Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, in a downtown St. Petersburg event last night, spoke publicly for one of the first times about the team's partial ownership in a Seattle tech firm.
Vinik spoke on a panel with fellow Tampa sports team owners Stuart Sternberg of the Tampa Bay Rays and Bryan Glazer, co-chairman of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The event was held at the Poynter Institute in downtown St. Petersburg, a nonprofit journalism education facility that owns the Tampa Bay Times.
“We want our fans to be a part of the game day experience,” says Vinik. “We want to engage our fans, especially millenials.”
The engagement tool is Enthrall Sports. The company has a mobile app that allows fans to get user-generated content on the big screen above the action — Snapchat meets Jumbotron, reads a company tagline. Enthrall features include FanCap, which allows fans to post six-second videos that could be posted on the Jumbotron and LiveCap, which shares a live camera feed from a fan on the screen.
Enthrall's technology also includes facial recognition so the team can analyze and measure the engagement level and emotional response of the audience, according to a release last month from the Lightning. “We know we have one of the most passionate fan bases in the NHL,” Lightning CEO Steve Griggs says in the statement. “This technology enables us to tap into that passion and creativity on a nightly basis while enabling our fans to share their love for the team in a smart, fun and engaging way.”
Former Microsoft manager Alan McGinnis, who is friends with former Lighting CEO Tod Leiweke, founded Enthrall, according to tech industry blog GeekWire. Leiweke, who also ran the Seattle Seahawks and is now COO of the NFL, suggested McGinnis start a business that improves game-day experiences, according to GeekWire.
Vinik and Adrian Hanauer, owner of Major Soccer League's Seattle Sounders, are two of the early sports owner investors in Enthrall.
For more on the Poynter event, and what Vinik, Glazer and Sternberg have to say about a host of issues in running sports teams, check out the March 4 Business Observer.