Winning a major championship is a massive commercial opportunity for teams in any sport. One of the reasons Manchester United has had such enduring success is that their early league victories under Alex Ferguson came just as money began flowing into the game in earnest, as a result of television deals. Exploiting this using shrewd commercial acumen, coupled with excellence on the soccer field, has seen them become one of the world’s richest teams in any sport.
In 2015, the NBA’s Golden State Warriors won its first NBA state championship for 40 years with one of the best teams in the league’s history - the best team that didn’t have Michael Jordan in it according to FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings. In order to ride the crest of this wave, the Warriors have to look to technology. Handily, their close proximity to Silicon Valley means that they are in the perfect position to do this.
The Warriors’ owners include a number of Silicon Valley heavyweights, including Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Joe Lacob and Mandalay Entertainment chairman Peter Guber. They can also count a number of tech’s big hitters among their fans, including Adam Bain, Twitter’s president and a courtside fixture as a guest of Guber, and Square CEO Jack Dorsey. Bain himself noted his enthusiasm for the team, and tried to explain why the team and the tech industry were linked, saying: ‘As a fan, I love this team. The message is one we deeply believe in the tech community: you are successful in life if you pass the ball—you win by amplifying others.’
Indeed, one of the major reasons that the Warriors has been so successful with fans is their success on social media. The team now has 1.12 million follows on Twitter and over 4.5 million likes on Facebook. Players’ Twitter handles appear on warm-up shirts and on the jumbotron when starting lineups are announced. They also use Vine and a Twitter Mirror, and have been known to direct message with Twitter execs after games. All of this makes fans feel like they can access the players and know them personally, or at least the family-friendly image they try to portray on social media.
The Warriors have led the way in innovations that help engage with fans. They were one of the first teams to experiment with Google Glass, introducing an app for the wearable device in 2014 that lets users to watch the game through the device. Fans can also use it to quickly bring up player statistics and more from their seats.
The team has even filled its stadium, the Oracle Arena, with sensors to help the team connect with fans. These send messages to your app whenever you’re in range. For example, when you walk in you receive a video greeting from one of the players welcoming you to the arena.
These sensors serve a dual purpose in that they also help the club gain data about their fans, which the Warriors plan to use to further leverage data to improve the fan experience. With some of the tech industry’s biggest players in their corner, the Warriors are perfectly positioned for innovation, which could see them go from the underdog they were a few years ago, to the world’s biggest sports franchise.