Closed stadiums. The public at home. Stands in silence. The antithesis of the passion unleashed by live sport. The restrictions due to the coronavirus have forced the sector to look into the digital world to offer virtual substitutes for what could previously be experienced in person. An adaptation that also brings new experiences, innovative and interactive ways of trying to bring that passion to the homes of the fans. As the proposal of the start-up Spanish (emerging company) Book Your Stadium, which tries to bring fans closer to their teams and sports idols with the help of different digital tools, such as virtual reality.
Joaquín Martínez, executive director of the company, talks about the services it offers as different ways of experiencing sport, closer to the 21st century. It refers above all to football, because it is where he began his business career; although, as it progresses, Book Your Stadium will also soon be present in basketball, motor racing, golf and tennis.
What does this company offer its users? The different products have emerged from the agreement with different teams, such as Real Madrid, Valencia or Real Sociedad, and some institutions, such as the Royal Spanish Football Federation. Almost all virtual products. The fan, for a price ranging between 10 and 50 euros, can, for example, interact with a LaLiga player and receive a virtual autograph. You can share a selfie on your team’s stadium video scoreboards and billboards. You can watch a game in a recreated stadium and discuss it with other fans. also can sit a player in the living room of a player with the help of augmented reality. “Call Magic idol. You can interact with him, personalize what he tells you and even vary the tone of voice depending on whether you are closer or further away, ”says Martínez.
It is even planned that users can challenge a game of the video game FIFA to certain footballers who lend themselves. “We seek to connect the fan, the club and the event in a different way. We are a platform that opens new ways of experiencing sport ”, he says.
Virtual reality has also joined the innovation proposed by the company. Your product VR Football Games It consists of a series of games – shooting at goal, skill tricks with the ball and stealing the opposite, among others – with which to entertain from the living room or in the children’s room. If you do not have an Oculus Rift or Oculus Quest virtual reality glasses, you can enjoy this recreational soccer environment artificially constructed using a computer program.
According to the data provided by the company, its value is close to two million euros. Different venture capital funds, as well as private investors – called business angels in the world of emerging companies—, have recently invested in the project, led by three people, Martínez among them, and 15 startups, in charge of creating the services. Before it took definitive form under the name Book Your Stadium, the founders invited a hundred small companies with whom they tested until they reached what they offer today. “I started to move the initiative after having worked for FIFA, in world soccer, the NBA and a couple of multinationals the size of Deloitte and KPMG,” says Martínez.
The problem of getting money from the fan
With some competitions unable to generate income from ticket sales due to covid, the sports world is looking for creative and digital solutions to this problem. According to the latest edition of the report Deloitte Football Money League, football teams will lose 2 billion euros this season, double the amount compared to the same period last year. An economic hole that is added, as Martínez explains, to the one generated by himself by the fans themselves, from whom the clubs cannot extract an economic return. “The easiest way to do this is through digitization. Together with the context caused by the pandemic, it has allowed sport to retain and expand its business. It de-seasonalizes it. People can experience it on a daily basis, not just on the day of the competition ”, he concludes.
The most recent example of the Book Your Stadium proposal is found in the last Copa del Rey football finals, won by Real Sociedad and Barcelona. In both meetings, those who contracted the product Watch Game Together could comment at halftime the match with the professional exporter Santiago Cañizares in a video call. Martínez’s intention is to evolve the service. Offer exclusively, for example, concerts at halftime and magic performances in the run-up to the meeting. “We mix technology, sports and entertainment. They are our values. I call it sportainment, the Union of sport (sport) and entertainment (entertainment)”.
Up to here while the pandemic lasts. Because there is insufficient evidence to show that the fans, once they return to the sports venues, maintain this style of consumption. Logic leads to think that both worlds will merge. For this reason, the company has also incorporated physical experiences. The most outstanding one has christened it Train like a Pro, which allows fans to train in their club’s sports center, record them with a drone during training and fill out a technical sheet. “When there are no restrictions, I would like to offer from a paella route with people from Valencia to another along the banks of the Duero with those from Valladolid,” he advances.
Aware that soccer is the sport with capital letters, a good part of the products are focused on this reality. But in Book Your Stadium they look for more possibilities. Obviously, digital innovation is now; and Martinez knows it. He has the idea of bringing 360-degree images to the homes of his followers. Think of cycling. “We put a small camera in the La Vuelta cars and it would be like being in the race. You would see everything that happens around a great cycling competition ”, he concludes.
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