Ep. 8: Evolution of the Gameday Experience with Tod Caflisch
In each episode of The GameDay Playbook presented by FanFood, Rob Cressy discusses how leaders are transforming the sports and live entertainment industry by leveraging technology to enhance the fan experience and operate gameday more efficiently.
Tod Caflisch, sports technology services consultant, joins Rob Cressy to talk about the evolution of the game day experience. How is the game day experience stretching past the front doors of your building to the front door of your fans? How can teams make the experience frictionless? How can they keep technology fan friendly? What is the process for getting new technology integrated? Why is mobile so important?
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Rob Cressy: (00:04)
Welcome to the Gameday Playbook presented by FanFood, a discussion around how leaders are transforming the sports and live entertainment industry by leveraging technology to enhance the fan experience and operate gameday more efficiently. I'm your host Rob Cressy and joining me today is Tod Caflisch, sports technology services consultant. Tod, super excited to have you on the show.
Tod Caflisch: (00:31)
Thanks Rob. I'm glad to be here. Looking forward to the conversation.
Rob Cressy: (00:35)
So can you give a brief overview on who you are and what you do?
Tod Caflisch: (00:40)
I've been working in pro sports technology since 1990. I had a long engagement with the San Antonio Spurs, won some championships there; built a stadium practice facility; spent some time with a couple of other NBA teams, the Hornets and the Grizzlies; and got to do some neat projects there as well. Then I moved on to the NHL, worked with the Red Wings. I was involved in some really neat projects there around a little Caesars arena and then Minnesota Vikings and all the great stuff they've been doing there lately. And then I started my own consulting business and then been doing that since
Rob Cressy: (01:29)
What I'm so excited about this conversation is before we started recording, your passion for this industry and fan experience in technology certainly shined. And what I want to start with is how the gameday experience has changed since you started working in sports.
Tod Caflisch: (01:49)
Gotcha. Back in the nineties and, that's probably ancient history for some people, but it was show up, tear your ticket, come in, buy a hot dog and beer, watch a game and then, you know, go home. I mean it's, it is evolved incredibly since then, you know, to the point of technology integrations with the platforms like wifi and mobile — highly technical environments. And the venues now with IPTV and replay and all that stuff and you know, the gameday experiences with a lot of the more progressive clubs has even gone to the point of extending past the front doors of the venues to literally people's front door with mobile integration, and routing them in and making the experience a lot more frictionless. When it comes to traffic and parking and then getting them involved in the event or pre events and post events, making it more than just coming in and watching basketball or hockey or football game or soccer, whatever it is.
Rob Cressy: (03:03)
What are the biggest impediments for a team not innovating? So we see so much innovation — you talked about a lot of the things that certainly have changed, but not every team is going to be on the cutting edge. So, based on your experience, what has really stopped that from happening with a mass adoption?
Tod Caflisch: (03:22)
It's kind of maybe complacency, you know. It's kind of that. We haven't done it that way before or, you know, just being a little reluctant to try new things. I mean technology has enabled organizations to succeed fast and fail fast. Not all the great ideas work, and so it's like: you try something, it doesn't go exactly, well you move on, keep trying things and see what really hits. Cause the fan makeup in the different sports tends to be fairly diverse. So being able to make that fan experience enjoyable and memorable for everyone involves a lot of different levels of integration with technology, or not depending on what that interest is. The more progressive teams are really leveraging the technology, especially when it comes to collecting data that gives them a lot more defined image, you know, or demographic of who their fans actually are. That's the key: really knowing who those people are and figuring out programs the best cater to really what engages them and why they're there and, you know, give them reasons to come back.
Rob Cressy: (04:55)
So how can we keep tech fan-friendly? So tech while pushing the envelope at times doesn't necessarily always solve the burning need for the fan, even though it may look like a shiny object or a cool thing to have.
Tod Caflisch: (05:13)
You know, there again, that's probably a part of that "fail fast" idea. There's been some — what people could consider — really great ideas with tech integration that just really never panned well. Even things like instant replays on mobile, you know, everyone would think that would be a great idea. But you know, it's just so much easier for people just to look up and see the instant replay on the big screen or the center hung, whatever it is. And also, there's a kind of a great idea that didn't exactly pan out, but there's advancements being made to even improve that. But that's really the key. It's catering to what people want because you've got die-hard hockey fans that are in their fifties and sixties that aren't so tech integrated, but they liked some of the aspects of it. Then there's the young folks that go more for the experience of being in the event than necessarily being a fan of a certain team or even players that is very social media driven. It's kind of like, "Hey, I'm here, wish you are, too" kind of thing. So and again, a lot of it is based on mobile.
Rob Cressy: (06:33)
When you look at the ability to be forward-thinking, is that something where you as the leader inside the organization is finding the technology or are the vendors coming to you? And if so, what does this process look like?
Tod Caflisch: (06:51)
It's both actually.When I was in CIO and CTO roles with sports teams, I worked closely with our marketing and sales people to develop what was appropriate. Because there's a lot of shiny objects like you mentioned that, to me as a tech guy seemed pretty cool, but in the real world when it comes to paying for those and having sponsorships, supporting things like that, don't always work. I always preferred to have a roadmap to follow for the organizations, that included arena operations, business ops, the sports ops side and event operations, and actually look for technologies that dovetailed with that plan, to make sure that I wasn't just jumping into technology that I would have to be redoing the next season, or soon after just became kind of a costly treadmill. It doesn't really fit longterm into the marketing and sales and the technology plans for your organization.
