Sharks' App Gives Access To Teams, Facilities

New release packs update of team app plus AHL Barracudas, arena and ice facilities

  • by Tim Newcomb
  • Published: January 24, 2018

A look at three screens from the San Jose Sharks' new app. 

The San Jose Sharks of the National Hockey League have embraced multiple personalities in a new four-in-one app design that allows fans to seamlessly toggle among the Sharks, American Hockey League San Jose Barracudas, the SAP Center and Solar4America Ice Facilities content and functionality.

The Sharks are among the first teams in professional sports to embark on a multi-personality app.

“Our fans touch more and more things than the Sharks,” said Doug Bentz, vice president of marketing and digital for the Sharks. “We wanted to offer fans one thing where they could experience all four of those areas in one place. It will also help us understand how our fans are interacting with our brand in multiple ways and fulfill our vision of communicating and marketing to them better.”

The Sharks teamed with app creator VenueNext and Adept Mobile in a process that took about a year from concept to delivery. Even with the four-in-one approach started, the Sharks launched their first wholly developed app in September, a piece of the roadmap for getting to this month's app launch. The new app updates the Sharks’ app and provides for the first time an app for the Barracudas, SAP Center and ice facilities.

“From a technology standpoint, the way we are able to switch between brands in a relatively elegant way with just a couple of clicks was a difficult proposition and took a fair amount of time,” Bentz said. “Being able to provide the positive experience with the right amount of content and functionality for each of the properties is going to challenge us and will probably be a challenge for other organizations. The value to customers and learning more about our customers was worth that investment.”

Gabriel Smallman, president of Adept Mobile, says blending both engagement and service qualities across multiple personas was a technical and user-experience challenge, but credited the Sharks for sticking with the vision. “The success of the project,” he said, “is a direct result of the Sharks’ innovative vision and the partners working collaboratively toward that goal.”

The updated design will look similar to Sharks fans, but bolsters messaging and marketplace options. The notification preferences run deeper to feature a common inbox for push notifications across all four properties. Sharks fans can now expect to have access to buy in-game experiences like scoreboard messages or visits from mascot S.J. Sharkie, along with ordering merchandise they can pick up at the Sharks Store. Fans can manage game tickets inside the app too.

The app’s 360-degree module also gets an upgrade, with the augmented reality functionality rolling out in February.

With 200,000 downloads of the Sharks app — about 125,000 have already updated to the new version in the roughly one week since debut — Bentz only expects the engagements to grow, especially with about 200 million people going through the community ice facilities annually. “This is a way to capture that audience,” he said. “We have only scratched the surface of what sponsors can do on the app. The exposure and attention the four-in-one has been getting is bringing awareness.”

The Sharks have intentionally kept the ice facilities’ content side less built out as they want to learn what fans want from the app. The debut version includes the ability to toggle between the three ice locations, facility event schedules, hockey league standings and stats, news alerts and maps. With such a different user profile than those visiting a Sharks game at SAP Center, the Sharks anticipate growing both the functionality and content of the facilities’ section as the organization gets to know the customer.

“We love collaborating with forward-thinking customers like the San Jose Sharks to build an even better guest experience that extends across all of its properties,” said John Paul, VenueNext CEO and founder, who called the app an industry first.

Bentz said that all along the Sharks had a vision of doing something different than already offered by MLB Advance Media’s template, which it had used previously. “Strategically we felt we needed to offer our customers in-arena functionality they wouldn’t normally get from an app dedicated to content,” he says. “They want access to news, stats and standings, but we want to offer a service to manage tickets on the app, order food and beverages, view maps and wayfinding, upgrade seats and enjoy advanced content options like AR. We wanted to offer access to all properties and offer utility in addition to content.”

  • by Tim Newcomb
  • Published: January 24, 2018