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Inside Sports Tech Tokyo’s Aspirations to Be Gateway to Asia for Sports Tech Businesses

Scrum Ventures and Dentsu are teaming up for Sports Tech Tokyo to help sports technology companies capitalize on Asian opportunities.

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There’s a golden opportunity for global sports tech companies in Asia — and Sports Tech Tokyo is aiming to open up a gateway.

The venture capital firm Scrum Ventures — via its innovation arm, Scrum Studios — and its program partner, Dentsu, lead the mentor-driven accelerator program, although it’s more than just a standard business accelerator.

Scrum Managing Director Michael Proman is spearheading the Studio program and said it won’t be a normal accelerator and instead will focus on creating a community of mentors and curating innovative companies in a variety of stages. Proman said there’s no financial interest in the program for Scrum, but like any altruistic efforts, there are hopes it eventually pays off.

“We think there needs to be a longer, more substantive relationship and we can add value in more ways beyond just an investment vehicle,” Proman said of Scrum’s partnerships with its Japanese partners. “By us working with LPs in more collaborative ways, we give them an incremental value that goes 360 degrees and we get good visibility into sectors we want to make investments in.

“Whether or not we ultimately make investments in participating Studio companies, the fact we’re bringing together the best and brightest will come back to us in some way.”

READ MORE: The Shift East: Why Asian Brands Are Investing in English Football

The program is currently accepting applications from sports tech companies for 150 slots, with 50 companies slotted each in athlete performance, stadium experience and fan engagement. The company is also looking to round out its roster of over 50 mentors, which Proman described as thought leaders in a variety of positions from the Sacramento Kings to the NCAA.

Dentsu is the primary partner of Sports Tech Tokyo, but a variety of other Japanese partners have been identified to potentially collaborate with the sports tech companies should they solve business problems.

The 150 companies will meet in Tokyo with the program partners in early/mid-April for a curated experience to be connected with partner companies and revenue-generating opportunities.

Following the Sports Tech Tokyo conference, the group of companies is whittled down to 10 to 20 and grouped with partners and mentors for a three-month accelerator, which will largely be virtual relationships to be respectful of the companies’ time and business-building priorities but will also include on-the-ground events in North America as well.

“The final cohort will not just be the companies that have raised the most or at the latest stage, but those that best are positioned to solve the problems and opportunities identified within our very diverse partner community in Japan,” Proman said.

Not only might the community lead to new funds for tech companies, but it could also lead to major partnerships with existing companies, such as Panasonic and Nintendo — previous Studio partners of Scrum Ventures.

“We’re trying to rework and reinvent an antiquated accelerator process,” Proman said. “There’s a lot of great things about them, but there’s a connotation that if you graduate from seed status, you’re good to go. But getting to the next milestone isn’t attainable to some and there’s this abyss that great companies and good ideas go to die. It’s unfortunate and we want to be part of the bridge to real revenue opportunities.”

Despite a rapidly growing sports market in Asia, Proman said there’s a significant lack of sports tech companies in the region. Sports Tech Tokyo will be focused on Japan, as the 2020 Summer Olympics and 2019 Rugby World Cup will be held there, but a wider approach is likely too as the 2022 Winter Olympics will be in China.

READ MORE: Why Bridgestone Became a Worldwide Paralympic Partner

“Right now in sports, Japan is really top of mind,” Proman said. “This is only chapter one, these programs can exist in other areas like Shanghai, Beijing, and Singapore.

“We feel like we can own that trans-Pacific gateway and be that liaison and facilitator.”

Along with the need to bring the most innovative sports tech companies to Asia, the industry itself lags behind others in attracting VC funds, Proman said. Now the industries are catching up as data analytics and quantitative insights are emerging not only in performance but fan engagement.

“Sports tech is underinvested, but key players are catching up. Even things like sports gambling and esports, these emerging silos are being invested in or have massive potential to scale even further,” he said, adding the community they are building transcends Asia. “We’d love to believe this community will encapsulate the best and brightest all over the world, pairing and curating relationships that have universal benefit – irrespective of our focus in APAC.”

Pat Evans is a writer based in Las Vegas, focusing on sports business, food, and beverage. He graduated from Michigan State University in 2012. HIs second book, Nevada Beer, comes out in December 2018. Evans can be reached at pat@frntofficesprt.com.

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Transmit.Live Sees Future With Live Streaming Tech

The company is working with brands like Viacom and the NFL to help them reach larger audiences and better monetize their content.

Adam White

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Live streaming is the hottest must-have in the sports industry; from club to college to pro, audience reach across the internet, social, and OTT platforms has become a necessity.

Whether it’s watching someone play “Fortnite” on Twitch or checking out an NWHL game on Twitter, live streaming has taken social media platforms — and the content that could be placed on them — to new levels.

