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PlaySight Goes Back to School

Front Office Sports

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Company to deliver best-in-class technology to high schools across the country.

A PlaySight camera in the Sierra Canyon Gym (Photo via Playsight)

PlaySight’s SmartCourt sports technology is probably coming to a high school near you this summer. After getting a strong start in the sport of tennis over the past three years, PlaySight now has installed over 700 SmartCourts across the world and in over a dozen sports, from basketball and volleyball to football, wrestling, and even swimming.

To gear up for its move into high school athletics, PlaySight has created a new SmartCourt product — the SmartCourt PLAY (joining the SmartCourt PRO and LIVE in the product family). After consulting with numerous coaches, athletes and parents, PlaySight developed PLAY: a cloud-based video and analytics platform that is affordable enough for most high schools while still delivering the same cutting-edge experience that PlaySight’s top end customers (Golden State Warriors, UNC Tar Heels basketball and the United States Tennis Association, among others) receive.

Here are a few of the high school programs adding PlaySight to their home facilities for this season.

Ensworth School — Nashville, Tennessee

Ensworth became the first SmartSchool this summer by adding PlaySight technology to multiple sports facilities (indoor for basketball and volleyball, outdoor for soccer, lacrosse and football, in the studio for dancing, tennis, and even underwater for swimming). The Ensworth Tigers made the investment in order to take their student-athlete experience to the next level.

“Ensworth seeks excellence in instruction and expects daily improvement in its student athletes. PlaySight technology promises instant feedback and analysis to ensure our athletes and coaches have the very best information,” said Athletic Director Ricky Bowers. “PlaySight also provides our parents, alumni, and college scouts a user-friendly platform to access all performances live. We are excited to partner with PlaySight to create the most technologically advanced facility in the country.”

Automated and HD live streaming is another key to PlaySight’s high school offering — close to 40 NCAA tennis programs stream all of their home matches thanks to PlaySight technology, and many high schools are adding the technology for the same reason.

Sierra Canyon and Oaks Christian — California

PlaySight camera at Oaks Christian (Photo via Playsight)

Two of Southern California’s premier athletic programs both added PlaySight technology this summer. Sierra Canyon promises to have one of the nation’s best basketball teams, while Oaks Christian is a perennial contender — and they are adding PlaySight for both the basketball and volleyball programs.

“Sierra Canyon is extremely excited to partner with PlaySight to bring our student-athletes the latest technology to improve their individual and team game,” said Rock Pillsbury, Athletic Director.

“Sierra Canyon has always prided itself on having the latest and greatest for our students. In becoming the first high school in California to have this, we are proving once again how committed we are to provide our students with nothing but the best.”

Another key feature from PlaySight’s new SmartCourt PLAY is the SmartTracker 4K camera technology. PlaySight developed an automated streaming and broadcast experience, so these schools can stream their games and give fans, friends and alumni access to a professional-quality viewing experience for all home games. Similar camera tracking technologies are becoming standard in the sports technology space, and PlaySight expects this feature to drive even more interest from the nation’s top high school athletic programs.

Other schools becoming Smart with PlaySight technology

Trinity-Pawling (Pawling, New York), will become the second SmartSchool in the nation this summer, and this will also be the first high school in the nation to add PlaySight technology to ice hockey (SmartCourts become SmartRinks). To end the summer, PlaySight is also installing SmartCourts with Palmer Trinity (Miami, Florida) and Magen David Yeshivah (Brooklyn, New York).

There are a lot of camera-based broadcast and video sports technologies in the space right now. So, what makes PlaySight different? Two words. Connecting and athletes. PlaySight’s CEO Chen Shachar explains. “What is different about our technology is our focus on the athlete. We’re giving athletes of all ages the tools to improve faster and build their fan base to connect with friends and family, as well as college coaches and programs.

“We’re powering over 40 NCAA programs, including USC and Stanford, and those schools are using PlaySight to attract top young talent from across the sports world. We’re hoping to build a content, video and analytics pipeline from high school to collegiate sports. Many of our college tennis programs are already assessing recruits based on their PlaySight video and analytics.”

