While it’s a peek into the future, in August Solos, Lava and the GWS Giants partnered up to release a series of smart guernsey’s embedded with cutting edge technology at the AFL match between GWS Giants and Sydney Swans.
Solos gave 104 of the Giants dedicated fans, their ‘Ultimate Giants,’ a free guernsey that carried Solos’s smart wearable technology within the label which allowed them to enjoy a number of benefits during the course of the day in the stadium.
Positive trials of smart clothing could see this become ubiquitous in just a few years. It minimises friction points around a stadium but importantly it adds an extra layer of surprise for fans as they are provided with an individualised in-stadium experience.
After a successful trial with the GWS Giants, we spoke to Solos CEO George Monemvasitis who gave us the lowdown on the partnership and the benefits of implementing such technology for a club or sporting body.
Going back, how did the GWS Giants partnership come about?
GM: “Ryan McCumber is a former Director of KPMG in Management Consulting, specialising in sports technology and analytics. He completed his tenure at KPMG in Dec 2017 and joined the Solos team as an International Sports Consultant.
“Through Ryan’s experience and networks we had the opportunity to be introduced to Ryan Kaveney who is the Chief Fan and Commercial Officer at the GWS Giants. We started talking earlier this year about potentially deploying our technology during the season. The club responded by saying they were very interested and certainly thought it would be well received by their fans and in particular their members. So why wouldn’t we do it at a marquee event at their home ground.”
How enthused were the GWS Giants in realising this partnership and thinking ‘you know what, we should try this, we’re a new club, let’s be experimental, let’s bring on some new ideas?’
GM: “The AFL and GWS Giants in particular are strongly focused on technologies dedicated to enhancing the fan experience. GWS have been a particularly good fit, as they are a technology forward organisation and were excited to embrace the opportunity to be working together on this pilot project. Considering our technology is generally received at large scale international stadiums, we are very excited to see this being pioneered here in Australia.”
Even though it is early days, what kind of feedback from the fortunate fans who got to try the smart guernseys?
GM: “The fans are very much excited that they were able get immediate benefits which recognised their membership, their ability to be able to access the venue in a VIP environment through our smart gate technology. They were quite enamoured to receive real time notifications during the course of the day, of which included things like free food and drinks. Also, they were invited to take part in a guard of honour in the tunnel leading onto the field before the commencement of the game. These things happened in real time during the course of that day.”
Really cool little live, in the moment experiences.
GM: “It all starts with us embedding smart technology into the guernseys to offer real time smart notifications for the fans. Keeping it simple is really important here, we are agnostic, we don’t have an app that we need to provide for our dedicated products, it runs as an analytics extension in the background in real time. It also provides the club with real time fan information, what time they arrived at the venue, what they’re doing whilst they’re dwelling at the venue.
“More importantly if they’re setting budgets for things like merchandise, food and beverage the distinct advantage of this system is that they can push out notifications to fans in real time if they’re not hitting their targets on the day. For example, they can see through the security cameras for example a section of the stadium that has stopped consuming food and beverages. They might push a notification to one or two of their loyal members in that section and then it becomes a me too attitude from the fans that are around those people who are seeing consumed food and drink and thinking that they might want to do the same thing.”
Definitely a good benefit for the club. Even the stadium and vendors would get that benefit where you can disperse fans across all the concourses and really spread the fans around the stadium.
GM: “Absolutely and when you consider the benefits in isolation, from a stadium perspective the fans are able to access the venue more rapidly than the current systems of them reaching into their pocket, pulling out a ticket and having someone scan it. What that effectively does is the dwell times at the stadium increase and the more time people are spending at the stadium the more money they could be spending.
“Then if you look at the club as an organisation, they’re able to sell additional merchandise for the fact that as consumers it is not cheap to buy a new guernsey or jersey year in year out, they’re typically anywhere from 120 to 180 dollars. If you were to connect that to immediate benefits that were substantial enough that you would want to make that investment on an annual basis then certainly there’s an advantage for the clubs to sell more merchandise.”
What kind of internal learning experiences Solos gathered from the Giants that can help for future partnerships?
GM: “We’re able to get a strong reaction from their members to participate in this trial and therefore one would assume that if we were offer that to their broader fan base, the obvious advantage to them would be that their general admission fans may consider moving from being a general fan into a potential member
“Outside of the stadium was one area that this technology has a strong ability to be able to also provide the sponsors with some sort of a realisable outcome. If you consider at a typical game at any venue, what happens either pre-game and post-game is that people are dwelling outside the stadium. Where are they going exactly? Is there a bar, a restaurant or a club that is associated with the stadia or the club itself? With this particular type of system through our fans swarming, if we’re able to provide those real time benefits for the fans to direct them to these venues that are associated with the club, the stadium or sponsors, again there’s obvious advantages.”
