Prediction for 2016: going to sporting events will no longer just be an excuse to drink beer, talk shit to your buddies, spill beer and occasionally shout rude things at referees.
Because technology is about to invade a stadium near you.
You can thank millennials, fantasy football and our collectively diminishing attention span.
“The fan experience has become more interactive,” says Craig Howe, CEO and founder of Rebel Ventures, which invests in sports technology and advises professional teams on digital integration. “Fans want to roll fantasy stats while watching the game, and teams want gameday to be all day.”
For Howe — who consults for Real Madrid, the world’s most lucrative sports franchise — data and technology are going to have a big influence on sports in 2016 in three areas: revenue, performance (athletes will have more data to negotiate bigger deals) and audience optimization.
That third pillar extends beyond the field, from team websites to Facebook mentions to Snapchat, where fans can find real-time glimpses of behind the scenes action.
Here are four other technologies that will bring fans closer to the game than they’ve ever been before:
Seat Upgrades During the Game
Pogoseat lets you upgrade your seat after arriving at an event. They’re currently in 25 stadiums across the U.S., with plans to be in 100 of the 152 major U.S. sports teams’ homes (NFL, NBA and NHL) by 2018. The app connects you to unsold seats or seats left vacant by ticket holders that couldn’t make it last minute. Prices are tied to algorithms that account for things like score, the ranking of the teams playing, and how much time is left in the game.
Virtual Reality Games on Site
In 2015, virtual reality was big as a training tool to help with decision making and reaction time. In 2016, you may start seeing it offered to fans at arenas. VR companies like Strivr, EA Sports and Two Bit Circus are at the forefront of putting VR-powered games into fan areas in stadia around the world.
The Social Media Takeover
The question of how to make social media matter at a live sporting experience (beyond the deluge of “look where I am” Instagrams) is a difficult one. Rebel advises for Tagboard — a tool that lets venues control what tags attendees use while giving the audience the ability to see themselves on the Jumbotron — at the San Francisco 49ers’ Levi's Stadium, and has upcoming activations in place with all of the major leagues.
Stadium Apps Become Useful
Hungry? Thirsty? Want something other than a hot dog? Rebel Ventures relied heavily on beacon technology when devising and planning the technology integration for the Stadium app for Levi’s, which allows attendees to find, order and pay for food from their seats.