Sports Venue Production Summit: How Teams Can Use Social Media, Digital Platforms To Engage Their Fans

With the quality of the in-home broadcast experience at an all-time high, sports venues must work harder than ever to entice fans to leave their living rooms and catch a game in person. In addition, teams are finding new ways to leverage existing video content coming out of their control rooms to create a stronger ROI on the expensive control rooms built at their facilities. At SVG’s Sports Venue Production Summit at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis this month, digital-video leaders from the Minnesota Twins, University of Minnesota Athletics, Timecode Systems, and EVS took the stage to discuss what today’s fans are looking for in game-day experience, as well as how teams are leveraging social-media channels and mobile apps.

The Twins Leverage the At The Ballpark App, Social Media
In the case of the Minnesota Twins, the team has taken MLB Advanced Media’s At The Ballpark app and customized it specifically for Twins fans to create a better game-day experience. Although the interface looks similar to other teams’ At The Ballpark experience, the Twins’ version provides games for fans to play following along with the action on the field, concessions information and purchasing ability, mobile ticketing, and more. Fans can also check in at the game via the app and redeem prizes.

Minnesota Twins’ Brea Hinegardner, University of Minnesota Athletics’ Ryan Maus, and Timecode Systems’ HJ Rorke discussed using social media and digital platforms to maximize fan engagement.

In addition to the app, the Twins use the power of social media to better communicate and reward fans at the ballpark.

“We have a TweetBoard so fans can send in their tweets, Instagram, and Facebook posts, and we’ll put them up on the big screen,” explained Brea Hinegardner, digital communications specialist, Minnesota Twins. “We also have a space in the ballpark called the Digital Clubhouse, where fans can interact and learn how to use our app. We are paying attention to what the fans are saying in the stadium to enhance their experience and answer any questions they have.”

The Power of Social Video and VIXI
Over the past few years, the University of Minnesota has joined a growing number of pro and college sports organizations using VIXI to integrate fans’ social-media posts into their in-venue production — complete with broadcast-quality graphics.

“This service does a really great job of utilizing content that fans are already sharing on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social platforms, displaying it in an eye-catching, attractive way for any display,” said Ryan Maus, director of digital production, University of Minnesota Athletics. “It’s something we can share to our fans and our sponsors and adds a ton to our in-game atmosphere. And it’s just one of many tasks that our social-media manager — sometime even a student or intern — manages in-game. It’s very turnkey: you find the photo, you approve it or disapprove it. It’s very easy to use, doesn’t take a tone of time, and has a great look and display.”

Gopher Digital Productions deploys the VIXI system at its seven home football games at TCF Bank Stadium and similar systems at six other Gopher Athletics venues. In addition, Maus and company have been able to successfully monetize the VIXI system by integrating sponsor elements throughout games.

“It’s a great way to use content fans are sharing, especially for some of our less well-attended sports that we can’t put as much time and resources in but we still want to create a memorable content for fans when they’re on campus,” said Maus. “Using social-media content is a great, relatively easy way to provide more content to fans. It makes a massive difference as far as the amount of content fans share.”

Using Existing Assets To Increase Control-Room ROI
EVS’s FanCast system is an all-in-one recording, production, and multiscreen box that enables the production and delivery of live and near-live content to fans through in-stadium screens (jumbos, hospitality, bars, alley screens), as well as direct to attendees’ connected screens, including smartphones and tablets. The system has gained notice in recent years after major venues like the University of Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium and Brooklyn’s Barclays Center adopted FanCast for their own in-game fan experience.

“It’s really about getting a better return on the investment that goes into control rooms,” said James Stellpflug, VP, product marketing, EVS. “It’s about taking every camera angle that exists and creating immersive experiences so that the fan can use their device … to interact with highlights and key moments of the game through video content in their own digestible timeframe.

“We believe in the concept of leveraging the existing assets,” he continued. “When you look at the control room, our servers are recording 20 cameras in-venue. So we take those existing EVS servers and tap into the same content to let a digital publisher expedite that content to fans both in-venue and out of venue for social media and websites. At the end of the day, the entire purpose is to better engage your fans.”

Fast, Cheap, and Synced: The Key to Managing Multiple Video Angles
As the number of distribution outlets and devices that teams need to serve skyrockets, these organizations are turning to cost-efficient solutions to create content once and serve to many. With that in mind, Timecode Systems has created a workflow that allows venues to sync any camera in the facility via RF, as well as additional GoPro POV cameras, as part of a single unified production.

“One of the tricks to this equation is the cost of the acquisition itself,” said HJ Rorke, director, sales, North America, Timecode Systems. Having multiple angles professionally managed from a production point of view is key. We can manage any camera in the facility wirelessly with RF at a very low-GHz signal and then slave it to the facility’s timecode. In addition to that, we can add as many GoPros as you want throughout the facility, pointing at the game action or at the fans or behind the scenes. The timecode sync and the GoPros can be managed remotely.”

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