July 30, 2021

Mobii will join the British & Irish Lions 2021 Tour to improve players’ performance with new platform

Sports tech company Mobii has unveiled a new state-of-the-art video technology and TMO/Medic review system as part of its Mobii Performance platform. The platform is off to a great start as it joins the British & Irish Lions 2021 Tour, which kicked off on July 3rd and will end by early August after an eight–match run, five of which will be warm up games.

Leveraging Mobii Connect technology, the Mobii Performance platform enables a digitized stadium environment where medical, television match officials (TMO’s), coaches, analysts and media & communications teams can seamlessly interact and collaborate with frame synchronized video on any device and at any location in the stadium.

In addition to this, Mobii has developed a new ‘self-healing’ video distribution technology that can deliver high-resolution, synchronized, multi-angle camera feeds globally in ultra-low latency, with speeds equivalent (or faster) than a single linear feed satellite broadcasting technology.

With Covid introducing new challenges with regards to lockdowns and restrictions on global travel, the platform enables remote and virtual stakeholders to interact with in-stadium stakeholders, as if they were right there in the stadium.

The Medic/TMO system is integrated directly into the Mobii Performance platform and enables Medical teams to analyse game play in real time and make important decisions regarding player welfare quickly. Medical staff can easily tag and review events, annotate, collaborate, and share these seamlessly with all on-site team members and remote medical staff monitoring from anywhere in the world.

TMO’s finally take control as they can review incidents themselves without relying on directors in the television broadcast truck, or 3rd party service providers. Every camera angle is made available in real-time, providing an unrivalled perspective of game play. Software, featuring a comprehensive set of professional tools, enable referees to find and review any action taking place on the field and make critical match decisions quickly.

While the platform utilizes CMAF formats for primary distribution, it is also capable of supporting a range of different video protocols such as SRT and RTMP to integrate with various 3rd party systems.

Multi-angle video content is captured and stored in the Mobii Connect cloud, enabling new workflows in high-performance analytics and video on demand (VOD) applications.

“Our team has worked extensively to integrate our Mobii Connect technology into our high-performance vertical and we have been evaluating the system in real match conditions in local tournaments over the past six months. This is an incredibly powerful platform and we have only just started unlocking its capabilities. We are very pleased that our technology is powering a pinnacle event such as the British & Irish Lions Tour and the reaction has been incredible”, said Brendan Barrett, CTO of Mobii.

“We are now introducing the platform to global sports organizations and our next focus will be on utilizing this technology in fan engagement platforms, where fans can direct their own multi-angle video experience.”, he continues.

June 24, 2021

How to reach sports fans when TV viewership is down

It is no surprise that TV consumption has been going down ever since mobile devices and streaming services went mainstream ten years ago. However, the rate in which it has diminished is staggering. According to the most recent Nielsen’s Total Audience Report, the time that adults between 18 and 34 years of age spent watching TV was down 77% in 2020 compared to 2015. 

This shift towards streaming and on-demand entertainment has been beneficial in terms of consumers. They are getting premium content directly on their devices without the restriction of a specific schedule, limited viewing options, or the need to watch on a big, bulky device. 

However, when it comes to what audiences can view in terms of sports, on-demand and streaming are still unable to compete with probably the only competitive advantage that TV has left: local and hyper-local programming.

While famous streaming productions are part of the massive cultural conversation, local sports events allow a connection between local communities. Unfortunately, TV networks still serve as gatekeepers for sports content, and local leagues need to rely on the local cable news to share results or coverage with fans. 

That is why on-demand sports streaming might find its place among millennials and centennials viewing preferences. These users already have their attention spans and consumption patterns attuned to their devices. If they are presented with the opportunity to engage with local sports events –from their high schools, local colleges or junior sports leagues– in the same way as they open a Netflix app, they will most likely welcome the offer. 

May 20, 2021

NFTs and sports may be the perfect match

Cryptocurrencies may be unpredictable, but crypto as a technology might be a useful tool for some industries to recover from the negative effects of the pandemic.

