Apr 28, 2011

The future of fan experience / trends and technology in game entertainment

Really interesting article from Sports Business Journal. Some highlights:
Whether it's shooting T-shirts into the crowd or laser beams throughout the arena, entertaining with a mascot or informing with a smartphone app, the approaches run the gamut. 
And while some added options provide the opportunity to generate additional revenue, team executives need to know when to dial it down and keep the focus on the game. 
Just ask Chicago Bulls executive Jeff Wohlschlaeger, who has spent 15 years directing in-game entertainment at the perennially sold-out United Center. Each season demands new ways to enhance the fan experience, from up in the rafters to down at courtside. 
"Fans are smart," Wohlschlaeger said. "We can't create fake energy and fans aren't going to cheer for no reason." 
For teams, improving the in-game experience not only demonstrates value to fans, but it also provides opportunities to increase revenue. The trick is knowing when enough is enough. 
"You can wallpaper the game presentation with sponsors' specific reads, but you can go over the edge," said Tom O'Grady, president of Gameplan Creative and in-game executive producer and consultant for the Chicago Fire and the Chicago Blackhawks. 
"You want to sell everything you can but you want something that hooks the fans in," O'Grady said. "Teams are doing more of that than before, and off the shelf is not good enough anymore. It's about creating ideas that will stick." 
So intertwined is the in-game fan experience and revenue that the Tampa Bay Rays now make it a policy to include game presentation staff on corporate sales calls, creating a seamless strategy between in-game presentation and sponsorship inventory. 
Yet, at the same time, the Rays refuse to roll out a sponsored promotion during the middle of the eighth inning in order to preserve the feeling that the game belongs to the fans. 
"Our fan experience department generates ideas that are put into sales pitches so they will be integrated from the beginning, but we are not going to do something that sacrifices the experience at the ballpark," said Brian Auld, senior vice president of business operations for the Rays. "We made the decision to protect that moment of the game that is exciting."
In the NBA, which has long pushed its in-game approach to new entertainment heights, some teams are moving away from an overly scripted strategy to ward off any in-game sponsorship overload. 
"The in-game experience has gone from being overproduced to finding a balance between the basketball and entertainment," said Shelly Driggers, director of event presentation for the Orlando Magic. "We have scaled back on the number of fan prompts, while the number of replays shown on the scoreboard has gone far beyond what we have done in the past. We let the game be the game."
NBA Entertainment logs every timeout of every NBA game and makes a video reel available for all teams. If a promotion or new entertainment element plays well in Portland, for example, teams in other markets will quickly adopt it. 
In addition, the NBA assigns a game presentation manager to each of its 30 teams to assist and evaluate their in-game efforts through regular customer surveys. Every summer, the NBA holds a workshop for all in-game managers where new and best practices are discussed.
Currently, NBA teams are following a league mandate to increase player interaction inside arenas. 
"Player imaging has been one of the focus points," 
Wohlschlaeger said. "We try to be creative in using players in our in-game and have them visible." 
Baseball, Mannion said, is moving toward more sophisticated fan engagement between innings. He said baseball teams spend anywhere from $600,000 to $2 million on in-game operations for each 81-game home season.
But not all clubs share the "newer is better" opinion when it comes to in-game entertainment. Advances in technology bring a bigger price tag and more sponsorship revenue opportunities, but ill-timed execution can have a dampening effect on the fan experience. 
Tim Beach, vice president of game operations and events for the New York Islanders, said the club previously launched a Zamboni race video game that was powered by text messages. Beach said the game was slow and complicated, and few fans actually engaged with it. 
"During a TV timeout, you have 90 seconds to capture the fans, and if you spend the first 30 seconds explaining how a game is going to work, they are gone," Beach said.
Not all teams favor grassroots entertainment like the Islanders. The Los Angeles Kings start each game by beaming a laser light show across the arena as the players step out of a castle-shaped structure onto the ice. A light projection system beams televised movie clips and logos onto the ice. 
According to Chris McGowan, chief operating officer for the Kings, both the laser system and projectors represent significant six-figure purchases for the club. 
"Los Angeles is the creative capital of the world. We need to have a game presentation that is above the rest," McGowan said. "It is a significant expense, but people are paying good money to come to the arena, and we feel it is what people expect nowadays."
Full article is here...

Apr 27, 2011

Guy tries to sing the anthem at 100 different ballparks this season

Befitting its status as a sprawling and geographically diverse nationwide industry, Minor League Baseball and road trips go hand in hand.  But it's safe to say that no one's ever embarked upon a Minor League road trip quite like the one put together by Whittier College professor Joe Price, who has taken a sabbatical from academia in order to sing the national anthem at more than 100 ballparks over a five-month period. Fittingly dubbed "The Anthem Project," Price's tour will take him to more than 40 states. He'll sing in four time zones and across six levels of play and expects to travel at least 15,000 miles. Full story from MLB.com

Apr 24, 2011

VIDEO: Mascots celebrate Phillie Phanatic's birthday by dancing to Solja Boy's "Crank It"

If you can find a funnier mascot video than this today, let me know.

Philly.com reported: "It was the Phanatic's birthday Sunday and all of his mascot friends showed up to celebrate. But this event seems to get weirder by the year. They played a Wiffle ball game before the real game and the Phanatic plunked his mother, Phoebe, in the head with a pitch. The Oriole Bird was not pleased with this development. A Tastykake Butterscotch Krimpet mascot played shortstop and made a crucial error to decide the game. When it was over, everyone, including the San Diego Friar, danced to music by Soulja Boy. Creepy."

Thanks to Trevor for pointing me towards this stuff.

Apr 15, 2011

VIDEO: Montreal Canadiens anthem guy sings at a tavern

I thought this was cool - Charles Prevost Linton, who sings the national anthems at most Montreal Canadiens games, sings the anthem at a Montreal tavern before an away game:

Also, I love the vintage pics of Charles on his web page.

(Thanks to Stuntman Stu for the video tip.)

Apr 14, 2011

VIDEO: Highlights & memories from the Senators season

Song is "These Days" by the Foo Fighters.  The new Foo Fighters album is full of great highlight video music.

Apr 13, 2011

Three videos from the Pittsburgh Pirates to raise awareness about hotdogs.

This is my second hot dog post in a row. My favourite is the first one, "Catch That Meat".

(via Brian Gainor)

Apr 9, 2011

Photo: The most expensive regular hot dog in Major League Baseball

Darren Rovell posted this photo of a $5.50 hot dog at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets.  Apparantly it's the most you'll pay for a hotdog at any MLB ballpark.

Related: What MLB Teams are Charging for Tickets, Beer, Hot Dogs & Parking:

  • The most expensive beers are sold by the Boston Red Sox (60.4 cents an oz.), New York Yankees (50 cents an ounce) and the St. Louis Cardinals (54.1 cents an oz.)
  • The cheapest beers are sold by the Arizona Diamondbacks (28.6 cents an oz.), Pittsburgh Pirates (31.2 cents an oz.), Texas Rangers (31.2 cents an oz.), Philadelphia Phillies (32.1 cents an oz.) and Los Angeles Angels (32.1 cents an oz.)
  • The most expensive hot dogs are sold by the New York Mets ($5.50), Toronto Blue Jays ($5.11).
  • The cheapest hot dogs are sold by the Cincinnati Reds ($1), Baltimore Orioles ($2).