New York Red Bulls, one of Major League Soccer’s ten charter clubs, play home matches at Red Bull Arena, a state-of-the-art 25,000-seat stadium in Harrison, NJ. As one of the top soccer teams in the country, the Red Bulls are always looking for ways to connect with fans and deliver an unforgettable experience. For the past two seasons, the team has received the highest marks across a number of experiential touchpoints from the J.D. Power Fan Experience Study, so it is no surprise they take technology seriously. When the team was looking to upgrade their facility, they turned to Sony Electronics to deliver professional products and solutions that would streamline their production workflow to create and deliver an engaging experience for their dedicated fanbase.
From technology within the stadium and behind the scenes, to products including servers, switchers, storage, Video Assistant Referee solutions and cameras at every level, the Red Bulls recognize technology is essential to becoming more efficient internally and delivering on their mission of enhancing the fan experience.
As Clint Wulfekotte, the Red Bulls’ Senior Director for Partnership Sales in Marketing described, “Raising the bar for the fans’ experience at Red Bull Arena is something that we focus on every single day. We strive for a live event that is a memorable one for attendees, their friends and their family.”
He went on to explain why Sony’s leadership in the technology space was an ideal fit for the popular soccer team. “A lot of enhancements to our fan experience revolve around technology, and New York Red Bulls as a premium brand are always looking to align with premium partners, and we’ve found that in Sony. Sony provides superior products in enhancing our arena and providing upgrades, not only to our control room, but to front-facing aspects of our fan experience in the form of televisions and video boards. We look for a great partner now, and one who will remain a great partner for the New York Red Bulls for many years to come.”
Rich Kaufman, Senior Manager of Match Presentation at Red Bull Arena oversees the stadium’s control room, graphics and video boards, as well as pre-game and post-game on-field activations. As a stakeholder in the process of upgrading the control room, Kaufman was looking for solutions that were “cost effective, professional, enhanced our presentation and made sense for our space.” He said, “We already had a familiarity with Sony products, so when they came to us and presented an all asset solution, including a new replay system and an upgraded switcher, we could tell they understood what we are trying to do here. And having Sony’s assets and expertise at our disposal for training allowed us to be fully operational in a short timeframe.”
One of the latest products geared towards creating an improved production workflow is Sony’s PWS-4500 server. The Red Bulls use the live production server for replaying high frame rate, slow-motion content and building highlights packages. As one of the main operators of the PWS-4500, Kaufman realizes that most fans’ eyes are on the field during the game, but as soon as a critical play is made, they want to see what they might have missed. “When their eyes are going to the video board to look for the replay, the PWS-4500 allows us to have six angles coming in, so we have the best options to show fans what’s happening in the game and what they may have missed,” he explained. He appreciates the server’s graphical interface, which he calls a “huge asset” and its overall “efficiency.”
He continued, “Using the 4500 replay server allows us to capture as much as we can from a 90-minute soccer match. We can take six inputs into the replay system and then use the 2 outputs for on the fly replays. Using all six inputs for building our highlights packages during half-time and post-game has been a real asset to us. With the ability to have six cameras coming in, we can build a much more engaging highlights package to recap the game, and also having all those cameras at our disposal for getting the best angles for our fans during live play.”
Arpan Mukherjee is a Content Producer for the Red Bulls, tasked with planning, shooting and editing the team’s online videos. He uses a complement of Sony professional 4K cameras including two FS7s, an F5, FS5 and α7s. After using an F5 for many years, the Red Bulls continued to buy Sony cameras.
“We started with Sony because we wanted a camera that was a bit more professional and video-centric – not a photo camera that’s being translated. Because of the high-paced nature of the game, we needed cameras that could capture high speed and the only affordable option we found was the F5. We stuck with Sony over the years, because the cameras all have the same color profile, so they are easy to match. Between the F5, the FS7, the α7s and the FS5, the colors match each other pretty easily without having to do too much grading, which is important for us, because we have quick turnarounds on our online deliverables,” said Mukherjee. He continued, “Using the S-LOG for grading is really simple and having the cameras shooting at the same basic look makes life easier. Plus, with our control room technology being Sony, I’m able to match everything a lot more easily.”
Mukherjee is particularly fond of the FS7 camera which he praised for its durability, portability and ND filters. The camera allows him to “quickly off-load footage, edit it on the spot, and upload it later that day,” which he explained is essential to the online viewing experience. “Viewers at home, online, on YouTube and on Facebook come to us to see what has happened that same day. Previously it was tough to meet the demands of an online audience at the quality and standard we’re doing it at now, as quickly as we are,” he said.
In the end, the team at the Red Bulls realizes that technology helps foster engagement, and in turn contributes to the overall fan experience, which is the heart of the matter. Bringing together two leaders in their respective spaces means fans ultimately benefit.
As Kaufman succinctly put it, “This partnership with Sony has been really important to us in terms of upgrading the equipment we have here in the stadium, as well as upping the fan experience, which in the end that’s what all of this is about – fans coming and enjoying a game.” Wulfekotte added, “Having the greatest advances in technology and working with Sony is only going to allow us to increase the fan experience, get better and keep up in a competitive market.”