Ep. 46: Fan Engagement, Technology & Pivoting with Scott San Emeterio
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.
Scott San Emeterio, CEO & Founder of Ball Street Trading, joins Rob Cressy to talk about pivoting his business during COVID-19, emphasis on fan engagement, and use of technology. Why is it important for brands to not just focus on awareness but emphasize fan engagement? Why is the speed in which businesses adapt and change crucial to success right now? How are analytics, data, and the use of technology an important piece to telling a brand story? What was the writing on the wall that helped Scott and his team pivot towards an emerging opportunity?
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Rob Cressy: (00:04)
Welcome to the GameDay playbook presented by FanFood, a discussion around how leaders have transformed the sports and live entertainment industry by leveraging technology to enhance the fan experience and operate game day more efficiently. I'm your host, Rob Cressy and joining me today is Scott San Emeterio, CEO, and Founder of Ball Street Trading. Scott great to have you on the show.
Scott San Emeterio: (00:31)
always a pleasure to get to talk. How are you?
Rob Cressy: (00:34)
I am doing absolutely fantastic. Can you give a quick overview on who you are and what you do?
Scott San Emeterio: (00:41)
Yeah. I am the CEO and founder of ball street trading. We have created a realtime prediction market that lets fans compete against each other in real time, as they're watching any live event, our focus really is to create that inner game experience that we thought was missing in both conventional gaming, as well as DFS and fantasy sports.
Rob Cressy: (01:01)
So why I wanted to have you on the show is you and I jammed last week, and there are a few things that were super interesting to me. One, your pivot to your use of technology and three, the emphasis on fan engagement. So let's start with this. What was ball street trading previously doing before the whole COVID-19 hit?
Scott San Emeterio: (01:26)
Yeah, I mean, our focus was strictly on conventional sports, trying to drive as much attention to our format and our type of gameplay. I think when we consider where the landscape of sports gaming is going post -appeal, I think everyone can agree that it's all going real time. I believe everything's eventually going to go peer to peer. So our focus was really about creating a new type of experience for fans who ultimately wanted to have some competition while they were watching these games live as opposed to locking up a lineup or placing a bet before the game it started. As soon as COVID hit literally two days after I think that one day after Rudy Gobert got sick we sat around and we said, our focus for the next couple of months is going to be strictly on e-sports. It's going to be, how do we understand the landscape? How do we move into and understand exactly where we could fit in this space? Because you know, this is in my opinion, a sleeping giant, even though people in the know and certainly people in our circles probably already appreciate how big this is and can be. I think this really has the opportunity to be bigger than what we're seeing. Some of these more traditional sports are ultimately becoming as the average age of a major league baseball viewer continues to age up. I think e-sports is going to come in and fill that void for the 15 to 35-year-old.
Rob Cressy: (02:47)
So to help out even a little bit more clarity. So I'd use your platform. And an example would be, let's say it's Alabama versus an LSU game. And depending on what's going on in the game, you could buy or sell stock on those teams and get profit or loss for it. So it was a very high engagement for "Hey, I'm watching the game. Here's a second screen experience. It's a ton of fun." So as you can imagine, we could then do this across sports all over the place, but then all of a sudden what we traditionally would call sports is now gone. And for a lot of people in the sports industry, this is a gigantic problem. I'm also in the sports industry. I feel this as well. So I really credit you with being forward thinking and saying, all right, we don't know when traditional sports is coming back, but what you had at the core was technology plus feign engagement. And now you're saying, all right, I see e-sports out there in the market. I may not completely understand it. I was very similar, but guess what? I know there's an insane amount of attention there. So let's try and learn a little bit more about it and then find a way to adapt what we're great at to be able to provide more value both for the fans as well as for the brands who want to market to those fans. Yeah, exactly. I mean, e-sports was always something that we had on our to do list. This has just really given us the opportunity to give capacity and time to it. We're still very much in startup mode. So for us to be able to take these couple of months and focus on one key product, which is e-sports has been a huge benefit to us and being able to have some of the conversations with some of the sports organizations, put us in a place to really figure out exactly the right next steps that we can take to make ourselves part of this overall landscape.
