Why Orlando City is Turning to Alexa to Deliver News to Fans

Orlando City is using Alexa to deliver news directly to its fans via voice-enabled updates on the Amazon Echo family of products. (FOS Illustration)

With one in six Americans owning a smart speaker according to research from NPR and Edison Research, the battle is on to find a way to deliver timely and relevant content to users who also have an affinity for sports teams.

While leagues such as the NBA have had Alexa Skills since late 2017, Orlando City’s foray into the voice space, specifically with their new Alexa Skill, marks one of the first uses of the platform at a team level.

Although there won’t be a massive marketing push behind the new skill, Ed Cahill, Senior Director of Content for Orlando City, is excited about the potential opportunities Alexa presents.

“We’ll continue to invest our time into voice,” said Cahill. ”Our target market is constantly on the move. If our fans are driving, working, or at the gym, voice is potentially our only option to reach them. In terms of creating content for smart speakers, the turnaround is actually pretty quick and we expect to be able to get regular updates out to fans without sacrificing too many man-hours.”

Making a decision to explore the voice space was easy for Cahill and his team based on the sheer fact that the market growth and adoption rate for smart speakers are booming.

“The most convincing research for us when it came to the decision to enter this space was the mass adoption rate of smart speakers,” said Cahill. “With over 20 million Amazon Echo’s already in the market, and a smart speaker install base of 244 million expected by 2022, it just made sense for us to start to explore the space.”

“I think we’ll take a laid-back approach in driving users to the platform. We’ve listed our skill on our website under news and will do social media push as well as in-stadium on gamedays. As this is only a news briefing skill, we’ll push this as a convenience factor for fans. If we look into a full-fledged skill in the future that strategy may change.” – Ed Cahill, Senior Director of Content for Orlando City

Although a first for Orlando City on the Amazon Echo, Cahill and his team have been using voice-based content in the form of weekly podcasts for the past three years. The success of these, coupled with the aforementioned growth of the smart speaker market, led Cahill to believe that being creating an Alexa Skill would only add another level of convenience for fans.

“We’ve been running ‘Orlando City Soccercast’ for over three years now. It’s a weekly podcast that helps fans stay in the know. We’ve had positive results from the podcast and expect fans to enjoy the convince of Orlando City news via smart speakers in their kitchens, bedrooms, or anywhere in their homes.”

For those worried about the skills it requires to put together an Alexa Skill, the process is actually rather simple. Luckily, besides the product being extremely easy to use, the platform makes the creation and approval process for an Alexa Skill quite seamless.

Not only is the process of creating a skill simple, the process to upload content and sound bites might be even easier. With all the cool features and possibilities of the platform, the ease of use was the one that surprised and delighted Cahill the most.

“I assigned the task of creating the skill to my Director of Video, Eric Thompson. With no experience in the space, he was able to create and send the skill in for approval in the space of two days. Training for creating and uploading sound bites for our entire team took only about 10 minutes.”

As with any content and platform, the first question after debuting it usually turns toward monetization and a club’s thoughts on how they will do that. While not the primary plan as of yet, Cahill sees the opportunity for Orlando City’s partners to get involved at some point.

“Our partners are just as much on the cutting edge as we are. Many are taking the same path into voice and we’ll look to collaborate and learn together.”

With voice platforms still in relative infancy compared to other platforms, the ability to get even closer to the consumer in a way that is easy to consume, and without much friction, is a tantalizing opportunity for sports teams around the world.