No Cheap Seats: Designing the Fan Experience

Remember when you first began to learn the rules of a game? That’s when you began to join a new family, one that can span generations, languages, and distances. In some cases, this family defines part of who you are. You’re able to form instant bonds when you see someone with the same jersey and immediately question the judgement of someone who rooted for the rival. When that happens, you’ve committed. You’re a fan.

Learning the rules may seem like a basic first step, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. Many professional leagues have incorporated fan-facing technology, but it’s typically directed at super-fans, people who already know the rules and want to know more. But what if technology and design was at the center of a sport, the fan experience crafted with care from the very beginning?

Over the past few months, Cooper has worked on that problem. In a close collaboration with the National Pro Grid League (the NPGL), Cooper has had the unique opportunity help design the fan’s experience from the ground up.

NPG What?

The NPGL is on a mission to create a competition that brings athletes from all over the country to compete in a new sport that is part relay race, part decathlon and all muscle. Teams of four men and four women race two at a time through 11 different fitness challenges. Each race will feature an alternating set of exercises like Handstand Races and Front Squats. The team that makes it to the end the fastest wins.

Handstand Race

This April, our team of designers kicked off a tightly knit collaboration with the folks at the NPGL and a group of developers at Carbon Five. Our goal was to design an experience for spectators at the NPGL events and for TV viewers so that the new sport could be easily understood, evangelized and followed.

This gave us the opportunity to expand our wheelhouse to incorporate elements crucial to the fan experience. This meant not only designing a desktop and mobile experience for the NPGL, but the in-arena scoring displays as well — on the JumboTron and the ribbon boards around the playing surface. 

Now Cooper is in a unique position to show a bit of how we went about designing this new sport as it happens. So for the next few weeks, we’ll be giving you an inside look at how we do design and craft experiences in the digital world and beyond.


Looking forward to know more about the project. It seems really interesting.
Sounds like a fun project! I'm sure you're doing this already, but I'd suggest doing some competitive analysis of what CrossFit is doing. They've been around a little longer and have gotten a lot of things right.
Hasnain Syed
Congratulations to the team. Not many agencies have the opportunity to design the fab experience for an entire sport in such a holistic way. Looking forward to the updates and learning from the insights gained from the process.
This design project sounds exciting. I can't wait to see the details and the process that goes along with it. Keep it coming guys and have fun.
Julie Celia
Hi Alfreshco, Tom, Hasnain and Duke - the next post in the NPGL series is up! This post talks about what we've learned from designing physical touchpoints for the NPGL.
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