Scott San Emeterio: (04:35)
And to the point of as far as fan engagement, I think a lot of what is missing from a gaming perspective is this bilateral contract of sorts when someone places a bet. For us, It's about engagement and active participation in any of these events. We want fans to lean into and be part of the game itself. We want to create the story of you being able to make a prediction on where you think that game and that score is ultimately going to go. And if you need to change your mind two minutes later, change your mind. 30 seconds later, change your mind. 30 minutes later for us, it's about creating that opportunity to give fans control and give them the opportunity to really be a part of that experience in that live event.
So with that live event in the live experience, brands totally want to be able to market to fans in a wide variety of ways. I think a lot of what we see is very much awareness based were all of a sudden, we're just going to slap a state farmer, Gatorade logo somewhere. And we're going to call that a day. The challenge, of course, being now is because we have so many other screens and so many things vying for our attention. We have the game or whatever our main screen is going to be. And then we have a lot of ancillary things going on from Twitter and tweet deck to Instagram, to Ball Street and all of that go on there. So now how can we best integrate brands into what you're doing? Because I don't believe that something as simple as just slapping on a banner ad, as we have seen with traditional digital advertising is the way to do things. And I even see, I know we're early stages of what are teams and leagues going to do with fans, not in stadiums. They're like, Oh, we're just going to put tarps over there. And we're just going to put up a logo over there. And I see that. And I'm like, that is, that makes no sense to me because I've always thought if you think about going to a conference, so often conferences are like, here's our diamond sponsor. We'll put your banner above the entranceway to the exhibit hall. And I'm like, you are just throwing $25,000 down the tubes that have no engagement whatsoever. So now when I look at your platform and what you've built, you say, all right, we've got a fan who's engaged within this ecosystem. Now, how are they going to transfer that and provide value for the brand itself?
Scott San Emeterio: (06:51)
I think when you consider the way that sports are being consumed and how that evolution is ultimately going to play out, I think the way that we all experience watching sports is changing and will now continue to change. I think COVID certainly accelerates and will be a catalyst to focus things more on a digital perspective. For us, it's about really leveraging the longterm engagement that we get through the invite for fans to trade our markets while they're watching the game. So brands can ultimately tell their story to our fans. They can be part of the experience of watching that game. So those can be through our ability to play live video of the two-minute warning during a specific portion of the game where we know there's active watching, but maybe not active trading the ability to survey with custom questions and be able to build deep rich profiles for preferences and retargeting, later on, I like to consider what we're building Nielsen 2.0 in that we're going to be able to tell you exactly what people were doing, how they were doing it and why they were doing it, and then be able to offer that back to the sponsors for whatever future campaigns they want to create your idea of, you know, these banner ads or at least the old way of doing things. I always looked at the right field in Yankee stadium and wondered how much value can Budweiser really get from having their logo up there. Why not have an experience like Ball Street, where you could play on the app and win a free Budweiser in the eighth inning because you actually out traded everyone else into the Yankee stadium. It's just the evolution leveraging. Now I think the technology that's there to have these types of experiences and those different types of experience, those different types of fan. This one size fits all. I think that's over and people really need to start focusing on niche markets that they can really look to own understanding, and then monetize going forward with us. It's leveraging the ad spend that sponsors are already spending with broadcasts through streaming or even in the venue. And giving that ad spend, been back to the fans as their reward for their engagement. There's no reason that the fan’s experience shouldn't be monetized for themselves because everyone else is making money on it. They should too.
Rob Cressy: (08:53)
So let's take it a little bit deeper. The tech side of things, because I really see two different plays, one, the platform of what you're providing and then two let's call it the guts, the data, the analytics that you can then provide back to the brand because you're right, seeing that banner or tarp in right field. You're not going to get a ton. Sure. They're going to try and say, all right, well, we're going to estimate based on X, Y, and Z, this is what people are doing, but with your platform, you're saying, alright, we've got an engaged user base. Let's talk a little bit more about that. And oh, by the way, we can also layer in surveys, different engagement points in there.
