One App For All: Uniting Fans with Fanatic

fanatic_04Babak Poushanchi is a proud alumnus of Northwestern University, an attendee of the elite Evanston, Ill., institution during some of its best days of the football program in the mid-1990s.

As such, he’s in his college town currently to catch the Wildcats’ big game versus Ohio State, which the entire college football landscape has its eye on for tonight. There was no way Poushanchi was going to miss maybe the most-hyped regular season football game in Northwestern history.

This is all in spite of being from New York City, where this week it actually would be a good bet to see NU on a random sports bar flatscreen, instead of just at his home bar, Blondies in Manhattan, where everyone wears purple and everyone knows his name.

“About 270, 280 fans get together to watch Northwestern at Blondies weekly, it used to just be a few of us who went there. Now an hour before games the place maxes out,” said Poushanchi, a native of the North Shore area of the Chicago suburbs and a graduate of Glenbrook North High School.

Blondies is a typical sports bar that has long served many different fan bases, but it is now ground zero for the Fanatic movement, which strives to bring together sports fans who bleed the same team colors and give them the best places to migrate and join together when their teams need them.

The people behind Fanatic, including Poushanchi, are using a mobile app, also called Fanatic, as a Trojan horse to enter and make an impact on both the sports media and social media landscapes. As enterprising as any app developer, Poushanchi wants to establish himself as a businessman of the moment, but he speaks with passion of his purpose to enliven sports fan bases in new, cool ways.

“It’s going to make the job of the local organizer increasingly easier,” said Poushanchi. “There is a lot of focus on numbers and statistics in sports, we’re focused on the social side, the real world of sports. We want to connect the offline world of sports watching; I may not remember the score from a game a few years ago but I remember who I was with, I remember the time I had when I watched that game.”

How does Fanatic do all that? Well, again it starts with Blondies, who over time was turned into a Northwestern bar after Poushanchi and a couple fellow NU graduates migrated to NY back in the late ’90s. Using pre-social network networking skills, Blondies became known as a place where the Wildcat devoted can let loose when games occur.

The big moments remain few and far between for NU sports but they are becoming more frequent and resonant, such as last January’s win in the Gator bowl, the first bowl win for NU since 1949. Poushanchi spent New Year’s Day at Blondies and there was no other place he would rather have been.

“When NU scored a touchdown the entire place erupted with the fight song and purple shots were given out,” Poushanchi said. “Blondies is my favorite sports bar, they do a good job of creating a focused sports atmosphere.”

With his sporting migrant experience in mind, Poushanchi and his partners developed Fanatic and put it out on the market this year. Available in the Apple App Store and on Google Play, Fanatic is an easy to use platform that allows users to pick their favorite teams in all the major professional team sports — including several international soccer leagues — along with college football and basketball and essentially follow them throughout the course of their seasons. The team selection is dazzling — you go to a smaller school and think your teams aren’t on the app? Take a look, you would be wrong. Fanatic has pages for 840 teams in 13 leagues, there is also a database being established for the nations that compete in next summer’s World Cup.

Fanatic-College-Chicago

A feed imported from Twitter provides ongoing information related to your teams and fully incorporated schedules allow you to keep up with each contest your squads engage in. But the real innovation Fanatic offers is in its game plan section, which allows users to check in wherever they watch the latest game and broadcast it to their network of like-minded fans on social media.

Much like the popular foursquare, Fanatic is powered by crowd-sourcing information — as more fans of more teams use the app and publish their viewing plans, the app expands its database of hot places to watch certain teams — you can even plan viewing parties at home. So if enough fans of say, the Chicago Bears, check in at your place to watch the Bears, your house can become a top venue for that team, though it is more likely that bars and stadiums will continue to dominate the Fanatic venue rankings. But hey, make a couple of extensions to your crib and who knows?

NFL-fanatic-ChicagoTop venues stretch across the country, Poushanchi says just over 3,500 venues have been checked in, making the app a potential resource for trip planning and a source for exploring new places no matter how familiar you are with the surrounding area. The Cubs, for example, have a top-10 of venues that includes No. 1 Kelly’s Sports Bar in New York, No. 4 Courtside in Cambridge, Mass., and No. 6 Fuel Sports in Seattle. Only one top-10 location, Slugger’s, is actually located in Chicago.

Looks funny, but the rankings — which include team rankings for each sport and overall (current No. 1: Chicago Blackhawks), based on fan interaction with the app — are always fluid. Poushanchi hopes the fluidity of the rankings will play into Fanatic’s potential longevity and its continued development as more users come aboard.

“What we’re looking for is the most engaged, most enthusiastic fan bases,” says Poushanchi.

Fanatic also plans down the line to use the points which app users can currently gain for their actions (planning games, gaining friends, etc.) as currency to gain benefits, items and fan experiences.

Some 10,000 users currently the app and to little surprise given that two of the app’s three founders are NU grads, the Wildcats are currently No. 1 in Fanatic’s NCAA football rankings. Ohio State, coincidentally, is 25th. But that always stands to change with the next check-in.

“It’s obviously easy in your home town (to watch your teams), we want to capture that fandom at different hot spots,” Poushanchi said. “There are all of these little sub-communities built around sports all over the world; fans would love to participate in them if they knew where they were.”

Follow Regal Radio on Twitter @regalradio1 and Kyle Means @Wrk_Wrt

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