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COVID-19 is having a devastating Global impact from the Premier League in England through to the AFL in Australia. The world in which we live has fundamentally changed.

The speed of its arrival will not be mirrored in the speed of its departure. There is a long tail for us all, with social distancing set to continue into the mid-term future unless a vaccine is found.

Yet, from a sporting perspective, there is light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve reached the beginning of the end game, albeit a potentially lengthy one. There is talk of games being played as soon as six weeks’ time, from the NBA in America to the Premier League of England through the AFL in Australia. On a global basis, the exit from a sporting hiatus is coming.

Yes, it will be behind closed doors. Yes, it will be a strange experience for players and fans alike. Yes, it will undoubtedly come with risk. Regardless, it is coming.

In this article we cover not the immediate return, but how technology can play a role in the medium-term. We sit in May at the time of writing, addressing how clubs and venues could look to different technologies and digital platforms to plan for the new seasons. When venues may be permitted to open, if not to full crowds. When consumers can engage with a venue, if only to pop into a club shop. When players may speak to journalists in person rather than Zoom, albeit from a distance.

Here are five ways in which different technology and digital platforms that could lead the way to maximise the impact of that return, drive the commercialisation of it, whilst also providing reassurance for those attending or new engagement techniques for those who cannot.

  1. Ticketing and Seat Plan Modelling for Social Distancing

With venues likely to open at reduced capacity, the need to maximise the ticketing opportunity (and therefore the secondary – spend opportunity) is key. Enter 3D Digital Venue, whose Venue Business Intelligence (VBI) platform aims to support the decision making and implementation of new business models to maximize ticketing and premium seating revenue of the venues through the crisis of COVID-19, helping venue owners to achieve the most profitable scenario through re-activation. VBI can propose new seating layouts for venues, respecting the safety and security recommendations of distance. The system allows you to enable several configurations and to easily adapt to different events via automatic algorithms on the fly.

Read more on this here.

  1. Enforcing Social Distancing at the Venue

When the time comes for sports stadia to re-open their doors and welcome back fans, there may be the requirement to uphold social distancing in certain areas such as queues for entry, food or bathrooms. To help venues safely reopen and implement this, LiDAR (light detection and ranging) technology has been repurposed to analyse crowd density and identify situations that require immediate action. It can provide Stadium Managers with real-time crowd density information and predictive analytics, which can help to prevent risk of spreading COVID-19 and help restore the public’s confidence in going to a sporting event.

Find out more here.

  1. Better Connect Fans with your Mobile App

Be it at home or at the venue, a first-class digital experience is a must. Providing a wide range of features to help enhance your mobile applications with no development or app updates required, the Rover platform takes the capabilities of your app to the next level, with its flexibility to easily create the set up you desire. With the Rover SDK implemented into an app, it’s easy for clubs and venues to engage and monetise fans on mobile. By driving campaigns and activations that bring the dual wins of fan engagement and revenue, you’ll ensure you deliver the experience to the right audience and through the best channel to maximise reach.

Learn more here.

  1. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

In a recent blog, Daniel Brown – Data and Digital Director at PTI, spoke on the importance of communication in keeping morale high. Having your communication channels aligned to the individual fan, their preferences and providing the right content at the right time will play a crucial role in venue safety (where can I go, how do I now enter, what protocols must I follow to attend?) and wider fan engagement, reconnecting those casual fans with your brand. Ultimately, communication and messaging will be at the heart of building the confidence that venues are once more a safe place to be.

Read more here.

  1. Don’t Walk Away from the Virtual World you Created

Whilst the sporting hiatus has been used by club staff to dip a toe into esports, expand their digital horizons and start to build a better data landscape, those same staff had ‘day jobs’ before on the most part; namely looking after venue sales, operations or match day delivery.

The return of core revenues – ticketing, hospitality, food and beverage etc – will of course be significant boosts for clubs, a much-needed cash boost, but let us not forget or walk away from your virtual successes. The world has changed, as recently commented on by PTI Head of Digital Media Ysabella Alvarez, “Not only does activated digital engagement provide an opportunity for the sporting industry to stay afloat, but it brings the traditional advertisers up to speed on what the future of marketing looks like in a digital world. There can be no doubt that the game has now changed and is unlikely to revert to where it was.” Grasp your old-world revenue streams but let’s keep focusing on the future ones too.

Read more here.

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