Scott San Emeterio: (09:30)
Yeah. I know this concept of an impression I think was the metric that everyone was using five years ago and that is now slowly begun to evolve and will continue to evolve. So for us, it's about offering the ability to not only get pure impressions cause we know exactly when someone's making a trade. So they're seeing a specific message or video, whatever type of story you're trying to interweave into the activity itself. We're able to really begin to pull apart exactly when people are watching and why they're watching certainly there's value in you being able to show a message in the eighth inning of a Yankee game with the bases loaded. That is certainly more valuable than the second inning of that same game. And the score is zero-zero, right? So our ability to be able to highlight and specifically point to key moments in the game to drive that ability to have a memorable experience at the end of the day, if you go in and you were playing one of our contests and you are successful and the sponsor was Dunkin donuts. You walk away, you win a free coffee and a doughnut for the next day. That is a much better experience and certainly much more memorable for that fan than probably any other signage in that stadium that entire day, or maybe even that entire season.
Scott San Emeterio: (10:34)
Yeah. And as you're saying that I'm thinking about taking what we like about the inner arena or in-stadium experience. So you've got the Dunkin donuts, here's the doughnut, here's the coffee and here's the bagel. And they're racing around the track, whether it's virtually, or they're doing that inside of the arena, or as we've seen in baseball games where they're running around the track, that way everybody's super engaged. And I think that's what we're really looking for. It's no longer just the impression it's the engagement in it. Even if I'm just rooting for the donut to beat the bagel so that I can win a free doughnut the next day, all of a sudden you've made me a part of the action. And I think that's a key to this is we're thinking about memories in action in how often is someone rooting for a brand or getting someone excited about the brand. So those doughnut races are such a simple, great example where they say, all right, I'm rooting for the donut. And it's from Dunkin donuts that is so much better than just the networking event with the banner that just says data, blah, blah, blah, come see us at this booth. And you're like, no, that is so dumb.
Rob Cressy: (11:40)
And for us, it's still about driving attention back to the core content, which if you're the NBA is the basketball game, right? If you're Major League Baseball is the Yankee game. It is that game itself. So for us, our platform is asking players, be part of that story, buy and sell shares of the Yankees, buying, sell shares of the red Sox. I call it more of a modern-day keeping score, but this gives you that competitive advantage of when you're in there trading the markets and you're trying to out trade or outplay 25,000 other people. That's an experience that you can't get right now. And that's really what we're trying to focus in on the type of players who want that analytical want that active type experience while they're watching these live events. This is competitive Twitter. This is something that I think at the end of the day if you have an interesting or you know, positive experience on the app because you were successful or you made a couple of key trades, or even you made some really bad trades and it's kind of funny because you bought the top and everything fell apart because you know, Aaron Rogers threw that pick-six the other way, and you were just sitting there buying packer shares. That's a story that you get to take out and really share and round. Now your buddies are hopefully jumping on and getting to continue to play this game where you're for at least the model we have right now is you're playing for free because the sponsors themselves are going to backstop all of the prize pools.
So what I would say to sort of summarizing what I believe the listener can take away from this is as a brand or a league or a team or a company you really needed to think about how you can make the theme part of your marketing to help tell that story, that we're no longer in just an impression based economy where that's going to be good enough. You want to say, all right, what can we do to elevate the experience for the fan or have them part of what we're doing or how to help tell more of our story within it. So it's not just here's our logo, but let's tell a little bit more about it so that you can bring that brand heartbeat and allow that to shine.
