This World Championship Football we see VAR technology for the first time in the football world. And, as is usually the case with technology, this has an immediate effect – on the number of goals and penalties as well as the number of yellow and red cards distributed during the tournament. The Wimbledon tournament, rounded off this weekend, again emphasizes the fact that football is one of the last sports that embraces video technology. Because in the tennis sport, the Hawk Eye replays have long been indispensable.
Not only referees and athletes benefit from new technology. Recently, the sports experience of fans improved. Sports organizations are responding smartly to our undeniable smartphone addiction, with second-screening almost self-evident. For example, fans at home already had match information and statistics in the palm of their hand. But the next step has already been taken – spectators in the stands now enjoy an even more immersive viewing experience.
On match days, fans want nothing more than to immerse themselves in the atmosphere of the event and get the most out of their ticket. Whether it’s food, drinks, peripheral programming or simply enjoying what they actually came for – their favorite sport. What they do not want is endless roaming around looking for eateries or having to leaf through a brochure for the schedule. That is a waste of time, with in the worst case even the consequence that they have to miss an important moment of competition.
The term ‘bot’ is reminiscent of impersonal machines that have no knowledge of human desires. But if these bots are supported by the right data and learning abilities, they are able to offer fans an extraordinarily personalized sports viewing experience. In essence, these bots behave like a digital concierge who provide fans with accurate answers to their questions. Questions that previously actively demanded their time and attention. And so distracted from the action around them.
This year, the organization of the Mutua Madrid Open one of the biggest tennis tournaments in the world, launched a chatbot powered by Artifical Intelligence (AI). The goal: to improve communication with fans. The initiative fit within the strategy of the event to be more innovative and to attract more young tennis fans. The chatbot, better known as ‘Matchbot’, provided visitors with information about players, game schedules and results – directly on their smartphone. There they also received details about other services, such as guest services, access roads and parking facilities. Thanks to the machine learning capabilities, the bot improved with each interaction and answers became increasingly relevant and accurate.
Heineken Urban Polo did something similar. This tournament created an AI-based ‘digital concierge’ to bring fans closer to the game. The handy assistant was available via Facebook Messenger and answered questions about the competition itself, but also about the wide catering offer at the event. In addition, he provided information about the best route, where the bar was located, details about the players and which DJs were playing where and when.
As Simon Wilson, director of Heineken Urban Polo, rightly pointed out: “The chatbot is an incredibly powerful piece of technology that enables us to improve the visitor experience and connect with fans in a personal way.”
Data drives everything the chatbots do. The Intelligent Bots software from Oracle gathers information from previous interactions between customers and customer service, at different moments of contact. This information combines it with event data, within one centralized platform. This enables the bot to generate an answer to almost every question. Answers that, thanks to machine learning capacities, become better as the bone is used more often.
Now that the rapidly changing technology is also finding its way to our favorite sports, the playing field will change considerably both on and around the arena. A better understanding of what spectators want and the emergence of new technologies that enable sports organizations to play proactively on those wishes improve the experience of fans in many more ways. Chatbots become more intelligent and can handle increasingly complex issues, giving spectators an experience that more than justifies the ticket price.