By Edwin Acevedo, Guest Blogger | 4.27.17
The Nashville Sounds have partnered with technology company BKON Connect to create mobile digital experiences for baseball fans at First Tennessee Park. Taking the learnings from a four-game pilot in 2016, they are planning interactive mobile “hack the ballpark” experiences that give fans greater access to stadium information, promotions and on-field activities. The Technology Marketing SIG met April 25 with Alex Wassel, Marketing Director for the Nashville Sounds, Richard Graves, CEO at BKON Connect, and members of the BKON team that made it happen. Below is a blog post from BKON Connect describing the pilot with the Sounds, originally published September 14, 2016.
With our Bluetooth® beacon hardware broadcasting content, and our platform to manage the event, Sounds fans were greeted with live, rotating in-game content, including player stats that was like a second screen to the jumbotron, food, and beer menus, games, social media, promotions, and giveaways. It took less than a week to get the whole thing up and running, and fans enjoyed the experience. You could call it an inside-the-park home run.
Sounds Gameday Flyer
This year’s Triple-A Nashville Sounds ruled the regular season in the Pacific Coast League, finishing with a league-best record and reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2007. They play their home games at First Tennessee Park, a gem of a ballpark that opened in 2015 with a capacity of 10,000. An affiliate of the Oakland Athletics, the Sounds have a reputation around the league of being technology early adopters, but their app hadn’t been updated since 2013 (the Sounds removed it September 2016).
- The Sounds wanted to increase fan engagement on mobile devices through a variety of measurable channels, including Twitter, email, and text.
- They also wanted to stay in touch with fans and generate buzz for the team and the stadium during the off-season.
- One of the Sounds’ biggest fan frustrations is the design of the ballpark’s food venues. Menu boards are located high on the back walls of the main concessions. Because of this, they are difficult to see until customers reach the front of the line. Fans wanting ice cream or hamburgers could stand in the wrong line for an entire inning before realizing they needed to be at a different line to get what they wanted. The Sounds wanted to see if this could be solved through the Physical Web. (Spoiler alert: it could.)
“After 4 home games, we quickly realized that there were a lot of possibilities to use this technology to enhance the fan experience, engage with our fans in a new way, capture emails and fan information to build our database and enrich partnerships with our vendors and corporate promotions.”
Brian Mayhood, Vice President of Sales, Nashville Sounds
- We delivered the first Physical Web deployment in a professional baseball stadium. Our proof-of-concept was set up for the Sounds’ final regular-season homestand, just five days after the Sounds green-lighted the project. This gave them a framework to build customized ballpark experiences for fans.
- Our inbound proximity marketing tools made it easy to associate content to places and events in the stadium, and for people to discover nearby content. We repurposed our existing PHY browser as an iOS app custom-branded for the Sounds. We called it Sounds Gameday. (Now known as “Inside FTP”) From start to finish, the new app was available for download in the App Store within a mere three days. Android devices also could see the same Physical Web content inside the ballpark with Nearby Notifications.
- After dividing the stadium into seven proximity zones, we installed 30 Physical Web beacons inside the 10.8-acre stadium (which includes one on the mascot, Booster, and one in the Pro Shop). The PHY platform simplifies the broadcasting of content once beacons are in place. There is no need to configure beacons or pair them with a device. They just work.
- Because baseball is dynamic and does not run on a timed schedule, we created CoverCardsTM content templates that could be quickly swapped out with each batter, each pitching change, each mid-inning promotion and each time-scheduled campaign. In all, we created more than 120 unique CoverCardsTM with relevant content for different aspects of a day at the ballpark and used Google Analytics to track engagement. This kept content fresh and inviting for fans.
- At the same time, we developed a special microsite, (foodbeacon.com), to solve the problem of the menu boards inside the concessions stands. It included 110 food and beverage items found throughout the park and it provided location guidance for the hungry/thirsty fan.
- All of the beacons were installed and checked in a single morning (by our marketing and sales crew), then fine-tuned on-the-fly throughout the four-game series with the Iowa Cubs.
Dynamic content: With CoverCardsTM for each batter and pitcher, the Sounds were able to change content for every at-bat, featuring the current batter and pitcher. They also ran promotions for seat upgrades, playoff tickets and a variety of giveaways, which fans accessed through the browser app via tap-to-email, tap-to-tweet, and tap-to-text. These promotions ran in between innings and by scheduled time, and they could all be changed with just a few clicks while the game was in progress. The Sounds made hundreds of real-time content changes throughout the four-game pilot.
Persistent content: The Sounds decided to persist some content, particularly virtual concessions menus when it proved to be extremely popular. “We had some of our staff scroll through it and would be like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know we had that beer,” said Alex Wassel, the Sounds’ Director of Marketing. “I also talked to a few fans who said it was great, that they didn’t know we had this menu item. I think that’s something that is helpful and useful and it’s not content that we have readily available on our website.”
- Onboarding: For people who preferred an app experience, a custom-branded browser app helped get people to use the Physical Web to see dynamic content. For people without the app, they could still engage with content through browsers like Chrome or Opera for iOS, or through Nearby Notifications for Android. Engagement with Physical Web content was about 77% through the Sounds app and 23% through general Physical Web clients such as Google’s Chrome browser or Nearby.
- Incentivized actions: Before our Physical Web browser, Sounds staff members randomly selected fans at the game to participate in promotions. The app gave the Sounds the new ability to run promotions requiring entry by emails, text, and Twitter. One promotion, a text-to-win a free T-shirt, had to end after an inning because it was so successful. Incentives easily translate to retail audiences, making content like personalized coupons or app-exclusive buy-one-get-one offers available after entering an email address. For trade shows and conventions, the content could be a whitepaper or a presentation deck.
We were thrilled to quickly demonstrate to the Sounds how our inbound proximity marketing platform could make it easy for fans to discover nearby content they value. The simplicity and adaptability of our platform, and the fact that it works simultaneously with browsers and apps, was proven in real time, real fast.
In the end, the Sounds said it best:
“The Sounds are always looking for ways to enhance the fan experience at the game and BKON helped create a ballpark app that provided interactive content for our fans. It helped bring First Tennessee Park to life on game nights. It’s going to be very exciting to see how the Physical Web trends over the next year or two, how it impacts the way people consume information from their smartphones and how it can be utilized more in the sports world.”
Brian Mayhood, Vice President of Sales, Nashville Sounds
UPDATE: There has been an update to the Gameday app. It is now affiliated with the ballpark itself and is known as Inside FTP (First Tennessee Park). This change makes the app and the network of beacons in the ballpark available during the different concert and community events throughout the year.