Philips Arena, where the Atlanta Hawks play basketball, is currently under construction. The revamped arena will include both a courtside bar and a barber shop. Yankee Stadium has a museum, while Hard Rock Stadium is home to both the Miami Dolphins and a nightclub where fans can watch their games.

Sports franchises and their venues have certainly evolved and of course, that evolution increasingly involves technology. Is augmented reality (AR) the best one to enhance the fan experience?

AR in the arena

Minnesota football fans can use the Vikings app to scan programs and unlock content such as game day videos and player interviews. During the first week of this NFL season, app downloads were 58% higher than usual.

“That sort of creates this fun experience for the fan to learn more about the team, which benefits them because more people are going to download the app. Or spend more time in it, if they already have it,” says Jeff Ridgeway, Head of Zappar US, an AR platform and creative studio.

Similarly, the MLB launched an AR app last year called At Bat. When game-goers point their smartphones at the field, the app displays players’ statistics, both standard (base percentage, batting average) and not (arm strength, catch probability). They can also follow the speed of every hit.

Nels Popp, a University of North Carolina professor who serves as President of the Sport Marketing Association, agrees that the AR experiences are cool. However, he sees it as more of a novelty than anything.

“There are some amazing things we can do with AR and VR, but to me, the experiences are kind of one-off,” he says. “Where do you go from there? Is that something I want to make a regular part of my sports consumption experience?”

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