Ryan Stoner | Brand Strategist

Technology continues to redefine how we experience live sports.

As a passionate sports fan I believe we are on the cusp of some of the most exciting times in sports.  It’s a great time to be a sports fan, and it’s only going to get better. And I am not just talking about the Mayweather vs. McGregor fight or NBA super teams. I am talking about how new technologies will continue to bring us closer to the game.

In today’s connected world, fans are in charge of how sports are watched. We have an always-on all access pass to the teams we love. Big data, IoT, VR and AR are enabling stronger customer relationships and reinventing the fan experience.

What the Internet of Things has done

The Internet of Things (IoT) has changed the game when it comes to personal sports. Set to be a trillion dollar industry by 2020, the IoT has changed everything from baseballs with sensors that can recognize the grip of the pitcher to help train better pitching habits to basketball hoops stopping the clock automatically when the ball goes through the net; technology to improve your personal game has come a long way from step-counters!

But there’s more to it than that: we’re talking about sports marketing & fan engagement in a world of location connected devices. The $620B global sports industry has not been historically quick to adapt to new technology, but when it does, the results can be revolutionary.

Marketers views toward IoT

Seventy-nine percent of marketers deem IoT very or somewhat important, compared to 72% of agency executives, and when it comes to marketing sports, the pitch here is simple: There is no better use for real-time data than hungry sports fans looking for an immersive experience. The immediacy of the game and the connections between fans is what draws consumers to spend time and money on sporting events in the first place. Connecting fans and putting them into the middle of the action is a perfect marriage with IoT technology in marketing the full package to consumers.

Examples of successful IoT devices for sports

Take the Budweiser Red Light, an internet-connected device to place near your TV, that flashes and goes off in real-time as your team scores points. It brings the excitement of the stadium experience right into your living room. Socially, it’s incredibly easy to get fans engaged when they can take geo-tagged selfies with custom, game-specific themes, and watch Snapchats from their favorite player during halftime from their seats. Fantasy sports players can upload real-time data into their portfolios or make trades during gameplay. Or, you can take a look at the way IBM Interactive Experience is making Wimbledon fans a part of the game with personalized content, statistics, and experiences for any platform.

Stadiums themselves, connected to IoT technology, are participating in everything from real-time instant replays sent to personal devices to in-seat food ordering. From The Guardian: “The way sports are layering these different technologies together is changing coaching, the way fans view sports and even how sports clubs are run. A variety of applications now mean the keen fan can see not just how their team performed but which players were most influential in the game. Any fan with a WiFi connection and a tablet device now has, in effect, a coach’s eye view of the game.”

Future developments
Motion capturing real-time game play via sensors for Virtual Reality (VR) use is in the works, which means it’s time to imagine being able to have a stadium-seat from your home halfway around the world. Or, connected stadiums could put all of the in-house fans into a chat room to meet, cheer, and jeer, turning strangers into friends in real-time. Gamifying merchandise purchases at the gift store? Tracking the shortest restroom lines from your smartphone? Don’t have a ticket to the big game? No problem. Pretty soon leagues will bring the stadium experience right into your home.