As platforms have evolved, the biggest problem that has arisen is that in order to live stream, say, a game to a Twitter account, a Facebook page, and maybe even a Twitch account at the same time, you would need different streams and even, in some cases, different cameras.

That’s where Transmit.Live comes in. Using the cloud, the live-streaming service centralizes live-video operations, giving users the ability to manage, distribute, analyze, and expand audiences for live content.

“We are giving our clients the ability to build a new media affiliate broadcast network.” – Scott Young, co-founder and CEO of Transmit.Live

For example, imagine if you were an NBA team that wanted to live stream practice through the team Twitter account along with the accounts of all of the players. Thanks to Transmit.Live, all you would need is one stream and the technology will do the rest, taking that stream to every single account that you want.

READ MORE: ‘Ask Amelia’ Puts Customer Service in the Palm of Fans

If you were to do that with today’s Lakers team, the potential audience from your stream would go from 7.41 million on just the Lakers’ Twitter account to over 54 million if it was distributed via all of the players’ accounts.

It’s this opportunity that Transmit.Live has capitalized on for a list of clients that includes the NFL.

“The struggle is, because of the fragmentation of all the platforms, it is difficult for entities to broadcast and reach a larger audience in the moment,” said Scott Young, co-founder and CEO of Transmit.Live. “We’ve essentially built a broadcast platform that empowers leagues, teams, and talent with the opportunity to centralize their streaming operations, maximize fan engagement, and build larger sponsorships, all while giving them the chance to have one set of data reports.”

One of the platforms in which the company has found success is on Twitch, which generally has proven to host the coveted demographic for so many advertisers.  

Collaborating with Viacom and Nickelodeon, Transmit.Live was able to identify a sponsorship opportunity for the entertainment brand and, in teaming up with Esports Arena, hosted an esports tournament in Oakland.

“Nickelodeon was looking to promote the new ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ premiere, and we were able to take content from the event and distribute it via 50 different social platforms and about one thousand different web pages, while creating 100 percent more sponsor integration touchpoints.”

Racking up four million views over the course of five hours, Young says that without the distribution, viewership numbers on the stream “probably would have reached over 500% fewer viewers.”

A sponsorship that was once selling experiential branding at flat ratesbecame one that could be sold for three to four times that figure by delivering guaranteed viewership.

READ MORE: ‘Ask Amelia’ Puts Customer Service in the Palm of Fans

While it may make sense that something like this can work well with the digitally native audience that Twitch presents, Young was quick to point out that this isn’t just a technology for esports or for leagues.

“The goal is to unlock new content that will enhance the 360-degree fan experience. I look at all of the successful programs like ‘All or Nothing’ on Amazon have had, and teams should be able to have the opportunity to do that themselves no matter how big or small an organization may be.”

In today’s media environment, even though content might be king, without distribution, you have a king locked in his castle.  

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Winnipeg Jets Put Customer Service in the Palms of Fans

The introduction of the technology by the Winnipeg Jets, Manitoba Moose and their home arena, Bell MTS Place, helps alleviate stress on customer service.

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As technology continues to advance and evolve, customer service is likely to improve across all industries, as evidenced by the introduction of a virtual guest services platform by the Winnipeg Jets, Manitoba Moose and their home arena, Bell MTS Place.

The platform, developed by Satisfi Labs, is in use in more than 50 venues across the five major North American sports leagues, but its launch with True North is its first venture into Canada. Satisfi’s program is also in use in the tourism industry in museums, zoos and aquariums. Questions range from ticketing to parking, to services and amenities.

The platform allows guests to interact with the virtual customer service representative through a website, Facebook or app. Questions are answered quickly through Ask Amelia in a developed voice representative of the organization using it. The voice is developed through the general policy answers, but also stat feeds, and softening answers with friendly language, images and GIFs.

For the organization, which hosts 1.5 million guests through NHL, AHL and non-hockey arena events annually, the platform can provide a digital representation of the organization’s best employee, said Andrew Wilkinson, the director of digital at True North Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of the Jets.

“This allows us to be more efficient and consistent in providing real-time responses to our fans across digital brand touch points and takes some strain off internal employees,” Wilkinson said. “We’re continuously learning. It’s still fairly new within the organization, but it’s evolving every day and we’ve been adjusting and adapting responses through feedback from our staff and guests.”

READ MORE: Why Stadium Uses AI-Powered Video Highlights to Reach Fans

The initial build-out of the platform took True North quite a bit of time ensuring answers were in place. The organization did benefit from Satisfi’s collective learning, which as new questions are answered and new information is collected is shared among all the clients.

“As we expand, we offer a great opportunity of well-tested and well-vetted information,” said Courtney Jeffries, Satisfi SVP of sports, entertainment and tourism. “We want to be on trend with the expectation that information is immediately accessible, the experience delivered by the team is customizable, and the end user can really tailor their own experience.”

The collective learning should benefit from the new Canadian market, Jeffries said. The platform also is available in Spanish and French.

