Innovating Sports for the Post-COVID Fan? Establish these 7 Key Values.

Miss sports? Me too. As CTO of MVP Interactive, I miss our clients, I miss the teams and leagues they work for, and I miss my teams. The world is more than sports, and all MVPers want to extend our hearts to the families working to keep us safe and at home during this pandemic.

Many of the technologies and experiences MVP makes are for installations on sports venue concourses. I spend a lot of time in stadiums, working with teams and taking part in the behind-the-scenes activity that goes into the sports at these venues. Sports is the great content creator. It will evolve, and so will fans. Technology will be the key component in this evolution to bring fans back safely to the games we love.

Establish Demand via Digital Outreach

Teams and venues will need to establish and measure demand for their live product. Some teams will face major demand above capacity as fans in their cities will want to return to normalcy above all else. Those teams may need to put seat limits in place to help maintain a reasonable social distance between fans. That will depend on each venue’s ability to safely serve their audience at specific capacities. Other teams will have trouble bringing fans back to their live product. Those teams will need to invest in new marketing initiatives, both digital and broadcast, that promote safety measures and drive new enthusiasm for their team. MVP has been working with several teams around digital outreach and fan interaction during the shutdown to keep fans engaged and to measure demand.

Innovate Ticket Options

One initiative that could help teams concerned about demand is to offer innovative options for seating arrangements. A sit-where-you-want ticket option with an assigned section or choice of sections could ease fan anxiety around social distancing. Fans might even pay a premium for innovations like these to comfortably distance themselves from others. This could be especially popular in the US market, where freedom of choice is highly desired.

Schedule Fan Entry

To quell lines at stadium entry, teams should look to how museums disperse high volume times with scheduled tickets. Stadiums may need additional health screening at the gates, whatever form that takes, and health screening will take time. Tickets could come with assigned entry gate time slots to maintain order in what’s typically a crowded and chaotic moment even without additional screenings. As a result, more fans will enter the concourse earlier, which will help drive additional concession sales and brand sponsorship opportunities.

Enhance Concourse Entertainment

With fans entering the stadium earlier, teams will need to invest in fan entertainment that meets the demand of these consumers. Fans aren’t suddenly going to enter a stadium and run right to their seats. And teams will want to present well with fans both in and out of the stadium to sustain and increase demand for tickets. MVP sees a huge opportunity to reinvent the fan experience across all teams and leagues, with touchless and gesture-based experiences, social video experiences, and competitive play experiences that all respect social distancing. Fan’s mobile phones will play a much bigger role on the concourse, as fans are comfortable interacting on their own devices. MVP recommends augmented reality activations like touchless digital jersey try-ons, athlete-focused video experiences, and QRCode-triggered games and scavenger hunts, that all incorporate the fans’ devices. We’ve been an innovator in fan experiences and gaming for years, and we love the challenges that this current market presents.

Guide Lines and Fan Navigation

Scheduled access to concourse could become popular with teams. Dividing fans into groups and then scheduling group access to the concourse with digital communication like text messaging or mobile app notifications for support, operation teams can manage concourse flow. For baseball, imagine even sections during even innings, odd sections during odd innings. For other sports like hockey or soccer that have concourse rush between very seldom breaks in play, these digital communications will be essential for safe concourse use. Once on the concourse, digital signage and menu boards will guide fans to less dense concessions and bathrooms areas on the concourse. Flow will be the name of the game, and both teams and fans will need to take part in governing that process.

Innovate Concession and Delivery Options

Some stadiums have already made mobile app concession concierge popular. Mobile ordering and waitered delivery or additional roving sellers with increased options will keep fans happy and in their seats. In these instances, mobile payment options will take over for the cash and cards typical in these transactions. Gone are the days of passing a $20 down the row of fans to the peanut vendor and getting change passed back. Teams that deeply incorporate QRCode payments, Venmo payments, and crypto payment options will win big here.

Concessions will evolve, too. Fewer employees should come in contact with products before they reach consumers, and those products will need modifications for how they can be safely consumed. I think we’ll see fewer foods that require a line cook to prepare (like sandwiches), and more foods that can be heated in an encased enclosure (like hotdogs, pretzels, and popcorn) and packaged without touch. Prepackaged options should also thrive. Updates to alcohol, draft pours, pre-opening bottles and cans should also be rethought with contamination in mind.

Collect Fan Feedback

Consumers will want several feedback options during their stadium experience. The first is immediate feedback around safety and distancing. If a fan is feeling uncomfortable in a certain situation, there should be ways of signaling that to team representatives. Second, teams should collect sentiment analysis of fans during their experience. Push-button feedback stations have become popular at some stadiums to collect sentiment at key concourse moments. MVP is working on a product that evolves these stations into touchless feedback mechanisms, key for teams to continue monitoring consumer demand while appeasing germ conscious fans.

At MVP, we believe we’ll see a new age of investment in game-day experiences, concourse technology, and fan feedback mechanisms with this new consumer in mind. These innovations will promote social engagement between fans and encourage people to come back together to be a part of the team and the live experience. We’re excited to share what we’ve been working on and can’t wait to see the teams we love retake the ice, courts, fields, and pitches across the world.

If you’d like to hear more about what we’re doing at MVP Interactive for the future fan, now is a great time to get in touch. Visit our website to request a quote, leave a comment here, or DM me to continue the conversation.

Originally published at https://www.linkedin.com.

Habitual shaker upper. Game maker. CTO @ MVP Interactive.

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