The Seattle Seahawks are operating one other play from an evolving digital fan engagement playbook, teaming with Microsoft once again, this time to attach followers in Microsoft Groups with gamers and coaches earlier than a sport.
The expertise utilizing the tech big’s collaboration software program is named Pregame Huddle, and permits a choose group of followers to really feel nearer to the motion because the Seahawks heat up at CenturyLink Area. Because the workforce continues to play in an empty stadium throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Seahawks are seizing on expertise to attempt to bridge the divide.
Gamers popping out of the tunnel to the sector are inspired to cease at a Microsoft Floor Hub the place they’ll say hello and chat with the followers who’ve assembled in Groups. Seahawks game-day emcee and radio persona Gee Scott serves as a bunch, main chats between followers and getting the gamers to work together. Because the workforce is warming up, a video feed in Groups would possibly present stars corresponding to Russell Wilson tossing passes to D.Ok. Metcalf, or supply up stats on Bobby Wagner and so forth.
“This is a very unique way to use our technology to engage fans,” Jeff Hansen, Microsoft’s GM of strategic partnerships, advised GeekWire. “It taps into the excitement and the intimacy of the pre-game experience.”
The Huddle is geared toward paying particular respect to what the Seahawks and Microsoft regard as local people heroes — those that are going above and past for quite a lot of causes. Over the course of the season, the Seahawks have been inviting leaders from Black and Latinx group organizations, most cancers survivors, important staff, navy service members, representatives from charities that the gamers assist, and extra.
On Sunday, earlier than the Seahawks sport in opposition to San Francisco, the workforce is inviting 30 firefighters from Spokane, Wash., to participate just about.
Microsoft’s partnership with the NFL dates again to 2013. Gamers and coaches use Microsoft Floor tablets on the sidelines throughout video games and all through the week for preparation. Each NFL workers and the groups themselves at the moment are additionally utilizing Groups to get work finished, and the NFL used Groups for its digital NFL Draft earlier this year.
When the brand new — and radically altered — season kicked off in September, Microsoft and the league introduced that some followers can be invited to look at video games by way of Groups and find yourself on a “Fan Mosaic” that might be streamed on LED screens in stadiums and on the TV broadcast.
The NFL can also be putting in LED screens in the back of every finish zone at stadiums for “key games,” and calling it the Bud Mild Showtime cam. The Fan Mosaic stream on the screens after touchdowns; the concept is to assist gamers have a good time with followers throughout scoring performs.
Microsoft worked with the NBA throughout its season to collect followers for video games in Groups “Together” mode, a characteristic for video conferences that locations individuals in opposition to a shared digital background. The league positioned big video screens across the basketball court docket to make it appear to be digital followers had been seated within the stands.
Jeff Richards, vp of selling and group for the Seahawks, known as elevated “tech fluency” one of many few wins from a tough yr. The workforce is not sure solely to the 69,000 followers who may be on the stadium on sport day.
And whereas there isn’t a changing or replicating the sensation of a stadium filled with screaming followers, with the Pregame Huddle the Seahawks try to digitally faucet into smaller game-day experiences that resonate with followers.
“Replacing those things was a huge priority for us, because those are the things really that cause people to want to come back, to make Seahawks fandom part of their lifestyle, part of their identity,” Richards stated of unique experiences, like inviting followers on the sector earlier than a sport.
And Microsoft is studying that the top of the pandemic could not essentially carry an finish to the work of revolutionizing how followers view sports activities. Many followers by no means even get the possibility to attend a sport in particular person and expertise will more and more step in as an alternative.
“That’s what we’re seeing with so many of our partners,” Hansen stated. “A silver lining to this whole thing is them reimagining how we might use technology in many ways, but particularly fan engagement.”