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Connected Events for The Fluid Fan: A Panel Discussion at The Sports Marketing Symposium

Today at the Sports Marketing Symposium, one of the leading sports marketing conferences in the world, Sports Innovation Lab Co-Founder and President Josh Walker moderated a panel aptly titled “Connected Events.” Anchored in SIL’s thesis of the Fluid Fan, Josh led an esteemed set of panelists from the United States Golf Association, Cisco, the NBA, CLEAR, and Madison Square Garden Company through a thought-provoking discussion around the state of connectivity in sports today, what’s headed our way, and what’s on the horizon. What you need to know from the discussion:

What feels like leading edge is simply meeting expectations of today’s Fluid Fan.

Amanda Weiner, Senior Director Digital Media for the USGA and Ashley Marusak, Marketing Manage Global Sponsorship Marketing for Cisco shared that the partnership between their two companies helped set the foundation for the fan experience, an experience which sees fast, uninterrupted connectivity throughout the course as a basic expectation. “You want the story to be about the (team) winning, not that they couldn’t get on Instagram,” said Marusak. Convenient ticketing, access to social media, and real-time stat updates are the price of entry today, and investing in what’s next - as Cisco illustrated via their Wifi 6 testing already taking place - is critical to a sustained positive fan engagement.

Venues have become creative, local, mixed-use facilities where every fan experience is unique.

How a venue supports and integrates with the neighborhood in which it’s built has become a top priority. “This means each new arena looks less and less alike,” said Matt Wolf, SVP Team Marketing & Business Ops at the NBA. Truly centers of entertainment, these mixed retail, dining, and performance hubs attract a wide array of visitors who expect to feel at home and see their local community benefiting from the construction. A die-hard fan might be dining next to a casual consumer, but both should have equally enjoyable and connected experiences as they seamlessly move throughout the different establishments in the venue.

Success comes from cross-pollination and lots of testing.

Dan Fleeter, Head of Esports for Madison Square Garden Company, spoke about the two ways their organization prepares to keep pace with the Fluid Fan: 1) Moving employees throughout the company to cross-pollinate, and 2) Bringing in experts from outside of their industry. As an example, Fleeter shared that MSG’s Head of Analytics came from NASA. Along with the right people, consistent testing is helping companies like CLEAR stay prepared for meeting and exceeding fan’s expectations. Ed O’Brien, GM Sports of CLEAR shared how CLEAR recently executed small scale programs to test biometric access and payments in dedicated venues to better understand fans' comfort with, and utilization of, fingerprint technology to replace traditional tickets and wallets.

The commitment to connectivity was clear on stage today, and to learn more about how leading companies are leaning into the space follow the Sports Innovation Lab here.

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