The LA Dodgers are bucking the system in order to expand their baseball team’s net worth. Baseball teams usually stick to what they know best — baseball — but the LA Dodgers recently decided to invest in multiple LA-based tech startups. The move is completely unprecedented, as the LA baseball team is the first ever sports organization to wander out of its athletics niche and into the tech field.
Stan Kasten, LA Dodgers CEO, recently talked about the team’s reasoning behind the unorthodox investment in an interview with CNBC.
“We thought we had an opportunity here to get beyond just the business we have of playing baseball… because our brand expands so far throughout the world.”
It is more than likely that the LA Dodgers also wanted to invest for monetary reasons. In other words, they wanted to invest early so that if any of the 10 business startups they chose end up becoming a booming business, the Dodgers will get a percentage of the profits. Although the Dodgers already have a higher payroll than any other team in baseball, they can use that money to fund their organization by having Dodger Stadium renovated or acquiring a big-name slugger.
The mutually beneficial business relationship between the LA Dodgers baseball team and their selected business startups goes much deeper than simple angel investment, though. Dodger Stadium itself will actually take on the personalities of the startups by acting as a nightly testing ground for the products. And LA’s baseball stadium is a perfect place for the companies to conduct such experiments, Kasten pointed out.
“We’re a proven, ready-made laboratory. We have 47,000 people a night.”
Some of the business startups are completely unrelated to baseball and anything that goes on normally in the stadium, and that means their exclusive access to the huge test pool that is LA Dodger Stadium will only go as far as conducting surveys and holding events where they interact with the public – not an inconsiderable product testing opportunity, considering that the average attendance at Dodger Stadium during 2015 games, according to ESPN, was 46,479 people — the highest out of any stadium in baseball.
Some of the business startups the LA Dodgers are partnering with, though, are very applicable to the goings-on at the stadium. For this reason, Dodger Stadium-goers will be seeing major changes in the ballpark experience.
For example, one of the business startups, Swish Analytics, will provide real-time game predictions while the action is ongoing. The service is mainly meant for sports gamblers or fantasy team owners, but the predictions could easily make an appearance on the scoreboard of LA Dodgers games in the future.
Another example of one of the business startups that will greatly impact Dodger Stadium-goer experience is Appetize, a “mobile solution for handling sales transactions.” Before releasing the app into the wider world, though, the Appetize staff plan to use it at LA’s Dodger Stadium.
All of the startups will benefit greatly from the huge throngs of Dodgers baseball enthusiasts the stadium attracts every night, and that will be even more true during the coming week (or weeks?) as the LA Dodgers playoff games will assure the stadium is filled to capacity every night.
The Dodgers got the ball rolling, so to speak, in this tech startup partnership deal by getting together with business startup incubator R/GA last year. The LA baseball team are not the only ones to have done so, though. According to tech news source CIO, the Cleveland Cavaliers also talked to R/GA and chose some startups to take under their proverbial wing. Although the LA Dodgers startup program is much more developed than the Cavaliers’ at this point in time, Cavs fans will probably start to see the effects more during the coming NBA season.
Ben Shields, a lecturer in managerial communication at MIT, commented on why sports organizations are starting to look into tech startups.
“I firmly believe we’re in the era today where sports teams are media and technology companies at their core. Partnering with startups in accelerator programs or one-off arrangements provides teams with potentially valuable sources of innovation that they may not be able to develop internally.”
[Image via Stephen Dunn/Getty Images]