Ep. 34: Improving Fan Engagement With Market Research with Peter Stein
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.
Peter Stein, Managing Director of SporTech, joins Rob Cressy to talk about how to improve fan engagement by using market research tied into fan experiences. What are the different fan engagement tools that can be used and what is the simplest entry point? What can be done to better engage fans? Can non A-list athletes be an option? What is computer vision and how is it being used? What challenges do forward thinking technologies present for both consumers and brands?
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Rob Cressy: (00:05)
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 game day more efficiently. I'm your host Rob Cressy and joining me today is Peter Stein managing director of SporTech ventures. Peter, great to have you on the show.
Peter Stein: (00:31)
Thanks for having me.
Rob Cressy: (00:32)
Can you give a quick overview of who you are and what you do?
Peter Stein: (00:37)
Yeah, so I am the managing director of SporTech Ventures. We really have two sides to the business, one of which we consult. We help really most of the emerging tech startups, many from outside the United States enter the US market and go to the market and get set up with the right team, investors partners, et cetera. The second side of the business is more venture building and investing is really focused on the youth landscape and leveraging professional players to reach that end consumer.
Rob Cressy: (01:13)
So I wanted to get you on the podcast because you're someone who has a great perspective and forward-thinking perspective on the sports tech market in one thing that we were talking about before. This is a market research and using it for fan engagement. Can you expand a little bit more upon that for me?
Peter Stein: (01:35)
Yes, absolutely. So, with the focus on fan engagement and delivering solutions that are going to keep people keep coming to the stadium but not watching at home or just seeing the plethora of new technologies that make the game-day more exciting and whether that's kind of live trivia, gamification, or fantasy betting. What I've seen with the companies that are really successful in delivering these solutions are really more market research companies and sort of the business behind the business and what they're doing and how they're monetizing. It's not necessarily selling their solution, but how the to repack is all that data. I guess really more new revenue streams that would be created with affiliate marketing and partnerships on the merchandise side where they're in-venue activation leads to direct spend. Whether in the venue right then and there on food or a more high price art and like merchandise or a journey. You see the companies that are I guess went in this kind of crowded space do a good job of really leveraging that data and in helping teams to monetize it in a new light.
Rob Cressy: (02:57)
So one of the things with research though, and certainly when we look at this from the digital perspective, it's nothing new to do surveys or have that pop-up. But I look at myself from a fan standpoint, there's no real incentive for me. It's like, Hey, do you have a minute to take this survey? It's like, no, why in the world do I want to be doing this? So it needs to be almost disguised in a more fan experience related way so that the brands or teams or stadiums can get the information and the fans actually want to be a part of it.
Peter Stein: (03:32)
100%. I think you hit the nail right on the head. And I can think of one company in particular that that does that well. They do it through live trivia that is relevant but then ask questions that are spur of the moment that is, that doesn’t seem invasive and are relatable and are just authentic. So they're actually it's really sprinkling market research into that activation, but, the consumer doesn't notice that it's happening and that's when you find the kind of the winning recipe. There's one company, in particular, Cocomo that does this very well in Australia. That's an example of a type of company that is able to bring kind of new solutions to the US market and help teams.
Rob Cressy: (04:27)
And keeping this thing going. Then if we're going to look at the potential implementation of this era, regardless of the size of a team, company, league, stadium, anything like this, what can be done on just the simplest level to start getting going with this? Because not everyone has all of the resources is to say, hey, I'm going to go hire a gigantic market research firm to go and create these engagements and capture the data and then we're going to do things. Can it literally be as simple as just creating a simple survey at a high school football booth or something related to like help me understand the simplest entry point into this.
Peter Stein: (05:11)
Yeah and I think back to the Como example, just the way they're able to set up a quick trivia game that whether you're just you can go into the back end and really just make it very quickly. So things that are like customizable and easy to do that then how they live link don't require you to be inside of another app and can integrate easier into other platforms. Cause everybody has their own app and I think that's when it gets difficult. But if you can make it as seamless as possible, easy for whatever position that person is in. If it's for a team, it's different than for a new reading, right? the XFL. But just being able to make it gel into a really existing platforms that exists and an easy entry point. Then really think of the attitude, of building that opposite approach to trying to sell in a very kind of complex, full-on comprehensive solution that's going to touch multiple parts of a business.
