The St. Louis Blues are gamifying the Stanley Cup Playoffs’ Western Conference Final.
Prior to taking to the ice Saturday night for Game 1 against the San Jose Sharks, the Blues launched Enter the Zone, a real-time prediction game for fans, with 2019-20 season tickets on the line. The fan with the best cumulative score over the course of the series will score two full regular-season tickets. Enter the Zone was developed with Tally, the predictive technology company founded by Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
With plenty of future potential for technologies like predictive gaming in sports, Blues Vice President of Digital Strategy and Emerging Technology Matt Gardner said the conference finals are a good time to try something new as the fan base is likely more engaged than usual.
“We’re always very forward-thinking as an organization and finding new and fun ways to bring our fanbase together,” Gardner said. “The cool thing about this game and what attracted us to it is the fact we could pull something together quickly and utilized not at the crucial moments of the game.”
Enter the Zone provides fans with the opportunity to predict potential outcomes of the game, either prior to or during intermissions. Sample situations include whether Blues forward Ryan O’Reilly or Sharks forward Tomas Hertl will have a higher first-period face-off percentage, or which team will have three shots on goal first.
“We want to make sure fans are locked into the action on their TV or at the arena,” Gardner said, adding the game is meant to enhance the action and potentially take off some of the stress off the game for anxious fans.
The cumulative series grand prize isn’t all that’s up for grabs, as each game will also feature prizes for the winners. For instance, the winner of Game 1’s game received two tickets to Game 3, when the series shifts to St. Louis. Other prizes include individual tickets for next season as well as game-used and autographed items.
“We wanted to make the stakes high for them,” he said. “We want them to know we’d come to the table and give them a big incentive to dive in and play the game.”
Tally CEO Jason LeeKeenan said they want their technology to be user-friendly and free to play for partners, whether those are teams, venues or broadcasts. The deal with the Blues builds off the company’s first partnership with the Portland Trail Blazers for this year’s NBA playoffs.
“It’s great because there’s added excitement to the games,” LeeKeenan said. “We’ve been fortunate to work with teams excited work in the space and kudos to them for rolling it out in the playoffs.”
The Blues will be proactive on their digital channels in reminding fans to play the game, and Gardner said the staff will use a lot of trial and error to determine best practices, even if that means adjusting on the fly. More than anything, though, the series will provide the team with plenty of research. Depending on how the series goes, engagement with Enter the Zone could influence future rollouts of the game or other similar actions, as well how the sponsorship is integrated.
“This is a good opportunity for us to gauge how our fans interact with predictive gaming,” Gardner said. “Sports betting is on the horizon, and this is a good opportunity to see the level of interest our fans have in getting into the predictive-style of gaming.”
The gamification of the series by the Blues is a play toward a trend the industry has heard a lot about in the past year. Between the integration of 5G and the proliferation of sports betting, many prognosticators had long anticipated the arrival of games like Enter the Zone.
LeeKeenan said Tally is meant to be a way for all sporting events to build fan engagement similar to how the Super Bowl does. He and Wilson believe predictive gaming will be integrated into every sporting event within the next 10 years, both live and broadcast.
“We’re here to change the game, and we know these types of predictive experiences will dramatically impact engagement around live sporting events over the next decade,” Wilson said in a release.
Launching in a conference final is a pretty significant endeavor for the Blues. It also provides an exciting opportunity to demonstrate proof of concept.