How Technology is Improving the Live Sports Experience

Mitch Tor Picture

by Mitch Tor | Last Updated: May 20, 2022

With attention spans declining and mobile phone usage skyrocketing, the sports world is looking for ways to engage fans on mobile devices. Many sports leagues have tried to find the right way to capitalize on second screeners. Still, none have cracked the code like the Augusta National marketing team What Makes the Masters App Unique?  At this year’s tournament there was another way for golf fans to follow the match, through an entirely free app for fans to watch the footage, catch up on rankings, and past and current tournament play. When you open the app you are presented with a leaderboard updated in real-time. Using this leaderboard, you can scroll to check scores, add players to your favorites list, or shot by shot with a simulated AI-powered course map These features aren’t the only things that keep golf fans thinking about the app well after each year’s tournament. The app integrates a free video stream with dozens of broadcast options. You can watch by hole number to see how different golfers play the hole or watch the featured groups.  The most surprising part about The Master’s app is that it only served a purpose for one tournament weekend out of the entire year. This may seem like a questionable decision, but the marketing team behind the creation and design of the app wanted to key in on an incredible user experience..  Jumping in the Metaverse Ring  It’s a strategy that other sports leagues are trying to accomplish – delivering digital experiences with impact. For example, to help enhance fan engagement during NBA playoffs and engage with fans on social media, the league and Google Pixel (the official fan phone of the NBA) developed the “Pixel Arena'' where fans can use smartphones to enter the NBA metaverse. During playoff broadcasts, a QR activation prompts viewers to scan the code and enter the arena. In the virtual arena, fans create an avatar, play trivia, and even relive classic playoff moments from different perspectives. This marketing tactic was used to promote the partnership between the NBA and Google Pixel however fans can participate from any Android or iOS device.  The pixel arena is a cool new test of emerging technologies, but it misses the mark for creating a great digital experience during the NBA playoffs.  As a spectator of this year’s NBA playoffs and fascinated by metaverse technologies, marketers might assume I'm the perfect demographic for this marketing stunt. The NBA says this app is best used at halftime or post game to keep fans engaged through the long break. Most NBA fans, including myself, are invested in the game and consume the media breakdown at half time (or scroll through Twitter) and casual spectators won’t be as interested in experiencing the metaverse or participating in trivia.  While the concept is cool, it’s still new in its current form, and the digital experience might not leave a lasting experience for every fan. I am not sure how the NBA and Google Pixel Arena is performing right now in regards to fan engagement. And here’s why, a recent Gartner report predicts that 25 percent of people will spend at least one hour a day in the metaverse to work, shop, attend school, socialize or consume entertainment by 2026.  A Few Takeaways:  First, remember your audience. For example, the Masters tournament app gives fans content that’s easy to interact with and view. Same approach with the NBA Pixel Arena – fans can view some of the most iconic plays in NBA history. What NBA fan hasn’t dreamed of sitting courtside and watching their favorite team play in the big moment? Second, make the experience tangible and accessible. For example, the NBA might gain more users if the technology was implemented in live games to help amplify fans' viewing. A courtside view of the big plays from the game in real-time or a Google pixel branded QR code to watch the play from any angle in the arena. Third, create beyond the hype. There’s no questioning Web 3.0 and the metaverse offers the next stage for consumer engagement, but for marketers knowing what strategy and approach to take isn’t always obvious since the concept is still new. Eventually, the ways to create and bring value to consumers across the digital experience ecosystem will come into focus.   

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