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The future of fan engagement

Updated: Sep 3

The Sports Loft podcast brings industry leaders together with senior leaders from the Sports Loft member companies to discuss the topical issues in sport, entertainment, tech and investment.

In the latest episode of the Sports Loft podcast, we posed the question of what future fan engagement will look like to Satisfi Labs’ CEO Donny White and KNVB’s Captain of knowledge development & innovation, Giel Kirkels, two people who have a good idea of what the future holds.

Donny is CEO at Satisfi, a conversational search tool for venues that uses AI and allows people to get the information they need at arenas, often a closed shop for maps and search. With investment from MLB and Google, Satisfi have an impressive roster of US sports clients across all the major sports. Giel leads innovation for KNVB and collaborates with UEFA for the Reimagine Football initiative.



What do they think will happen? Donny highlighted the need to segment different fan personas, at stadium, at home or in other venues. “You’ll be going to the stadium knowing everything will be personalised to you” from ticket buying to attendance, like a VIP visit to a casino.


Giel’s greatest focus is getting fans back into stadiums. Once he has, “how can we make it fun?” KNVB’s research found that atmosphere was the most enjoyable part of attending matches for fans. It’s important for athletes too. Players said they can’t get focused without the crowd noise during the warm up. This poses the challenge of how you get at-home fans into the stadium to create atmosphere? Donny thinks fans will want to get their voices heard, wherever they’re watching from. “Players need (atmosphere) as badly as fans do”.


What problems are they trying to address for the next stage of development? Giel is focused on the making the stadium experience as rich as possible, such as providing live broadcast feeds so fans can watch other angles and replays, conscious that many will spend more time on their phones if they can’t sit next to friends.


Looking further ahead, Donny expects to see “new physical experiences created” connecting the need for togetherness with technological advances. This could see viewing experiences closer to home for those who can’t make the stadium but still want a shared experience with other fans.


Giel wants to “keep the stadium experience accessible” and hopes for VR and AR technologies to hit the mainstream, bringing fans closer to the stadium even if they can’t be there, whether because of a pandemic or because they live far away. He said that “covid is screaming for innovation” and will act as a digital accelerator. Even if fan engagement is currently harder because of the pandemic, it could usher in a whole new set of opportunities.


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