Rob Cressy: (08:20)
So, speaking of a roadmap, it makes complete sense. In my world, I create a lot of social media roadmaps or content roadmaps for brands. But here's the thing, despite the fact that we all know how important social and content and technology is, not everybody has a roadmap put together for it. So if we're going to talk about this briefly, what does someone need to do, whether that in a professional sports team or an amateur level to put together a roadmap that can help solve or become the foundation for them so that in the future they can be more forward-thinking?
Tod Caflisch: (08:59)
Yeah, I think it really starts with understanding the business of sports. But then also it's a high collaborative kind of environment with everybody. Cause you know, technology has become so invasive in all business, including sports. I mean from CRM and ticketing in that environment to communications and sales and the whole marketing process. Not even to mention the sports side and the technology that goes into that. But my process is really just sitting down with a different department leader and individual stakeholders that are currently using technology, and kind of understanding what their vision is moving forward. And really kind of pulling that together because there's usually a lot of common threads in what people are looking to do.
Tod Caflisch: (10:07)
Sometimes the departments tend to be a little siloed, especially in communications. The thing you want to avoid is one department buying something very similar to another and it doesn't build a very congruent environment, especially from a technology support perspective — which was another part of my evil scheme behind my roadmap: to avoid being saddled with a bunch of stuff that was very difficult or expensive to support. But that's really the key: requirements gathering. And understanding the vision of the people that I worked with, and sort of blending all that into kind of a single idea, even themed, that everybody as a stakeholder had a part of. It encourages collaboration and consensus so when times come to budget that kind of thing, it's not just me going to the table and saying, "Hey, this is something we need." I've got a whole team of people with me that know, which makes it actually a lot harder to turn down. So I don't look like the bad guy, if people don't get things.
Rob Cressy: (11:39)
So you just got back from the SEAT conference and you mentioned that there is so much talk about fan experience. I want to see if you could give us some nuggets of wisdom that you learned or that stood out to you from the conference.
Tod Caflisch: (11:54)
Yeah. Data analytics is becoming really kind of the driving element right now with pro sports. It really is amazing when you think about just all the different ways to collect information from a single fan at an event; from the tickets that they buy when they come in, to using wifi and looking at usage, where they go, what social platforms do they prefer kind of thing. And again, starting to develop those demographics that I talked about before, but it also starts to generate trends. Operationally you can be better at staffing during different times of events, or different areas of your venue, to how you market the types of sponsors that you can attract with the data that you have.
Tod Caflisch: (13:03)
A great example is a friend of mine and his company Fancam. He took kind of a really neat idea or he would take pictures inside a venue and then you could actually go in and tag yourself in these nice pictures. He's taken the last few years to the next stage where now he's collecting data, or they're taking multiple pictures throughout the course of an event so they can tell when people are showing up, who aren't showing up, in what seats, so they can identify people. So there's better communications. Let's say an example like major league baseball where he's worked with a team or the league on this, and they tell them "Hey, your our average attendee is 54 years old." Well they derive that because somebody like me may buys a season ticket, but I might buy four season tickets and I bring my 20-year-old kids. Well look at the numbers: now 54 is not your median age, it's lower. So what that does now is giving them information to adjust on how they market. The kind of things they throw up on the big screen or the jumbotron during the game, the kind of sponsors that they're going to have activated in the concourses, that kind of thing. So data collection is the key. I mean even things like which lines are shorter in the bathroom or your favorite concession stand, or getting through security and what doors when you're there. It's all about making the experience more frictionless for the fan. And you do that with the data. Parking, eliminating parking issues and traffic, that kind of thing. It's huge, but it's all data-driven and the most progressive teams are the ones that are really embracing that and applying what they learned through the analytics and are driving actionable results.
Rob Cressy: (15:18)
Is this something that is only applicable to a large organization? If not, let's picture someone who says, Tod, I agree with everything that you're saying right there. I love this, but guess what, we're not a professional sports team. We don't have as many resources, but we would like to start investing a little bit into this. What is the first action/ separate entry point someone can take to start implementing this?
Tod Caflisch: (15:44)
Minor league baseball is generally pretty low budget. You know, I mean everybody there wears a lot of hats, but they're doing a lot of work with data analytics. I mean just the ticketing system alone is a treasure of data because you know, ticketing has really kind of moved to that digital environment. So before, you know, when people come in, when they're using their tickets helps to generate information about them. I would say it would probably be analytics type of platforms even, you know, CRM where they can integrate ticketing with other data sources that when they correlate those, it starts to give richer view of who the fan really is, which then again shows them how to best serve them.
Rob Cressy: (16:48)
So open-endedly. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience?
Tod Caflisch: (16:57)
Mobile is really the key. There's a lot of teams that are chasing integrations with mobile, especially around gamification right now. Gamification is another way to generate data to better understand your fans and drive revenue with sponsor integrations. There's a lot of them that are really kind of using that platform as that foot in the door for when sports betting becomes legal in a different state and cities, literally to the point where as soon as the law passes, they flip a switch and you know, boom, you're in venue and you're betting revenue source for teams.
Rob Cressy: (17:50)
I really enjoyed this conversation. Where can people connect with you?
Tod Caflisch: (17:55)
I am on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. I'm everywhere in all places.
Rob Cressy: (18:03)
And is there a specific handle or just search your name?
Tod Caflisch: (18:06)
You can search by name. It's generally it's @TCaflisch.
Rob Cressy: (18:12)
Awesome. And as always, I would love to hear from you about this episode. Did this cause you to think or take action and specifically, is there one thing that you've noticed on the evolution of fan experience from when you started being a fan to right now? If so, we would love to hear from you. You can hit up FanFood on Twitter @fanfoodondemand, on Instagram @fanfoodapp or on LinkedIn. And you can always hit me up on LinkedIn by searching Rob Cressy.