MarTech Interview with Courtney Jeffries, CEO at Virtual Tables

Courtney Jeffries, CEO at Virtual Tables discusses the evolution and benefits of fan engagement platforms in this short chat with MarTechSeries:

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Welcome to this MarTech Series chat, Courtney, tell us about yourself and more about Virtual Tables…

Big thanks to you for having me – I’m excited to contribute to the MarTech community.

Virtual Tables is the virtual venue of fandom. When we think about fan engagement in sports, we want to find a way to close the gap between the amount of attention given to fans in-building versus the global fanbase.

We strongly believe that if brands, leagues, teams, and even individual athletes had the right fan engagement tools readily available, there would be a great deal more opportunity for higher revenue, data collection, and increased brand loyalty opportunities. This includes delivering all in-person experiences to the global fan, such as a live autograph meet-and-greet.

I’m a recovering sports executive turned tech startup CEO, so Virtual Tables is a direct extension of my 15+ years experience in fan engagement strategy and best practices application. Over the course of my career, I worked with brands like the Oakland Raiders, Pac-12 Conference, and Madison Square Garden.

This opportunity to bring my experience to a technology company and improve fan engagement in a meaningful way has been such an exciting journey.

How are fan engagement platforms evolving today and how is the demand for this technology shaping up to look like?

There’s a concept of “the fluid fan” by the Sports Innovation Lab (www.sportsilab.com) that describes a progressing phenomenon where fans identify themselves on a spectrum of intensity related to their particular affiliation to brands, teams, and players. Examples include fans who no longer identify with the team of “their hometown” because they moved away and started following the team where they now work, or fans who love a particular athlete because of their off-court social justice platform and choose to support whatever team that athlete plays for.

These examples, amongst others, prove that when the focus is shifted to an individual athlete, it puts the teams, organizations, and overall brand at risk. Why? Because the attention is no longer on the team, building/stadium/arena, or even the sport.

There is an overwhelming need for fan engagement platforms to bring the “team community feeling” back to the forefront and re-associate fandom with the overall brand and organization. If this isn’t prioritized, they run the risk of fostering an enormous variable in fan affiliation.

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For sports organizations globally, there is a greater need to tap into digital audiences, can you share a few examples of how leading sports events have done this so far (with what tools) and how others can learn from this?

We should first talk about how we’re defining “digital audiences.” A digital audience can include:

  1. Remote fan streaming a game at home
  2. In-venue fan “second screening” during a game
  3. In-market fan following a team during the off-season on social media

The “digital audience” spectrum allows for a significant amount of creativity when creating engagement experiences. Activations like social media filters, personality/choose-your-own adventure quizzes, and prediction games are an excellent approach because they start by engaging the entire spectrum of the “digital audience.”

In addition to the activation itself, it’s critical to execute with purpose and ensure the teams and fans are getting the most out of it.

Instead of checking a “best practice” box for the sake of checking a box, teams and brands should have clear objectives and goals for an activation as part of the planning process.

Important data collection is available, but is it data you don’t already have? Or is it data that you can apply within your current campaign and strategy? Are you driving conversions or other CTAs for revenue or units sold, such as ticket, merch or food and beverage sales? What marketing metrics are you trying to achieve? Is this a sustainable campaign or a one-time stunt?

The sports industry is exceptional at establishing and sharing best practices, especially through the lens of fan engagement, but I would challenge teams to examine their platforms and determine if and how the full activation (objective, ideation, execution) fits within their business strategy.

How do you feel fan engagement platforms will evolve in future to reshape the digital viewing market for sports?

One of the unfortunate shortcomings of existing digital platforms for the global or remote fanbase is that they function with one-way communication. For example, streaming services, social media, and merchandise and promotions all broadcast, talk, and offer AT fans, instead of WITH them.

This incredible lack of two-way engagement opportunities creates a clear split in the fanbase: in-person vs remote.

We can expect to see brands engaging in platforms and solutions that will enable a higher level immersive experience for the global fan base. This will be additive and complementary to what they provide in-person or in-venue.

Effective platforms should be able to deliver engagements and experiences beyond one-dimensional CTAs to the fan base in its entirety.

What do you feel about the future of the B2B martech industry?

I have an incredibly positive outlook on the future of the B2B martech industry. There are so many innovative solutions, vendors, and partners who are more than willing to work together to reach one overarching goal: to elevate existing industry standards for fan engagement.

Particularly in the fan engagement realm, I believe organizations are just starting to scratch the surface on what’s possible in the digital era. Taking what we’ve learned from tradition in the industry and applying these collaborative technologies to create the future of what it means to be a global fan is what I’m most excited about.

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Virtual Tables is the virtual venue of fandom. The organization exists to ensure that all in-person fan engagement experiences are available to global and remote fanbases in a fully branded and multi-functional digital environment.

Brands, teams, organizations, and independent celebrities are now able to engage their entire fanbase with activations to generate greater revenues, capture data and grow their base, and develop stronger brand loyalty. Virtual Tables provides clients with a virtual venue and all tools and resources to execute fan experiences including pre-assembled events.

Courtney Jeffries is the CEO at Virtual Tables, where she is responsible for running all facets of the business, including ensuring that Virtual Tables’ offerings continue to evolve in tandem with the virtual solutions industry. A highly respected multi-industry veteran with over 16 years of experience, Courtney was the COO of Satisfi Labs prior to her current role, where she oversaw all daily operations of the company in addition to maximizing profitability and ensuring consistent processes for rapid growth and scalability.

During her time at Satisfi Labs, Courtney ran all Entertainment and Tourism revenue efforts as SVP of Sales (2017-2019). From 2013-2017 Courtney served as VP of Business Operations for the New York Rangers and VP of Retention for the Knicks, Rangers, and Liberty at Madison Square Garden. Before moving to New York, Courtney was the Director of Ticket Operations with the (formerly) Oakland Raiders (2005-2012) and the Pac-12 Conference (2012-2013).

Courtney has been a guest lecturer at Columbia University and University of San Francisco Sport Management programs. She holds a Master’s Degree in Sport Management from USF, graduating first in her class, and an undergraduate degree from the University of Washington. She is a member of the Business of Diversity in Sports and Entertainment (BDSE) committee for the National Sports Forum and an Advisory Board Member for Minorities in Sports.

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