Apr 29, 2022 - Technology
Column / Signal Boost

Cloud data is why the Warriors know so much about their fans

A picture of the Warriors Fan Cam app running on a smartphone with Chase Center in the background

Photo: Ina Fried/Axios

Part of the Golden State Warriors' success on the court comes from how well the team knows its opponents. The team is taking a similar approach to understanding its fans.

Between the lines: Google Cloud powers a massive data warehouse that gives the NBA team precise knowledge of the musical and culinary tastes of its fans, among other insights. (The cloud service is also a team sponsor.)

How it works: The Warriors are getting tons of data on fans, particularly through a Chase Center app that allows users to order food, find their way through the arena and play interactive games, along with other features.

  • The Warriors ask fans to share what types of food and music they like and then use that information to create highly targeted offers. For example, as tickets for Lizzo's Chase Center concert go on sale Friday, the team can push a notification to all the app users who listed "hip-hop" among their preferred music genres.
  • The team also gets a lot of data from where customers actually spend their money, which offers additional cues for tailoring the mobile-app experience. Fans, meanwhile, can see menus and even order food from their phones, avoiding long lines during the game.

Yes, but: That's obviously a lot of data to put in the hands of any business, even if it is the one that owns the NBA team you root for.

  • The Warriors stress that the data is shared on an opt-in basis, with options to use the app in guest mode without sharing personal details.

The big picture: It costs billions to build new arenas and field competitive pro teams. Technology can help make those investments pay off.

  • The Warriors announced the Google Cloud deal in February 2019 and set out to build their BigQuery-based data warehouse to have it and the mobile app ready by the time the arena opened its doors in September.

Behind the scenes: Daniel Brusilovsky, the Warriors' vice president of technology, said the team aims to keep the technology tucked out of the way, but walking through the arena before Wednesday's decisive playoff game, he pointed out the gear that makes the fan experience possible.

  • The stadium is filled with hundreds of beacons, allowing for precise indoor location and navigation.
  • Cellular and WiFi gear throughout the arena and in every other row of seats ensures people have the connectivity they need to post lots of selfies and, of course, buy lots of food and merchandise.

Zoom out: Other teams are also applying analytics to help on the business side, of course. But the Warriors' new system puts it on the leading edge, for now.

  • The Warriors' prior home, Oracle Arena in Oakland, was one of the oldest stadiums in the league, and the NBA team was a tenant rather than an owner of the facility.
  • "When we moved to Chase Center, it gave us an opportunity to rethink our technology and really start from scratch," Brusilovsky told Axios.

Of note: COVID also forced the team to adjust on the fly and accelerated some efforts, particularly around mobile ticketing and the use of QR codes.

  • When Chase Center opened in the fall of 2019, season ticket holders had the choice of paper tickets or storing the information on their phone. Even then about two-thirds opted to go mobile.
  • After COVID hit, the Warriors shifted exclusively to mobile ticketing and added contactless payments throughout the arena.

QR codes were around long before COVID, but they only really became mainstream as restaurants used them to replace physical menus.

  • The Warriors now use the codes for a variety of experiences, including a fan cam feature that uses fans' smartphones to take short videos that can then be displayed on the arena's giant scoreboard.

What's next: The Warriors already use Google Cloud to fill the arena's many displays with game information, including dedicated screens showing each team's shot selection and success.

  • The potential arrival of legalized sports betting in coming years could offer another way for the team to tap the power of all those stats.
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