Amazon is taking over the world. I can’t say I’m surprised–I’ve watched it happen. Amazon’s world domination is something that I have been able to slowly observe throughout my time on campus. I’ve read and analyzed countless Harvard Business Cases about the company, and discussed Jeff Bezos and his leadership style in both of my management classes. I signed up for Amazon Prime as a freshman, think it was *so* cool to have my favorite products shipped to me in two days, especially since I life too far away for my mom to constantly drop stuff off for me if I forgot my favorite item at home. (No shade against my local classmates!!) Obviously, since I had Prime, I started actively using all of the other services Amazon offers. I used AmazonFresh for groceries as an off campus student without a car, and watch the movies that AmazonVideo streams that aren’t on Netflix. I have personally watched Amazon grow into the massive, prominent company it is today. Amazon has integrated its many web services and digital technologies into many different industries, including retail, grocery, entertainment, technology, health and wellness, and now….professional sports.
Earlier this month, The Washington Capitals became the first professional sports team to integrate Amazon’s Alexa into their customer and fan experience. They are the first professional sports team to develop an Alexa “skill”, where Alexa is able to answer specific questions and give accurate, factual information about the team. The skill will creatively be named “Capitals.” The organization contacted Amazon to develop their relationship with Alexa (who obviously is contributing to Amazon’s world domination) because, prior to the agreement, fans had two mediums to get information about the Capitals: through television broadcasts on ESPN or local news and radio stations, or via social media. Now, for fans with Alexa, they can interact directly with her to get the most accurate, up-to-date information about the team’s schedule, scores, and player information.
Amazon Alexa offers users two ways to get more information about the Capitals. One is through flash-briefings, where Alexa can take information from Fox News Radio or ESPN, and relay it to users. This is the most basic option, similar to Googling information about the team. The more in-depth option comes from the Alexa skill that was developed specifically for the Capitals. In an article in the Sports Business Journal, the Capitals skill is compared directly to a third-party smartphone app. The skill itself will offer more detailed, up-to-date information. By downloading the skill, Alexa will not only be able to answer questions about the Washington Capitals, but also develop deeper knowledge (proportional to the amount of use) by connecting to other skills programmed into her software. Creepy, or cool?
The Capitals skill will build off of the data gathered from all other programs on Alexa, and will be able to offer a more personalized, interactive experience between the team and its fans. When first downloaded, Alexa will have the ability to answer specific commands, such as “Alexa, how many points does T.J. Oshie have this season?”, “Alexa, who do the Capitals play next week?”, and “Alexa, who is #44 on the Washington Capitals?” Alexa will have a daily update from radio personality and announcer John Walton. He will provide a recap about either the previous night’s game, the next game to come, or a fun, interesting storyline around the team. His daily update will vary based on where the Capitals are in their season. “Capitals” will become a digital hub for other audio content the Capitals digital team captures. This hub will include direct access to the Washington Capital’s radio stream and record exclusive interviews with both the players and management. Eventually, the Alexa skill will become more interactive, especially once more up-to-date versions are developed and released.
While the skill will mostly be used for informational updates, it will include fun quirks as well. For example, when listening to the live broadcast of a game, Alexa will play the team’s goal horn and light up with the team colors. If you tell Alexa to “unleash the fury,” she will play an audio clip from the movie “Road Trip” that fans will often see at the actual games in Washington. John Heuser, the director of digital content for the Capitals, is quoted saying, “We view [Alexa] as an extension of the team information and content that we put out on social and digital media. A lot of our video projects are pushed out on social channels, but we still see a lot of engagement with our podcasts and other audio content that we do. The projected potential audience for voice-activated products is huge, so we see a lot of opportunity to be one of the first to try it.”
I think that the Washington Capitals are at the forefront of making professional sports a more digitally-advanced industry. While they are the first mover in creating an Alexa skill in professional sports, I believe that many teams will follow in the Caps’ footsteps and incorporate Amazon’s Alexa or GoogleHome into their fan experience. Thus far, the Golden State Warriors are the only other North American sports team to have its own “flash briefing” updates, although they have yet to develop their own downloadable Alexa skill.
The Capitals Alexa skill is truly is an extension of their social media channels, and it makes their brand more interactive and prominent in their fan’s daily lives. It will allow the Capitals to begin to collect more digital data about their fanbase, and what type of information they are interested in regarding the team and its game. This data will aid the organization in ticket sales, marketing tactics, and in their strategic and operational management agendas. I can’t wait to see what others teams will follow in their footsteps as the professional sports industry further integrates digital technologies into their operations. Amazon may be taking over the world, but at least they’re making our favorite sports teams a little more accessible.