Category Archives: Fan Experience

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FC Barcelona, Viber Create Augmented Reality Fan Experience

FC Barcelona fans can now experience what players go through as they walk through the Nou Camp’s tunnel to the field, or what being grilled by the assembled members of the media during a press conference feel like. Through the Spanish soccer club’s latest digital partnership with the Viber messaging app, fans can now create videos of themselves as if they were the latest signing for the storied team.
Rakuten-owned Viber will integrate AR filters built by Vivoom into the mobile app’s FC Barcelona chatbot with help from soccer media provider Dugout. As part of the deal, Dugout will also use its platform to offer fans behind the scenes content at Camp Nou.

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“Brands today are constantly seeking new ways of strengthening the relationship and engagement among their fans,” said Djamel Agaoua, CEO of Viber, in a press release. “This partnership is a perfect example of how brands can leverage technology to deepen their interactions with their audiences. With this powerful combination, we can deliver inspiring user experiences for businesses around the globe.”
Additional features in the Viber app will include allowing fans to sign a mock contract, receiving a welcome from Barcelona’s manager and players, and participating in a skills challenge. Viber has been Barcelona’s official communication channel since 2017, while Vivoom has previously worked with the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers to create similar fan-video experiences. The Dugout digital platform is part-owned by FC Barcelona.
“This ground-breaking partnership will allow FC Barcelona’s fans across the world unprecedented access to the club,” said Dugout president Matthew Baxter in the press release. “It will allow them to experience what it feels like to be the club’s next big signing and we are delighted to have devised the strategy behind this partnership and to have created some exclusive and unique content.”
SportTechie Takeaway
FC Barcelona is continuing to innovate ways to boost fan engagement. Considering the club broke the world-record for the most social media engagement by a sports team during January 2018, according to a Blinkfire Analytics study, that effort seems to be working. MLS club Los Angeles FC also recently added augmented-reality features to its mobile app, giving fans previously unseen vantages of its home stadium. However, the LAFC app focuses more on showing off the venue than fan engagement, whereas Barça instead is giving supporters a unique experience that only a small number of players ever get to experience in real life.


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SoftBank Backs Sports AI Platform HEED in $35 Million Round

Japanese tech conglomerate SoftBank is backing HEED, a platform powered by artificial intelligence that’s meant to better connect fans to the emotional and physical realities of sports.
The tech giant announced this week that it had led a $35 million funding round for HEED to accelerate the startup’s growth in internet-of-things analytics and artificial intelligence. HEED uses those technologies and a series of sensors worn by athletes to better visualize sports and enhance the fan experience on mobile.
The HEED platform promises to illuminate “the invisible insights behind key moments from live events.” It uses AI to identify the most exciting moments—similar to tech used by companies such as IBM for automating highlights—and IoT-based data to generate new insights about sports. Visualizations can be delivered in real time to fans’ mobile devices. According to TechCrunch, HEED can make “inferences about a player’s emotional state based on the data.”

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The startup, created through a joint venture between IoT company AGT International and advertising and talent agency Endeavor, plans to use the latest investment to bolster its expansion through partnerships with sports clubs and leagues around the world, notably across soccer, MMA, and basketball.
“HEED has developed a unique platform that is changing the way fans watch and interact with sports,” said SoftBank CFO Alok Sama, in a statement. “HEED is taking a traditionally static experience and providing fans with deeper insights into the physical and emotional aspects.”
In August 2017, HEED announced partnerships with the UFC, EuroLeague basketball, Professional Bull Riders, and a number of soccer clubs. With the EuroLeague, HEED deployed IoT sensors in all 16 arenas of the premier European competition, capturing data on audience, players, and coaches. With Pro Bull Riders, it outfitted both the bull and rider with sensors that measured spin, direction changes, kicks, and rider control, upgrading the league to a more objective, metrics-based scoring system.
“Technology has evolved tremendously in interpreting the physical world,” said HEED co-founder and AGT International owner Mati Kochavi in the announcement. “HEED is harnessing this to create a new sports fan experience.”
SportTechie Takeaway
Artificial intelligence is being deployed across the sports technology world to better identify highlights, while sensors are being used to accumulate as much data as possible about events and athletes. HEED is taking a unique approach in that it is attempting to make inferences about the emotional aspects of sports. Teams and leagues are hunting for ways to engage fans. HEED is attempting to solve that issue by enabling fans to feel more connected to the highs, lows, and general excitement felt by the athletes and coaches during athletic competition.


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