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The Raptors and Fan Interaction Part I

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Franchise attended Wednesday night's home-opener and saw first-hand how MLSE is pushing changes in the way fans interact with the brand. In the first part of a mini-series on the topic, he asks the readers how they interact...

This past Wednesday night I attended my seventh straight Toronto Raptors' home opener.

Not as media, but simply as a fan of the team.

It's a tradition I've been following without fail for years now, regardless of how I feel about the club, the roster, management etc, and it usually is a pretty good indicator of things to come.

Of the basketball team's performance?

No, not so much that.

We all remember Game 1 wins over the Cavs last year and the Warriors the year before that looked to be promising starts for Hedo Turkoglu and Jermaine O'Neal led groups.

No, more that home openers tend to set the tone for the in-game experience I find, especially in terms of fan interaction and how MLSE (and the Raptors specifically) try and encourage this.

This year was no different although I couldn't help but notice how the overall in-game experience has drastically changed for fans, especially in the past few seasons. We've gone from a time period in really only the last decade when you could only interact with the Raptors' brand at the games themselves, to one now where you can interact via various touch-points. Whether it's texting for a chance to win a contest, or having Raptors.com staff talking with fans pre-game for their social network, Raptors' Space, MLSE is really putting a push on to extend themselves out into your lives via technology.

And why not?

I looked around me at various slow points during the game Wednesday, particularly in the first half when Toronto was down big to New York, and there were many more fans texting and checking their phones then actually watching the game! This type of interaction via technology has become ingrained in our culture.

Think about this for a second.

The spectacle used to be the game itself.

Now, it's treated more as background noise unless some riveting play occurs or the match is a tight one.

I'd argue that the Raptors' audience in fact was only truly engaged in the game for about 25% of the time Wednesday night, and a chunk of that was due to "in-game entertainment" like the Dancing Dads etc.

And really I'm no exception to the rule.

I got into a full blown conversation with two fans beside me about Reggie Evans' fantasy value and to support our arguments we all pulled up various game statistics on our respective mobile devices!

Yep, it's a brave new world, and one that MLSE is doing its darndest to embrace.

I want to get into this a bit over the next few weeks but let's kick it off with a bit of a discussion and poll question; how do you primarily interact with the Raptors' brand?