I was reading reports concerning NBA jerseys where you can scan the license tags on a jersey which gives a person access to content and highlights. My question is, is there any future potential in uses with the technology that can provide added value to a fan?
GM: “Absolutely. A little bit of history of Solos, our DNA as a company is in identification and protection. For just under 25 years we’ve been developing garments with anti-counterfeit technology built in, in order to protect the brands from fake products.
“We thought if we can parallel that into sports merchandise with fan gear counterfeited en masse, not so much in Australia but there is always a risk that it may be the case in the future, particularly in North America and in Europe where unfortunately the fakes are often as good a quality as the genuine article.
“With this in mind, if we developed and deployed a smart wearable jersey or guernsey that was linked to the stadium infrastructure and that technology provided you with the benefits that we’ve discussed, you would have a situation where the merchandise that’s coming in to the stadium is predominantly genuine product and therefore the obvious benefits are there from the stakeholders’ perspective.
“With the counterfeits being so good, it is tempting to pay one third or a quarter of the price for something that looks and feels just as good as the genuine article. But if you attach fast tracked entry, faster service, no queueing, potentially a tap on the shoulder while you’re at the game for a seat upgrade and more, those are the types of things that we believe would entice fans into actually making the purchase of the genuine article over the counterfeit.”
That duality of helping companies, clubs and manufacturers to protect their IP as well as safeguarding the fact that they’re actually buying the genuine article too.
GM: “With smart guernsey technology you’re talking about the ability to individualise every fan and the purchase of their ticket. One of the current flaws in stadia with ticketing is that, for example, I could go online and purchase four tickets and then hand those out to individuals that are unnamed. Those individuals could misbehave and in extreme cases do something untoward in and around the stadium and nobody would ever know. Through this type of system, each individual is recognised and identified, both through that ticketing purchase and at the venue when they log in through the smart gates. Our cloud based system records that entry and records them dwelling within the stadium.
“Now obviously with privacy, we don’t record anything outside of the stadium. So certainly people would not be uncomfortable about the provision of that information while you’re in that particular venue. Outside of the venue, we are certainly cautious about the privacy issues and ensuring that we’re not infringing on anybody’s time outside the venue.”
I think that’s one of the things the fan usually has concerns with is the confidence or removal of suspicion that any data that is obtained on them is specific to the club or the event. Have you felt that could be an issue increasing confidence in people that any data that is obtained on them is actually just used for club or event purposes?
GM: “That’s a very important question because in the first instance when you sign in to your smart jersey by simply tapping on, the first thing that happens is that you are informed of what types of communication would be pushed to you. You can select what information you’re willing to accept or not. We’re very specific about this to ensure that the fan doesn’t feel uncomfortable about what information has been taken from them personally. The exception to that is that whilst there are in the stadium, we do push notifications out to them but only around benefits.
“One of the important things about real time notifications is that if you were to have an experience at a game that wasn’t going so well, which does happen sometimes, you don’t want to receive a notification on Monday with an apology after you’ve sent a complaint. One of the advantages of this system again is that through time notification, through camera monitoring of what’s going on at the stadia, if you’re able to see an issue you can deal with it immediately and be able to pinpoint that fan and provide some kind of immediate benefit, which tends to outweigh the issue that’s been in front of them.
“A perfect example of that is with our partners at Lava in the United States. There was a young lady who had come along with her daughter and her daughter had dropped her ice-cream and started to cry and they were able to catch that on camera and send a notification to inform that another ice-cream is on its way. Not a big deal for the organisation, a very small cost to pay but it was certainly something that was quite a surprise to that particular person.
“I think if that was to come through as an e-mail on Monday or Tuesday to apologise for that occurring, you wouldn’t have the same reaction.”
You’re looking for the most singular fan experience. That’s where we’re at, going to a sporting event is generally a communal experience but now the nut to crack is to have that singular experience. Any other noteworthy result or trials with other sports or stadiums?
GM: “Not yet the GWS Giants were the first. What we’ve been running with the Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Football Club and Atlanta Falcons is real time software. We are currently working with the Sacramento Kings and LAFC to deploy our technology in various forms within their stadiums. We’re anticipating that that will happen prior to the commencement of the next NBA and MLS seasons.”
Interview produced in partnership with Vumero Sports & Sports Analytics World Series.