It seems that every conference that I attend or team I speak with is trying to develop a strategy for engaging with millennial audiences. Well, the software and developer company Niantic created a solution in early July with major sports business potential.

Unless you live under a rock (not a Geodude, clearly) you have heard that there exists a new phone game epidemic called Pokémon Go. Within the first few days, the game generated more than $35M, and had more than 20M active users in the United States alone. In this game, players scour the earth trying to catch all 150 Pokémon and become elite trainers. The setup is very similar to that of geocaching: Pokémon are randomly placed around each city, motivating trainers alike to find them and catch ‘em all.

If you have not entered the PokéWorld yet, but often see clusters of children, teenagers and young adults staring down at their phones while walking only to abruptly stop and stand still for three or four minutes, know that they have temporarily left reality in search of the elusive Pikachu. How it works: when the game is open, it accesses an individual’s location and camera in their phone and displays Pokémon virtually into their surroundings. Therefore, they need to keep the game open in order to see where more are when they walk around. This is not a drill: you could even have Pokémon hanging out in your yard or house just waiting to be caught!

You may be wondering how a cartoon designed around dinosaurs, turtles and ducks has any relation to sports. Well, teams in the minor and professional leagues, and even the Olympics in Rio, have realized Pokémon’s potential to interact and engage with fans. We have seen teams host “Pokémon Catching” events where fans are able to enter the stadium/ballpark on an off-day and catch Pokémon hanging out in the outfield. The Durham Bulls of MiLB were one of the first sport teams to create an event based off of the game when they realized Pokémon were roaming around the ballpark’s outfield, too far for attending fans to catch. The event generated over $3,000 for charity, bringing in hundreds of Pokémon Trainers on one of the team’s off-days.

If the resources exist for your organization to run a similar event, I would completely recommend it. This game has opened up a channel for teams to engage with younger fans and their families, and attract new fans to their venues. While I have yet to play the game, I am surrounded by those that have and I love it! It is great to see the game inspire physical activity from those that otherwise would not take 30-minute, 90-minute, or 4.5-hour walks in any given day (all true story accounts) just to find more Pokémon.

Are you secretly playing Pokémon, or are you a proud trainer? Did you join team Charmander, Squirtle, or Bulbasaur? Let us know!

#####