Aside from the tourism and hospitality industries, sports also paused for a bit when the pandemic started. While games have resumed in many parts of the world, the atmosphere isn’t the same since fans stay home to avoid catching the virus.
So, athletes are playing in stadiums that were once filled with rabid fans cheering for their teams. Despite this, sports leagues restarted games, albeit with shorter schedules. Moreover, these leagues made use of technology to ensure they remain connected with their fans.
Here are some ways teams used technology to their advantage
The National Basketball Association (NBA) proved that the sports bubble allows teams to continue playing with minimal chances of transmission. Teams that participated in the games were housed in Walt Disney World Complex in Florida and the 2019-2020 season ended without anyone getting sick of the virus since July.
Similarly, the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) also showed that a sports bubble works. The league wrapped up its Challenge Cup in Utah with a huge increase in its viewership. The league saw over 383,000 fans watching each game in the tournament.
The NWSL also saw coverage by traditional media go up by 55 percent. Social platform mentions of the league also went up by 152 percent. These figures may still go up if the league uses digital and social media marketing strategies to reach more audiences in the North American and European markets.
The use of these channels is also practical since most of the fans were already online and followed their favorite sports teams through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Recreating the festive atmosphere when games are played in sports stadiums is challenging during a pandemic. Since fans aren’t allowed to watch the games in person, it was not easy to hear the crowd roaring after scoring a goal.
But this wasn’t much of a problem in Japan as an innovation allowed fans to let their teams hear them cheer even though they were staying at home. A free app allowed fans to broadcast pre-set cheers using their smartphones. Strategically-positioned speakers were placed around the stadium and broadcast the remote applause of the fans.
The June 13 J-League match between Jubilo Iwata and Azul Claro saw nearly 70,000 fans sending 1.9 million taps of pre-set sounds at the stadium. The app produced by Yamaha Corporation was stable enough to handle a large number of fans. Since then, the app
The Australian Rugby League saw cardboard cutouts of fans placed on the seats in the stadium. Similarly, baseball matches in South Korea had mannequins in attendance. These were low-tech yet creative ways of putting fans in the stadium.
But AGF Aarhus, a Danish football club, made it possible for fans to “watch” the games live. Instead of using cardboard cutouts and mannequins, the team used a videoconferencing platform to make the fans seem present at the stadium.
The team beamed images of the fans watching from home into huge screens in the stadium. It showed the players and the team that they still had a good base of fans supporting them. Fans wore the team colors while watching the games. They were seen cheering for their team while sitting in their living room.
Similarly, the NBA also brought 300 fans into its bubble to watch the games. The league worked with Microsoft to give fans a virtual seat inside the stadium. The fans were broadcast on LED screens placed around the arena.
Aside from watching the games, the fans could also cheer for their teams through the “Tap to Cheer” button on the Microsoft Teams app.
The pandemic may have been a challenging situation for the sports industry. But technology bridged the gap and allowed sports teams to connect with their fans.