For certain sports fans, it’s one of best times of the year, a weeks-long period of anticipation, anxiety and hope. That’s because after a long fall, and after enduring what winter has thrown at us so far, the big day is approaching — Major League Baseball pitchers and catchers report to spring training in less than a month.
Ha! Just kidding.
The big sports news for the new few weeks is professional (U.S.) football, of course, and that means big news for payments and commerce as the Feb. 3 Super Bowl approaches.
The big event promises to be voice-activated and voice-assisted — following trends in the larger world of payments and commerce, and the sharp rise of voice-assisted retail during the recently completed 2018 holiday shopping season. A Super Bowl commercial for Pringles, the venerable potato chip brand, reportedly will include “an emotional smart device and an iconic song. Each of the six-second teasers features a smart speaker, similar to an Amazon Echo or Google Home, with a voice tinged with a touch of melancholy humor.”
That makes sense. Smart speakers are pretty hot (and hyped) these days. Part of the recent popularity can probably be traced to last year’s Super Bowl, in fact. “To promote its Echo wireless speaker, Amazon revealed its ‘Alexa Loses Her Voice’ commercial four days ahead of the Super Bowl on Wednesday, Jan. 31,” Kantar Media said in a fresh analysis of Super Bowl advertising and marketing. “The full TV spot was made available online, along with a paid social campaign to help build buzz.”
The growing popularity of the device is leading to more product choices, and that is leading the Amazon Echo to lose its prominence as the dominant voice-activated speaker, but taking the top spot as the “let’s make every device” a connected and voice-activated device, with Alexa now appearing in 100,00 of them.
The denominator matters now when it comes to voice.
Meanwhile, the use of smart speakers is projected to continue to rise. In 2019, 74.2 million people will use the smart devices, which is an increase of 15 percent from 2018. By the end of 2019, more than a quarter (26.8 percent) will use a smart speaker once a month.
The NFL earlier this season jumped into the voice-assistant technology game, too. It launched “The Rookie’s Guide to the NFL,” an Alexa skill designed to educate casual and new fans about the game, provide information about Super Bowl history, and give podcast previews about the league’s playoff games from Super Bowl winner Osi Umenyiora.
The Super Bowl is about more than smart speakers and clever commercials. Businesses that depend on the event for massive injections of revenue — and who do much of their Super Bowl business online — are preparing and checking the back-end technology just as pretty much all retailers do in advance of the holiday shopping season. That includes Pizza Hut.
To help meet that spike in demand, the food chain in 2017 moved from “a bare metal infrastructure to a hybrid cloud model, leveraging public cloud services from both Google Cloud Platform and Amazon Web Services,” according to ZDNet in a recent report. Woe for any business whose tech infrastructure lags behind the appetites of Super Bowl fans.
The big NFL game also will bring marketing efforts related to mobile payments and consumer debt — with the involvement of a dorm-room staple. Natural Light is working with Square’s Cash App to pay out “$53,000 to 151 lucky fans via” that app. The idea is that winners would use that money to pay down student loans. “Each fan will receive $351 (the average monthly student loan payment, according to Student Loan Hero) to ensure nothing stops them from throwing that epic party and splurging on the seven-layer dip, an extra order of wings and another rack of Natty,” the beer brand says in a statement.
As the big game approaches, there will certainly be more payments and commerce news related to the Super Bowl. But for now, good luck to your team — your real team or your bandwagon choice — and best wishes to all those patient baseball fans out there as well.