The Contradictory Engima: Record-Breaking Broadcast Viewership v/s Half-Vacant Stadiums
The ICC World Cup 2023 has encountered challenges regarding audience attendance in stadiums. Despite a crowd of over 33,000 in Chennai for the India vs. Australia match, the lead-up to the tournament needed more enthusiasm. The initial games received lukewarm responses, partly due to scheduling conflicts and ticket sales issues. Although the World Cup holds a significant place in cricket’s history as a quadrennial event, it faced difficulties amidst the popularity of T20 cricket.
Naturally, tickets get sold out for those matches where the Indian team plays. To everyone’s surprise, the opening match between England and New Zealand in Ahmedabad fell short of expectations, with barely 45,000 tickets sold in a stadium with a capacity of 1,32,000 seats. Considering the teams’ epic clash in the 2019 World Cup final- this was unexpected. The sight of vacant seats in the massive Narendra Modi Stadium raised concerns about the overall buzz surrounding the tournament.
Former cricketer Virender Sehwag expressed concerns about waning interest in ODIs and suggested offering free tickets to school and college children to revive enthusiasm for fifty-over cricket.
So what causes low turnout in popular tournaments like the ICC World Cup, which otherwise boasts a viewership record of 35 million on Disney+Hotstar? Various factors can affect stadium attendance, including timing and weather conditions, especially in venues with scorching temperatures. In addition, the last-minute finalisation of the tournament schedule might have complicated travel arrangements for fans.
Is Generative AI Capable of Attracting Fans from Their Sofas to Stadiums?
Imagine this scenario: You enter a stadium, and your personalised digital assistant warmly greets you. It provides live updates, suggests delicious food options tailored to your preferences, and directs you to the perfect spot for an unparalleled view of the action. This AI companion becomes your gateway to a never-before-seen stadium experience. While streaming games from home have advantages, like replays, generative AI takes these features beyond the boundaries of your living room by allowing fans to access the same features on their devices. Additionally, interactive engagement between fans and the game itself reaches new heights.
With smartphone apps or devices installed on the stadium seats, fans can participate in real-time polls, trivia games, and predictive challenges, creating an unprecedented level of engagement that surpasses what’s possible through streaming.
Generative AI emerges as a powerful tool in reigniting the passion for attending in-person events. This technological innovation goes beyond the capabilities of traditional AI systems. While conventional AI excels at data analysis, generative AI takes a creative leap by generating entirely new content – whether it’s realistic text, images, or even music. In the context of the stadium experience, generative AI goes beyond data analysis to craft personalised and immersive experiences that were previously unimaginable. Generative AI can craft an engaging story with the sports analytics of previous player performances.
Through real-time data and Gen AI, stadiums become vibrant and interactive theatres and information hubs where fans aren’t just passive spectators but are actively aware of the latest updates by the minute. This ensures their continued return in the long term.
Along with Other AI Technologies like Computer Vision, How Does Gen AI Elevate the Stadium Experience?
The sports and entertainment industry is at a critical juncture in today’s ever-evolving landscape, where success is defined by personalisation, real-time analytics, and interactive experiences. The traditional methods of engaging fans are undergoing a profound transformation, driven by advancements in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI/ML).
However, the true game-changer that has captured the attention of these industries is Generative AI. OpenAI made an exciting announcement about an upgrade to ChatGPT, where it can not only type but also listen and speak. This extraordinary advancement in conversational AI provides a glimpse into the limitless possibilities that Generative AI holds, particularly for the sports and entertainment sectors.
Personalised content can be delivered through many channels (e.g., email, text, mobile app, in-venue digital signage). From game predictions to merchandise suggestions, Generative AI can gauge the preferences of every fan.
The stadium is a place that fosters a sense of unity and togetherness. It is an unparalleled gathering where energy permeates the atmosphere. No other event in the world brings together so many people in celebration. It serves as a connecting force, enabling fans to forge connections with one another and providing players with opportunities to engage with their supporters long after the game has ended. That’s why Gen AI can be harnessed to facilitate connections between celebrities and their audience and foster interactions among the fans themselves.
A level of personalisation of game summaries, player analysis, and reports deepens fan connections, allowing them to enjoy sports more. Here are a few ways sports organisers can leverage Generative AI to improve fan engagement in stadiums:
1. Ticketing Assistance and Pricing
AI technology helps sports organisations enhance the fan experience by assisting them in finding the best seats and ticket options within their budget. This includes offering seat upgrades both in advance and on the event day, providing more choices for fans while boosting revenue.
2. AI-Voice Chatbots
You’ve probably encountered customer service chatbots or virtual assistants in various industries like banking and finance. In sports, GenAI can power chatbots and virtual assistants to engage with fans in their favourite player’s voice by answering questions, offering event information, and recommending tickets, merchandise, and other services. They can also answer in regional languages. Plus, these chatbots offer personalised cricket commentaries tailored to individual fan preferences.
3. AI-Avatars of Cricket Players as Cheerleaders
As the game on the pitch intensifies, so must the action in the stadium. This is where Generative AI can come into play — AI avatars of famous cricket players can lead the cheerleading hook steps for the crowd.
4. Immersive and Localized Experiences
Generative AI, when clubbed with immersive experiences like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) apps, enables fans to enjoy games from unique perspectives, such as being on the field with players, even while in the stadium. With Generative AI, fans can see how the player hit a sixer or missed a catch and understand the player’s batting and bowling techniques.
5. Crowd Monitoring with Computer Vision and Predictive Analytics
AI-powered computer vision and analytics help sports organisations monitor crowd flow, ensuring safety. This technology guides venue staffing at various points, like food and beverage stations, and provides real-time insights to fans, showing which stalls offer discounts or food and beverages or washrooms have shorter lines. Predictive analytics also help optimise event day staffing, parking, merchandise, and food/beverage sales.
6. Tailored Merchandise
AI-driven e-commerce platforms use personalisation algorithms to recommend merchandise based on fan preferences and past purchases. Fans receive targeted offers and discounts, increasing revenue. Additionally, generative AI can create unique, limited-edition merchandise based on real-time achievements like a player’s century or a bowler’s wickets.
7. Instant Image, Video and Text Generation
Generative AI uses a fan’s engagement data to craft personalised textual and visual content, including player updates, game summaries, and tailored messages, which can generate ad copy and headlines. Whenever a player reaches a milestone, fans can also use Gen AI services to come up with funny and witty slogans.
8. Feedback and Surveys
AI-driven surveys and feedback mechanisms collect fan opinions and sentiments. Teams and organisations can use this data to improve the overall fan experience in future.
Generative AI is not just another tool in the tech stack — it is a powerful force revolutionising fan engagement and commercial opportunities in sports and entertainment. By incorporating verbal communication features, such as those found in ChatGPT, we are opening up new avenues for interaction that blur the boundaries between the virtual and real worlds.
Nevertheless, with this great power comes great responsibility. We must recognize ethical considerations such as data privacy and authenticity as we incorporate these advanced technologies into our entertainment and sporting experiences.
The future is brimming with possibilities for those who dare to embrace these innovations. Generative AI is not simply raising the bar — it is challenging us to reimagine what is achievable entirely. In a world where the next big thing is always around the corner, it’s not enough to keep up—we must set the pace.