Boosting Fan Engagement for Personalized Experience

Larry Bonfante, CIO, United States Tennis Association
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Larry Bonfante, CIO, United States Tennis Association

Technology is impacting virtually every aspect of business and industry in the world. The Sports and Entertainment industry is being dramatically impacted by the opportunities that today’s technology presents to dramatically improve the fan experience and create a deeper level of personal engagement with our constituents.

The USTA a not-for-profit organization, is the governing body for tennis in America. Our mission is to develop and promote the growth of tennis. Most people know us as the folks that run the US Open which is the highest attended annual sporting event in the world.

One of our most important goals is to create a more personalized level of engagement with our members and fans. We are looking at ways to leverage data to help us understand who our audience is, what content most resonates with them, and how we can personalize their experience in engaging with us to ensure that we create the opportunity to be the ‘one stop’ for their tennis experience. This requires both a comprehensive approach to gather and analyze big data, as well as the need to integrate what have historically been ‘islands of data’ into a comprehensive and holistic view of who our member/fan is and what content resonates with him/her.

 We are creating the ability for your players and their parents to find appropriate sports opportunities online and to register for these events. We are also allowing facilities and program providers to publish their events on our properties and register their programs to make them available to the large audience that navigates our web properties in search of appropriate sports opportunities.

We are also raising the bar on what it means to develop our CRM capabilities for fan and player engagement. This runs the gamut from having real time knowledge of who is at the US Open and what opportunities and premiums we can provide them while on the grounds that creates an improved fan experience, to understanding the history of our players and members and providing them alternative programming opportunities to engage in tennis leagues and tournaments that match their interest and skill level.

We equip our players with mobile applications which allow them to register for our organized leagues and tournaments, get their schedule of play, keep track of match results, opponent statistics, updated ratings and ranking and everything they need to know to enhance their player experience in our organized programs.

We are also looking into various options to provide new prospects access to digital content that would make them want to come back to our web properties to get the latest and greatest tennis information that relates to their interest, play opportunities and skill level. Some of this can be provided free of charge to simply enhance engagement and ensure repeat clicks to our websites. The content can also be highly personalized and tailored to specific types of player with the potential to monetize this as a low cost access point to our various membership offerings.

 Technology is also a critical part of the fan experience at the US Open. From the point of purchasing tickets online, to scanning them to enter the grounds, to purchasing lunch or merchandise using our point of sales capabilities, to the match information that is broadcast across the entire campus, to the free Wi-Fi capabilities that we make available to our players and our patrons, down to the water show in front of the stadium, virtually every aspect of the fan experience is grounded in technology and the systems that help support and enhance the fan experience.

 Behind the scenes, technology plays a crucial role in the actual operation of the event. Everything from our event management system, which helps us operate our 24x7 command center for coordinated incident response, ticketing and parking pass system that produces access for staff to the venue, match information system that provides the latest and greatest schedule of play and match statistics to players and coaches, ball person scheduling system that tells the concerned people what matches and what courts they will be working at what time. Credentialing system provides secure and appropriate access control to more than 25,000 players, media, staff, vendors, and other individuals who work to run the event. In addition, we provide our media partners with instant access to all live courts, live statistics, historical data, and live interviews technology, which is critical to operating virtually every aspect of the US Open.

We are also building technology into our new USTA National Campus that will be opening in 2017 in Lake Nona Florida. This facility will be the home of American Tennis and will house both our Player Development function that is responsible for identifying and working with high potential young players as well as our Community Tennis division which is the mission portion of the association. We are equipping these new courts at this facility which will be used by both our rising young champions as well as the tournament players with Wi-Fi capabilities, smart court technology and video capabilities that will allow our players to review and work on their strokes using streaming video as a tool for improvement.

 We use technology as a strategic tool which is enabling a deeper level of personal engagement with our players and fans and helping us make tennis more meaningful, more fun and a more central point of the lives of our community.

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