Team Scores With Mobile App and Digital PublishingBy Samuel Greengard Print
The Buffalo Bills use a mobile app and advanced digital publishing methods to provide an interactive experience for fans, boosting their engagement levels.
For a professional sports team, connecting to fans and keeping them engaged is critical. However, the challenges associated with delivering highly relevant content in today's fast-paced world are challenging.
One organization looking to avoid a fumble is the Buffalo Bills of the National Football League. The team has turned to a mobile app and a digital publishing platform to introduce a highly interactive experience for fans, including rosters, in-depth animated charts, behind-the-scenes team videos, and live images and galleries of players—including showing them warming up prior to a game.
In 2012, Aaron La Porta, graphic designer and developer for the Bills, recognized a need to introduce "a brand engagement-style app that could take the user experience to another level." Although the Bills already had a more basic information and newsfeed app available, "We wanted to create content that would take a deep dive into game day and an upcoming opponent."
In addition, team executives wanted to make the content available on a tablet. "The idea was to introduce a second screen for those watching the games at home," he notes. The app, Bills Touch, launched on the iOS and Android platforms in 2013 and is now available for the Microsoft Surface as well.
Every week during the season, the Bills push out updates. The content is sent out in a folio format that makes it look like a new issue of a magazine.
"We deliver the content to the device automatically, and the recipient receives a badge or alert that the new issue is available," La Porta says. "They can then browse through the content at their leisure."
The team also has access to built-in analytics that provides insights into which tools and content fans are using, how much time they're spending on a particular page or video, and how they behave on different devices. The analytics enables the organization to understand when fans view content, which enables La Porta and his design team to push content development deadlines later in the week. "When we understood that peak viewing was taking place on Saturday and Sunday mornings, we were able to spend more time and develop even better content," he explains.
Over the coming months, the team is looking to ratchet up the capabilities further by adding sponsored articles and sections that will offset costs and generate revenue.
The team has scored big with the app. Over the last year, viewership has doubled, La Porta reports. "It is important for fans to view us as an innovative team and an innovative brand," he says.
"Although they are going to follow us and watch the games with or without an app, we want to create a more interactive and involved experience. That helps drive engagement and, ultimately, the success of the team from a business perspective."
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