While mostly known for its technological bent with new releases for the public, the 2024 CES Show in Las Vegas also has a track of sports programming that started on Tuesday with the “2034: A Sports Odyssey – Imagining the Stadium of the Future” as four companies discussed using technology to make sports and entertainment events more engaging to fans.
“In terms of the fan experience — the stadium experience —AI will be able to understand and predict different fan journeys,” said Andy Hook, market strategy lead of sports and entertainment for Oracle Food & Beverage. “If I go to a game with my friends, I’m probably going to have a different experience than if I go with my parents. AI needs to be able to predict these different behaviors, because if you’re going to a football game, a concert or Disney on Ice, it’s going to be a different experience.”
Hook added the in-venue experience is going to become increasingly personalized and data that AI collects from fans will be used to customize everything to the individual person.
“You’re going to have an experience that’s unique to you, in that venue,” Hook said. “You’re going to be served promotions that matter to you … if you want to go to the restaurant after the game and we know you’re a foodie, you’re going to get served those ads. If you don’t drink alcohol, we’re not going to serve you a mass Bud Light promotion. Each experience will be tailored to the fan and their behavior.”
Along with Hook, panelists included Mariya Zorotovich, general manager of venues and gaming at Intel; Ken Lovell, senior vice president of golf technology for the PGA Tour and George Connors, senior vice president of fintech solutions at Everi. The panel was moderated by Abe Stein, head of innovation for Sports Innovation Lab.
Lovell, who’s tasked with implementing technology in golf courses throughout the country, says AI and mixed-reality will help serve fans and expand their consumer horizons.
“One of the tricks is to put enough sensors around a golf course — or any venue — that can measure the fan information in real time and make that into something that’s meaningful to the venue,” Lovell said. “But then you get to the really cool thing — being able to give a fan the thing they wanted to know, before they wanted to know it. To tell them something that they care about, before they knew they cared about it. At any given moment on a Thursday morning, we have 14 golf balls in the air at the same time. It’s about finding out what the golf fan wants to see most and giving it to them.”
In addition to heightening the fan experience, AI is also being used for cybersecurity game, streamlining processes to keep fans safe.
“You only have so many people on the ground and they’re working with the local police to create a safe environment for their fans,” Zorotovich said. “Different AI applications through camera data and censor data can be used to provide insights in real time so that your security teams can take an action if needed. AI can probably provide alerts in ways that the human eye can’t always catch. But it’s a requirement that the cybersecurity side of the house be just as robust, if not more, than the physical venue.”
The panel agreed as sports move into a more digital age, there will be challenges to keep up with the technology, but it will be worth it for the fans. While Everi is a company that focuses on casinos, Connors sees a similarity in how sports are evolving to create activations outside arenas, much like casinos in Las Vegas have transformed the way it entertains patrons.
“We know by the moves being made in the sports world that they realize they need to get outside of the venue walls and if they don’t, there’s going to be great limitations,” Connors said. “These districts that are popping up — and there are some that have been around for a while, but haven’t been leveraged the same way as they are now — they’re seeing what can happen outside the walls of the sports arena. And right now in the sports industry, those districts and activations are a main focus of fan engagement and driving extra revenue.”