Minor League Baseball, the governing body for Major League Baseball’s farm teams, plans to develop a bilingual customer service platform that lets fans interact with teams by using Facebook Messenger. The service will rely on artificial intelligence (AI) technology to answer natural-language questions in English and Spanish about going to live games, per an announcement shared with Mobile Marketer.
The conversation platform is part of the league's broader multicultural initiative, “It’s Fun to Be a Fan” (“Es Divertido Ser Un Fan”), that’s aimed at Hispanic and Latino communities. The bilingual capability will let more than 30 teams connect with fans in the language of their choice, and to answer questions about game venue, ticketing, parking and teams.
The league collaborated with Satisfi Labs, an AI engagement platform, to create the bilingual chat service. They plan to roll out the league-wide fan engagement tool for the 2019 season.
Minor League Baseball is among the sports organizations that are utilizing technology to appeal to fans who rely on their mobile devices for entertainment, real-time information and payments. Unlike professional sports leagues that have teams in major cities with millions of people, MiLB has teams in a wider variety of geographic locations, including the Dominican Republic where Spanish is the national language. That diversity means that the league wants a conversation platform that can handle bilingual chats.
Minor league games are more accessible to many communities and also more affordable for families than the major leagues, whose prices for tickets, food and parking can quickly add up. Sports leagues are working to simplify the process of attending games while providing the amenities that a fan can get at home, David Wright, the MiLB’s chief marketing and commercial officer, told SportTechie. MiLB has a goal of boosting its game attendance to 50 million by 2026 from 41.8 million last year. MiLB’s 176 teams in 15 leagues saw average attendance per game grow 2.4% from 3,998 to 4,095 last year.
AI technology is being adapted in sports in several ways, including chatbots that respond to fan questions, computer vision, automated journalism and wearable tech, per TechEmergence. The Sacramento Kings basketball team in 2016 introduced a chatbot called KAI, which stands for “Kings Artificial Intelligence,” on Facebook Messenger to answer questions about franchise history, current team stats, roster and details about the stadium. The Associated Press boosted the number of MiLB teams it covers using AI technology from Automated Insights, whose platform translates hard data from MiLB into narratives that use natural language. AP increased its reporting capacity to cover 13 leagues and 142 MLB-affiliated teams.