Scott San Emeterio: (13:35)
Exactly. And then behind all that, the incentive for the brand itself beyond all the affinity that it gets is all of the interesting metrics that we're able to pull. So when you have a stadium or even a broadcaster stream, and there are a hundred thousand people watching that game, if we're able to bring in 10,000 people onto the platform, that's 10,000 email addresses, 10,000 geo-locations, 10,000 analytical breakdowns of how many people or how many trades that person made, how often they were on the app, how long they were on the app, which team did they prefer based on their trading activity? How do they answer custom brand questions? Do you drink coffee? Do you go to the gym? Do you own a house? Do you do your own taxes begin to really create a deep rich profile that in this cookieless world, that we're all going into this first-party data, this is going to become a necessity for any brand who wants to speak through sports consumption? This is something that I don't think anyone really does well. And this is ultimately what we're trying to create a view using an entertaining and engaging platform that brands can use to both inject themselves into these stories of these live events, as well as collect all of this unique data. We see how everything is shifting post passbook. Certainly in the States where gaming is legal. You're seeing these operators now sponsoring some of these major teams, how much more beneficial would be would your database be if you had already under your belt, 25 Ball Street Games where you can then identify the 15,000 people who made over 25 trades, every single game, those clearly analytical thinkers, those sort of rebuild type fans that you can turn around to your MGMs and your DraftKings and say, these are the guys you need to target. These are the guys that are most likely to make a sports bet. These are the guys who are most likely to go into your property and play blackjack because we have all of this analytics sitting here telling us that these guys on average are on ball street, 45 minutes during an NBA game, making 25 trades each answering all of these custom questions, calling out their affinity for gaming and sports betting. That is as warm, a lead as you're ever going to get. How else are you going to be able to go through and go through a list of people through even some of the existing prediction games that are out there? You know, these quizzes or some of these very simple, you know, more, much more simple ideas platforms that are out there. And you know, the argument that I get sometimes is that they're after the casual fan, well, I would argue, do you really want the casual fan? There isn't necessarily one size fits all approach anymore. And if I was gonna put my money on a certain cross-section of fans, it's going to be the fans who actually went and traded on a platform like mine, because those fans, I think, are certainly going to lean on the intelligence scale, disposable income scale tech-savvy for certain brands. This is exactly who you want. Maybe not for all brands, but there's a large section of probably very valuable brands, two teams that our data is as rich and unique as you're ever going to be able to find.
Rob Cressy: (16:32)
yeah, you want to speak to your target demographic. Otherwise, you're speaking to no one. So one thing that you and I talked about last week really resonated with me. It said it's about what chapter you are writing right now. And I think a challenge for a lot of people in brands outside of what we just talked about is they're looking in the past at what did happen, where we were, what was going on, what type of company we were the way that we did things. Now all of a sudden the real success is going to come from those who are writing a new chapter because we can't do anything about the past. The only thing that we can do is look forward in the companies that do that are the ones who are going to be able to succeed. Another thing you added to that, people who move fast and our rights will be rewarded. Can you expand on those things?
Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, when we look at what we've done over the past couple of years, building this from scratch and the reality after COVID is that no one's probably going to care about those pages. They're going to care about the chapter that we are writing right now and how we're coming out of this and focused on the new normal and what this new world is going to look like. I think that there are certainly a lot of traditionalists, both from the gaming side, from the media side, from the organization side that wasn’t, I don't want to say able to, for lots of reasons to think about things in a more progressive way. I think and hope that what COVID is going to do is going to force the hand and be that catalyst, hopefully, drive people to think things in a different light. Now, the idea of a brick and mortar focused business model, that's over if you're not already trying to conceive a digital strategy and leveraging technology and the ability to have many different types of technology, whether it's a much more casual approach or maybe something a little bit more sophisticated like Ball Street, there's no reason for you not to try all of them. At this point, there's going to be benefits to all different aspects and approaches. And I think those organizations and those companies who are looking forward to creating something that's new and unique that will ultimately drive loyalty to that experience that they can only get with you is ultimately going to be a huge benefit. And if you're continually lagging where this innovation is taking everyone, I think you're always going to be playing catch up. And the risk for the reward far outweighs any risk by trying to have these new and innovative ways to both experience sports and ways that your sponsors can ultimately talk to your fans.
