AUSTIN, TX: Sports brands could benefit from more actively embracing new technology in areas like entertainment and fan engagement, according to a leading executive from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Tucker Kain, Chief Financial Officer of the LA Dodgers, discussed this topic – and a startup accelerator program the ball club ran with agency R/GA – during South by Southwest (SXSW) 2016.

"I think sports, in particular, has been a little slow to respond to the innovation we see, and that technology allows for. So we were trying to be out in front of that and get a broad view of this space," he said. (For more, including details of the accelerator, read Warc's exclusive report: Play Ball! LA Dodgers and R/GA build a tech-enabled brand.)

"We are constantly trying to evolve our business, just like everybody else, and trying to figure out how do we take a brand, take a platform like we have at the LA Dodgers and drive innovation across our space in particular – and hopefully more broadly than that."

More specifically, the accelerator asked for applications from startups that believed they could help the Dodgers in the sports, technology or entertainment arenas.

Having received some 600 submissions, the program resulted in the Dodgers investing in, and forming three-month partnerships with, various different enterprises.

"We had real problems that we're trying to solve. A lot of those for us start with what we call "fans" – most other people call them "customers"," said Kain.

The unstinting loyalty of sports fans is one potential reason why some brands in this industry have been slow to adopt new tech. But changing consumer habits, such as viewing content on digital and mobile channels, demand a response.

"It starts at that level, and needs to build from there, because they are the ones who ultimately dictate where our experience should go over time in our opinion," said Kain.

Driving innovation at many sports brands, he continued, will also require securing the buy-in of employees with entrenched working patterns.

"We in the sports industry have a lot of long-tenured employees," he added. "But I think you have to bring new, fresh views to the table.

"I'm not saying the traditional views are necessarily wrong, but just continue to challenge. I think the healthiest thing is to ask, 'Why?' And if the answer is, 'Because that's the way we've always done it', you're probably not innovating."

Data sourced from Warc