There aren't many untapped revenue streams in sports, but the fan photo is one of them.
Getting your picture professionally taken at a game hasn't evolved over the years. So much so that people don't even think about paying for it in the few places it's offered.
But a former Duke women's basketball player hopes to change that.
Sue Harnett has run Replay Photos for eight years. The company has offered something fans really couldn't get before: The ability to sort through pictures of their favorite recent game and buy them. She scored deals with IMG College that has led to the professional photo rights of 155 college teams.
"Many schools didn't know how to monetize photos," Harnett said. "Plus, they saw unauthorized photos sold by newspapers or eBay."
Replay also scored the rights to run the NFL photo store on NFL.com. Last year, the company grossed $3 million, but she thinks the next big idea could instantly double revenues.
Enter the Fan Cam, a camera and a technology that enables her company to produce a 360-degree high definition photo of every single person in the crowd and on the field during a moment in time during the game. The photographer takes the photo in about seven minutes and the photo is then digitally stitched together. Fans can zoom into the photo that has the resolution of 5 billion pixels, they find themselves and tag themselves. And, in some cases, they'll be able to click on their section and buy the picture of them in the crowd.
Click here to see the photothat Replay took at this past weekend's Michigan game against Notre Dame.
Harnett licenses the camera technology from a South African company who invented it years ago. She started the Fan Cam with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC Championship game last year and was pleasantly surprised that people clicked on their photo in the crowd and printed it out to the tune of $18,000 in sales in five days.
"Fans just love seeing themselves in the crowd," Harnett said.
Michigan hasn't committed to allow fans to buy individual pictures of themselves from this photo yet, but they have put the photo on the Wolverines Web site. Out of the crowd of roughly 114,000 people, 30,000 fans tagged themselves in the crowd within 48 hours. The photo was viewed by 85,000 people.
"In our entire history, I've never seen a reaction like this," Harnett said. "It's extremely viral. The average person spends seven minutes looking at the photo."
And that's where the second part of the money making comes in. The Steelers are having Replay do a Fan Cam photo at every game. It's sponsored by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
"Brands and sponsors want to be a part of something that has fans so engaged after a game," Harnett said. "And there's one more thing that they all love. Once people tag themselves in the crowd and give us their e-mail, it becomes a huge data collection engine for the companies that are trying to target those fans."
Clients keep coming to Replay. This year, ESPN signed on for the company to take a Fan Cam picture at every College GameDay. The photo lives on ESPN.com for fans who were there to check out.
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