Rob Cressy: (06:16)
Speaking of not inside of another app, do you think we're going to see a trend of more companies creating solutions that don't necessarily need to be app-based since there is a myriad of them? And I know that I've had several guests on the show before or we were talking about the apps that teams have and why is it that we're not downloading them as often? You can think of it as, all right, you go to Chicago and you go to a Cubs game, but you may be coming from out of town and that's the only time that you're going to go there. What's the real incentive to be able to download the app? Or why would I do so as opposed to if there's a solution that is not app-based?
Peter Stein: (06:59)
Exactly. And that really comes down to so many dynamics of between the leagues and the teams and
that relationship, whether it's NBA versus NHL, all with different evolving models. And I think people are seeing the consumer really tired of having to download a new app just to get an entry. And so the SDKs and those different integration as the API base are crucial. So you're not, I do think we're kind of past that as you can. You can't build a business just on an app. It needs to be part of a larger platform. And I think that's the trend that you see today. That's a cross-platform type of company.
Rob Cressy: (07:39)
What do you think brands or teams or leagues needed to be doing better to engage fans? Even open-ended doesn't necessarily just need to be about that, but just open-endedly what can we do better to engage fans? There's such a big opportunity there.
Peter Stein: (08:00)
I think it's giving them a say, right? So they really feel like they are part of the team in the process. Where literally guys like Marshawn Lynch were coaching these teams that I think that's obviously extreme from a traditional sports standpoint whether it's playing a loyalty program but just get that fan to feel like they're buying it to part of the team I think is valuable. I am still very adamant about the stuff I said earlier about the power of athletes and the players themselves and creating that connection. Getting that autograph and interaction with the player. So the more that that can be facilitated, I think is what will keep fans engaged and coming to the game and not at home.
Rob Cressy: (09:01)
With that in mind with the power of the athletes, is this only on the star athlete side of things or can this be anyone? Because I think the overwhelming majority of players who play in any sport are the star athletes, but they're the ones who get all the name recognition. But from his fan engagement standpoint, I even think of my own journey in really anytime when you're, especially when you're a child that you get the opportunity to meet anybody who's into professional sports. It really has the ability to give you a positive fan experience. So why are we not seeing more of a leveraging of the non a list athletes?
Peter Stein: (09:41)
100% and I think that's also extended to alumni and former players. But I think it's helped with in some leagues in particular with an NFL player. Tell me about mentorship within the locker room. They're too afraid to get close to guys because it's such a revolving wheel and people are up, down in and out. So then you want to mentor people. But there is the business and the ship kind of moves. I think you have to be careful about, we were talking about the big four. Is that the kind of business and the power that the players have. But I think that could be a little where it could be done a lot better and more frequently.
Rob Cressy: (10:36)
And what's even the incentive for the players and I get that there's a band there, but oftentimes you've got social media, but are we seeing full transparency? And then on the athletes’ side, do they even want to get full transparency because the second they let you in now the media world screaming back at them saying, how in the world do you say that?
Peter Stein: (10:56)
Yeah. So I think it's kind of two things there. The social media, the brand-building differently and wants to embrace it. Others aren't comfortable having it built their lives that way. But I think that the more that either the asks of the players or what's being done is related to the youth, the kids that you do see athletes have a willingness to want to help the community and really the people that the next versions of them. So if it's oriented towards that and the kids, I think that that's the way to kind of foster that engagement.
Rob Cressy: (11:39)
I'm curious, what has your eye right now from a forward-thinking perspective on a sports and technology standpoint? One of the things that I always like to do is talk to other thought leaders and say, Hey, what out there have you noticed? Have you seen? You're like, Oh, that's interesting. Or I'm keeping tabs on that.
Peter Stein: (11:57)
So I'm keeping all sorts of tabs around computer vision, virtual realities, call it the buzzword emerging technologies. But as it relates to use adoption, once VR really can become a consumer and you're talking about headsets, and I'll give one example of a company, Monsterful VR that is used by MLB teams to basically see that pitcher, right? And see their release point. It's for pitch recognition, technology, baseball, to win at any cost. So once that kind of technology that even just gives you the slightest edge about being able to project someone to the next level. There's a lot of stuff around the vision that I could talk more about too, that you're able to kind of test that, that kind of really advanced technologies that directly correlate to performance. You'll show that the money will be there because it means hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to win championships.
