Sports

This company uses cameras to track fans’ attention at NFL games

CrowdIQ is pitching its tech to teams interested in determining sponsorship value.
article cover

Hannah Minn

· 4 min read

Eyes are everywhere, but do they see the ads all around them?

A company called CrowdIQ is trying to help marketers figure that out. It’s working with professional sports franchises like the Detroit Lions, the Minnesota Vikings, and the Tampa Bay Lightning to install cameras that can track spectators with an assist from AI, all in the name of ROI.

It joins a crowded field (sorry!) of companies that are using AI to help measure sports sponsorships, like jersey patches or on-court display ads. But unlike companies that evaluate sports sponsorships seen on television or across social media, CrowdIQ seeks to measure sponsor activations taking place inside the venue—predominately on the scoreboard—and says it can determine if anyone is paying attention to them.

Teams can use CrowdIQ’s data to give sponsors in-venue metrics that include things like an estimate of the crowd’s demographics and what they looked at during the game.

“Sponsors have money, they want to spend it, they want to work with you guys, but they need data in order to make these decisions,” CrowdIQ’s chief revenue officer Rachel Goodger told Marketing Brew. “Our long-term goal would be to be the Nielsen of in-venue.”

A picture is worth a thousand words data points

CrowdIQ sprouted from a business called FanCam, which takes 360˚ photos—something that it calls “the ultimate crowd selfie”—at events like Justin Bieber concerts or the NBA Finals that people can share. Its clients, which have included T-Mobile, Nascar, and AT&T, usually pay between $15,000 and $20,000 per individual event, according to Goodger, who is also FanCam’s chief revenue officer.

The FanCam technology inspired the idea of CrowdIQ, which was born in 2020.“We kept staring at these photos of crowds and were like, ‘Okay, can we actually do something with this?’” she said.

CrowdIQ essentially turns FanCam into a measurement solution. Sort of. The company sets up two to three cameras in different parts of a venue, with two snapping photos of the crowd every 15 minutes or so. A third camera, designed for “attention tracking,” takes a photo “every other second,” Goodger said. Then, machine learning scans the frames and spits out insights on fan demographics and behavior.

CrowdIQ says it can provide:

  • The gender breakdown and approximate age of the crowd.
  • What they’re wearing, which might indicate which team they’re rooting for
  • The behavior of fans, like which ones are likely to arrive on time, get up during game breaks, or leave early.
Get marketing news you'll actually want to read

The email newsletter guaranteed to bring you the latest stories shaping the marketing and advertising world, like only the Brew can.

If cameras are focused on a specific section, Goodger said the company can track attention “about every other second,” gauging where someone is looking, whether at the game, down at their phone, or up at the scoreboard.

“You’re paying a lot of money for in-venue activations. Are fans actually paying attention to it?” Goodger said.

Outside of providing metrics to sponsors, teams have also used the data to make changes internally. For instance, the St. Louis Cardinals changed the time of their first pitch based on data collected by CrowdIQ “to maximize more people seeing more of the game,” according to Sports Business Journal.

As of today, CrowdIQ is working with all five major leagues, with the most growth in the NFL. NFL teams pay between $50,000 and $100,000 per contract. Goodger said CrowdIQ prefers three-year deals since it covers the installation of the cameras.

If it all feels a bit Orwellian, Goodger said user privacy is a “massive concern” and that the tech can’t “tell you who anybody in the crowd is.” The company also dedicates a page on its website to privacy, saying it uses “facial analysis, not recognition,” something Goodger emphasized as well.

“Inexhaustible”

Interest in attention metrics is growing as companies like Adelaide and TVision pitch themselves as alternatives to traditional media metrics. Last year, Dentsu’s chief investment officer said the company had started incorporating attention metrics into media buys.

CrowdIQ, like others, is also benefiting from two other marketing forces, Ron Li, SVP of client strategy at sports sponsorship consulting firm Navigate, told Marketing Brew.

The first is performance marketing, which traditionally commands an ROI on every dollar spent, seeping into non-digital activations. The second is that new sponsorship opportunities are seemingly“inexhaustible” in sports, he said, which conjures images of Nascar’s billboards-on-wheels. Just look at the NBA—jersey sponsorships rolled out in 2017, followed by virtual on-court ads in 2020.

“As there’s more advertising inventory available, you’ve got to imagine that the rigor by which brand marketers are going to want to measure those investments is going to go up as well,” Li said.

Get marketing news you'll actually want to read

The email newsletter guaranteed to bring you the latest stories shaping the marketing and advertising world, like only the Brew can.