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What fans really look at during a baseball game

Monday - 6/2/2014, 4:04am  ET

Eye-Tracking fans (Tobii)
Eye tracking technology can be used to determine the effectiveness of advertising and product placement, everywhere from ballparks to supermarkets (Tobii)
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WASHINGTON -- The ballpark experience is a melange of sounds, sights, smells and tastes.

A new study used eye-tracking technology to determine exactly what fans looked at during Cleveland Indians baseball games at Progressive Field.

"The goal of the Cleveland Indians study was to learn a little bit about how fans experience the inside of the stadium," says Barbara Barclay, general manager of Tobii North America, the eye-tracking and gaze-interaction company that developed the technology and conducted the testing.

"In particular, we wanted to understand what advertising do people see during the watching of a normal game," says Barclay.

Headquartered in Sweden, Tobii Technology's U.S. office is in Falls Church, Virginia.

Barclay says the baseball club wanted to better understand the effectiveness of its current advertising displays, with an eye toward improving its signage.

"Who looks at it, how should they value it, is there a way to make advertising in different locations more prominent," is how Barclay describes the goals.

Fans participating in the study were outfitted with Tobii Glasses.

"When a person puts them on, they have a scene camera that takes a video of the environment, and they actually capture the eye movement of the person," says Barclay. "What that person looks at is overlaid on top of the video, and then analyzed."

The study involved 47 participants over a span of three days. Barclay says participants did not know they were participating in a study about advertising.

"They were actually told the Cleveland Indians were interested in understanding the fan experience," says Barclay.

What fans really looked at during the ballgame

"Display ads that are LED are more visible, as opposed to a plain sign that is not live or not moving," says Barclay.

Barclay says some results were expected.

"People look at the scoreboard a lot, and it's the first thing that people see," says Barclay.

"In general, people really do look around more than you might think," says Barclay. "I know I've been to games where I feel like I'm focused on the field, but in fact people really do look around -- all the signage got some attention."

Was it possible to determine which advertising made an impression on participants?

"That's a great question -- you don't always know if they registered," says Barclay. "That's why you survey people afterward and ask people 'What advertising do you remember seeing during the game,' or 'Do you remember seeing any advertising?'."

In other tests, participants are asked whether they recalled seeing any advertisements from particular companies.

Barclay says future testing could include whether fans react more favorably to ads in programs compared with signage. "In this particular situation we were just looking at the physical surroundings, as opposed to any of the programs."

Tobii recently released Tobii Glasses 2, which allow live monitoring of what the wearer is looking at.

For more on what eye tracking is, click here.

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