access clubs, opening up local teams to global fans. Today, fans of a player or club can be found in every corner of the world. As technology continues to open up sports teams to new global audiences, clubs must also account for different fan preferences and cultural norms. For example, what appeals to Indian fans may not appeal to American fans, suggesting that clubs need to think carefully about the messages and products they offer for each market.
Technology can also help here, providing teams with access to advanced digital analytics that allow them to research and predict fan attitudes and tastes. This allows clubs to tailor their messaging and merchandise offerings to different fan bases around the world, ensuring everyone feels what their favorite team has to offer. This can also be achieved by working with partners who cater to the needs of international sports organizations and their fans.
What can we see in the future?
Technology still has untapped potential to enrich the sports fan experience in the coming years. In terms of how this looks, the possibilities are literally endless. There are many ways sports teams can blend physical and digital channels to improve the fan experience in new and exciting ways.
For example, in the future we are likely to regularly see special in-game promotions and offers for fans attending games, where they can order their favorite players’ jerseys for special discounts by scanning the QR codes on their seats, and then Deliver it to their seats – a true omnichannel fan experience powered by ever-evolving technology. In fact, fans have already experienced something similar at Wembley Stadium!
Alternatively, we may increasingly see commercial giants in other industries, such as fashion or retail, engaging with sports fans to reach new audiences, and such partnerships can work both ways, as sports clubs can also take advantage of the arrangement Extended range provided. For example, global fashion giant DKNY entered into an ongoing women’s athleisure partnership with Major League Baseball (MLB), and the subsequent sports-inspired collection filled a void in the fashion women’s fan apparel market while significantly expanding the reach of all involved partners influence and attractiveness.
Overall, wherever technology and sport intersect in the future, it is clear that technology and data, if harnessed properly, will be transformative for sports clubs, leagues and, most importantly, fans.
The views expressed above are the author’s own.
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