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The following interview is part of our ongoing Expert Series that asks C-level professionals, team presidents, league executives, athletic directors and other sports influencers about their latest thoughts and insights on new technologies impacting the sports industry.
Name: Al Guido
Company: San Francisco 49ers
As President of the San Francisco 49ers, Al Guido oversees all key business initiatives for the team. Prior to being named president, Guido served as the team’s chief operating officer from 2014 to 2016. Under his direction, the construction and year-one operations of Levi’s Stadium exceeded all projections, including finishing under budget on construction and delivering $2.8 million to the City of Santa Clara general fund from non-event revenue in just the first eight months of operations.
Prior to being elevated to his former role as chief operating officer in 2014, Guido worked on behalf of the 49ers and the Santa Clara Stadium Authority as the senior vice president of global sales for Legends beginning in 2010. In that capacity, he led a suite and SBL sales initiative for Levi’s Stadium that achieved record-setting results by totaling more than $530 million. A native of Washington Township, NJ, Guido began his career in the sports and entertainment industry with Comcast-Spectacor, owner and operator of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers, NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, AHL’s Philadelphia Phantoms, Comcast SportsNet and the Wachovia Complex.
In 2016, Guido was named to the “Forty Under 40” list by both the Sports Business Journal and the San Francisco Business Times.
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1) What utilization of technology in sports has recently blown you away and why?
I have been really impressed with the Twitter streaming service for NFL Thursday Night games; the product has been phenomenal. The quality of the feed has been great, and I know they are continuing to improve the platform. It will be interesting to follow the distribution of NFL games in the near future. I believe all the content providers are doing a nice job creating and enhancing their digital streaming services.
2) If you had to invest in one technology that would change the professional sports or NFL landscape, what would it be and why?
Tough question — I am going to cheat and give you two answers. I would invest in any technology that continues to enhance the health, safety and performance of our players. On the business side, I think VR, AR and AI are all super interesting. I do not believe there will be material changes in venues over the next few years, but I do believe these technologies will soon change how we view sports.
3) If money were no object, what technology would you build or buy to help you do your job better?
Since I oversee the business of the 49ers, I will stick with a business answer. Technology helps us make a ton of decisions in our building (pricing, food and beverage, speed of service, wayfinding, etc.) but the one “low tech” thing we need to solve is parking and transportation. There is no one-way to solve this problem. We have to work with with all the relevant parties on highway and road infrastructure, public transit, transportation companies, etc. to make this a better experience for all fans.
4) As a sports fan, what sports-related service, app, product, etc., could you not live without and why?
Broadly speaking — my phone. More specifically, on game day I spend a lot of time, given the fact that I am in a stadium, checking in on other games and our operation via our VenueNext platform. On non-game day, I really enjoy the flexibility to tune into a game from wherever I am. As I mentioned before, I am excited to see how the landscape of NFL distribution evolves in the next few years.
5) If you had to project 20 years into the future, how will most fans watch their favorite sports teams?
Well, the easy mathematical answer is always going to be some form of broadcast distribution, whether that’s streaming on a mobile device, in front of your TV or in a sports bar. However, I am still a big believer in the in-stadium experience. There is nothing like going to a game. I am interested in how the stadium experience will change in the coming years. That could be size, technology, location, etc. I love the design element of venues and look forward to seeing what architects and teams come up with in the years to come.
6) Give us your bold prediction about a form of technology that will be integral to the NFL over the next 12 months and why?
This may not be a bold prediction, but I believe the league will continue to push technology on coaches, officials and players to improve the game. You already saw it this year during the preseason when coaches were able to use video vs. still shots on the sideline.