Still, the rescheduled 2020 Olympics presented a new problem for the Penn Quarter event software company: with no one in the stands, there was no in-the-moment audience engagement to be found.
“They’re up there competing and when they win or don’t win, there’s not even a clap in the crowd [or] that emotional connection to this audience and the stage…” Costello told Technical.ly. “I don’t think a lot of people are talking about how that impacts the athletes on something that they’ve been preparing for for so long.”
In response, after being approached by a brand supporter, Event Farm created an app to help connect Olympic athletes to the outside world. The invite-only application (the name is being kept under wraps for privacy) was designed to help Olympians to connect with fellow competitors, coaches, family and prominent members of their community to help cheer them on. The iOS and Android native app used video and audio for coaching, nutrition, mindfulness and sleeping, plus chatrooms, podcasts and a content drop at 8 a.m. every morning, Tokyo time, during the event. Connected to a web interface backend from the brand, it even included tips on cooking in the Olympic Village and meditation guides to calm nerves.
“We’re trying to solve for, trying to find a way to engage athletes in an environment that is the biggest moment of their careers, and do it remotely through technology,” Costello said.
Due to non-disclosure agreements, Event Farm was unable to share the brands it was working with or the names of the athletes. But Costello said that in the span of the recently-completed Tokyo games, it saw tens of thousands of interactions on the app. Although there are similar capabilities in apps like Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin, Costello added that Event Farm wanted to create a specialized experience and build up the intense community aspect that can get lost in other social media apps. And community was crucial, he said, considering how unexpected it was for athletes to be alone at the Olympics.
When athletes started training five years ago, they were preparing to compete on the world stage, and in front of massive crowds. But with COVID-19 precautions in Tokyo, the events instead played out in front of mostly-empty stands, with family support broadcast via livestreamed watch parties from across the globe.
“If I get that to that competition and I win that medal, you know how that feels in front of that crowd…Instead, they’re going over there alone,” Costello said.
As of right now, the app is only available for Olympic athletes, with no intention to expand to other professional leagues like the MLB or WNBA. But there are plans in the works to get the app to be something the athletes can use all year round to engage with supporters. This version of the app was released in English, Costello said, but Event Farm hopes to have a localized version featuring multiple languages and local content as Event Farm continues to develop the technology.
“This is the glue,” Costello said. “…To have these athletes feel like they have the support of a community and they’re a part of something bigger.”-30-