Consider NFTs. These non fungible tokens represent the ownership of a certain digital asset, whether it is a video, a meme, a tweet, or an image, that becomes registered in the blockchain. The blockchain is the technology behind cryptocurrencies. Also known as a distributed ledger, this tech is decentralized, meaning it is handled through a network of computers instead of just one, and therefore it is unhackable. 

A blockchain is also immutable: as the data it records is encrypted through a series of complicated mathematical equations, everything recorded on it is basically permanent. No one can just enter a blockchain and forge its contents. That is why this technology is also reliable when it comes to collectibles –and why the art world has been heavily betting on NFTs.

So, what does the blockchain and NFTs have to do with sports? Since NFTs are basically registered pieces of digital assets, they can become valuable sports merchandise. Picture official digital images of team players, a video of an athlete, or even a collectible card, all made monetizable online because their authenticity is confirmed, despite the fact that they might still pop out elsewhere on the internet. 

That is what athletes like LeBron James through the NBA and female football star Megan Rapinoe are betting on: images of themselves validated through the same Internet that so often replicates their photos and videos without them ever receiving some sort of compensation for it. Or even small college teams could be able to mint their own NFTs for fundraising or merchandising. As long as there is an audience that considers them valuable and is willing to pay for a digital asset, NFTs will exist –so the sports industry might just as well take advantage of the craze. 

April 30, 2021

Case study: Mobii and the Springboks

Background

Being a professional rugby player in South Africa is no small responsibility. After soccer, rugby is the most popular sport in the country. The Springboks, South Africa’s national rugby team, have played at the Rugby World Cup 7 times since 1995 and won the championship in three of those years. They are currently the top ranked rugby team in the world according to the World Rugby Ranking, which rates teams based on their performance and successful game results. 

For the Springboks players, keeping up with these achievements is tough. As one would expect,  the team has a very passionate fanbase, especially when it plays against other dominant rugby teams, like the New Zealand All Blacks (ranked no. 2 worldwide) or the national English team (currently at no. 3). Peak performance from the Springboks is expected at every match, as they have a champion title to defend and a legacy to keep building upon. So besides relying on their training or their physical strength to stay at the top, the Springboks exercise another powerful tool: data analysis, partly operated by Mobii Systems. 

Case Evaluation

To keep playing at their peak, the Springboks have to optimize their decision-making processes. The way they choose to position each player in the field is just as important as how they need to be individually trained. That is where data steps in –not just raw and unfiltered, but presented in a way that optimizes the analysis.

The goal was to achieve a sports data analysis strong enough to reveal insights that would benefit all stakeholders in the team: players, coaches, analysts, referees, and even medical practitioners. With the adequate snippets of data, the insight-producing process could be replicated among all stakeholders so the learnings could be used individually or collectively.

Proposed solution

Mobii Systems has been implementing a data analysis platform for the Springboks since 2013, which has become a part of their sports intelligence efforts. The platform is continually evolving, but it operates under three fundamental objectives:

  1. To manage the players’ performance
  2. To understand team play dynamics 
  3. To profile and understand opponents 

Managing the players’ performance means looking after them so they avoid injuries by overtraining. In other words, to analyze their movements, play-by-play execution, and overall   conduct on the field during matches. Understanding in-game team play dynamics is necessary to assure that team members are playing at their peak collectively, not individually. And going through each game provides useful information to profile and understand rivals for upcoming matches.

Perhaps most importantly, the Mobii System platform allows the Springboks to make the most out of their high-performing teammates by finding insights quickly thanks to an easy, collaborative and highly detailed data set. Achieving a consistent peak performance as a team is extremely difficult if the team members come from all over the world and have different training backgrounds, which is what happens with the Springboks. That is why understanding diverse dynamics is key to successfully exploit their assets and achieve peak team strategies and execution. 

To achieve this understanding, Mobii System’s platform leverages on three types of state-of-the-art sports data analysis technology: 

– Video analysis. Mobii created a standardized data model defined by the Springboks team to look for specific types of events on all video footage. It is a time-saving, work-efficient way of analyzing individual or team plays: instead of inputting video files manually, the system tracks the Springboks’ performance KPIs –whether they be plays, scoring, or ball possession, for example– and allows for a more comprehensive way of decision making.