Rob Cressy: (13:08)
How much of that will be on the field versus us as consumers wanting to understand that? So we started with market research and data and I think about the way the MBA has evolved and the NBA has become very analytical but in a good way. I almost see the analytics of basketball are on the app, whereas the analytics of baseball is seen as nerdy. So once you get past the wins over replacements, you get like the Forbes and like all these other things where the casual fan isn't going to understand. But when we look in the NBA, some of this second spectrum statistics are super interesting right there.
Peter Stein: (13:49)
Yeah, I mean that trend is one that I really kind of see every day, on the baseball front of sort of the adoption of analytics and how that's perceived as sort of the battle of old school versus new school. That's why they're able to monetize everything digitally and own it. They made a lot of money through BAM but the players never really saw it. They never really trickled down and said their products. But then you look at the NBA, they said, okay, share all the highlights of the players and embrace that and revenues skyrocketed for everyone. For both, the players reach that ends with the consumer. So I think the kind of data, the way its views is really a reflection of the dynamics of the week. I think with the NFL kind of have a mix of those two worlds kind of colliding. But it's certainly not going anywhere and the more computer vision and automation. It just gets further down the rabbit hole with it.
Rob Cressy: (14:58)
So what exactly is computer vision?
Peter Stein: (15:04)
Yeah, I'll give you an example of a company and how they use computer vision or the easiest way to explain it, but a company out of Hong Kong called Euro AI, beginning at initially every race or every marathon they would track the bib and you would see, okay, number 12, and then that way they could track it back to the person. Then they started using computer vision and there are different forms to use. Machine learning to get the machine to recognize certain objects and sizes and can kind of see that image in different ways. Kind of like just in every form. It could be, you can think of a number just upside down, tilt it this way, that way and then it can recognize, okay, that's the shoe and that's Nike and that's Adidas or they're wearing this wearable. So now they may be able to use computer vision to capture the full kind of consumer wearable rates down to millions of runners. You think about the data that Nike and those brands would want to do with that. But that's an example of a company using computer vision.
Rob Cressy: (16:30)
That makes complete sense. And I have to imagine the sports sponsorship space is doing backflips over something like this because if we have the computer vision and the ability to scan the crowds of stuff you can more accurately evaluate what is sponsorship of an in-game sign. If all of a sudden you look and you're like, Oh, and by the way, 5% of the audience is wearing a Nike shirt.
Peter Stein: (16:57)
Exactly. you said the sponsor is the FanFood app, correct?
Rob Cressy: (17:03)
Peter Stein: (17:05)
Right. So think about the ability to deliver. Is it more meaningful to maybe deliver a sponsorship inside of an app like that where the fan is he's directly kicking it in the venue and then you can then target, did you even know that a fan walked in the computer vision company like a FanCam that really tracks you in the stands? They know, okay there's Peter and he said he likes to see this and then maybe FanFood is given you a certain kind of offer because they know you like Pepsi and not Coke.
Rob Cressy: (17:37)
Yeah, for sure. I mean, I think what we're really talking about now is the ability to better custom tailor the fan experience. And it's on both a macro and micro level. So the enormity of it. If we were going to do one individual fan, you can get it, but 50,000 fans in a football game on an NFL Sunday, you're like, wow, that is one, a lot of data. Two, that has a lot of execution to be able to integrate all of those things seamlessly without breaking.
Peter Stein: (18:08)
Exactly. Yeah. That's when the next frontier will really shape the fan experience in venues.
Rob Cressy: (18:18)
I guess one of the challenges that I actually see in this, which is a common theme is oftentimes technology on the service can make complete sense. You're like, I get it, let's do this, sign me up. But are we the consumers ready for it? Are the brands and the integrations ready for it? And how long does it take for awesome technology to actually catch up to the adoption and, or the ability for these teams, leagues, sports companies to be even able to be forward-thinking enough to grasp this to say, yeah, let's do it.
Peter Stein: (18:53)
Exactly. And that's why I think one of the kinds of the big thing of putting on my VC hat and is we dropped the SporTech deep desert where a lot of these companies are offering a really innovative, cool new solution. They get adoption by a team or two, but we the consumers can't adapt so fast and then it kind of gets stuck and then that's when a lot of companies are having to kind of reassess their strategy. Back to the original point about market research though it wouldn't have been able to use fan engagement even as an entry point for market research that's kind of been the solution to see fan engagement related companies in the sports tech market that are looking to scale from really C to series A and beyond.