“A fan isn’t static,” she said. “There might be a unique way to ask a question in Winnipeg, where there’s not the American version, when you travel. It will enhance the knowledge of the brain, with new questions from a hockey perspective and engages the virtual guest services assistant in a way to teach us to make best practices, not just for hockey, but all arena clients.”

Having a virtual customer service platform can also help organizations realize a deeper connection to the fan base. Jeffries said there have been a number of clients making business decisions based on feedback garnered from their platform, but pointed to beer tap rotations and gluten-free requests.

Normally, questions might be answered by ticket representatives, a security team or venue customer service, and many of the questions might not lead to a profitable time-spend for the organization.

“Some questions aren’t revenue-generating and could be a sizeable cost to the team,” Jeffries said. “For Satisfi to intercept those questions and alleviate some very serious human capital to solve that and do so reflective in the team’s voice, then it really is a service to the team.”

Part of Wilkinson’s role at True North is to vet potential web, social and mobile-based technology and tools that can help enhance the organization’s operations. He said Satisfi provided a sports and entertainment-specific use of AI, and made sense as a partner.

READ MORE: How the Winnipeg Jets Tell their Story in Midst of Historic Year

He said the suggestions, feedback, and questions coming through the virtual guest services assistant will be taken to heart just as it would to an actual person.

While technology is generally used to help achieve business goals and drive revenue, Wilkinson said the organization is putting a greater emphasis on understanding fans.

“We’re looking at tools that can help us gain a 360-degree view of our fans by linking various data points together in a unified view,” Wilkinson said. “Whether it’s purchase behavior at concessions or at our retail locations; if they follow us on social media, have downloaded our app, or are season ticket holders vs. fans that attend two games a year — we want to better understand our fans to be able to personalize their experience and maximize their value and engagement.

“As we work to continually strengthen our fan base locally and worldwide, it’s vital that we understand fan loyalty behaviors and their participation with our brands at a Jets or Moose game in Winnipeg or from their mobile devices all around the world.”

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College Basketball Blue Bloods Use Tech to Streamline Content Distribution

As the arms race continues, programs like Kentucky and UNC are taking the battle to tech.

Front Office Sports

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(Photo via @UNC_Basketball)

(*INFLCR is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)

When it comes to impressing recruits and adding value to current student-athletes, some Power Five programs have turned their focus to innovative ways outside of great facilities and a cornucopia of uniform options.

One of those ways has been through tech, specifically when it comes to distribution of content created by in-house digital staff members.

Five years ago, tools like this wouldn’t have been necessary, but an increasingly connected world, coupled with top players becoming immediate social sensations before they even get to colleges, being able to get content into the hands of current team members helps in more ways than just one.

For a program like Kentucky basketball, the trickle-down effect of having student-athletes share content on their own channels is something that doesn’t go unnoticed, especially when it comes to recruiting.

INFLCR is not used directly as a recruiting tool, but in a broader sense everything we do touches recruiting,” mentioned Guy Ramsey, director of strategic communication for University of Kentucky athletics. “When I mentioned that our student-athletes reach an audience we can’t, I’m talking in large part about recruits. Athletes follow athletes; they don’t always follow brands. Oftentimes, recruits are exposed to us primarily through our current players.”

READ MORE: Hudl Gets Deeper Into Hardware as Company Continues Its Evolution

Top-flight recruits seeing their content more could be the difference between getting a blue chip one to commit, or seeing them go to another Power Five program.

When it comes to recruiting at UNC, a players point of view is crucial. There, the digital team is leveraging the tool to make sure that the social feeds of the players are populated with content that will give recruits a look into what it’s like to be a part of the program.

“They are recruiters just as much as our coaches,” said Dana Reynolds, director of social and digital media for UNC athletics. “The clearer it is for prospective student-athletes to see themselves as a UNC basketball player through game photos, candids on road trips, and videos, the better.”

Not only are the student-athletes benefiting from the partnership, so too are the professionals working in the department in a job where every second can count and there is usually not enough time in the day.

For Reynolds, the assist from INFLCR comes in the form of being able to cut down on her workflow, going from an email, text, airdrop process to one in which she is depositing the content in one place. It does this by tagging content based on which players are in it, creating personalized mobile galleries that live on their phones. It is here that they can share content to their social platforms with INFLCR tracking their activity and audience reach for their team.

In this case, both the staff and the student-athletes win as she uses it as a “cloud service to post content from.”

Along the same lines as Reynolds, Ramsey and his team have benefitted from being able to use the tech to “not only make the jobs easier, but make them better.”

Time will tell if either of these programs will be dancing come March, but one thing is for sure: when it comes to finding ways to lure recruits and make the lives of everyone in the athletic department better, tech is playing an increasingly important part of the equation.

(*INFLCR is a proud partner of Front Office Sports)

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