Changing the game

Sports teams increasing fan engagement with mobile apps

Graphic by Bram Keast.

As television broadcasts increase in quality and man-caves and she-sheds get more comfortable, it’s becoming easier to find an excuse not to go to sporting events, opting instead for instant replays and cheaper beer at home.

Sports teams face the challenge of improving the fan experience, drawing people off the couch and to the game. In doing so, many teams and firms are looking to go mobile.

The San Francisco 49ers commissioned tech company VenueNext to create an app for their new venue, Levi’s Stadium, which opened in 2014. The Levi’s Stadium app serves as a gameday app, integrated with Ticketmaster and the stadium’s point-of-sale system, Micros, allowing in-seat purchases. The Brooklyn Nets have positioned certain cameras viewable only to users of their mobile application. For example, the “Slam Cam,” which is a durable GoPro mounted on the backboard.

In Winnipeg, Emotion Media Inc. is also changing the game.

Their mobile entertainment production system, Fannex, specializes in connecting mobile devices with live sports events to improve fan engagement in the form of interactive games and experiences – like TimePlay before Cineplex movies, but now at sports events using the big screens, lighting, and public address.

One of Fannex’s aforementioned experiences is the patented “Light up the Stand,” where, through a gameday app, production can take control of the fans’ smartphone display, turning it into a pixel within a larger image or animation that stretches across the seating area.

“Connecting the fan’s mobile device to in-game production introduces a whole new layer of entertainment possibilities for fan engagement,” said Emotion Media Inc. President Kemal Leslie, who has over 20 years of experience in business development.

Fannex piloted with the University of North Dakota men’s hockey team and the U.S. Hockey League’s Fargo Force last season, implementing the production system in over 60 live games. This year is their first chance to take the product to the market.

“Fans that attend live sports know the difference of being there and that is sharing the experience with thousands of other fans who love their team and the game,” said Leslie.

“Fannex gives them the ability to participate even further with interactive experiences, games, and contests during intermissions.”

The Winnipeg Goldeyes are one of the early adopters locally. Keep an eye out for Fannex at home games this summer.

“It’s a great way for people to stay connected to the team and have an even better experience at Shaw Park,” Goldeyes general manager Andrew Collier told

With Fannex, the Fish are one of the first to bite, but Emotion Media has many North American teams now in discussions and in the on-boarding stage.

You can download the Goldeyes Gameday app, powered by Fannex, now on iPhone and Android devices.

Eric MacLise hosts Covering the Spread 10 a.m. Tuesdays on 101.5 UMFM.