Blazing a Digital Trail

During a media briefing held at the Moda Center last week, the Trail Blazers and three technology companies offered a peek into a dizzying array of digital products aimed at helping the team radically expand its marketing and outreach.

The Trail Blazers have invested more than $20 million in capital improvements over the past two and a half years and that includes state of the art technology upgrades, said vice president of corporate communications Michael Lewellen.

Dewayne Hankins, senior vice president of brand strategy & digital, said more than 70% of the Blazers’ web traffic now comes from mobile. The team’s mobile app started off in 2013 as a source of content on the go, Hankins said, but is evolving into a showpiece for fans inside the arena.

The goals are to enable a greater variety of purchases — food, drink, and merchandise, parking — increase engagement via beacon messaging (e.g. pop up messages) and grow participation via social media.

Larry Logan, chief marketing officer of Digimarc, unveiled the company's new "FanScan" app feature allowing Trail Blazers fans to scan enhanced print media — team posters, the BlazerDancers calendar and game program. In a demonstration he showed how audio during the game can trigger access to digital content, including videos and real-time game schedule information.

A partnership between the Blazers and Citifyd, a Portland-based parking app startup, has offered mobile purchasing and on-demand parking for a pilot group of ticket holders at the Moda Center since November, said Citifyd president Sohrab Vossoughi.

The beacon-enabled parking app removes the need for scanners and at-gate cash or credit transactions in the center's parking garages. The service “reduces ingress time by 30 seconds, a big thing for traffic,” Vossoughi said.

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Beacons are a small piece of hardware — small enough to attach to a wall or countertop — that use  Bluetooth connections to transmit messages or prompts directly to a smartphone or tablet.

Footmarks, a Cloud based platform, described its “stadium unlocked” concept. The company has placed more than 170 beacons in 70 “unique zones” in the Moda Center, yielding 11K becon exeriences and 24,000 site visits.

The panoply of mobile technologies deployed by the Blazers — and the personal data trail they leave behind — does raise questions about privacy. And will fans spend more time looking at their phones than watching the game?

Hankins said Trail Blazers attendees aim to connect with a younger fans who grew up with mobile. Attendees are also using phones to broadcast their experience of the game, so the phone is a critical marketing tool, he said.  

Asked what new technologies could be expected five years from now, the Blazers team said virtual reality, possibly deployed to create a courtside experience for more attendees.

But even some of the presenters seemed unconvinced by the benefits of the hyper-connected fan.  After the briefing, Sourab, the founder of Ziba Design, questioned the focus on "cool technologies" and nonstop marketing messages.

"Technology is not the driver,” he told Oregon Business. “It’s an enabler. You provide a great experience: That creates loyalty and sales.”

Linda Baker

Linda Baker is the editor of Oregon Business

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