What do the NBA, the Australian Open, and FC Barcelona all have in common? Here's a look at how sports organizations are driving results in a fan-focused landscape.

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Today’s thriving sports organizations have something in common—they engage fans, and they do it really well.

Let’s look at the NBA. The NBA is a professional sports league on the rise. Its ratings on TNT are up 20 percent from last year. Its ratings on NBATV, the league’s cable channel, are also up 20 percent. 17 of the 30 league teams have seen growth in local markets. On their own, these numbers are impressive. Viewed in the context of the industry, they’re unbelievable.

One of the biggest challenges facing the sports industry today is keeping fans engaged. How has the NBA managed to stay ahead of the curve? By being early adopters and embracing new technology. In 2016, it was the first league globally to launch a Facebook Messenger bot. From chatbots to social media, the NBA’s channels are ablaze with millennial fans.  

The landscape

Let’s take a step back. The sports market in North America is forecasted to reach $78.5 billion in revenue by 2021. The forecast covers four segments:

  • Media rights: Fees paid by the media to broadcast sports on networks/stations.
  • Gate revenues: Primary ticket sales from sporting events
  • Sponsorship: Fees paid to have a brand associated with a team, league, facility or event, including naming and category rights.
  • Merchandising: The sale of licensed products with team and league logos, player likenesses, and other intellectual property.

In the last few years, media rights have become the leading revenue segment. As media has become increasingly focused on improving the fan experience through technology, AI and chatbots have become an integral part of the fan experience. Sports teams and venues leveraging bots can expect a boost in fan engagement, ticket sales and more, and implementing the technology represents a leap forward for athletic organizations in terms of innovation.

Improving the fan experience

From university facilities to professional tournaments, there’s a lot of room to improve the fan experience. At Wizeline, we’ve talked to different sports organizations to:

  • Discover their biggest challenges in engaging fans and improving operations
  • Determine how to build, train, and maintain a bot tailored to fans

Our team had a front row seat to chatbots’ tennis debut when Digital Arts Network agency chose Wizeline to deliver a chatbot for their client Mastercard ahead of the 2018 Australian Open.

  • The chatbot ran for 18 days to engage with tennis fans attending the tournament or watching from home, with 57 percent of total bot users returning daily.
  • 64 percent of total users (5,600+ tennis fans) signed up to receive updates on topics like match outcomes and player fun facts.
  • The AO Fanbot marks the first chatbot launched by either Tennis Australia or the Australian Open.

Conquering every market

Now let’s look at Europe. FC Barcelona is another thriving sports organization that has been intentional in their use of chatbots. Last year, they launched a bot on the Viber messaging platform and captured almost 4.5M users within two months of launch. Since then, the club has gained more than 50M users, and 2.7M public followers.

FC Barcelona’s Chief Digital Officer Russell Stopford describes the value perfectly: “Right now, one of the most important challenges in the world of sport is getting supporters involved in what is happening on the pitch. This Viber bot offers our fans the possibility to take part through voting and the chance to become the ‘Barça Viber Fan of the Year’. It’s an incentive, it motivates and it rewards.

Chatbots have grown in popularity because they offer sport brands a chance to engage with fans in a way that is:

  • Familiar ― messaging is one of the fastest growing platforms worldwide
  • Flexible ― it enables two-way communication between the brands and consumers

Best of all, it’s a technology that doesn’t need to be built from the ground up. Wizeline works with clients to build a solution customized for their unique objectives. We apply a user-centric approach and use a robust analytics platform that integrates with the tools your team already uses.

How could you benefit from using a chatbot? Whether you’re ready to dive in or just testing the waters, we’re happy to help. Let’s chat.

Nellie Luna Posted by Nellie Luna on Tuesday, May 15, 2018.

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