Creating Super Fans: How AI is Bringing Fans Closer to their Favorite Teams

September 14, 2023

Technology in sports has been an enormous topic of conversation for technologists and innovators over the last three years. Globally, only a tiny percentage of dedicated fans make it to a stadium routinely, and an even smaller percentage of people watch a sporting event from start to finish. With this in mind, accelerated by the market demands brought in 2020 by the pandemic, sports organizations are keenly focused on creating a uniquely phygital fan experience that builds loyalty, increases engagement, and curates personalized content. Technology is bringing fans closer to their favorite players and their favorite players closer to the sport. 

What does it look like for sports organizations?

The wants and needs of fans vary by region and team, so sports organizations have the enormous task of integrating with their individual fans, meeting them where they are to provide a world-class experience. Ultimately, understanding fans and meeting their needs begins with data. Modern sports organizations are embarking on transformation projects in-stadium experience, mobile application development, player development, and beyond to improve the game. 

In the Elevating the game: Unleashing AI’s power for limitless fan experiences webinar featuring Globant experts Agustin Huerta, Tania Salavand, and LaLiga Tech’s Gonzalo Zarza, outlined several ways sports organizations are focusing on tackling current pain points: 

  • Athlete data is becoming increasingly more critical and insightful. AI can analyze data and correlate health data and other vital statistics. In fact, this Harvard Business Review article posits that AI may accurately forecast the likelihood of players missing playing time next season with a 96% success rate. Insights like that can improve athlete health, inform support staff like athletic trainers, and even change the strategies of millions of fantasy sports enthusiasts. 
  • Culturally, sports consumption and norms vary greatly depending on country, region, and sport. For example, during the webinar, Agustin Huerta remarked that it is shocking that fans in the United States are only engaged for part of the game, with many only arriving after the game begins and leaving early if their team is not winning. In contrast, in South America, it is normal for fans to be focused on the game for the entire duration. Sports organizations are investing resources to capture fans’ attention continuously, whether in a seat at the stadium, traveling, or observing in real-time at home.
  • The collection and exploitation of fan data is allowing sports venues to understand them on an individual level. Making sense of this data enables them to implement experience-altering technology, according to Tania Salarvand, who leads strategy and growth at Globant in the United States: “This is where the technology is helping everything related to spatial management at the stadium. AI-power technology is a great supporter of managing spaces and directing people for foot traffic to move smoother, including in lines, with lineless being the ultimate goal. No lines for the bathroom, concession, or merchandise allows fans to focus on the main event.”

What does it look like for fans? 

Whether as an athlete or a fan, participation in sports is a significant point of pride globally. Taken outside of individual affiliation, there is often multi-generational affiliation, with parents influencing which teams their children support. Sports have even provided a purpose for national unity, as Argentina’s 2022 World Cup win triggered. Because of this vital sense of belonging and pride, combined with current sports technology trends, sports organizations have a distinct opportunity to build loyalty, offer engagement opportunities, and increase the lifetime value of a fan. 

Digital reinvention of sports offerings has led to major advances in continuous engagement with fans, which was impossible before the mass adoption of technology like artificial intelligence, 5G, and mobile devices. In an environment where being a fan used to be limited to being at the event or watching it on TV, technology has made it possible for fans to stay connected in real-time, understand the players’ perspective, and remain loyal despite having limited time. This technology-enabled paradigm makes features possible that once seemed impossible:

  • The use of AI to assess the content that an individual wants to see. This includes highlights, player interviews, play-by-play breakdowns, and more. Gone are the days when someone needs to watch an entire sporting event live to stay up-to-date on the progress. 
  • Machine learning-enabled emotion recognition of the players that analyzes gestures, body movements, and reactions to understand the sentiment.
  • Advanced in-match analytics allow coaches and players to adapt their tactics on the spot and prevent fatigue-related injuries. 

According to Agustin Huerta, Globant’s SVP of AI and VP of Technology for IoT, the improvements made possible by technology also impact the long-term livelihood of athletes: “Insights provided are helping athletes stay competitive longer into life. Years back, it was rare to see a player who was more than 36 years old. Now, we’re seeing players between 38 and 40 years old.” This is because technology is helping optimize health and performance on the field.

Creating a way forward for sports organizations

In the vast arena of sports, much like in a nail-biting final match, every move counts, every play can be the game-changer, and every fan is vital. The transformation we are witnessing in the sports industry, fueled by technology, is reminiscent of a team evolving its strategy to clinch the championship. It’s no longer just about the physical prowess on the pitch but also the technological mastery of it. Like players, fans must be understood, catered to, and engaged with precision and personalized intent.

The role of AI and technology is not just an added advantage but a quintessential component of modern sports; from harnessing the power of data to predict player health with astounding accuracy to ensuring a seamless stadium experience, sports organizations are in the middle of a renaissance. 

The experts in the Globant Sports Studio understand the important marriage of sports and technology moving the industry forward. We’ve been at the forefront, partnering with giants in the industry, like FIFA, LA Clippers, and La Liga, to re-imagine and redefine what it means to be a sports organization in today’s world. When it comes to digital reinvention, Globant’s Sports Studio is your coach, strategist, and technology partner. 

Want to hear more about our perspective on where the sports industry is going? Listen to the Unscripted Tech podcast season 3, episode 1: “AI and sports, a “match” made in heaven.

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