Thursday, May 20, 2010

MLB Creating Its Own Foursquare

It isn't surprising that MLB is creating its own Foursquare-like application (on the heels of ESPN announcing its own foray into location-based services via mobile).

On the one hand, it would make sense for MLB to partner with Foursquare and other big competitors in the LBS space (including Facebook). You want to be where the fans are.

On the other hand, having its own app offers a really interesting opportunity for MLB to engage fans at the ballpark.

I'm less bullish on the idea of using it to chat with fellow fans who are at the game -- frankly, that's old win in new bottles -- than I am about the team being able to connect with fans:

*Let people who have checked in know that there is a half-inning special: "$10 off authentic jerseys at every team store location in the stadium."

(Even better: Group-buying deals, like "If at least 100 people are willing to buy jerseys, they will be 50 percent off.")

*Provide helpful tips: "If you're looking for a restroom with the shortest line, try section 21." "Section 21 bathroom lines are now long. Try Section 75."

*Integrate with the Jumbotron to allow fans to interact with the screen. Not just voting and not just making sure fans don't write inane messages. Something like "In six words, what is your favorite team moment?" Great chance for qualitative contributions.

*Pass along interesting statistics from the media team, exclusive to folks who check in. A lot of the buy-in from fans will come from "I check in, otherwise I wouldn't get X value."

The point is that when you control the check-in platform, you can be a little more customized in your applications than if you just create an event on Foursquare and hope everyone in the park checks in and checks messages.

Instead, you can prompt fans to have the app, check in and interact. Obviously, this is run at the MLB level, but the real value is when it gets unlocked at a team-by-team level.

It would behoove local dominant media -- like newspapers -- to either create their own version or, seemingly beaten to that, partner with Foursquare or another service.

There can be multiple winners here, but it feels like the agnostic platform (Foursquare) and the team (or MLB) are going to squeeze out the media partner.

Larger point: MLB leads the way with forward-thinking applications of popular emerging new technology and applications.

-- D.S.


Emily H. said...

I really like these ideas. Integration at a team level would be better than league-wide.

joemak said...

Have been thinking about this app for a while for all sports. You could even do some game play as well For example the fan that checks in the most is the "Fan Owner" You could also have levels for Fan GM and so on. There is really unlimited potential with this especially with the team/mlb running the app.

Ross Jacobson said...

Some minor league teams have already beat them to the punch. I actually wrote a story on this in early February. But here's a site about an ownership group that has created iPhone apps for all of their teams.

Not sure if you knew about this, but just thought I'd share it with you. I do agree with your points though.

Lou Pickney said...

I was able to "check in" at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati this past Saturday night (Reds/Cardinals game), and that gave me the Swarm badge for 50+ people checked in at the same place at the same time.

For some reason I really enjoy Foursquare, even though I'm now the mayor of a low-end hotel in Mason, Ohio (and I wish I was joking).