Rob Cressy: (19:40)
Yeah, and it almost seems like as complex as this is, you would want to make it as simple as possible so that there aren't as many hurdles owl be it. How do you take something complex to make it simple? If it was only that simple.
Peter Stein: (19:55)
Exactly. I'm just trying to connect properly to do this podcast. The video, different screens, different. Sometimes the technology, the better it is, the harder it is to adopt or figuring out what to be even on the same playing field because they just keep moving.
Rob Cressy: (20:15)
Okay. So if it's continually moving then it's going to be a challenge for all brands. But let's think on the lower level there because if someone gets frustrated and doesn't adopt it and it doesn't mean that they need to be adopting computer vision or virtual reality, but I think sometimes there can be an issue with brands, in general, where if the barrier to entry isn't seamless or not likely to do it and they can actually become regressive by not wanting to push the envelope of what they want to experience or offer.
Peter Stein: (20:50)
Right. And I think that's why you've seen certain brand agencies of the different players in the space, but try to do stuff in house and internally because if you have a lot at stake and to trust an outside vendor coming in and you're just doing a lot of internal development that are custom to your platform kind of the M and A activity is continuing to rise and sports tech market approaches 20 billion. I don't have the numbers in front of me, but it's pretty astronomical by 2020
Rob Cressy: (21:31)
You mentioned virtual reality and it's something that's been on everybody's mind for a long time now and we've made forward steps in wearables right now. So whether you've got a Fitbit or a Garmin or an Apple watch or something were at least getting a little bit more used to wearing things. But we also aren't used to looking like Robocop to experience something. I think about when I watched a game on 3D TV that my friend had for football and it was like a coolish experience except it was kind of my depth perception was a little bit off and it was like a onetime thing. virtual reality can seem sexy, but how realistic is it and what side of timeframe are we looking at?
Peter Stein: (22:18)
Yeah. That I think Everyone expected her to come a little earlier when it first kind of hit the scene. But I, it really just comes down to hardware capabilities and the processing. One of my partners, Derek, founder of Monsterful VR dollar tells you the kinds of adoption and them kind of what's holding it back and how close we are to really be able to scale at the consumer level. And it just comes back to that kind of how seamless experience and really even just a little bit of movement that's off. If you become enclosed, it's not the most seamless experience. Technology will continue to get better and better than it is. And it's also the price point of these consumer units. I think it's, I guess to answer your question is I have no idea, but I think by 2030, I think things are going to be looking a lot different.
Rob Cressy: (23:28)
Right? So cabin this conversation and put it in sort of a button on this and looking into the fan engagement side of things. I really liked the idea of using market research as a way to one, increase engagement but to better understand the fans that you can make more informed decisions for them in doing so in a way that is pleasing and seamless for them. Because so often in so many areas of our lives where when a brand wants something, they'll just say, give me that or buy what I'm selling and buy what I'm selling. Instead of saying, listen, let me put myself in the shoes of the consumer. Sure, I want to help you. But this wouldn't be the first time that our brands or anyone would say, we want to help you with the fans. Like we're not interested. So you need to create a positive experience to say, Hey, can you give us some of that insight so that we can learn to make your experience even better?
Peter Stein: (24:25)
Right. And it's about taking that positive experience, making it small and quick and not overthinking it. We think of technology and complexity keep it simple to that regard. And I think that earned the trust and then you can kind of grow your digital footprint as you build upon that trust. But they certainly won't. They'll go out of their way and the trends will be negative if they see that, Oh, I'm being marketed, researched very clearly that, that's one way to lose a fan. So it's certainly easier said than done.
Rob Cressy: (24:59)
Yeah, for sure. So Peter really enjoyed this conversation. Where can everybody connect with you?
Peter Stein: (25:06)
Absolutely. I really enjoyed the conversation as well. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter at @Peterwstein. And my website is sportechventures.com
Rob Cressy: (25:27)
And as always, I would love to hear from you about this episode. Have you ever remembered an instance in which a brand gave you a survey that was a positive experience? I think it's something that's few and far between, but I do believe there is a ton of potential there. You can hit up FanFood on Twitter at @fanfoodondemand, on Instagram, at @fanfoodapp or on LinkedIn. And as always you can hit me up on all social media platforms at @robcressy