The Golden State Warriors Shoot for Immersive Fan Experiences with New Arena

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The basketball team’s CMO describes the type of fan experiences he’s aiming to create at the new Chase Center.

The Golden State Warriors’ (Warriors) home court is the Oracle Arena—an arena that was first built in 1966 under the name the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena. And while the basketball team has progressed tremendously over the years—winning the NBA Championship in 2015—its stadium has remained stuck in the past.

“We’re an older venue, so we are a bit limited in terms of our IT infrastructure that currently exists,” says Chip Bowers, CMO of the Warriors.

This dated infrastructure has limited the Warriors’ ability to engage fans digitally. Bowers says that he uses beacons for gamification and to send welcome push notifications to fans when they enter the arena. He also sends season ticket holders discounts through the Warriors’ app. And while the brand has a “really effective WiFi system” in its arena, Bowers admits that it’s not strong enough to engage all of the arena’s guests simultaneously or have them share content at the same time.

“We’re just not there right now,” he says, “nor are many [arenas] for that matter.”

As a result, the Warriors engage fans primarily through physical touchpoints, like retail or concession stands. However, Bowers says that he has only about three hours to engage guests once they enter the arena—two hours and 30 minutes during the game and about 30 minutes before or after it. So, he wanted to find more ways to create immersive, game-day experiences and produce “appropriately disruptive” opportunities—opportunities, he says, that interrupt the fan experience in a positive way by offering unexpected value.

Ultimately, the brand decided to build and privately fund a new arena that would allow it to re-imagine the fan experience.  The arena, known as the Chase Center, is set to open in 2019 and will contain an 18,000-seat event space, a 100,000 square foot retail space, and a 35,000 square foot public plaza to host basketball games, concerts, and other entertainment events throughout the year.

Bowers knew he would need help scaling the Warriors’ vision and creating the appropriate technology stack and experience blueprint. “We don’t want to open buildings that become antiquated within the first six months to a year,” he says. So in the beginning of December, the brand announced its decision to hire Accenture and have the professional services company help them with everything from design to analytics to connected experiences.

“We’re trying to set a new reality in terms of fan engagement,” says John Gingrich, managing director of Accenture.

The ultimate man-to-man experience

For Bowers, the ideal fan experience takes into account a guest’s full day. Here’s what he envisions:

A guest wakes up in the morning, checks his calendar, and realizes that it’s game day. As he gets ready for the day, he receives a push notification via an app offering him a free cup of coffee from a participating partner. The Warriors later detect that this fan is also a season ticket holder. So, the brand sends him a push notification offering to make reservations at one of the Chase Center’s restaurants—ensuring that the reservations are made early enough so that the fan doesn’t miss tip-off. 

Once the fan arrives at the restaurant, he’s greeted by a host and asked if he wants his regular entree or something else—all centered on getting him to the game as quickly as possible. After dinner, the fan starts walking to his seat and pulls up his ticket on his smartphone to be scanned. The fan is then escorted to his seat where a staff member thanks him for being a season ticket holder and informs him that there is a Stephen Curry jersey, the jersey of his favorite player, available in his size for purchase, which he can have brought to his seat or pick up at the stadium’s retail center. And because this fan is a season ticket holder, the staff member offers him 20% off. 

Once the game starts, the Warriors flash the fan’s name on the mega screen and thank him for being a season ticket holder. After the third quarter rolls around, the Warriors send him a push notification for a free Bud Light, which the brand knows he purchases around this time. Once the game ends, the Warriors send another push notification telling the fan that his arranged car service is here or letting him know the San Francisco Bay Ferry’s schedule. The brand can then use a combination of demographic and behavioral information to send the fan information for future events.

“That’s what makes for a really good day, and I think that’s how we’re looking at it,” Bowers says. “We monetize it organically….We know that will happen when we create the right experience, [and] that experience has to be catered to each individual independently.”

Bowers acknowledges that creating this type of experience will require a lot of data gathering and customer input—and the Warriors are already getting started. With the help of Accenture, the brand is launching a Fannovate program, which allows fans to share their ideas for the ultimate fan experience via Twitter along with the corresponding hashtag #Fannovate.

He also acknowledges the importance of coming up with the right message frequency and ensuring that the Warriors don’t bombard the fans.

“The last thing we want to do is give people so much information that at the end of the day it turns them off or they feel like it’s invasive,” he says. “That doesn’t serve anyone well.”

The future game strategy

The Warriors are expected to break ground for the new stadium in early 2017 and work on the project for the next 26 months. Until then, Accenture will work on improving the concession, retail, arena, and fan experiences at Oracle Arena to beta test new developments and help fans adopt new engagement methodologies in time for the Chase Center’s debut.

However, fans have already experienced a sneak peek at the brand’s innovation. The Warriors handed out virtual reality cardboard viewers at a recent game that allowed fans to experience what it’s like to be a Warriors player. Through the virtual reality set and the Warriors’ app, fans can walk through the Warriors’ weight room and watch players take practice shots. Still, it looks like fans will have to wait and see whether the Warriors become the champions of fan engagement.

“For us, [the virtual reality is] the low-hanging fruit,” Bowers says. “We’re scratching the surface in terms of showing people what we’re capable of doing.”

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