Don’t just watch, experience the game!

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Emerging technology is changing the way we engage with sport

My first introduction to cricket, even before playing it as a schoolboy with friends, was listening to radio commentary of a particularly exciting Test match. For a young boy, at the time, the experience felt totally immersive.

Fast forward a couple of decades or so, and how much has changed when I go and watch a match now? I can follow the ball-by-ball stats on a dedicated phone app, interact with friends and even the team in real time via social media, and I still have the radio commentary, beamed to wireless headphones. And, if I can’t make it to the stadium, I can experience the action close-up in virtual reality.

As ever more totally immersive experiences become available, sport is attracting more avid fans to experience it live. And, it is this customer experience (if you will) that is becoming the playing field where sports teams and clubs need to win over new fans – and new revenue streams – to their side.

Indeed, Gartner found that 80% of organizations expect to compete mainly based on customer experience over the next three years. And this is as equally true for the sports industry.

Capgemini’s new report – Emerging technologies in sports: reimagining the fan experience – delves into this field, and its findings point the way towards whole new experiences for sports fans around the world. And sports organizations across the world have a huge opportunity to tap into the evolving expectations of fans, and indeed athletes, to build a more joined up, customized, and personalized engagement experience.

Specifically, our research found that emerging technologies such as virtual reality, artificial intelligence and augmented reality will be critical in defining the future of the sports fan experience and how the sports fan engages in real time.

For example, our report found that 69% of fans think the use of these emerging technologies has enhanced their overall viewing experience, both inside and outside the stadium. In fact, this figure rises to as high as 89% in my home country of India.

When a fan has a good experience with technology either in or out the stadium, it has a positive knock-on effect in terms of overall engagement: 56% of those who liked their tech experience said they would actually go to more physical matches at their team’s stadium as a result and 60% said they would stream more matches online.

And revenue should not go unmentioned: 49% of fans have often increased their spending on team merchandise following a good tech-enabled experience. Ninety-two percent also said they had increased their spend on online subscriptions for watching matches (either often or a few times).

Moreover, 73% of avid fans attend more matches following a good tech-enabled experience, compared to 50% of the rest, and nearly three-quarters of avid fans watch a match in the stadium when their favorite team is playing.

Technology is now an integral part of how fans consume sports. The digitization of sport and the fan experience can strengthen engagement, building brand value, and driving revenue growth. To adopt and optimize emerging technologies in sports, we believe organizations should focus on four areas:

  1. Reassure fans on usage of personal data by seeking consent where possible on use of data, being transparent about the use and protection of consumer data, and demonstrating the value that consumers stand to gain with this data exchange
  2. Identify user needs before investing in and deploying emerging technologies
  3. Convert more fans to “avid fans” by defining a digital fan experience and offering hyper-personalized experiences
  4. Build digital practices, capabilities, and transform organizational culture by investing in a digital culture, skills, and cross-sharing of information across sports organizations to drive greater innovation.

And what am I most looking forward to? Putting on my “VR cricket helmet” and joining Virat Kohli at the crease as he settles in for a century partnership. But whatever your favorite sport, whether you want to join the pitcher on the mound in the World Series finals, or go beyond the front row to stand in goal for your national football or handball team, the experience for sports fan is changing the game!

For more information on our research or how we can help you create a customer journey that is as personal as it is effective, please reach out to me directly:  My LinkedIn

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