Sports organizations are building new, state-of-the art facilities and renovating existing ones, adding high-end AV systems to stay competitive. AV technology draws crowds, boosts ticket sales, and entertains fans in and out of their seats. The need to create a lasting impression that goes beyond just watching the game has meant a surge of install opportunities for integrators. However, the complexity and size of those opportunities presents several distinct challenges that must be overcome. In light of considerations like end-user roles and needs, manufacturer expertise and installation logistics, integrators must get in on the ground floor to ensure project success.
A winning strategy starts at the bid-spec stage. Working with the sports organization, consultants will either write a detailed spec for a bid that integrators must follow to the letter or one that leaves room for interpretation. In the event of the latter, integrators can put their own touch on the project and create a request for proposal (RFP) with distinctive value engineering. This is the point early in the game when integrators should identify and partner with manufacturers that have experience in the sports market. Such manufacturers can serve as both expert advisers and great team players. Integrators can lean on them to help determine what the sports organization truly requires, to decide upon the best and most cost-efficient ways to accomplish AV goals, and to draft a proposal that will increase their chance of winning the project.
Once an integrator has won the bid, the next critical step is to identify all the stakeholders and bring them in for further needs evaluation. This is a complex job because there can be any number of individuals involved who will use and manage the AV systems. The list starts with facility operators, game-day operations staff and athletic staff, but other departments include marketing, IT, food services, security and broadcast production. Those users are not always directly involved in the bid spec, but they’re vital nonetheless. Experienced manufacturers will know the key participants, and they can pull in other stakeholders, such as additional integrators on the project, to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Manufacturers can educate users and stakeholders on what features they have access to and their benefits, as well as unearthing other tools they might require. An IPTV-based digital-signage project is a good example. In this application, the marketing department is one of the system’s power users. Because it’s responsible for selling advertising, the department must learn how to build, distribute and track assets to be successful in its role. In the scramble to open the doors of the facility, however, involving and training marketing might be overlooked. The unintended result would be content being pushed to the screens at the eleventh hour. In retrospect, a manufacturer that is aware of this potential risk, and that is involved from the start, could rewrite this all-too-familiar story.
“Get in early” is a well-known phrase in the integration community, but it has many implications. For example, a customer might decide to add videowalls after construction is completed. By then, they are much costlier and more time-consuming to install. Integrators must go back to the architectural drawings not only to determine where to install the displays and the processor but also to spot any hurdles, such as having to drill through thick concrete walls or being required to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards for screens in a fan-facing area.
Most importantly, the longer a customer waits to make critical technology decisions, the greater the chance that the budget will have been exhausted on less-noticeable assets, such as a carpet upgrade. When budgets are exhausted, there is no money for technology to add a wow! factor and delight the audience. When integrators bring in technology partners early on, however, detailed conversations can happen sooner; as such, there won’t be a need for last-minute additions when the budget is spent, or when making additions would cause delays.
Manufacturers are teed up to work hand-in-hand with AV integrators from the beginning. Irrespective of whether the integrator has a national presence or is a preferred local vendor, manufacturers value those relationships and have a lot riding on joint ventures. If a system goes down or doesn’t work as expected, manufacturers are often the customer’s first point of contact. For that reason, they want to ensure they’ve done everything they can to mitigate any potential problems for the integrator and finish the project with a satisfied customer. The sooner these technology partners begin collaborating, the stronger the team and the more successful the installation will be.