The biggest sports clubs in the world are adopting chatbots as a new way to interact with fans. What are they doing, and how can they be improved will be a big question for future adopters, while how millions of fans will react creates a strong public test of their adoption and usefulness.
AFC Bournemouth may be the smallest club to grace England’s Premier League, but the soccer club is launching its own CherryBot chatbot joining global sporting giants like FC Barcelona, the NBA’s Golden State Warriors and the NFL’s New England Patriots.
The rationale for these bots is clear, engage with fans, sell tickets and merchandise, which is what most clubs are focused on. The business interest is less about what happens on the pitch, field or court, but revenue coming in from other sources.
Naturally, success will help them sell more tickets, jerseys and caps, but except for the top tier teams, success is often fleeting and the endless grind to sell merchandise becomes all consuming. Why do you think most teams have three or more kits, retro kits and endless variations of merchandise?
Bournemouth’s post says “Fans can expect exclusive competitions, vote for their man of the match, watch video highlights and access facts and FAQs. CherryBot offers the opportunity for loyal fans to enhance their match day experience like never before.”
Chatbots are just the latest way to help them in this process, offering fixture information, results, highlight clips and other content in return for links to the latest sales, new kits and similar deals. Bournemouth’s uses Microsoft technology and claims to “interact with fans through emotion recognition and intelligent conversation - effectively becoming an additional member of the squad.”
In such a results-based business, in all senses, sports brands seem to be taking the predictable route in their early adoption of chatbots. There’s certainly no effort to create bots with some of the personality of characters from sports’ history, where’s a bot in the style of Harry Caray (the Chicago Cubs’ legendary caller)? Or Brian Clough (acerbic English football manager) who could put his point across like no other.