The experience of a sports fan is not what it used to be. Gone are the days when fans would only pay attention to football on Sundays and baseball during the month of October. Fans of all sports and organizations want to interact with their favorite teams and players all the time. 

Startups in the sports world have taken notice of changing audience behaviors and are delivering solutions to bring sports action to viewers. But it should not just be startups incorporating new approaches and technologies, major organizations have an opportunity to disrupt their own products and revamp live sports for the better.

The inception of high definition television and national fantasy leagues have enabled fans to take a more active role in sports and feel as though they are on the field with players. But now that audiences have a taste of an immersive, participatory viewing experience, they want more.

The rise of augmented reality products in professional leagues.

MLB has long been lauded as a future-focused sports entity, consistently willing to test new solutions to better the fan experience. Although major league baseball is steeped in tradition, the league also recognizes that the only way to keep up with other leagues and maintain fan attention (even in the off-season) is through technological innovation.

In September 2017 the MLB announced a new app, aptly titled 'At Bat.' The augmented reality application allows fans to take a deeper dive into each individual at-bat. Through the app, fans in the stadium can use their mobile devices to instantly obtain a comprehensive picture of each player's statistics.

By simply pulling up the app and pointing their mobile devices toward the field, the app populates the user's mobile screen with individual player profiles, including arm strength and catch probability in addition to staples like, on base percentage and batting averages.

The experience doesn't stop there. For those fans determined to take stock of every play on the field, the app also allows them to follow the speed and trajectory of every single hit. Essentially, 'At Bat' empowers baseball fans to serve as their own sports media analysts.

Not to be outdone, the NBA is also exploring new ways to breathe new life into the fan experience. The league recently announced its partnership with Next VR and its plans to broadcast every single game (yes, you read that correctly) of the 2017-2018 season in virtual reality.

What's next.

It's not just leagues that have the opportunity to proactively develop new fan experiences--individual organizations can, and should, take the initiative to find new ways to give back to their fans through augmented reality.

Recently, Venture Capital fund JB Fitzgerald invested in major league soccer club, DC United. All world cup jokes aside, the MLS is growing in this country, and one of the best ways to propel this growth is to deliver enhanced fan experiences.

By leveraging new-to-market players, like my new platform BlendAR, the DC United club has the chance to drive new levels of innovation through augmented application developments. For example, a BlendAR app development could allow fans to take a closer look at players stats, and see the field more comprehensively. Here's how:

  1. A fan downloads the augmented application prior to heading into the stadium, and is greeted with a pre-matchup video.

  2. Upon entering the stadium they receive a push notification with a GPS coordinate telling them how to get to the first AR experience which is a poster on the right side of the stadium. They hover over the poster and see a video from their favorite player.

  3. Once the fan has reached his seat, he opens up the program and hovers over each player's picture to see an overview of their career stats.

  4. They flip to the back of the game program, hover over an image with the application and view a season highlight reel, complete with a direct call-to-action to purchase new team merchandise.

This is just an example of how an in-game augmented reality app could enhance a soccer fan's experience. But the fan experience is not simply relegated to sports teams and professional leagues. Brand advertisers of sports teams and events can get in on the action and devise augmented platforms that also heighten experiences for fans and consumers.

For example, within a promotion featured in an event pamphlet, a brand can advise fans to download their augmented application, and hover over the add to unlock special deals. 

Regardless of how organizations apply augmented reality, one thing is for certain: consumers want to feel more engaged with the teams and brand they love. Augmented experiences are quickly going to become the norm. If you don't want to fall behind in relevancy, it's time to explore how you can bring your brand to life through augmented initiatives. 

Published on: Oct 13, 2017