Competitions, smartphones and social networks. With those three things combined, arenas and stadiums can become more than just a place to enjoy watching sports.
Toronto-based Brizi Inc. provides an enhanced on-site experience for sports fans and is introducing its innovative, fan-controlled camera technology — called the BriziCam — for the first time in Japan, and Asia, at the ongoing Japan Open tennis tournament at Ariake Coliseum.
With the BriziCam, fans at the venue access the website address provided and punch in their seat numbers on their smartphones. Cameras, installed around the arena by the company, then point at them so they can get the ultimate selfie to post on Facebook and Twitter.
Brizi CEO Anna Hu said that fans have become “less patient” today, compared to the pre-digital, smartphone era, and want to be entertained even during downtime between sets, quarters, halftime and timeouts.
“With this generation, everybody always needs something to do because a smartphone gives you everything,” Hu said in an interview with The Japan Times on Tuesday at Ariake, saying the BriziCam “has been a big hit” for those very reasons.
Since the launch of the product in 2015, the BriziCam has grown rapidly, being adopted by some of the major global sports events and teams, such as tennis’ U.S. Open, Australian Open and Madrid Open, and the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers and Philadelphia 76ers.
Hu said that with other photo services, fans have to go to the trouble of visiting the website, entering passwords, finding yourself and downloading the pictures after you go home. But she explained that with the BriziCam technology, they can get their photos “in real time.”
“So you have a lot of steps after you’ve already experienced it,” Hu said of other services. “So the thrill’s over. You had so much excitement, but it ended, now you go get your photo, whereas our thinking about it is, get your photo in the middle of that excitement. That’s all.”
But doing it in real time generally isn’t so easy, she added. In order to provide a flawless service to fans, the company runs a network test beforehand for any venues larger than 30,000 in capacity that don’t have Wi-Fi.
Hu said, however, that her engineering team has been able to overcome those obstacles and the technology has never caused any issues to date.
The service might fit well in the Japanese market, where people tend to be more shy than people in other countries where the BriziCam has been introduced. The photos are not shown on the jumbotron screen — you see it on your own smartphone so you can enjoy it privately.
“What’s great about BriziCam is that we’re really a private fan camera,” Hu said. “When the cameraman points at random in the crowd, and then they are like, ‘Oh, we’re on TV,’ ‘I’m on the big screen.’ That’s very public. What BriziCam does is, we bring that experience of having a camera point at you, to your own private screen (of your smartphone). Only you can see the screen.”
Only the first day of the tournament had been completed before this interview, but Hu said that her company had an “amazing engagement rate” from it.
Japan Open tournament director Naohiro Kawatei expressed his gratitude for the partnership with Brizi in a statement, saying, “how happy (the Japan Open) is to welcome Brizi on their first-ever Asian endeavor and we look forward to enhancing the fans’ experience for the upcoming week.”
The service is not just for fans, but can also be beneficial for the tournament and even organizers and sponsors.
In the modern era, tournaments and teams have to convince people to come, instead of staying home watching on TV or going to sports bars.
“The way that you can compete is, giving them an experience you can’t get anywhere else,” Hu said. “So for the tournament organizers, it’s extremely important to do really unique things.”
And along with improving fan experience and engagement, sports properties and sponsors can monitor, curate and analyze their fan-generated content.
Hu said that getting visitors involved in fan experiences at the venue will leave them with stronger impressions of brands of sponsors.
“That’s what BriziCam is built around, it’s capturing experiences,” she said.
Hu said that Brizi hopes to keep expanding and eventually provide the technology at some of the globe’s biggest sporting events, like the Olympics, World Cup and Super Bowl.
“I mean, it’s not just the Olympics,” Hu said. “But a lot of these sporting events, because people have better options. It looks better when they watch on TV than sitting far away in the stadium. It’s a trade-off. What are you giving them? (You pay) like $300 of a ticket, or whatever. And you can’t see it as well. It’s too far. So what’s special about that? What’s special is that you spend it with your friend or your partner you came with.”
Hu said that in the long-term, her company wants to expand to anywhere that “memories are captured” with the BriziCam, which doesn’t just refer to sporting sites, but places people visit like landmarks and theme parks.
“Anywhere that you want to capture your memory,” she said.
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