On Thursday night, the Somerset Patriots (independent; Atlantic League) and their fans took to StickyPop—a social network that aims to change the way fans interact at ballparks and other public spaces.
According to Sticky Pop co-founder Grant Walker, the location-based app will change the ballpark experience by allowing fans to live in the moment, rather than distract them from it.
StickyPop is different from other social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, because of what Walker calls “an event newsfeed.” Rather than being used to interact with friends and follows who are not at the ballpark, StickyPop’s function allows users to communicate with fellow fans locally. “All of the social media you use right now, you post [content] out to the world” said Walker. “But StickyPop goes to the people right around you.”
When users log onto StickyPop they are shown a map that features pins of nearby locations. These spots serve as newsfeeds, which on Thursday meant that fans at TD Bank Ballpark could hop onto the ballpark’s newsfeed and begin posting content that included photos and text messages.
The timing of the partnership between StickyPop and the Patriots could not have been better. Over 6,100 fans turned out to Thursday’s game, leading to robust engagement on the app—with preliminary data showing that at least 290 interactions, including 100 photos, were posted during the night—something Walker was pleased to see, as he called it “100% a win and a success for StickyPop.”
While he was excited by the results, he was not surprised as he understood that the Patriots and their fans were among baseball’s most social media savvy. Walker said that in pasts visits to TD Bank Ballpark, he came away impressed with both the ballpark and its atmosphere. He also gained an appreciation for the Patriots’ efforts through social media and liked the work of Dave Marek, the team’s senior vice president of marketing.
“We knew that there would be this community around them already,” said Walker. “When we reached out to Dave, we were happy that he was onboard because he is so into social media.”
The Somerset fans could wind up being among the earliest adapters to a new trend in social media at sporting facilities. Since StickyPop is meant for interaction at the venue for the present and beyond—fans can still access and post to the venue’s newsfeed for up 24 hours following their departure—it will differ from competitors that are focused on what is going on outside of the stadium.
Walker brings a two-fold perspective to the app, providing not only his technical and business knowledge but his background in sports as he is not only a fan, but he played wide receiver at Texas Tech. When asked if, as a fan, he frequently used social media at stadiums before developing StickyPop, he delivered a surprising response: “No, not at all.”
The reason he claims to have not been an avid user of social media is that most networks took him “out of the moment.” In trying to bridge the engagement potential of technology and the face-to-face interaction at a stadium, Walker says that he wanted an app that would allow him to “talk to the people right here, right now.”
As the app tries to expand its role in fan engagement at stadiums, StickyPop will make some adjustments along the way. Walker said that he would like for the app to give control to teams by implementing certified spots. “When we do certified spots, they own the real estate in the virtual world. They would outline the area around the stadium and no one else could create a spot.” This would be done to prevent the creation of multiple newsfeed with a venue, thereby preventing confusion and placing all of the engagement in one area.
StickyPop will also try to expand by reaching younger millennials, a demographic that offers an interesting convergence when it comes to social media use and attending games. Use of the social media juggernaut Facebook is widely seen as stagnant or declining among younger users, who are instead using apps such as SnapChat, the social network that Walker calls “the beast of the block.”
“They’re moving onto other platforms,” Walker said of his app’s target audience. “That’s why we think there’s a market for location-based messages.”
The sports industry as a whole is still trying to find ways to reach millennials—and baseball is no exception. With improving technology and more accessible entertainment options comes more challenges in getting fans out to the ballpark, and engaging them in the action once they are there.
With the ongoing process of trying to reach younger fans on the minds of operators, Walker thinks that StickyPop can be a tool that sparks interest. “If you see the millennials, they’re in their SnapChats and in their own worlds and that takes them away from the game. That’s what I think we can combat. You give them this want to share and connect, but make it strictly based on the location.”
Before the next baseball season, StickyPop will continue to roll out to special events such as festivals and concerts, stadiums, and other venues. Once the new season arrives, Walker sees StickyPop becoming a go-to social-media option at the ballpark. “We’re gonna push this thing as hard as possible.”