Ready or not, the 2021 NFL preseason is already here. The Hall of Fame game was August 5th and the first week of preseason games began on August 12th. Soon enough, the regular season will be upon us, with the kickoff scheduled for September 9th.
Football is back. After the 2020 season was impacted by COVID-19, with the cancellation of preseason and many games played without any fans in the stadium, football fans are psyched for the 2021 season.
Big Opportunities for Brands
The excitement around the 2021 season is good news for every brand that wants in on the action. Because this year, brands have opportunities they have never before had to connect with fans. XEO, a platform developed by Xcite Interactive and owned by Versus Systems, stands ready for every company looking for a new way to connect with consumers.
XEO offers interactive audience engagement. This means it connects fans with the teams and players they love, and also with corporate sponsors. It brings football fans and businesses together to experience games, and it forges deeper connections between them. This year, XEO plans to build on its previous successes to bring the future of football to brands and fans.
Success in 2020
When fan attendance was curtailed during the 2020 season, XEO helped fans bridge the COVID-19 “bubble.” The XEO platform did for sports what Zoom did for work-from-home. It allowed fans to stay in their houses and still feel a part of the games.
For example, XEO worked with the Los Angeles Rams to ensure fans at home still felt the same level of community they would feel at the stadium. When the Rams realized they could not let fans attend in-person, they relied on XEO to power their fans’ applause. Over 186,000 fans clapped from home just for the first Rams touchdown of the season. It worked for the Rams because XEO focuses on the whole experience, rather than flashy gimmicks.
XEO is already the industry leader in brand and customer engagement, but in 2021, it stands poised to revolutionize this interaction.
Returning in 2021
With fans back in the stadiums, Versus’ XEO platform can show off features it could not during 2020’s bubble season. It can power participation from the whole audience with photo filters and customized games that audience-members can play together as an entire stadium. With a mobile web platform, everyone in the stadium has instant access. No need to download an app. The platform offers trivia and polls, with prizes for predicting outcomes during a game. It even has flashpoint technology to sync phones to team videos and halftime shows.
Not only can it connect spectators in the stadium, the XEO platform can bridge the divide between fans at the game and fans at home. With expanded chat, pixel streaming, and a social wall for displaying hashtags and social interactions in real-time, XEO works hard to build real community.
Jack Holmgren, the Director of Fan Engagement and Game Presentation for the New York Jets, said it best, “In our internal conversations, this is exactly what we’ve been talking about needing… but [Versus] even took it a step further.”
272 Opportunities for Customized Brand Experiences
This season, the NFL is expanding the number of games each team plays from 16 to 17. Which means that instead of 256 games, there will be 272 total games in the regular season.
Each game is white labeled by Versus, so that each one is a distinct opportunity for a brand to create a fully customized experience. For example, brands can take advantage of the dynamic leaderboard and real-time scoring to mix up fan competitions while they occur. Companies can use push notifications to ensure fans keep their heads in the game. And, with extensive data collection and robust backend analytics, the XEO platform offers companies instant audience insights. This data goes way beyond viewership numbers and ratings. On top of that, XEO’s analytics reduces the raw data to information that can be acted on immediately, even during gameplay.
If brands are smart, they will take advantage of this in unique ways. Each game is an opportunity to try something new: testing out a new product by offering limited discounts, revamping an old product as a prize for predictive trivia, reaching out to new audience demographics, and more. With 272 games, there are plenty of opportunities to go around.
A Leap Forward
This is not the fan engagement of 2011, or even 2017. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, technological and social trends have thrust us into the future – including the future of sports-watching. In this future, teams will deploy pump-up videos, live and preprogrammed content, and player tributes directly to their supporters. Remote fans will get in on the action with polls, opinion surveys, turbo trivia, and a synchronized second-screen experience. In-person fans will get to join exclusive photo filters and share their experiences with all their distant friends. No matter where fans are, they will take part in a holistic experience that is more than the sum of platform features. It will be a collective experience – with synchronized warm-up videos and filters – and an individual experience – with opportunities for individuals to win prizes.
Brands will get a piece of the action, too. Brands will still sponsor the teams in the game, but now they will also sponsor the interactive fan experience itself.
Not only does it connect fans with their favorite players and coaches, XEO brings brands and fans together in ways never done before. Each game is a fully customizable experience that a brand can own. It is an opportunity for a company to take this engagement platform and make it their own.
The XEO platform will power a deeper level of engagement for football fans in 2021. With more action, more community-building and more insight, it will take this season to new heights. For fans ready to get back to the game, or for fans still inclined to watch from home, XEO will allow them to not just watch the game, but live it.