South Africa-based company Fancam is one of the larger companies selling this technology. Its products are found in venues that host the Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Braves, New York Rangers and New England Patriots.
“We are taking a lot of pictures to help teams solve problems,” said Michael Proman, managing director of North America at Fancam. “Some of that is just being able to tell an accurate and credible narrative to their fans and business partners.”
Fancam’s pictures show that the stereotype of baseball having an older, homogenized crowd doesn’t hold true. “The reality is far from that,” he said. “Our ability to take super high-resolution images at every game throughout the season showed that their fans were actually 10 years younger, and [has] a very diverse fan base.”
This data can then be used to attract sponsors, and plan their ads accordingly.
It’s not just sponsors, though. Facial recognition is being used for security purposes by companies like NEC Technologies. They are able to see detailed images of every single fan walking into their stadiums, golf courses, etc.
“Sports leagues and teams gathering data on fan behaviors is nothing new,” said Lee Igel, a clinical associate professor at New York University’s Tisch Institute for Global Sport.
“What is new, as the Facebook scandal is forcing people to face, is the realization that there is a trade-off between getting the experiences we want and maintaining privacy,” he added.