Washington Capitals App Shows That Great Content Is Key To Success

Author: @RickOlivieri





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Introduction

The Washington Capitals (@washcaps) are a National Hockey League (@NHL) team based in Washington, D.C. The club is part of Monumental Sports and Entertainment (@MSE), which also owns the Washington Wizards {@NBA}, Washington Mystics {@WNBA}, and a recently announced indoor Arena Football League {@AFL} team. The MSE teams play at the Verizon Center (@verizoncenterpr), a 20,000-seat multi-purpose sports and events arena in downtown Washington, D.C.

Monumental Sports founder and CEO Ted Leonsis was a senior executive in the early days of American Online and according to the club website has “personally made investments and owned equity in numerous companies, including Google, AOL, Revolution Money, AddThis, Preview Travel (Travelocity), GridPoint, Inside.com (formerly Mahalo), MobilePosse, ObjectVideo, SB Nation, Zedge, Triporati, Personal, I-Village, Proxicom, Cricket Media (formerly ePals), SnagFilms, MediaBank, Two Harbors, Videology, Algentis, Social Radar and Forbes’ Travel Guide.”

Given that many of those companies are enterprising leaders in the internet and tech spaces, it should come as no surprise that his sports teams operate the same way.

Both on and off the ice, the Washington Capitals have been a huge success over the past several seasons. Home games are regularly sold out and star player Alex Ovechkin’s number #8 jersey is one of the league’s best sellers. During 2015-16, the team won the President’s Trophy for earning the most regular season points in the league, unfortunately coming up short of a championship with a second round exit in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Washington Capitals have always put a focus on the digital space and were among the first major professional sports teams to partner with well-known app maker @Yinzcam. In its current form, the Capitals’ app has a wide-range of functionalities, but also highlights some of the challenges of sports properties with multiple teams and venues. 

Fan Experience

Huge fans of the Washington Capitals that eagerly consume all of the team’s content must love the Capitals app. Quality content is clearly a big focus.

The “Media” tab highlights news, game photos, video interviews, and the “Capitals Report” given by Senior Editor Mike Vogel and Director of Radio Broadcasting, John Walton.  The app is also heavy on statistics, with information on the players, standings, and individual game trackers available at your fingertips.

      

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 If you’re a social media user, you can see posts from all of the team’s social accounts. It was very easy to follow them by linking through the app. You can also follow the Monumental Sports Network for news on all of the MSE teams.

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One of the coolest features is the ability to watch pregame warm-ups via the app. If you’re grabbing dinner or stuck in traffic on the way to a game, you can still follow what’s going on in the arena until game time. You can also see some great images from the game itself.  

              
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Outside of team content, the app also has links to purchase tickets online or call the ticket office, upgrade your seats, and use the Monumental Rewards program. The purchase ticket option directs fans to Ticketmaster, but it would be better to set up ticket inventory for buying directly on the app instead.The ability to upgrade your seats on game days is also great, but inventory can be limited with the team’s sold-out season ticket base.

 

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The Monumental Rewards program is a robust one, with fans earning points for attending Capitals, Wizards, and Mystics games, as well as participating in season-ticket member events and inputting codes shared during television broadcasts. Those points can be exchanged for rewards such as tickets, merchandise, and exclusive experiences.

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Stadium Impact

While the Capitals app is great for hard-core supporters interested in content and those who participate in the Monumental Rewards program, it is somewhat limited in terms of the stadium impact. The most useful game day aspect of the app is the ability for season-ticket members to log into their Ticketmaster online account to access their tickets for entry to the arena or forward tickets to a friend for them to use.

The “Fan Zone” section only gives fans the option to sign up for the team’s official email newsletter or find discounted parking near the arena through team partner Parking Panda. However, users must still download the Parking Panda app and create a separate registration to secure their space.


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 The Verizon Center has its own app, but game-day functionalities are limited there as well. The arena map and problem reporting functions are useful, but not something that have a huge impact on your experience. The “Metro/Parking” tab once again directs you to download the Parking Panda app. You can also see an event calendar for the venue, check-in on Foursquare, view an FAQ, read a history of the venue, and get directions. There’s not a huge incentive to download the Verizon Center app just for these functions.

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 The Capitals did announce a partnership with FanPics. Fans attending games can plug their seat location into the FanPics app and see pictures of themselves during candid moments in the game such as goals, penalty calls, saves by the goalie, and starts of each game period. However, it requires that fans download the separate FanPics app. The pictures are fun and we love the technology, but would prefer to see it embedded in the team app without requiring another app download.


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 Missing in the Capitals app are functionalities such as ordering food for delivery to your seats and checking the status of concession and restroom lines. Part of the reason is that the limited WiFi network makes it difficult for the team to offer consistent service with those types of functionalities. It should be noted that this is a common issue for many professional sports teams.

According to Capitals Vice President of Marketing Mike Hutchinson, “The arena does have public WiFi with a login behind an authentication screen via Facebook/Twitter or create an account, but connectivity is still an issue as in most facilities. Things like delivering instant replays or live action is always a challenge with the infrastructure in older buildings.”

Hutchinson says that future plans for the app include “more native integrations for things providing utility in the arena, parking, and interactive concourse maps, as well as VR capabilities. The last two seasons we’ve done more with Bluetooth beacons.”

That said, I attended several games at the Verizon Center this past season and never received an iBeacon offer or prompt of any kind. WiFi connectivity was also spotty and slow.

Digital Sponsorship Initiatives

As great as the Capitals app is for content, it is lacking in sponsorship initiatives. The only mention of a sponsor that could be found was the partnership with Parking Panda. Game recaps didn’t list sponsors found in the arena such as that for the “Three Stars of the Game” or other in-game promotions. The Monumental Rewards program includes offers from partners, but none were mentioned directly in the Capitals team app.

The club’s website listed a partnership announcement for an “Instant Win” game with Subway restaurants, but it required fans to download the Subway app with no integration in the MSE app. Once again, a separate app download.

With a tech-savvy owner and fan base in D.C., it seems like there is a missed opportunity to integrate corporate partners.

Conclusion

If you’re a Capitals fan and love following all the latest team news, you’ve probably downloaded the app already. If not- what are you waiting for?!?

While there is a ton of great multimedia content on the app, it highlights some of the challenge teams face with app fatigue becoming a big issue. A fan would need to download the Capitals, Verizon Center, Parking Panda, and FanPics apps to really take advantage of everything. Only truly hard-core fans are likely to do so.

According to Hutchinson, the team is working on this and “hoping to bring experiential programs into the app- such as Ticketmaster, experience upgrades, Fanpics, and parking. The upgrade function is a web view, but we want to bring it within the app.”

There is also the question of whether or not the team would be better off with one app for all of the Monumental Sports teams and arena combined. That question can be answered by deciding if the purpose of the app is to improve the venue experience for fans or target those who consume content exclusive to each specific team. It seems like the answer for now is to continue with separate apps, as Hutchinson says the “Capitals app provides a lot of utilities for fans, and notifications with breaking news are huge. Radio/Stats/Push Notifications and score updates are the benefit of a dedicated app.”

While we would highly recommend the Capitals app for team news and information, there is unrealized potential to really impact the match day experience and generate sponsorship revenue with in-app activations.

  

*Disclaimer*

The author, Rick Olivieri, previously worked for the Washington Capitals and Monumental Sports from 2007 to 2014.

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