Engaging Fans Through Innovations in Sports

January 22, 2016

Guest Article By: Stefan Kollenberg


Sports is the most marketable industry in the world. Its currency is strong emotions generated by a non-politically charged subject – emotions that can be as strong as or stronger than family ties. This emotional connection is gold for marketers and allows them to communicate with millions of consumers.

Last year’s Super Bowl peaked at 120.8 million viewers. The number of people watching is even higher, considering venues such as sports bars where one “viewer” may consist of 200 people. The marketing implications of this are phenomenal, translating to a $4.5 million price tag for a 30 second ad. Companies making this kind of investment are keen to get good value but in recent years people have stopped watching the ads. Instead they choose to engage with social media and sports applications during game breaks. One person’s problem is another’s opportunity. Many companies have seized this opportunity and created innovative products that help engage fans through a second screen.

An excellent example of this innovation is being created right here in Toronto at Ryerson University’s DMZ. The DigitaMedia Zone is home to some of the most innovative tech companies in North America, but the one I want to tell you about is Brizi.

Brizi connects fans to a camera and gives them control of the zoom, pan, and tilt in order to capture the perfect picture. The picture is then beamed directly to the fan’s smartphone and can be shared instantly to his or her social media networks. In the process, the sponsor’s name/message is added to the picture. The marketing implications of this are huge. It allows brands to attach themselves to the emotions of sport and be spread amongst the fanbase organically, as well as drastically increasing the reach of that event. Brizi is effectively killing two birds with one stone: they engage fans at the game, as well as spread sponsor’s brands to people at home through the second screen.Screen Shot 2015-12-31 at 2.19.34 PMWhile Brizi is an excellent example of current innovations, there is a lot more to come. Today’s society had a wide variety of entertainment options. In response to this, professional sports teams have been dedicating large amounts of time and resources to improving the entertainment value of their games. A major product of this has been more advanced or “smart” arenas. The Sacramento Kings have had mediocre teams for almost ten years and attendance was suffering. This has pushed them to enhance other aspects of the in game experience in order to build their brand. They are opening a new arena in 2016 and will have a mobile app for check-in, directions to the shortest line, seat upgrade options, cashless commerce, in-seat wireless charging, and much more. This is just one example of how a franchise is embracing the second screen in order to improve their brand.

All in all, sports innovation has been providing a solution to marketing problems and these two examples are just a small snapshot. Places like the DMZ and Silicon Valley are incubating companies that will change our interaction with the world of sports as we know it. They will continue to grow and as more teams adapt to the changing technology, sports will finally begin to realize its full marketing potential.


Stefan Kollenberg is in his third year at Ryerson University studying business management with a major in marketing. He is involved with the Ryerson Sports and Business Association and aspires to be a leader in the sports industry. He will soon be releasing his own blog, Big Red Sports Business. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and connect with him on LinkedIn.

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