Small Planet

Blog Post

What If My Sports Team…

Baseball season is here, which got us thinking about all the ways big-time sports could leverage technology to engage fans. How about some easy-to-implement digital tools that make sense for everybody?

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Opened up digital audio feeds?

Play-by-play announcing for sporting events typically presents the listener with a limited  number of choices based on language and media outlet. Sometimes those choices can be boring and predictable.

What if you had dozens of official audio options for any given game, all controlled via your mobile device? Channels that feature a comedy team, more of a gender balance, a minimalist approach to the audio, or similar theme? Or, any number of amateur or local feeds, each with a distinct voice and personality?

Sports broadcast rights are, of course, obscenely expensive. Part of that expense is dictated by strict, and historically successful, controls over how audio and visual content is delivered. There’s not exactly a rush to splinter listenership 30 ways, losing control of a narrative and cutting into the audience of the “lead” TV and radio broadcast teams.

While that argument holds (barely, for now), doesn’t it make sense in the age of choice to offer your consumers alternatives?


Made it easier to make a difference?

As we’ve seen with recent takes on Amazon’s Dash button, and the streamlined way of giving money to worthy organizations via mobile apps, it’s easier than ever to give money.

These methods could be applied to college alumni giving, donations to team-affiliated charities, youth sports fundraising, and one-off contributions to special causes. Twitter donations are pretty common nowadays, but worthy causes could take it up a level using notifications that prompt donors to make a one-click contribution via their devices.

Adding some whimsy to the inevitable heartbreak of team loyalty, a charity-related Dash button in the TV room could function as a sort of modern-day swear jar for passionate fans. Hooking it up to the opposing team’s causes could be a fun activity for the whole family!


Digitized tailgating?

While many stadiums are getting digital makeovers on the inside, the parking lot/tailgating experience in most places is still mainly a blank, buzzed expanse of asphalt. The new Atlanta Braves stadium will have an app that lets fans find parking spots and get real-time post-game traffic information. Good start, but how about:

  • Free wifi in the parking areas
  • Touchscreen kiosks in each section with game day info and wait times for entrance at each gate
  • Charging stations near every parking spot
  • App-based food and beverage delivery service

Of course, building and maintaining all this infrastructure is very expensive, and adding in weatherproofing and security doesn’t help. But in the age of sponsorships and ever-increasing parking fees, this can be solved, no?


Lit it up?

Large-scale lighting design has been around in baseball for a long time, especially for scoreboards. But there’s tremendous potential for responsive lighting in stadiums and arenas. Entire facilities, inside and outside, could reflect and project the pulse and mood of the fans.

A few years ago the signature arch in London’s Wembley Stadium was transformed with an integrated lighting scheme that immediately responds to major moments of the game, turning the exterior into a light art installation. LED lights could be interwoven into every facet of an arena’s architecture, and a “lighting designer” would take charge during games so the entire facility takes on a cohesive, ever-changing color scheme. There could be experiential lighting before, during, and after games: blue hues in the walkways when the stadium opens would transition to warmer colors (or team colors) as the game progresses, then back down to cooler shades when the game is over.

Smart lighting for box seats, party areas, and restaurants in a stadium could easily be installed by the facility, and controlled by occupants via their device. Different crowds could employ different color schemes: corporate outings could program brand colors for their box, while youth baseball teams get blanketed in their uniform colors.


Let us order and pay for beverages and snacks from our seats?

Hawking beer section-by-section is a time-honored tradition, and the randomness of the beverage attendant coming through your section has its charms. The process, however, could be more consumer-focused and efficient (and lucrative). How about an app that allows you to order and pay via your device, with tip and wait time included? Availability, quantity, pricing, preset food requests for returning customers with season tickets…all a click away.

Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, the San Francisco 49ers, the New England Patriots, and a growing number of professional organizations already have versions of this. But implementation has been slow in other leagues (we’re looking at you, baseball) and in college sports.

Mobile could bring a radically different consumer experience to the “cheap seats,” and provide teams and facilities with a tremendous amount of data on what their fans actually want. Finally, exactly what we need, an easier way to drink and eat more while sitting around!


Offered more replay options?

With NBC Sports, Gol TV, beIN Sports, ESPN, Fox, and many other networks showing the beautiful game, there has never been a better time to watch soccer in America. But we’d like more.

A handful of the crew here are, in a word, old. They grew up paying for content and are still happy to do so. Too often, though, there isn’t a legitimate way to pay for and watch a game, either live or in replay. We’d love to pay for individual games, but most sports-related viewing is on a subscription model, not a pay-per-view model. Live games on cable have an undeniable appeal to advertisers, which is a fair point.

But wait…why can’t replays follow an iTunes Store or Netflix model? Why not pay to watch the Real game on your own schedule (even though you perhaps could have DVR’ed it for free).

Expanding the options for single-game viewing cuts down on the temptation to find content by any means necessary (i.e. illegitimate viewing options). It’s also a service to fans. No more scrambling to catch a Champion’s League game in the middle of the day, it’s available immediately after for downloading. You can start watching it on the train home via your mobile device.


Opened up their archives?

As you can tell, we watch a lot of soccer. A lot. In addition to the English Premier League, you’ll find us watching Major League Soccer, the Bundesliga, La Liga, World Cup Qualifiers, every major tournament, and some minor ones. Our madness extends to the occasional NCAA soccer or even high school soccer if we happen to surf by it.

Korea vs. Italy in the 2002 World Cup was one of the most exciting soccer games we’ve ever seen, but all we can remember is the sheer, blinding pandemonium at the end. We’d shell out $3-5 to watch it or $10-15 to own it. Why stop there? We’d consider paying a monthly subscription to be able to stream classic soccer games.

How about it, rights holders? Put those old games up somewhere. They aren’t doing you any good right now, why not monetize your archives?


Want to see what sports-related stuff Small Planet is working on? Email hello@smallplanet.com.