After years in the digital signage business, and I was asked to attend my first trade show – The National Sports Forum (NSF). NSF is the largest yearly gathering of the top team sports marketing, sales, promotions and event entertainment executives — from throughout the broad spectrum of teams and leagues.
Now, I’ve done my fair share of trade shows in the past. These are usually in great locations like Vegas, Orlando, Chicago, etc. As a matter of fact, the last one I attended was in South Beach in late October, and afterward, a couple of us made plans to stay and dive in the Keys.
Sounds fun right? Well my pre-show impression was not quite a favorable this time. Imagine winter in Minneapolis. That’s right, this Southern boy was going to spend Valentine’s Day in one of the top 10 places NOT to be in February! To add to the pain, at the same time my parents were at Epcot, my wife was in Pensacola, and my dive partner was in Belize. Unfortunately they all had phones with cameras, that they were not afraid to wear me out with!
The good news is, once I arrived in MN, it was pretty nice as the temperatures were in the 40s, which is unusually high for this time of year. Also, Minneapolis has an incredible Skyway walking system that is approximately 11 miles long and covers 69 city blocks. It was sunny, and the walkway made Minneapolis an excellent destination regardless of the temperature. The NSF event only made the week better.
If you’re a sports fan, NSF is a must attend event. To summarize, my NSF experience included three days that were filled with meeting key executives, attending panels, and listening to keynote speeches. One of my favorite sessions at the NSF was the – “Tech Tank.” Tech Tank is a showcase where innovative companies come together to present the latest and greatest to teams, sports companies, and agencies to a panel of judges. Tech Tank is divided into three sections: 1) Ticketing, 2) The Fan Experience, and 3) Corporate Partnership & Brand Activation. A winner is picked from each section by the judges.
Creative Realities was one of the presenters in “The Fan Experience” flight. CRI presented the concepts of Analytics which not only brought rave reviews but also many accolades from the judges. In conversations with the judges and NSF employees after the presentation, they were all blown away with how CRI has incorporated data and business rules, as they had no idea a Digital Menu Board system could do all the “thinking” that was demonstrated. It was very gratifying having the recognition for all the hard work and vision that has been placed into the product. CRI was declared the winner of The Fan Experience competition.
Another interesting event during NSF was “The Case Cup.” It is an annual competition where graduate students are asked to compete in a case study. This year’s topic was to generate higher awareness for the Esurance: MLB All-Star Game Ballot. The students worked 24 hours straight on this project and presented to a group of judges. Afterward, the students participated in the events of the conference, which really made sense and enriched their NSF experience. During the week, I met a number of sports professionals that are now working in the Sports Industry who are also alumni of “The Case Cup.”
Overall, I was very impressed with the NSF. I look forward to next year in Dallas to see the new Cowboys practice facility and to continue to grow my relationships with this segment of the Sports business. Though I won’t get much diving done in Central Texas, I’m sure CRI will have some exciting, new software features to enhance the complete line of Digital Signage and Digital Menu Board solutions. That might be a bit more exciting than a few, tired pictures of the beach or an ocean floor.