“We recognize if we don’t connect with the next generation of fans, we are dead” – Sam Kennedy, Red Sox Chief Operating Officer
For over a century, baseball has been one of America’s favorite pass-times. Major League Baseball (MLB) saw record revenues of approximately $9B last year. Team’s valuations are at an all-time high and most have shown double-digit growth for many years. With nearly $400M in annual revenue and a valuation of over $2B, the Boston Red Sox sit towards the top of this money-producing industry.
BUT, the game hasn’t changed much, the customer experience at the ballpark has remained flat, and younger generations are losing interest.
Red Sox leadership has recognized that in order to drive sustainable growth they must connect with the next generation of fans in ways they most desire. Engaging the next generation will likely require a different experience and a unprecedented level of integration into the fans’ lives. As a result, the Red Sox have made investments in digital innovations that allow them to connect with fans more effectively. Most notable, last year the team unveiled a mobile application that syncs with users while they are at the ballpark. Fans can order food and memorabilia to their seats, watch instant replays from camera angles not shown on TV, and can even use an interactive stadium map to find the nearest restroom or food stand.
The technology not only provides benefit to the fans, but also allows the Red Sox to capture more value from its customers. The team can currently leverage this technology to provide seat upgrades if the stadium is not filled to capacity, provide food and memorabilia coupons, and send ticket offers to fans that have not been to a game in a while.
As the Red Sox improve this technology there will be an even greater opportunity to both provide and capture value. Imagine a scenario where fans can see, in real-time, which food vendor has the shortest wait time. The fan misses less of the game, crowds are more evenly distributed across vendors, and the team can sell more food to more people, faster. Using data collected from repeat users the Red Sox could also leverage this technology to send recommendations based on previous purchasing behavior and/or track each individual fan’s preferences, favorite players, etc. The opportunities are endless.
Baseball will always be baseball, but the experience will undoubtedly improve. The Red Sox – and Major League Baseball more broadly – must continue to transform how they interact with fans. By using digital innovations like the ones mentioned above, the Red Sox can better connect (literally and figuratively) with its customers.
There are still many more opportunities for the Red Sox to leverage technology in order to improve customer experience, but I believe they are heading the right direction and I am excited to see how this landscape evolves in the future.