How Team Apps Can Augment Reality

By: Arin Segal, @arinsegal

To everyone who read my inaugural article, thank you! The feedback thus far has been incredibly helpful in shaping what you would like to be reading about from me and if you have ideas or topics you want me to delve into, drop a comment or send me a tweet. My goal is to do the leg work researching hot topics and new sponsorships so that you can save time and know what is going on. Shortly after I tweeted out my first article, I was asked by @JohnnyVolk to write my thoughts on team apps and who is owning the mobile experience.

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Who would have thought that within a week of this tweet, Pokémon Go would launch and I would suddenly be flooded with new ideas? I’ll get into a few teams killing the game with mobile apps in a bit, but first I want to share some thoughts on what could be next. Now I just want to make a disclaimer that I haven’t downloaded and played Pokémon Go just yet, but I have seen plenty about it. VR is great, but it requires external devices that not everyone has access to. AR, on the other hand, lets your phone transform the physical world into a live game. Sounds crazy, but adapted the right way it can make for interactive experiences that VR simply won’t allow. I can’t count the number of stories this past week of people making friends and simply getting out of the house to go play a game on their phone. Even in the 115+ degree Arizona heat, I have seen people out and about.

With any overnight fad, brands and teams have been scrambling for ways to get involved with many stadiums opening their doors to ‘trainers’ to play the game. To put it in perspective, Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium drew over 3,700 people to catch a few Pokémon. Rio has already tweeted saying they may allow fans into venues between events to catch Pokémon and numerous other teams are jumping on board.

Clearly, people are accepting augmented reality as a digital tool and now the door is wide open. When it comes to team apps, I think the possibilities are endless. Imagine pulling out your phone and having all of the data you may find around a baseball stadium (pitch speed, pitch count, ERA, etc) superimposed as though you had the benefit of watching on TV. Or, you are sitting with a sightline to home plate and see the strike zone by holding you phone up. You walk around the stadium and fun facts show up, similar to Pokémon, and then as you near specific food stands; an offer code appears if you hold you phone in front of that particular place. The whole idea here is to take AR and adapt it in a simple way that enhances the overall experience.

As far as specific teams go, unless I went to every single stadium to experience a game with an app in hand, I don’t think I could fully answer this one. What I have noticed, however, is that more and more teams are creating apps that can be used both at a game and at home. The key is to offer special features — i.e. seat upgrades, food delivery, merchandise delivery, instant replay — within the app if you are in the stadium and other key features — i.e. score notification, ticket deals, team standings, team news — if you are just watching from home or walking around. The user interface is also the other key. Don’t expect high user numbers if you have something that looks like a website from the early ’00s. If you want people to use the app, make it modern and simple. Have transitions between pages that flow and graphics that pop.

One last thing I think could make team apps even better, an internal message board for those on the app. If you go to a game alone, it can be hard to meet people or share thoughts on those funny things happening in the stadium itself. If you have a few chat threads available only if you are sitting in the stadium, it can help create even more of a community feel.

I think the possibilities for team apps are endless and AR is just going to open up a lot more, but with anything it is also important to remember that the app shouldn’t be distracting or taking away from the experience. It should be simply adding additional content to create something you can’t find on TV. And how does a sponsor play a role in this? Simple, someone has to pay for it all to get built and those deals at concession stands (hello half priced soda and hot dog) and on merchandise through AR aren’t going to be random.