Technology is Giving Sports Fans More Power — And Making Them Smarter

Mobile sports expert Manish Jha on why NOW is the time for fans to take control of their sports experience

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It started with Tecmo Bowl and fantasy football that required you to look through the newspaper and tally up your score. Now we’ve got training camps in Madden teaching actual formations (and the ability to play an opponent live over the internet), and daily fantasy and fantasy football that update scores every second on your cell phone.

Sports fandom has evolved — and with it, sports fans have gotten smarter.

Project FANchise understands that, which is why we’re giving fans the opportunity to control all aspects of a pro football team, from picking the players, to the logo to in-game play-calling. One of our advisers, Manish Jha, was the GM of NFL Mobile and ESPN Mobile. He says sports are ready for this kind of access. Jha sees “the confluence of a bunch of different trends in the media, technology and really consumers and broader society at large.”

If teams “tap into the wisdom of crowds and the IQ of the fans and fandom, you could create something really powerful.”

But the key to the advances in technology relate to screens — specifically the one on your iPhone or Android. How often do we use our phones while watching sports, or have our phone out while sitting in an arena or stadium? Mobile, says Jha, has “given an enormous amount of power, in the fans hands.”

Something like…70–80% of people are using a mobile device or tablet device while they’re watching television…whether it’s looking up additional information, whether it’s making a realtime change to a fantasy line-up, whether it’s smack-talking with friends of theirs, there’s all kinds of activity.

While the Project FANchise concept will be a single team in the Indoor Football League, could this type of fan empowerment just be the beginning? Jha thinks so. “It has the potential of creating a fan run league,” he said. “And whether it’s in football, or in other sports, even in leagues that don’t necessarily adopt this notion of fan-empowerment…and participation to this extent, I’m absolutely certain this is going to change the way they think about their business and the way they involve their fans in their business.”

So the technology is there…the fan IQ is there…and the smart business reasoning is there. How will it work once fans take control? The first step is happening now — fans can vote on which city the FANchise team will call home at now.