Stadiums might have looked different during the 2020-21 NFL season, but the teams’ energy and commitment to the game remained as strong as ever.
Now, looking ahead to the upcoming season, the lessons from last year—and a growing technology partnership with Microsoft—are making it easier for teams and players to connect with each other, while helping fans to get closer to the game they love.
The 2021 NFL Draft and Microsoft Teams
Last year, the first-ever virtual NFL Draft was a significant cultural moment—with over 55 million fans tuning in—offering an opportunity to showcase how technology can help sports navigate a rapidly changing world. It was a complex problem of managing data, live communication, and high fan expectations—and the technology rose to the occasion.
This year, the NFL is utilizing Microsoft Teams again to execute the NFL Draft. Over the course of three days, NFL Clubs will submit the 259 draft picks using Teams. Select clubs will also use Surface devices to stay connected during the broadcast, across social channels, and throughout their organization.
Surface on the sidelines
With more than 2,000 Surface devices in the hands of coaches and players, Microsoft technology helps power 269 NFL games in a year.
In particular, Surface helps players and coaches understand exactly what’s going on during games, in real time. Alvin Kamara, running back from the New Orleans Saints, relies on the Microsoft Surface Sideline Viewing System (SVS), his “eyes in the sky,” to give him images and game data—such as down, distance, and yard line information—that help him play his best game.
Learn more about how Microsoft collaborated closely with the NFL, coaches, and players to develop its Surface Sideline Viewing System (SVS). Find out how teams are now tapping that technology to better analyze opponents game plans, review plays and formations from multiple angles, and add speed to strategizing that’s essential both on and off the field.
Continuing team traditions
Microsoft and the NFL have a longstanding partnership, and both Microsoft Surface and Teams have become an integral part of gameday—not just on the sidelines, but also for keeping team traditions alive.
For the New Orleans Saints, the team is family. And rookie traditions are an important part of kicking off each season together. Find out how seasoned vets Alvin Kamara (RB) and Cameron Jordan (DE) are welcoming NFL newcomers Adam Trautman (TE), Cesar Ruiz (C), and Tony Jones Jr. (RB) to the team with their favorite rookie rights of passage.
Creating virtual fan experiences
Of course, the NFL is working to keep fan traditions alive, too. Crowd energy is a vital part of any game, electrifying players and offering that famed hometown advantage. With fans mostly watching from home, the NFL turned to Microsoft to help support rich virtual experiences that bring fans closer to the action when they can’t be there in person.
Using Microsoft Teams, key games feature a virtual feed called a Fan Mosaic that’s displayed in stadiums on LED screens, as well as during broadcasts. For each of these games, the home team invites lucky fans to a virtual VIP experience where they can watch the game together via Teams and be featured in the Fan Mosaic as part of the virtual crowd.
The NFL has also debuted the Bud Light Showtime Cam in stadiums at select games. After a player scores a touchdown, the Fan Mosaic can appear on an LED screen in the end zone, allowing them to connect with their fans and celebrate the moment.