VICI Sports partnered with Paris Saint-Germain and other top European football clubs to activate superfans via their globally connected TV network and personalized SportsCenter complete with IoT and AI components. The Boston based startup is led by Adam Jones, co-founder and CEO, who chatted with THE Sports Techie community blog about business development, their technologies, participating in the TechStars 2019 accelerator, and raising additional investment capital as the sports tech company pursues partnering with leading soccer teams throughout Europe and beyond. European teams have made it a priority to visit America as Liverpool FC is doing this weekend to begin their preseason tour at Fenway Park. Beginning next week, PSG is going to China in a first for the champion French club. Reasons why these super clubs tour is because less than 0.1 percent of fans can fit inside stadiums and upward of three billion fans are living outside their team’s market. Why only reach 5% of in-stadium fans when VICI TV reaches all the rest including supporter groups, worldwide. Watch parties and brand ambassadors are VICI’s bread and butter. When and what these fans want in terms of customized team content is where VICI Sports comes in for a super personalized experience while capturing valuable fan data.
Jones and his co-founder are former Verizon consultants where they launched a mobile video platform. They set out trying to solve the issue teams had with saturation of local markets while acknowledging the sophisticated methods used by clubs to reach overseas fans. Their goal was to understand a team’s audience better, activate contests and raffles, and further monetize, engaged fans better. Teams want to know what fans want to see in terms of content and when they want to see it. By targeting supporters groups and superfans, clubs can understand these needs. The benefits include activating these fans, as well as selling more sponsorship and merchandise such as team kits, in addition to the distribution of tickets when they come to America to play in friendly matches.
ESPN is a mature company not fully engaged with interact television and allowing fans to share posts and comments during live sports. This exact opportunity was ripe for a startup so VICI was launched during last year’s World Cup in Russia with a focus on soccer.
PSG has 100 people generating digital content says Jones. How are they going to take that to TV? Through the use of VICI TV. With AI, Jones and his team can help figure out the right content, at the right time, for teams to reach fans. Their beta testing with fan subscriptions proved the model – a personalized sportscenter for fans in front of TV by pushing the content to the broadcast.
The VICI Sports product is TV based. The IoT part is simple hardware they put together to make it easy to deploy by plugging into TVs.
They use existing team content and push it to a fanbase to enhance matchday, pre-game and post-game, non-game days during the week and the offseason. By giving the organizations they work with control of the TVs, say in a sports bar, Jones says they assist with fan activations, conversions and branding. Customized team or fan generated content is delivered by VICI TV, viewable all day and night long.
Contests, hype videos and fan giveaways are some of the tools teams use to reach superfans. This fan engagement model is how teams operate in the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga, as well as Serie A and Ligue. Home matches at Liverpool’s Anfiled in the UK is a prime use case. Bayern Munich went from zero supporters clubs in the U.S. just a few years ago to 100-150 solid fanbases by throwing parties for these high profile fans.
PSG and More
PSG launched with VICI during the Champions League in February with the goal of touching supporters clubs in North America, Europe and China. Jones says they recorded 1.5 million impressions by complimenting club raffles and other marketing initiatives. The super fan only makes up around 10% of the official fan members according to Jones. This qualitative side allows for active feedback to add in calls to action, more features and fan trips to a home or touring stadium. A live social media stream was used to engage PSG fans over VICI TV.
The following video is PSG testimonial on how VICI Sports has helped transform how the club engages supporters clubs.
Metrics to consider include:
- 4.6M: total minutes overseas PSG fans watched VICI TV during February – May 2019
- 1.5M: total impressions to overseas PSG fans during February – May 2019
- 4 cities on 3 continents: New York, Montreal, London, Guangzhou
- 20%+ increase in average PSG fan club membership
Supporters clubs for teams including Paris Saint-Germain, Dortmund, Bayern Munich, and Real Madrid have already used VICI Sports to have more control over their supporters’ club experience. The company is also engaging Boston-owned Liverpool and AS Roma to help them engage overseas fans next season.
Monumental Sports & Entertainment and the MSG Company are two U.S. partnerships with long-term goals.
Fans at Madison Square Garden are often priced out from buying tickets but are more than willing to attend a happy hour and have beer three blocks from the venue to watch the game at a local sportsbar. Jones says they have traction with converting these fans from happy hour attendees to being more fan-centric.
Another kind of fan development opportunity for the New York Knicks and Rangers of the NBA and NHL respectively, is giving away tickets to supporters groups social functions.
Similar type of opportunities are happening in Washington D.C. with the Wizards and Capitals.
The MLS is on their near future radar. Atlanta United, LA Galaxy, New York Red Bulls and the Seattle Sounders have incredible fan support.
VICI are also working with SportRadar on the data capture side of this business.
Fund Raising and Tech Stars
Jones was just in Los Angles during the Arsenal and Bayern friendly meeting with their digital teams, He also networked and built relationships during the recent ESPYs. They have gone through a family and friends round of pre-seed financing and are currently looking for another round of capital. VICI needs to hire more technology developers and sales personnel. Jones has coded everything associated with VICI Sports up to this point. TechStars Boston emphasized to him they needed to immediately hire more coders so he can operate more like a true CEO.
Sports Techie, I have been to one friendly in the USA. It was a match between Manchester United and Celtic FC played in Seattle back in 2003. The entire third deck of Century Link Field was full of Celtic fans and the bottom two levels were mostly ManU fans. The Celtic fans were so much louder!
Atlanta hosted Juventus last season at Mercedes-Benz Stadium but superstar Ronaldo did not play at the packed stadia.
I am on board with what Jones and VICI Sports are doing for soccer clubs. Jones feels as leagues like the NFL, NBA and MLB expand internationally, they will be in a good position to help them do so through VICI TV.
Jones has met Andre Iguodala, NBA champion with the Golden State Warriors and author of the his new book, The Sixth Man. He also met Twitter founder, Jack Dorsey, during his rounds of meetings.
If I had the money or was in change of the fan experience, I would have invested or used VICI Sports, yesterday. What are you waiting for?
See you later sportstechie in Seattle, Atlanta and around the world!
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