The sports industry is facing an interesting predicament right now. On one hand, technology has opened doors for bringing more experiences to fans, including access to teams and players, beyond just being spectators. On the other hand, those behind the scenes of sports teams struggle with finding a balance between encouraging fans to use technology during games versus simply enjoying the game “in the moment.” Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban addressed his opinion on this just a few years ago basically saying that he wants fans to put their phones down and enjoy the live action on the court. The basketball purist in me agrees with Mr. Cuban completely.
However, as the Director of Digital Media for the Minnesota Timberwolves, my team is responsible for finding ways to attract, connect, engage and retain fans through online channels. We are tasked day in and day out to bring innovative campaigns to keep our fans interested. And sports fans are one of the toughest online audiences to please, mostly because they have been able to enjoy endless streams of online content that professional sports teams work hard to deliver. We always have to be shipping new things for fans to enjoy, because they don’t sit still for long…
Recently I got my hands on a pair of Google Glass, and I truly do believe this is only the beginning of what this product can offer the sports industry. The applications for use in-arena for a basketball fan are countless… Real-time feeds of boxscore data, “mascot view”, on-court augmented reality, channel options for fans to view other arena activities during timeouts or breaks in the action, and multiple camera/replay views available via Glass on demand are just a few of the functionality points I envision for Glass in-arena. When prices drop as the Glass technology becomes cheaper to manufacture, I would make a serious pitch to my senior leadership team to install Glass units on every seat in the arena, or at least in strategic seating locations.
Glass, or Glass-like technology, can solve several business problems we face now in professional sports. For example, as TV and home entertainment technology strengthens, drawing fans to a physical venue is more difficult than ever. By offering fans an in-arena exclusive experience, giving them access to a technology that allows closer access to action and entertainment, I see headwear and other wearable devices driving ticket sales. To address an earlier point of concern, Glass offers a more “passive” technology experience for a fan. With Glass’s current setup, it is easy for a fan to be engaged with on-court action and get excellent complimentary content without looking down at a phone.
The NBA and all 30 of the teams in the Association have long been known to be early adopters when it comes to new technology, and Glass is no exception. The Golden State Warriors have been testing a Glassware app and the Sacramento Kings gave Glass a run-through during pre-game warm-ups and introductions recently as well. Roy Hibbert of the Indiana Pacers was an early adopter as well, showing fans what it looks like to hit a mid-range jumper and throw down a dunk. At NBA Sales and Marketing meetings I attended in Miami this past January, Google Glass was a topic of several conversations. Teams are thinking seriously about how this impacts the fan experience.
The integration with sports is perhaps one of the most natural for Glass, and I personally am excited about the possibilities.
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