– Platform simplicity. Analysts are not programmers: they don’t need to be inputting data as much as analyzing it. To easen their workload, Mobii developed an easy platform with consistent statistics, standardized metrics and in-depth data that allows analysts to seamlessly compare a set of player profiles or evaluate certain positions from determined viewpoints. This is possible because of two main features: the playlist function, which allows revisiting specific moments of the match from several angles and a more thorough analysis of the footage; and a standard code structure that allows Mobii to pull up and tag complex data.

– Cross-organization unified data. Creating a rich, detailed data set for analysis tends to be a very manual process, often relying on several data sources coming from several providers, historical public data, or in-house information. Mobii’s platform for the Springboks has automated the data flow, making it more structured so analysts don’t have to resync manually and all workflows are easily found, thus reducing the workload. Such a good data set is used for decision making processes that are used cross-organization. This benefits referees, medics, and media teams. As it is very detailed, this data can bring rich insights to everyone involved, depending on what they are each looking to find. 

March 19, 2021

The opportunity of in-stadium technology

When it comes to opening up opportunities for fan engagement in physical venues, the most obvious one is a stadium.

This type of building is popular worldwide and can accommodate any audience to experience a wide variety of sports: from football to basketball, from rugby to cricket. The largest stadiums can hold more than 120,000 people, and some have seamlessly adopted new technologies to provide a more immersive experience for attendees.

Take, for example, what happened with the SK Happy Dream Park stadium in Incheon, South Korea. The venue, home of the baseball team SK Wyverns, was chosen for the opening day of the 2019 Korea Baseball Organization season. An image of the team’s mascot –a wyvern, which looks like a dragon– was displayed in a gigantic LED baseball screen and had an augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) interactive performance led by fans that engaged with a smartphone app. The event was streamed live and has since become a reference when it comes to using top-notch technology to make a memorable in-stadium experience.

However, not all stadiums have the resources to pull off this type of activation. The SK required two things that are not easy to have: the massive LED screen – the size of three basketball courts–, and in-stadium 5G connectivity to support the AR/VR interaction with the wyvern’s image. Consider that 5G connectivity relies on a national spectrum policy, and that a screen that size is not easy to accommodate for smaller venues or ones that are not destined for baseball games.

Fortunately, there are other high-tech alternatives that can be used for in-stadium activations or experiences –ones that are less invasive, less expensive and much more versatile.

Take, for example, OTT, or over-the-top streaming. Through MBB (mobile broadband), a feed can be created through various linked cameras, each with different angles and views. Then the OTT can livestream the event through an app or a website. This is usually a good alternative for fans that are outside the venue, but it could also be an innovative approach in-stadium: having attendees view a 360 view of the building they’re in, even if they stand from their seats and go to get a snack.

Another alternative is the use of low-cost, RFID labels. While these are more frequently utilized to track participants in mass participation sports events, they can also provide an innovative in-stadium experience. Disney World has been a pioneer with RFID labels. According to a report by Deloitte, Disney provided RFID enabled “MagicBands” to the customers that accessed the theme park. The MagicBands are linked to their credit cards so that they can be used for contactless purchases through the park and personalized offers from vendors.

Disney World is not a stadium, but it is easy to see how the use of RFID labels could be replicated in one. In a post-pandemic world, contactless payments allowed by a wristband could be an even more valuable perk that consumers might be willing to pay for.

One final alternative? Gamify the attendees’ experience. Whether they use virtual or fiat currency inside the stadiums, users could log into an app, engage with trivia or games related to the sports teams or athletes they’re watching, and engage with transactions.These can translate into actual physical products they can purchase, or any other type of virtual rewards.

The bright side of these in-stadium engagements is that, contrary to a massive LED screen or brand new infrastructure, most of them –perhaps not the OTT streaming if it requires a lot of physical intervention– can be used for stadiums that are not as modern, such as those built on or before the 1970s. RFID labels and their readers are not invasive at all, and gamification relies more on the users’ smartphones or other devices.

