The Future of Fandom

While studying abroad in Sydney, Australia, I had the opportunity to work on a marketing campaign for the city’s professional soccer team, Sydney FC.  As part of my Consumer Centric Innovations class, groups of students were tasked with creating a strategy to increase fan engagement and attendance at games.  My knowledge of American tailgating traditions influenced my group’s decision to create a pre-game carnival experience to draw in new fans and better secure return fans. Thinking from an American football fan’s point of view, I expected every group’s focus to be on creating a pre-game experience.  I was very wrong.

Almost every other group in the class built their strategy around technologically-enhanced fan jerseys. Although this technology seemed futuristic and foreign to me, it was a concept that many of the Australians were already familiar with.  As I began to research more into this technology, it became apparent that there is one tech startup that has already begun to revolutionize the sports fan experience: Wearable X.  

Wearable Experiments (X): 

Wearable X was founded by Billie Whitehouse in Sydney, Australia in 2013.  Whitehouse designed Wearable X with the intention of “empower[ing] clothing with technology to do far more than it ever has for you before” (SiliconAngle). Wearable X utilizes hardware, software and apparel to create a wearable technology product that sends vibration signals to its users.  

The first line of Wearable X clothing was Fundawear, a vibrating underwear that corresponded with an app, allowing partners to send vibrations to each other through haptic technology. Fundawear partnered with Havas for a Durex campaign, which was wildly successful and inspired Whitehouse to create more lines of technologically enhanced clothing.  

Whitehouse’s next big development was Jersey X, a sports jersey that revolutionizes the way in which sports fans watch games.  Jersey X taps into the user’s sense of touch to bring them an enhanced game experience through the use of real time haptic vibrations.  Jersey X connects to the user’s smartphone to receive live game updates, which it then relays immediately to the fan through vibrations.  If a fan’s favorite team is about to kick a field goal to tie up the game, the user will be sent vibrations that correspond to an elevated heartbeat.  This allows the fan to experience every turn over, touchdown and interception from the perspective of a player in the comfort of the fan’s own home.  

Wearable X has already begun to expand beyond Australia to Europe with the EURO Fan shirt. Additionally, in 2016, Wearable X launched the Fan Jersey (X) for US football events. By partnering with major US companies, such as Bud Light, Wearable X promoted their brand at major sporting events such as Super Bowl 50.  

In 2015, Forbes compared Whitehouse’s innovation and branding characteristics to those of Steve Jobs.  Although Wearable X is only 6 years old, it has potential to grow into one of the tech giants of our future.  

Billie Whitehouse

What does this mean for other sports apparel companies?

While this haptic technology was once seemed futuristic, it is quickly becoming a disruptive innovation that aims to take over the sports apparel industry.  

US brands such as Nike have begun to incorporate technology into their jerseys through the use of NFC chips, which allow fans to access enhanced game content on their phones.  By tapping your smartphone to the chip in your jersey, you can watch the game live, review highlights, receive rewards or even listen to athlete’s Spotify playlists.  Although brands such as Nike are working to innovate their jerseys, it may not be enough to keep up with the Wearable X’s of our future.  

One of the companies that Tech Trek will visit this spring is Fanatics, an online retailer of sportswear, sports equipment and merchandise.  As I have been researching Fanatics for my presentation, I was unable to find evidence of any innovations or technological advancements within their apparel.  This seems extremely concerning for the future of the Fanatics brand, given the fact that athletic apparel and merchandise is moving in the direction of haptic technology.  After learning more about these innovations, I want to question the managers of Fanatics as to why they aren’t racing to incorporate similar technology into their own jerseys.  

I argue that the future of sports apparel and merchandise will be led by companies such as Wearable X, who were able to radically innovate to meet the rising technology demands of the modern world.  If they fail to innovate, companies such as Fanatics will be left behind as this industry is skyrocketed into higher levels of technology.


9 thoughts on “The Future of Fandom

  1. Great post! Wearable Experiments seems like a really interesting company. Wearable technology, especially in the form of clothing, seems pretty odd to me — but at the same time, reading about the company made me want to try one of their jerseys out for myself. Clothing that uses haptic technology to send vibrations to the wearer based on what is happening in a sporting event is certainly an interesting idea. For me, it is difficult for me to really see what this would add to the experience of watching a sports game. However, I think that I would have to try the technology out before making a judgement. It seems like Wearable Experiments is a smart company, as they have created multiple different types of clothing products (i.e. not only jerseys) that will allow them to expand the market for their technology.

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  2. Great post! Wearable Experiments jerseys seem like such a cool concept. After reading about them, I want to try one. It will be interesting to see if Wearable Experiments can enter the professional sports market in the US, since many of the professional leagues have contracts with name-brands like Nike.

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  3. Really interesting post, Jane! I know I love watching a good sports game, and I can only imagine how much one of these jerseys would heighten the experience overall. It will be interesting to see if these gain popularity in the US, as I know you mentioned that Wearable Experiments is now beginning to focus efforts towards fans of American football. That being said, I have to wonder how expensive these jerseys are, which I am sure will deeply affect their target demographic and general success. Super exciting stuff though, thank you for sharing!

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  4. Wearable technology has always been really interesting to me. I think an interesting note is how I think people respond differently to “technology that can be worn” versus “clothing that has technology”. Think Google glass vs Snapchat glasses and how they were marketed very differently. It seems like clothing that is fashionable first then has technology along with it seem to be the ones that perform better. The technology they are developing at Wearable Experiments seems really cool and interesting to follow!

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  5. Wow I didn’t realize that this wearable technology has been transferred to the sports industry, but I find it very interesting. I think one feature I would really appreciate would be the aspect that allows you to listen to the athlete’s Spotify playlist. I would really like to get in the right mindset by listening to their playlists. I agree Fanatics should make moves in this direction, but I don’t know that their business model depends on it. I don’t want wearable technology in all my clothes, and I think a lot of their apparel is strong without it. Great post!

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  6. I really want to like the idea of wearable technology but it seems like such a fad to me. While it might make the experience a little more interesting I can imagine it getting old pretty quickly. I’d like to learn more about what led Forbes to compare Whitehouse to Jobs. I know a lot of people doubted Jobs for a long time until suddenly his ideas were everywhere so I wonder if I just can’t see the long-lasting effect wearable tech can have. Then again I am not a really big sports fan either so I might just not be the target market. Regardless, it’s crazy that we can even make this kind of stuff. Thanks for the great read!

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    • I also though that the Steve Jobs comparison was very interesting. Forbes made this comparison because Steve Jobs was known for creating products that consumers did not realize they ever wanted or needed. Billie Whitehouse creates clothing lines to improve consumer lives in ways they had never imagined before experiencing her product. After trying these clothes, they can’t imagine life without them, which is a similar phenomenon to Apple products.


  7. Really interesting, especially for sports fans. With this technology though, I feel like it would only really be useful when someone is at a game. Since watching sports has become so mobile, one’s jersey starting to vibrate on a train ride, for example, would provide for a strange social experience. Might be something to think about even though you mention how this technology has had such a strong reception internationally.

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  8. Hi Jane! Interesting Post! I have never thought of this type of innovation before and it could definitely increase the viewing experience for sports fans. I searched the company and found out that they are currently developing a smart yoga apparel which could adjust yoga poses and give instant feedback with gentle vibration. And they also want to implement a progress tracking and personalized ‘yoga flow’ list into their product. I am so excited to see it in the market!

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