New York Jets president Neil Glat chats digital ticketing, social influencers, VR
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: Neil Glat
Company: New York Jets
Neil Glat is in his fifth season as president of the New York Jets where he oversees all elements of business operations, including finance, stadium, marketing, sponsorship, legal, human resources, digital media and other areas. Before the Jets, Glad was the senior vice president of corporate development with the NFL. He was responsible for league strategic initiatives, new business development, club business development and stadium development.
During his career, Glat has worked as a management consultant at McKinsey and Company and as an investment banker at Dillon, Read & Co. Inc. A graduate of Harvard Law School and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Glat is a two-time recipient of Sports Business Journal’s annual ‘Forty Under 40’ award.
1) What utilization of technology in sports has recently blown you away and why?
We are very excited about what is going on in virtual reality and digital ticketing. We believe strongly in both and have robust initiatives for each. Through our partnership with STRIVR Labs, our football operations staff uses the technology for player development and on the fan engagement side we have utilized it to enhance our game day experience. Specifically, through our VR Lounge, we have created an immersion zone that has enabled our fans to experience such things as running out of the tunnel with the team, standing in the center of the locker room and witnessing up-close, in-game action. It has become one of the most popular pre-game destinations, consistently serving hundreds of fans every Sunday.
Our digital ticketing solution platform — Jets Rewards — is just completing its third full season. We’ve partnered with Fortress GB to create an exclusive program for our season ticket holders enabling them to manage their account online or via our Jets app. Additionally, it affords them ease of access to the game through a dedicated line and scanner, which has improved entry times by 10 percent. It also provides season ticket holders the opportunity to load cash on their Rewards cards to purchase food and beverage as well as merchandise at the game. Currently, it is the largest stored value deployment in the world. Lastly, you can earn points for activities such as simply attending games or team events that can be redeemed for exclusive VIP experience and memorabilia. It is an all-encompassing program that has really gained a high adoption rate and high marks with our season ticket base.
2) The Jets recently restructured its social/digital group and doubled down on its efforts around content. What is the franchise hoping to accomplish with the new structure and additional team members?
For us, the goal is two-fold: First, we want to be able to tell our story across each platform in a way that engages, entices and excites our fans. Second, we are looking to find ways to speak to people who are not currently New York Jets or football fans to bring them into our family. To do those things properly, we have made a concerted effort to expand our social media and content team, giving each the resources and bandwidth to execute at the right level. The strategic additions (which include tripling the social media team and hiring a full-time team photographer) have led to more creative executions, enabled us to leverage access around the team, and ultimately produce more content that can be distributed across our social and digital assets.
Our fans have a voracious appetite for everything New York Jets and want to know what our players (and coaches) experience on the road, before games and during a typical week. To speak to folks who may not currently be New York Jets or football fans, or follow our social media platforms, we created a Social Media Influencer program. Through that initiative, we hosted over two dozen influencers over two home games this season introducing them to the NFL game experience. We hosted influencers from the worlds of travel, music, media, food and parenting. They had food tastings, stood on the sidelines during warm-ups and were in the tunnel with the players just before they hit the field for introductions. Throughout the day, we encouraged them to post on their favorite platforms which included Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest. It resulted in engagement numbers that reached into the millions and was so successful that we will continue the program next season.
3) If you had to invest in one technology that would enhance sports fans’ experiences at games, what would it be and why?
Improving the fan experience is always at the forefront of our agenda. We understand the importance of being tech-forward, and our objective is to bridge the excitement and energy of the in-stadium experience with the convenience of at-home experience. Ultimately, helping to establish a seamless and streamlined transportation and communication experience from the house to the seat would be the goal. Autonomous dedicated cars to ease the way fans get to the stadium, to people movers at the stadium to get them around easily and efficiently, are potential investments that are interesting. These are bold, fun and entertaining possibilities with impacts far beyond the sports experience.
Similarly, we’re striving to enhance our in-stadium digital innovations to provide a more complete viewing experience for attending fans. Improved connectivity through next-gen Wi-Fi, live scoring, fantasy updates and interactive replays are just a handful of initiatives we can continue to develop to entertain fans while attending games. Lastly, looking towards technology on the horizon, we plan to focus on augmented reality and ways it can be incorporated.
4) If money were no object, what technology would you build or buy to help you do your job better?
I would look to create zones throughout the stadium (including the parking lot) that provide a fully immersive experience that can be driven to a smartphone via our Jets app, video walls and other consumer devices to create a significantly expanded entertainment event. This would include virtual and augmented reality, data and statistics notifications and other new applications to create a one-stop shop funnel for information and exploration.
5) If you had to project 20 years into the future, how will most fans watch their favorite sports teams?
Ideally, 20 years from now fans will be able to freely choose their viewing experience. Whether it’d be by immersing yourself in augmented reality, watching an NFL pre-game show from the comforts of a fully-automated car while on the way to the game or using unique in-stadium technology (such as pointing your smartphone directly at a sideline to display a team’s statistics), fans will likely have an array of tools at their disposal. There is certainly going to be more advances in technology over time, but it doesn’t change the fact that the best way to watch the game is live. It is something that cannot be duplicated in terms of fan excitement.
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?
Virtual reality will remain a key initiative in the coming months. It will continue to enhance player training and provide useful analytics while also serving as an extension of the fan experience. Ultimately, our fans will be able to immerse themselves in a 360-degree video setting, allowing them to be closer to the field of play than ever before.