March 12, 2021

Sports after COVID-19 won’t be the same –whether we like it or not

The idea of a new normality after the pandemic is challenging at best, frightening at worst. We have an overall, collective idea of the things that will change in the mid to long term: social distancing will be in place at least until 70% of the world’s population is vaccinated –which experts predict will not happen until at least 2025–, the use of masks will continue to be recommended in public spaces, and the reintegration of all social activities will probably be anxiety-inducing for all of those who have been recluded indoors for more than a year. 

Despite it all, this new scenario will force us to come up with increasingly creative ideas to face the novel situations we’ll be presented with. When talking about companies and businesses, this means finding a fresh approach to day-to-day operations. If there was one lesson the business world learned during 2020 is that nothing is certain, so a more conscientious allocation of budgets is expected –especially when it comes to marketing. According to the Global Ad Trends: State of the Industry 2020/21 report, the global advertising market fell by 10.2% last year, and it will take at least two years for the ad spend to recover. 

So, what does this mean for the sports industry, which so heavily relies on marketing and sponsorship deals? A recent survey by McKinsey and WFSG found that 43% of sports and entertainment executives said that their marketing will not be as tied to major sporting events, but 64% mentioned that they expect the industry to focus on digital advertising. Translation: there is an opportunity in digital that could, technically, find a sweet spot when overlapped with popular sports events. 

To make the most out of this new scenario, sports-related companies –whether they are amateur sports clubs or the owners of entire venues and sports teams– is to leverage the digital technologies to re engage with fans. 

A way to do so is to rethink the physical spaces they frequented. If for example, a venue continues to have limited capacity, there is an opportunity there to enable a virtual reality experience. The interactions from fans can be gamified and spread out through social media or ad hoc platforms. A premium streaming service that offers real-time, multi-view camera angles could have room to grow. User data could be leveraged to offer more personalized, non-invasive engagement opportunities. The technology to do such things already exists, so it could represent a smart investment. 

Finally, a non-tech solution could also be used: renegotiating a contract with an existing sponsor or reallocating their ad dollars to new offerings. The world we’re entering might be too digitized, but there will be certain things that will require more human skills, like empathy, negotiation and a bold vision of the future.

March 5, 2021

3 ways a venue’s sponsor brand can leverage their naming rights

Take a look at some of the most popular sports venues in North America and you’ll see why they are the prime real estate for sponsorship deals: the MetLife Stadium in New York City, the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, the BBVA Stadium in Houston… and the list goes on. 

It’s a smart investment to pay for the naming rights of a venue that usually welcomes thousands of people. It’s a way to push a brand’s name to the top of their minds as they enter through their gates and enjoy the matches from their branded seats.

Before 2020, the multimillion dollar deals that corporations have paid for this type of exposure ranged between $3 million to $20 million per season, which is the case of the Citi Field in Queens, New York. Usually, these deals consider the naming rights to last for up to 20 years, granting the sponsoring brand enough time to make a footprint and the stadium to guarantee a steady source of income during that period. 

Which is why the Covid-19 pandemic has posed a threat to this usually sweet deal. With restrictions for events with mass audiences probably lasting for the rest of 2021 in most of Canada and the U.S., these usually solid investments are losing valuable ROI for sponsoring brands whose contracts are still running for five, ten, or twenty more years. 

Luckily, there is still a way they can leverage their sponsorship investment: fan engagement through technology. Here’s three ways this is possible:

  1. In-stadium 360 VR/AR experiences: through their phones and hardware like VR/AR goggles, consumers can have a branded interaction with other fans or their sports idols. If they are allowed inside with a limited capacity, these interactions can still happen and use the hybrid real-life/digital model to do so.
  1. Off-season engagement: Users can be kept engaged with a venue’s sponsor brand even during off-season. With gamified interactions on their mobile devices, fans can play and earn points with sponsored trivia (that can even offer sponsored rewards, like swag or memorabilia).
  1. On-demand branded streaming: With OTT streaming technology, based on strategically placed cameras that allow specific camera angles to choose from, users can have an in-house experience from their own homes –branded, of course, in the same way as the venue’s sponsor brand.

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