Our series “In Focus With” explores the technology we use to create great fan experiences that elevate brand engagement at live sports and entertainment events. Today we look at Minor League Baseball and the upcoming launch of the Allegiant Airline Network.
Today fans of baseball don’t just enjoy a connected digital experience at the stadium, they expect it. This is why Minor League Baseball has partnered with ISM Connect to deliver the Allegiant Airline Network, a monetizable, measurable network of smart screen technology intended to enhance the gameday experience for fans, sponsors and venue staff.
Experiencing baseball in its natural state
In Minor League Baseball, it’s more than just winning. It’s the experience of being handed a foul ball by the third baseman. It’s watching fireworks with your family on a Friday night. It’s eating ice cream out of a mini-helmet. It’s all of the authentic sights and sounds of the majors without the cost. People don’t go to a minor league game to see their team win, they go to experience baseball, and that experience is about to get an upgrade.
As a business this year, Minor League Baseball saw over 40 million attendees across the league (Source: SBRNet). It is one of the most accessible forms of live entertainment for sports fans with an average cost of under $60 for a family of four to attend. These fans will now be getting even more bang for their buck at their hometown ballpark, as they are offered stimulating visual content and opportunities to engage with sponsors in a new format.
Delivering high value content to local fans
Beginning in April, connected smart screen displays will be strategically placed throughout participating MiLB ballparks, offering fans entertaining content and striking visuals of the beautiful game of baseball. The goal is to deliver a modern experience that is both dynamic and measurable, and ultimately an experience that brings high value content to fans as they enjoy watching their hometown team.
“Minor League Baseball has come to recognize how powerful an entertainment platform it is, and how powerful a content platform it is, and that is what has created opportunity for us, as we help them knit that platform together into something unified that will create fan connection opportunities for brands on a national basis. This simply wasn’t feasible before,” says Kent Heyman, CEO of ISM Connect.
Creating a national brand touchpoint
Yes, that’s right. The Allegiant Airlines Network will also have the ability to run synchronous advertising campaigns across any and all connected ballparks for fans and sponsors to enjoy. This means that the same campaign or branded content element can exist in each of those ballparks as part of a single sponsorship asset.
In collaboration with sponsors, ISM Connect will have the ability to offer up human interest stories, contests, trivia and other assets that can not only help the fan connect with the game, but can also give fans opportunities to connect with sponsors. ISM offers their partners capabilities including content management, strategic sponsored asset consulting, demographic data and analytics and campaign optimization.
“The Allegiant Airlines Network will provide a new way for MiLB, as a league, to engage with their fans across the country,” says Glenn Borgmann, VP of Networks at ISM Connect. “We are bringing those national and regional sponsors a new menu of options for their messaging. We are empowering them to reach those local fans in a way that they could not before.”
Leveraging mobile technology to deepen the connection
The new network can also connect with that one thing that every fan has in their seat at a game – the mobile phone. As mobile usage continues to soar, in venue and out, fans are looking for new and exciting ways to connect at the ballpark. This partnership will explore and embrace social engagement tactics through apps like Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter. Fans will be able to locate their favorite vendors, participate in sponsored scavenger hunts and see what’s happening in other parks across the country. In turn, the network will facilitate more seamless sponsorship activations, ideally converting minor league fans from potential leads to converted brand evangelists.
Capitalizing on the experience
In Minor League Baseball, fans spend just about as much time moving around the ballpark as they do watching the game from their seat. They are socializing. They are sampling the local craft brews, they are buying food and merchandise. This is where the unique opportunity exists to engage those fans as they take in the minor league experience. By delivering compelling content, MiLB and ISM aim to make what is currently a great experience an even greater one.
For the start of the 2019 season, ISM Connect will install up to 14 high definition smart screens in each of the 26 participating ballparks. These screens will live on the concourses and within the areas where fans aggregate. As soon as the network is activated, the teams and their sponsors will begin to receive near real-time audience engagement data so that they can continue to learn and improve as they go.
“The physical product that we bring is really high caliber, and it displays visual content in a way that is pleasing to look at. For fans that are coming into games, it will be a striking visual — particularly when the screens are synchronized. I think it’s going to be stunning, and I think we’re going to learn a lot,” says Heyman.
Amie Sheridan is a Philadelphia-based writer and content strategist serving sports technology startups. Her work has appeared in Sports Business Journal.