What is fanbot?

One of the USPs of Japan’s ultimately failed bid for the 2022 FIFA World Cup was it’s promise to enable hologram broadcast of live matches, which would let fans sit inside stadia across the world and watch the game beamed live to a football ground closest to their postal code.

If that giant leap in innovation, whenever it comes, will enable fans far off from the real action to be a part of the stadium experience, here is one concept that seeks to let fans add to the stadium atmosphere even when they are sitting at home.

A struggling Korean baseball team have invented a novel way to improve atmosphere at their matches — by bringing in a crowd of robot fans. Watch this!


So is the Fanbot a passing gimmick or a concept ready to take off?

Assuming the costs of putting a bot on a seat are brought under sufficient control, the positives that teams and fans will find in Fanbots could be:

  1. Hardcore fans who are unable to be at the venue for any reason, could find this as the next best thing to showing up
  2. Teams can fill up those annoying empty seats to provide a better visual treat to the fans in the stadium and on television. Also, since the bots are not just mannequins, but programmed to replicate at least some of fans’ actual behavior, they could even add a bit to the atmosphere.


Yet, if a Fanbot revolution is about to begin, it is difficult to see it happening at the world’s top teams any time soon.

For one, most of the top teams have long waiting lists of fans ready to pounce on the next available season ticket, and are unlikely to have spare capacity to accommodate digital placard waving bots.

Add to that, it seems hardly likely that fans will start a round of banter with the bot sitting on the next seat. Cheering your team from the stands is an “act of passion” and humans and robots indulging in such an act in harmony, may still be more than the next sci-fi movie away.

Then there are concerns about control — bots won’t create crowd trouble, won’t indulge in guerrilla advertising and will definitely be unlikely to plan the next great pitch invasion, thereby making them establishment propaganda pushing stooges. In fact, there already seems to be some discomfort about this line mentioned in the YouTube video

‘At important moments, the fanbots encourage group cheering’.

Possible revenue models

The real recipe of the future success of the Fanbot concept, could however lie in the revenue models that arise. On the face of it, advertisers would hardly be expected to be enthusiastic about paying big money to have their brands shown to all 25,000 bots from Fanbot Batch #1281.

There could of course be other opportunities to explore. For example, if teams were able to fill up only their leftover seats using Fanbots who represent fans unable to be at the stadium but willing to pay for a bot to be put on their seat, we could see the emergence of a potential revenue model (depending on the cost of Fanbot procurement of course).

Our take

Filling up stadiums is one of the biggest challenges faces by all sports teams globally and any innovation that addresses this problem, is likely to find a few early backers. While Fanbots may not yet be the next big idea in this space, as long as their presence means an extra bum in the stands, it would make sense to keep an eye out for them and track their success or failure over the next couple of seasons.

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