In the fall, the movie “Real Steel” gave us a little peak into the use of tablet technology in sport. The trainers, one played by Hugh Jackman, used tablets to control their boxing robots instead of putting humans in the ring. It was significant in the face that the tablets used were not Ipads, they were secondary brand tablets (HP) that portrayed what brands may be dominant in the space in the future.
Now while the NFL, at least on the field, and MLB (nowhere near the dugout where technology is still band and traditional phones are used) in the clubhouse are getting a stronger grip on the use of tablet technology, the NBA appears to be using tabs as the next step to tie branding and game operations together. The Phoenix Suns have paired with Samsung and Verizon Wireless to provide the players, scouts and coaches with Samsung Galaxy 10.1 Tab tablets and Verizon 4G wireless service. The team plans to use them for a wide variety of tasks including in-game play calling by head coach Alvin Gentry. It is the second “first” for the Suns in the digital divide this season, as they try to find a niche to generate buzz and ancillary dollars to fill the gap left by a team on the rebuild (Phoenix added a fulltime social media manager to their staff earlier this year, with several teams following suit).
Now while the use of tablet technology in games is going to be spotty at first…not every arena has full wireless technology and the apps needed to bring real time video and stats feeds directly to the bench are still pretty rudimentary and are in no way secure from piracy, the idea of being “first” to generate interest in two key sponsorship areas is very important for Phoenix. In short it shows that their brand is relevant and responsive to a new generation of what will come in game operations. Now maybe right now players will be roaming the hallways playing video games and watching highlights instead of getting up to date scouting reports, the future will be given to any player and coach in real time…highlights synched to data, which is what baseball has been trailblazing for the last 18 months. The infrastructure is not quite there yet, but the Suns are providing a smart peak to the future while staying relevant in the present by adopting aggressive partners in technology and lifting them to a solid brand position in the marketplace. A smart first step in Phoenix, one to be duped by many down the line.