Rob Cressy: (19:15)
Here's one of the challenges yet opportunities. So doing something that is new, innovative is likely to be a little bit clunky is likely to be hard. You likely don't have all of the information. You might not know what you're doing. It might be different than what you're used to, but guess what it is like that for everyone. So it is now up to you to say, all right, I understand what the landscape is. I understand that I'm not going to be perfect at this. I understand that I might fall down and have to get up a million different times, but here's the key you must continue to look forward to. And this is both for companies as well as individuals because it does us no good to have a pity party right now. Well, you have to do is say "how badly do we want this? Let's figure out an innovate as you did by saying, listen, we don't understand everything about e-sports, but we know where things are going. We've got to jump on board with this and start learning exactly." You know, what that e-sports stuff to now spending about two months, talking to a lot of really incredible and smart people who have built this industry over the past 10 years.
Scott San Emeterio: (20:23)
There are certain thoughts in my mind of us really focusing strictly on e-sports going forward out of this. I think our conversations with a lot of the conventional teams and through conventional sports, they're just conservative. I don't know if they're fully ready to adopt some of the stuff or maybe some of the stuff that we're doing, but the Esports guys certainly are seeing the benefits in at least trying new things. If you're able to catch lightning in a bottle, we could effectively change the way people consume sports. The motto we're trying to approach is: let's reward fan engagement with ad dollars. Because at this point, when the, when Gatorade puts an ad on Facebook, Zuckerberg gets all that money to fit. You get none of it. When you see that, when you see the ad, we can change that and basically pay you while you're watching sports. I don't know how any team or organization or league doesn't think that that model is a successful one in the long run if executed properly. So for us, it's about seeing where, you know, like Wayne Gretzky said, where's the puck going to be? And I think in the next three to five years, you're going to see, e-sports really become more of a mainstream piece of entertainment. And those fans who were playing e-sports right now, they know the NBA exists. They're not going the other way. If anything, it's the NBA fans who will figure out, "Oh, you know what league of legends is pretty cool." CS go, it's pretty cool. And I'm going to start playing. I'm going to start watching it.
Rob Cressy: (21:38)
And you know, one of the advantages is smaller. Companies are more nimble. They have the advantage to turn on the dime, these large companies, guess what? They're slowly turning like an iceberg because there's so much bureaucracy. There's so much comfort. As you said, a lot of these companies don't want to take on risk, but when you're smaller, you're like, I don't have, I don't have an option other than this, I've got to pivot and make this. And that's actually where the opportunity becomes because all of a sudden it can become a snowball effect where you become the man or the company to do this. You land one big client or one big opportunity. All of a sudden here comes your case study and now you've rinsed and repeated this. And they're like, Whoa, where did this come from? You're like, where did this come from? It came from us moving quickly.
Scott San Emeterio: (22:25)
Yeah. I mean, I've been saying this, there's going to be a lot of new King's crowned through all of this. And for us from that first moment where we realized all this was happening, this was attacker die. If we can't make big moves in 2020, we have no business being here.
Scott San Emeterio: (22:38)
Amen to that. We will end that on that. I love that. Scott, where can everybody connect with you?
Rob Cressy: (22:45)
At @BallStreetCEO on Twitter, Scott@ballstreettrading.com. If you want to drop me a note, we'd love the opportunity to talk to anyone who's interested in what we're building or who has been on the app. I always love getting feedback good, bad, or otherwise. All information is good to be, can continue to use, improve, and make the app as positive an experience as we can for everybody.
Rob Cressy: (23:04)
As always. I would love to hear from you about this episode. I'm curious to hear what brand you think does the best with fan engagement? Bonus points. If you've got an actual story about how a brand actually engaged you, You can hit up FanFood on Twitter at @FanFoodOnDemand, on Instagram at @FanFoodApp or on LinkedIn.You can hit me up on all social platforms at @RobCressy