At the high school level, the broadcasting and streaming is important, and each Smart facility essentially becomes its own media channel with multi-angle video content for social media, highlights, recruiting and more. But the core is about improvement and harnessing the power of technology, especially for today’s youth, and using it with purpose and direction (developing athletic abilities and furthering oneself through sports).

If you are interested in learning more about PlaySight, visit www.playsight.com.


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Sports

Gauntlet of Polo Aims to Add Relevance to Niche Sport

The U.S. Polo Association has consolidated three major tournaments and upped the prize pool in an effort to sustain and grow the sport.

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Gauntlet of Polo

Photo Credit: David Lominska

When was the last time you thought about polo?

For most Americans, the answer probably has something to do with the logo on a Ralph Lauren shirt. But while the U.S. Polo Association doesn’t shy away from the game’s classification as a niche sport, it’s also working to sustain and broaden polo’s reach via consolidating a trio of prestigious tournaments into one lucrative event.

The Gauntlet of Polo, held in West Palm Beach, Florida, concludes this weekend at the U.S. Open Polo Championship with a whopping $250,000 on the line. There’s also an additional $500,000 at stake for Team Pilot, who have won the first two events and can claim the half-million if they are able to earn a clean sweep. The horse-back sport is played by a small number of Americans, with 300 clubs across the country supporting 5,000 players, according to David Cummings, the chairman of USPA Global Licensing.

“The USPA is motivated to grow the sport, not only in the U.S. but internationally,” Cummings said. “Our goal is to educate and grow polo. And if you’ve ever met a polo player, there’s nothing more he likes to do than talk about polo. We want to increase the amount people who talk about it.”

READ MORE: International Swimming League Wants to Give Swimming a Permanent Audience

There is a major barrier of entry to attracting new players: money. The sport has been played since 200 B.C. in Persia and came to the U.S.  in 1876, where it has remained a sport of the nation’s wealthy. According to Cummings, it can cost up to $4.5 million to field a team for all three tournaments. Those costs include paying the players, paying their travel and lodging and the care for the horses. Each of the four players on a team brings up to 15 horses, riding an average of 10 per game.

The potential million-dollar purse doesn’t cover those costs, so Cummings said most teams underwrite with sponsors. Those are often of the big-name variety, too, like Coca Cola and Cessna, the airplane manufacturer.

But the financial reward is similarly lucrative. Elite players play globally and make in excess of $1 million annually, Cummings said. The Gauntlet of Polo is the highest potential purse for polo with the new bonus prize.

The $500,000 bonus, paid on top of a $250,000 prize for winning the Open and $125,000 for the other two tournaments, is part of a larger plan to attract younger players and fans. The plan also drops team handicaps for the Gauntlet of Polo from 26 goals to 22, the collective total by a team’s four players. A lower collective handicap theoretically would allow more novice players to help make up teams — the higher the individual handicap, the better the player. So far, the plan has worked. According to Cummings, 16 teams entered the competition this year, up from six last year.

The hope is the injection of cash prizes could help change the trajectory of polo in the U.S., said Mark Bellissimo, managing partner of the Wellington Equestrian Partners and owner of the International Polo Club, the tournaments’ host site.

“In order to expand interest in the sport, it is essential that emerging players, as well as new teams, have the opportunity to participate in elite tournaments,” Bellissimo said.

The International Polo club is the hub of the polo community in West Palm Beach, the sport’s U.S. epicenter. The region has more than 75 fields in a 50-mile radius, and the Palm Beach County Sports Commission estimates an annual economic impact of more than $23 million from the sport.

With a not-for-profit base at the U.S. Polo Association, Cummings said a small staff as well as a volunteer chairman and governors keep a youth movement at the core of their mission. The organization does hold interscholastic and intercollegiate tournaments for the 30 high schools and nearly 50 colleges that field teams, a number they also hope to grow.

“Their motivation is to teach and instruct people play and get new people into the game,” Cummings said.

READ MORE: Jaguars’ Unique Arrangement Builds U.K. Audience

Likewise, in an attempt to attract more fans, the sport’s organizing bodies will continue their transformation into the digital age over the next few years through streaming more broadcasts and incorporating modern touches like Jumbotron videos and replays.

