Fancam Expanding Footprint

Venue-wide pictures allow fans to explore experience beyond game day

  • by Tim Newcomb
  • Published: May 9, 2017

Fans caught on the FanCam at Madison Square Garden, New York City.

Fancam founder Tinus Le Roux knows everyone loves to view photos of themselves. He’s built an entire business around that fact, modernizing the way arenas and stadiums take pictures of fans during the most exciting of moments, leveraging those experiences for extended fan engagement.

The South African-based business has existed since 2011, but recently upgraded equipment to automate its process of taking a photo of every single patron in a venue at one time and allowing fans access to view the gigapixel-level image after the contest, sharing snapshots on social media and drawing in fans who have never experienced the venue.

How it works

image12.jpgMounted FanCam at Minute Maid Park, Houston.

Fancam mounts cameras at fixed locations within a venue. Its two arenas—Madison Square Garden, New York City, and TD Garden, Boston—have multiple cameras hidden on the underside of the jumbotron, while baseball stadiums—SunTrust Park, Atlanta; Minute Maid Park, Houston; and AT&T Park, San Francisco—require fewer cameras to grab the angles. From there, said Michael Proman, Fancam North America managing director, they can capture images of every fan at a single moment in time and then stitch those pictures together into one image.

That image gets loaded onto a team’s site, allowing fans to interactively move through the image, tag themselves and view friends. “We have found that 80-to-90 percent of the traffic going into (view) Fancam images were people not actually at the event,” Proman said. “From a brand and property perspective, that is a value.”

With these permanent installations, arenas and stadiums can provide face-level detail of every fan at a scale that allows Fancam to provide services at 81 home baseball games or every single event that runs through Madison Square Garden, whether a Knicks or Rangers game, a concert or a family-friendly ice skating show.

In Houston, the Astros have installed Fancam as a way to connect with fans. “The Houston Astros are committed to providing our fans with the best possible in-venue experiences,” said Anita Sehgal, senior vice president of marketing and communications. “As technology continues to evolve we have focused on making fan memories more personal and sharable. We encourage personalized content and Fancam is one of many initiatives that encourage fans to personalize their game-day experience.”

The sponsorship angle

From the start, Fancam has worked with key rights holders to make this a reality. From the days of manually sending photographers to capture events to the modern automated system, Fancam has had the backing of sponsors of teams and buildings that enjoy the added exposure. For example, fans viewing the image the next day online see the Chase logo at every turn in the New York arena or the Putnam logo when viewing the Boston-based images.

“Rights holders are the biggest influencers and this is something they want to activate behind,” Proman said. “Our relationship is directly with the Celtics, but Putnam has told them Fancam is something they value.”

Le Roux said the benefit remains threefold: giving teams further engagement with fans, offering sponsors a way to activate the brand beyond the in-game experience and allowing fans a way to relive an experience.

“People like pictures of themselves,” he said. “To take a picture of the whole crowd, a large amount of people will have a look. If you can create selfies for 20,000 people, and add context for them, that is a very simple premise.”

What’s next?

Fancam knows it can do more with its technology than provide fan engagement. Already it has a few ideas in the works, everything from speeding up the process so that fans get prompted to view photos during halftime of a basketball game to mining photos for brand data.

“When you take a 40,000-megapixel image, it exposes the good, bad and ugly of what is going on in an arena,” Le Roux says. “It drives a level of intelligence for teams or brands they currently don’t have.”

The images can eventually do anything from allowing brands to see how many fans have a Bud Light in their hand at any given point, to seeing how many fans actually have their eyes fixed on the jumbotron during an advertisement. “If you add a bit of AI, you can learn a lot from pictures,” Le Roux said. “It is interesting and things that weren’t available before.”

But while Fancam’s team continues to explore the potential of expansion, right now the focus remains on the 24-hour turnaround of the in-game images. And doing so in more venues across North America, which Proman says will expand with announcements of additional sites on the horizon. The model sees growth, Le Roux said, because brands want to engage with fans at scale and fans—simply put—enjoy a good photo of themselves.

  • by Tim Newcomb
  • Published: May 9, 2017