Over the last 5 weeks, it was announced that 3 U.S. pro sports venues will replace their existing scoreboards with larger, flashier entertainment systems (Capital One Arena, Wells Fargo Center & United Center); Oracle Park is also set to unveil its “fancy” new 4K scoreboard on opening day. Teams are investing tens of millions of dollars in LED screens and other technological enhancements (like lighting systems) because it’s becoming increasingly difficult to draw people to the stadium. TeamWorks Media co-founder and CEO Jay Sharman said, “psychologically fans need to be able to say to themselves, I want to go to the game because the experience is better than what I can get at home. Most teams know they’re not clearing that bar right now – and that the bar is only going to continue to rise – which is why you’re seeing a little bit of shiny rattle (see: teams spending big $ on scoreboards) going on.”
Howie Long-Short: The venues referenced are marketing the scoreboards as “the largest high definition screen in an arena”, “the first Kinetic 4K center-hung scoreboard” and “the first indoor sky ring”, but Jay says,“marketing greater resolution and the size of screen is missing the point. Fans don’t care about the size of the platform. What is important is the messaging [on the screen] and how you use the platform to make the game experience better.”
Jay’s right, no one is coming out to the ballpark because of a screen, no matter how large it may be – and “I think you’d be hard pressed to find data that shows big screens are responsible for increasing fan engagement” – but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad investment. A state-of-the-art scoreboard is simply “an expensive dot along a continuum – how you’re greeted at the door, the ease in which you can park, the length of the concession lines, the entertainment during TV timeouts – that makes the entire game day experience something memorable; something that makes you want to come back.”
One thing that ensures fans won’t come back is an inability to use social media at the game, so it would seem that at least some of these teams are putting the cart before the horse. “There are many arenas and stadiums where the bandwidth is so poor that you can’t get an out of town score on your phone. When you’re at a venue spending all that money, the last thing you want is to feel like you’re missing out. Teams need to cover the technology basics before they get into the messaging piece.”
If used for fan engagement – and not just for advertisements – the additional scoreboard real-estate could be a difference maker for the hardcore fan (and for the team). “Teams can use the additional space to hypercharge the in-stadium experience – to give those fans access to all of the information that they want” (think: Second Spectrum like analytics/presentation). Jay also thinks there is the potential to use the additional real-estate to cater toward the sports bettor saying, “that would be utilitarian and make for a really interesting use case because now you’re offering a separate experience.”
I mentioned the team because the Tampa Bay Lightning have managed to use their center-hung scoreboard (along with ribbon boards, lighting etc.) to create a “must watch” pre-game show. Eaton’s Ephesus Sports Lighting, Director of Business Development Mike Quijano said the result has been “fans entering the building earlier” (and presumably spending money during that time), “so they’re definitively seeing an ROI on it.”
Fan Marino: It’s unclear why [more] venues aren’t using their “shiny rattle” to draw fans to the building when the team is on the road. The experience of watching away games on a 5,000 SF display would seem far superior to viewing at home on a 50 inch and in-arena watch parties would give fans that “sense of community that they can’t find on the couch.” There’s also the element of conditioning fans to “come to your venue when your team isn’t there, which is a trend you’re seeing across the sporting landscape with these mixed use real-estate plays.”
While a 5,000 SF screen would make for a great place to watch an away game, the sheer size of some of these scoreboards (see: Jerry World) makes them less than ideal for home games; fans find them to be districting. Which makes you wonder, if the goal is to create a raucous home environment why are teams investing money in something designed to pull attention away from the field?
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