Time will tell whether polo sees in uptick in interest in the U.S., but Wellington has high hopes for the Gauntlet of Polo. He expects 12,000 people at the polo grounds on Sunday. Along with a live broadcast on USPolo.org, the tournament will be broadcast on CBS Sports on Sunday and Eurosports on Monday, potentially reaching 250 million households.

No matter the number of spectators, a team will be playing for the largest purse in polo history. It’s a bottom line everyone can agree upon.

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Sponsorship

AT&T’s Logo Deal With WNBA Represents Deeper Strategy With NBA

AT&T’s investment in the NBA includes the WNBA, NBA 2K League, G-League and USA Basketball, representing a piece of its broader entertainment sponsorships.

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WNBA ATT Sponsorship

All 12 WNBA teams will have an extra logo on their jersey this season.

During the WNBA Draft on Wednesday, jerseys with AT&T logos were revealed at Nike’s NYHQ as part of a multiyear partnership. Along with the jersey placement, AT&T will also gain integration throughout WNBA.com, the league’s app and social channels, and broadcast partners. The telecommunications company also will be the title sponsor of the WNBA All-Star game, starting this year in Las Vegas.

It’s the latest expansion of a deepening sponsorship plan between AT&T and the NBA, as well as the telecommunication company’s overall sponsorship plan.

READ MORE: Thunder Announce Love’s As Jersey Patch Partner

“The WNBA is deeply committed to empowering and inspiring women,” said Kerry Tatlock, NBA senior vice president of marketing partnerships. “AT&T’s groundbreaking commitment to our game, which is anchored on our shared values of diversity and inclusion, make it the perfect partner for the WNBA at this exciting time.”

It will be the first non-apparel logo to be on jerseys of all 12 teams. Also announced was a “refresh” of the WNBA brand, complete with a new WNBA logo. An ESPN report noted the logo will transition onto uniforms, courts and basketballs in 2020.

The WNBA deal is part of an overall NBA partnership that includes sponsorship of the NBA, WNBA, NBA 2K League, G-League and USA Basketball, said Shiz Suzuki, AT&T assistant vice president of sponsorships & experiential marketing. The AT&T partnership with the NBA started at this year’s NBA All-Star game, as the presenting sponsor of the slam dunk contest, All-Star practice and media day.

Suzuki said the deal makes the AT&T brand across the WNBA physically and digitally, which will hopefully help engagement for both brands and create new customers and fans alike.

“The WNBA represents a brand, league, players and fan base we want to connect with and grow with as we work with them to find ways to bring fans closer to the sport, whether through an on-site activation at major events like WNBA All-Star, or to fans at home and on the go using our social media and digital platforms to deliver premium content, behind-the-scenes access and stories from across the WNBA,” Suzuki said. “By doing so, we can connect AT&T customers to the WNBA to grow fan engagement and our relationships with current and new customers.”

Within the partnership between the WNBA and AT&T, the two organizations will create programming to support women in sports. It’s a further extension of AT&T’s work to support women, support diversity and foster inclusion. The company removed gender bias from its advertising last year, two years ahead of a stated goal by the Association of National Advertisers.

READ MORE: WNBA Star Sue Bird Makes Leap to NBA Front Office With Denver Nuggets

“Together, we can create ways for basketball fans and for AT&T customers to engage in the causes and communities important to the WNBA and to AT&T,” AT&T Chief Brand Officer Fiona Carter said. “Whether it’s women in sports, supporting small businesses like those owned by WNBA players, being a leading voice in LGBTQ rights, or giving back to communities in which we operate, we have much in common and many opportunities to empower these incredible athletes and their fans.”

The WNBA announcement came during a big week of sports activations for AT&T, which included the NBA 2K League’s The Tip  Off, Augusta National’s Women’s Amateur, the NCAA Final Four and The Master’s. Suzuki said the brand’s investments put fans at the heart of sports, music and other entertainment options — hoping to hit the diversity of the company’s consumer base.

“Our sponsorships strategy is about enabling growth for AT&T, by building more meaningful connections with current and with new customers,” Suzuki said. “To do that, we look to deliver moments that drive people’s love for sports, entertainment and their communities. Whether at an event, at home, or on the go, we want to bring fans closer to the moments that matter to them.

