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A Sporting Chance – How Mobile App Technology is Changing the Face of Professional Sports

Two Dam Creative

“What do you mean you don’t have a team?”

“I mean exactly what I said, I just don’t follow any team. I don’t mind it, but I’m really not that into AFL.”

“Mate, that’s bloody Un-Australian. You have to have a team!”

“I’m not Australian, and I can do what I want.”

Dave blinked a couple of times trying to comprehend the absurd enormity of what I had just said.

“Well… you can bloody well bugger off back to England then, ya Pommie bastard!” he stammered stormed off to grab another VB and tend to the barbeque.

 

Eyes on Which ball?

Despite having lived outside of the UK for what seems like a lifetime, I remain stubbornly British at heart. One aspect of life in which this is particularly evident is my sporting predilections. More specifically, my football code preferences.

I’ve tried, I truly have. However, no matter what I do I simply cannot get into Aussie Rules. I can absolutely recognise the skill, athleticism and admirable toughness of the protagonists and will sit through a match quite happily. It just doesn’t ignite the passion and poetry inside me the way that soccer does.

See, I even called it soccer just out of respect for you.

It has nothing to do with the fact that you guys use your hands. I am equally passionate about Rugby, where the only time we use our feet is to ram it up some beefcake opponent’s rear end in the middle of a scrum.

There is one thing that I will say about AFL, however. It is most certainly preferable to American Football. During a stint in the US, I quite enjoyed watching this absurd sport on TV. That was until I went to a live game. Never before, or since have I experience such mind-numbing boredom. I literally fell asleep and missed half of the game, much to my American hosts’ horror. On TV you have all the analysis, the replays, the statistics, the close-ups, the prognostications. Live, it’s interminable ages of complete inaction, followed by very short bursts of chaotic carnage. If I want to watch a bunch of flabby guys playing human dodgem cars with each other, I’ll take the next flight to Tokyo and watch Sumo, thank you very much.

 

One Game at a Time

My personal opinions aside, over the years of extremely casual sports patronage, I have started to notice a subtle shift that makes the digital junkie in me excited. It hit me when I attended a football game (your kind) with a bunch of friends a couple of years ago. Given my lack of personal connection to the drama enacted on the field, I tend to spend a great deal of time people watching. This occasion was no exception. As my curious gaze scanned the surrounding audience, I noticed that a very considerable proportion of them had their gazes fixed not on the action afield, but rather, on their mobile devices. During my infrequent visits to sporting events since then, I continued to notice the same trend. If anything, I felt as though it was becoming more pronounced.

Eventually, at the MCG for a cricket match this time, I gathered the gumption to ask a random stranger who had spent almost a full hour fixated on his phone, with only brief, furtive glances at the flannel-clad heroes on the turf, what on earth he was doing. He wordlessly flashed the screen of the phone at me for just long enough for me to determine that he was immersed in the Cricket Australia app, before returning to his obsessive musings.

So THAT’S what is going on! My eureka moment had taught me something fascinating. American Football might be the extreme example, but all sports to some extent face a degree of experiential dissonance. You cannot replicate the atmosphere and tribal emotion of live sport on TV. However, the creative, in-your-face videography, digital enhancement and expert analysis available via broadcast make watching at home far more engaging, if less exhilarating experience. It essentially boils down to intellect versus Emotion.

 

Moving the Ball Forward

Mobile app technology has come a long way towards bridging this gap. My silent friend at the cricket had been watching a video replay of a wicket that had fallen just minutes earlier, replete with commentary, analysis and slow motion post-mortem of the erstwhile willow-wielder. The same app contains live information about every professional match being held anywhere in the world. Interested in the Bangladeshi domestic competition? It’s all there for you. Want to know how many runs Rajin Saleh scored for Sheikh Jamal against Kalabagan in the Dhaka Premier League? It’s right at your fingertips (he was run out for 45, by the way). No matter what your sport, apps are providing the instant digital feedback that is providing most of the benefits of the telecast, while you’re at the game.

Of course, the benefits are even greater if you can’t do either. The ability to access live streaming and commentary, video replay, in-depth news coverage and commentary, match and player statistics, integration with fantasy leagues and so much more is an absolute boon for any die-hard sports fan. Television networks are following suit and offering their own mobile experiences so that fans can carry them around in their pockets. It truly is a long way from the old guy sitting in the stands with his transistor radio plugged into his ear as he watched the game.

At 2 Dam Creative, we are excited about the possibilities that mobile has for sports from the elite level, right down to local teams. We believe that the next challenge is to incorporate AR technology into sports app to deliver a truly unique, interactive experience for fans, whether at the game, or watching at him. This intersection of live, digital and augmented action holds incredible promise to revolutionise the sporting experience.

 

Shooting for the Bleachers

The question, though, is how? What are the game-changing developments that will change the way that we consume sport? We’ve been giving this question a lot of thought. In particular, we’re utterly blown away with the amazing Microsoft HoloLens. This wearable technology is mind-blowing enough as it is, but to potentially integrate its capabilities with app technology could potentially take it to the next level. On a more down-to-earth level, we’re thinking of concepts that would give viewers access to umpire/referee feeds so that confused fans would have the chance to understand what if any rationale lies behind those confounded umpiring decision. In addition, using AR to track player stats is another area that we think has plenty of potential just waiting to be tapped. We believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg and we’re excited to work with more clients in the sports space to see where this can take us.

 

Just for the Record…

Given that 2 Dam Creative recently opened a new office in Footscray, the home of the reigning AFL Premiers, I have finally taken the plunge and am passively delighted to announce my official, albeit apathetic, supportership of the Bulldogs. Happy? Can you please all just leave alone now so I can check the EPL scores in peace!?!

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