Mobile is no longer a decision that needs to be made, it has reached the point that your customers expect there to be a mobile component to your business. The decision has been made wether you are a new company looking for your first customer or an established brand with legions of fans – mobile has quickly become a core component of your engagement strategy. Right?
Take Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment. They own the Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL franchise), the Toronto Raptors (NBA franchise), Toronto FC (MLS franchise), Leafs TV, Raptors TV and the Air Canada Centre – where the Leafs and Raptors play. MLSE brings in over 1.5 million fans to their sporting events every year and have extensive North American brand awareness and fans spread out across the globe and they see mobile as a key ingredient to keeping their on-field product top of mind year round.
John McCauley, Senior Director, Digital at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment is a big part of the reason they have moved successfully into mobile – his experience and vision is what every single organization needs in order to turn this important corner. John was employee number 60 at MLBAM – the very fine folks that bring you MLB.tv today – back in 2000 and has been a part of MLSE since 2001. He has grown up in this space, understands the incredible impact it can have if done right and the terrible ramifications if done wrong – regardless if you are a new or existing brand.
We are absolutely at an interesting time when it comes to consumer engagement and what happens in the professional sports arena is a leading edge for most every business. If John and his team are concerned with connecting directly with their customers – in the stands, in their living rooms, or wherever they happen to be – regardless of the advantage of the lure of the live game, shouldn’t you?
Here is a quick reference of what we covered in the show. Click on the link and the video will take you to that clip
John’s history and role at MLSE 3:00
Do you focus on reaching new fans or extending the brand? 4:50
How did MLB.tv succeed 6:00
Why move to MLSE 7:25
What impact has the smartphone had on MLSE 11:00
Why is it important that mobile facilitates the first time teams can go directly to fans 13:30
Is mobile development already a commodity? 17:20
What were the app development expectations for the TorontoFC app 18:30
Setting brand expectations in fans 20:00
Was there a doubt about launching a mobile app for TorontoFC 22:15
How do you decide the features for your apps 23:30
What is your longer term vision for your apps 24:30
How do you find technology partners for MLSE 28:45
How do you decide on the technology you bring into MLSE 30:45
John’s advice on bringing technology into the sports industry 33:35
What was the delay in getting the TFC app out 37:00
How do you keep people engaged throughout the offseason 40:00
What is the goal for the apps? Merchandising? Tickets? Brand building? 43:20
Do you become a replacement for traditional media and advertising? 47:50
Are Leaf fans Android or iPhone users 50:50
How many Android downloads for the Leafs app 51:50
My key takeaways
Brands need mobile love as well
There is no longer an excuse when it comes to moving a business into the mobile world. Your customers are expecting it so deliver. There are many strategies to take to start – in the case of MLSE, they started with what was expected of an app for their business which was getting as close to the live game as possible. Things like scores, news bits, photos and video on demand set the base level for app version 1.0 and allowed fans that couldn’t make it to the game to feel as though they are a part of the greater community. Your brand needs to think about the logical spot to bring mobile into your fans hands. Why haven’t you yet? What’s holding you back?
Start where you can see the absolute need
John’s team did not build a mobile ticketing or merchandising piece into the first version of the app. They understood the basic requirements that would make their app successful and get their fans to start using it. Building a base of satisfied users before complicating things is paramount to success. Start with the lowest hanging fruit. Start with the pain. Start with the things you KNOW your customers are ASKING for already. If you don’t know the answers, ask them. When the market shifts, they will tell you. When they want to buy beer from their phone, they will tell you. Listen to your audience. What are they telling you right now?
Your brand is your brand, even in mobile
Here is a screen shot of my phone. I am part of Yankees Nation and, consciously or not, their logo has migrated to the first thing I see on my phone every time I turn it on. That is engagement. That is pride. That is something you want to instil in your audience. You also have to take the same values you abide by in the real world – the place you do business – and give them the same weight and have them govern your mobile strategy as well. Set and forget in mobile kills brands. Mobile is not an afterthought – and as demonstrated by the London Olympic Games – it has become a “first thought” for the majority of the connected population.
This doesn’t need to be expensive
John was quick to say that the websites he had built 10 years ago cost 6 figures and were long, complex endeavours. Today, they are low 5-figure to free initiatives but it took those 10 years for the cost to drop. The commoditization of mobile development has happened already! There are so many mobile development shops offering the same services that there is no harm in shopping around. Mobile can have a low-cost starting point – thus lower risk for many – and can be tested properly to make sure you are on the right track. Don’t avoid mobile because of the expense, start small and prove (through structure and realistic metrics) the power of this medium.
The pace of change is outpacing the pace of change
We’ve seen tremendous advancement in the last 18 months but much of what we were blown away with back then has become obsolete today. Don’t get caught up in the hype around far-flung technologies that don’t have a leg to stand on today. Looking at mobile wallets to help your business today? Don’t. They aren’t ready for mainstream so don’t waste time on it yet (think about it, yes, but don’t build it into version 1.0). John’s example of using their app as a way to find the shortest concession lineup is a great vision but he can’t guarantee it will work yet so he logs the idea and keeps focusing on things he can impact right now.
What do you think? Also, what do you think of the new format for the episodes? Do you like the chapters for quick reference? The takeaways? What else would you like to see. Leave a comment or two below or email me.
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About John McCauley
John McCauley heads up the digital world for Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment, one of the premier sports and entertainment companies in the world.
He is still passionate after 12 Years of sports media, content, digital and marketing experience in 4 different leagues including the NHL, NBA, MLS, AHL and MLB.