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In Its Second Year, Major League Rugby Focused On The Long Haul

Major League Rugby Commissioner Dean Howes is optimistic and focused on a long and sustained growth for the second-year league.

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Major League Rugby

Photo credit: Griff Lacey

A long, sustained growth is in the cards for Major League Rugby.

The league is avoiding a big splash before disappearing by staying close to earth with expectations, commissioner Dean Howes said.

The league started last year with a truncated, 31-game season with seven teams and has nine teams for a 75-game 2019 season, but by 2022 there’s likely to be 16 teams, Howes said. Until then, when the league hits a wide enough market reach to have true success, Howes said the league will continue to build itself slowly across the nation.

READ MORE: The US Rugby Players Association and Its Goals for the Future of the Game

“It’s in your partners and your expectations,” said Howes, who has previous management experience with Real Salt Lake and the St. Louis Blues. “You have to know what can spend and can’t spend and have realistic expectations you can and can’t drive. No league has reached its full stride in a season, or five or 10.

“Major League Soccer is extremely successful, but it is still just hitting its full stride and is 20 years into it.”

With slow and deliberate growth, Howes believes Major League Rugby can grow into another major sports league in the United States. The league already has teams in Austin, Texas; Denver; Houston; New Orleans; New York City; San Diego; Seattle; Salt Lake City; and Toronto. Teams are lined up for the next two seasons in Boston, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Dallas, with potentially two or three to be added.

The league and teams are a single entity, like the MLS, not a franchise model. Operators of the teams are also owners within the league.

By the end of this year, Howes said each of the nation’s major media markets, save for maybe Chicago, will be filled with teams. Once all those teams are playing, he believes there will be enough market coverage for the league’s media packages to be relevant. Beyond media deals, the relevancy within markets is important in building fanbases. There is already a robust club level of rugby across the country, the middle ground soccer was missing. But unlike the base MLS had, youth rugby needs to be built up.

“You have to be balanced across the country,” he said. “We need to focus on being relevant not just in major markets, but within those markets. Ann evidence of success comes with how we penetrate those markets, how we help build the sport out that’s how it will grow.”

Currently, there are TV deals in place with ESPN, CBS Sports Network and AT&T Sports Networks. To secure those deals, Howes said he had to sell the overall vision of the league’s future.

“All of the TV partners want good content and I think this is great content,” he said. “They need inventory and we need exposure. As long as we can continue to grow with them and not overpromise and underdeliver we can stay within those partners.”

It has many of the factors Americans like in their sports, he said, like high-scoring affairs and easily countable states. And for Howes, a self-proclaimed sports fan who can find something about all sports to enjoy, rugby converts easily to TV, unlike some other sports. Unlike the necessary wide angles for some sports to track balls and pucks, rugby telecasts can get minor details.

“People will like it in stadium and on TV,” he said. “You see them with bumps and bruises and sweat.  It’s a physical game and you see all of that. If you can get people to watch and understand, like any sport,  you start converting them.”

As the TV partners seem to understand the vision, Howes said foundational partners are key to the growth of the league as well.

“In the world of sports, your first sponsors are those you’re doing business with, those people literally getting value from you and your business,” he said. “As you grow and become stronger, then you reach out into those partners who love you because of sheer brand strength.”

Rugby is an international sport with plenty of room for growth in North America, much like the MLS had with soccer. European rugby leagues are already looking at North American cities, according to a BBC article suggesting teams in New York and Toronto for England’s Rugby Football League.

“Obviously the other leagues want to keep an eye on us, what we’re doing and want to participate in the appropriate markets,” Howes said. “We have the most headroom for growth and we’re the largest economic country in the world.”

READ MORE:  Major League Rugby Partners with CBS Sports Network

Howes knows that growth will take time, even just to get a foundation set for future growth. He’s not planning to rush it.

“We have the passion to say this sport deserves to be amongst the other major leagues,”  he said. “We need to be able to say this is what it takes to sustain this thing for five years or 15 years.

“We’re in it for the long-haul and funded and structured for the long-haul.”

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