San Jose Earthquakes Leverage Video Conferencing Technology to Connect Team Members, Staff, and Fans
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Sports deliver more than just action to fans, they symbolize so much for the community and culture. Being a fan offers a deep feeling of belonging and devotion, so when the sports season comes to an abrupt halt, fans are impacted along with the players. The MLS (Major League Soccer) season was just underway when the pandemic struck the U.S, hitting pause on just about everything. With sports’ culture being dependent on in-person interaction, how would the league and MLS fans weather COVID-19? Would video conferencing technology bring a solution?
Technology has been integral to staying connected. We’re excited to share the story of our client, the San Jose Earthquakes, an original MLS team, and the winner of two cup titles. Possibly influenced by their position in the heart of Silicon Valley, the San Jose Earthquakes management always operates with speed and innovation to deliver the very best fan experience. Jessica Smith, Vice President of Sponsorships, provided an overview of how they leveraged technology to do just that.
“Once it was apparent that quarantines would be necessary, the staff pulled together to find out how to navigate this new reality.” Ms. Smith shared, “Our Chief Operating Officer pulled us together, and at that moment we were humans first, not employees. The focus was on health and safety, which meant moving to remote work.”
Not only was the staff sent home, but all the players were as well, not knowing what MLS would do for the remaining season. To get staff back into the groove and adjust to the change, the San Jose Earthquakes relied on AnyMeeting. “Thankfully, we had Intermedia by our side through this. Every day was different, and we had AnyMeeting calls each morning. We were checking in, talking about what we were hearing, and planning ahead. We were also able to see each other, which meant a lot,” Ms. Smith said.
The organization had the tools in place to facilitate remote work so it wasn’t a complicated transition. “We had the technology we needed. We just began to utilize it to continue being productive,” Ms. Smith added.
While employees continued to work well from home, there were new thoughts about fan engagement, as well, since its core to sports. “Social media is huge for us. There are very few things people wake up to and care about every morning. Your sports team is one of them,” Ms. Smith commented.
Season ticket holders typically have opportunities to interact with players during the season. The Quakes call these in-person meetings ‘Devotion Days’ and they design the fan experiences to include autographs, pictures, and other one of a kind memories. In-person Devotion Days were no longer possible during the pandemic, so the Earthquakes improvised.
“We used AnyMeeting to move these fan experiences virtual. We held about 20 of them in small groups, 10 to 20 season ticket holders. It was a great way to bring some normalcy back to the fans and still be able to create some lifetime memories,” Ms. Smith said.
The MLS league adapted to the environment and found a way for the team to get back on the field again. MLS decided to create a tournament for all 20 teams in Orlando, which began July 8. The “MLS Is Back” Tournament would usher in a new era in sports—one without live fans. It also meant that players had to be in a bubble for their safety, leaving family and friends back in California. Ms. Smith praised the foresight and planning of the league to make something like this happen fast but with health protocols top of mind.
To stay connected, the Earthquake staff again used AnyMeeting video conferencing. Ms. Smith said, “We appreciated how the team was willing to be away from their family and environment to bring happiness to the fans. To give them a reminder of home, we used AnyMeeting to record messages from family and friends.”
During such a unique time, Ms. Smith offered these words of advice, “Every single business has shifted, so we’re all on common ground to find solutions together. The most important thing has been adaptation. You have to be ready to adapt at any point, but in a well-informed manner. Open communication and dialogue with the entire ecosystem have been key, as we have honest discussions about being our best selves.”
Watch the complete interview with Ms. Smith to learn about how the San Jose Earthquakes and Major League Soccer, in general, kept their eye on the ball, during dramatic change, to keep the sport running and the fans engaged.