Events in the first three months of 2023 shattered a lot of agency crystal balls about what lies ahead for big tech and sports.
The mothernode intersecting the various media agency about-turns and flip-flops can be attributed to the rapid roll-out of fresh generative AI tools, like Microsoft-backed ChatGPT and Google’s Bard.
It was the technology ‘drop’ of GPT-3.5 in late December ’22 that had research twonks issuing hand-wringing ‘my bads’. The ChatGPT generative AI robot is now trained on around 175 billion parameters of natural language to generate human-like text responses to questions posted by over 100 million users so far.
It can write essays, movie scripts, articles, job applications, sit exams, produce opinions on art, philosophy, science, finance and of course football.
It is with the Beautiful Game that the rest of this article shall focus – so as newly-reinstated Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker might say, if you don’t want to know the impact on football fan engagement in 2023, look away now.
After the tech release, the tabloid digerati turned turkeys voting for Christmas, pumping the boosted chatterbot for stories that they were seemingly too lazy to write themselves.
One newshound who railed against the ‘Skynet bastard’ was Football365’s Mediawatch. During the recent international break MW wrote in an article titled, Chat sh*t, get banged:
“In one of those curious incidents where all the tabloids appear to have the same idea at the same time, dystopian Artificial Intelligence chatbot ChatGPT has been asked to name all-time XIs for Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United. We have literally no opinion on the teams selected – we don’t waste our time on all-time XIs selected by humans so we’re not going to start now for some Skynet bastard that will one day rise up and enslave us all.”
It is true. Every national and regional news outlet seemed to show shock and awe at how a computer-generated all-time XI could exclude a very good footballer from the artificially-generated Top 11 very good footballers, like David Beckham for Manchester United as an example.
Reems and reems of ChatGPT lists tumbled out of the ‘supercomputer’ for the hungry, if slightly clueless, online audience such as the Most Loved, Most Hated, Most Fanciable footballers and their wives (happy scroll to the end to find out who they are, if you must).
Hysterical digital journalists showcased their ensuing uselessness in late January, when Manchester City were set to play Arsenal in a Friday-night spectacular to secure a place in the FA Cup fifth round.
From the Manchester Evening News to the India Times the AI chatbot’s prediction of a 2-1 away win for the Gunners was greeted in much the same way I imagine that stone age new technology Fire would have been received by a gang of slightly petrified cavemen.
After 24 hours in A&I the news cycle tired of the pseudo pundit predictions, not least of all because City beat the Arsenal 1-0.
Out of the twenty English Premier League clubs it was Manchester City who tapped into the hilarity of the new tech and produced an entertaining ‘conversation’ between ChatGPT and current City player Rodrigo.
The Spanish midfielder answered a kind of Chatbot pub quiz about himself set by the computer and when it was his turn to ask the questions he quizzed the AI agent for some tactics of how to beat RB Leipzig – which must have worked given the 7-0 drubbing the Red Bull side incurred at the Etihad.
Finally, Rodri asked the engaging chatbot to write and perform a rap about his career. The ‘write a rap’ thing is becoming as cliched in the fast-evolving 2023 AI fan world as the TikTok dance became back in 2022.
At the grassroots of fan engagement, Everton’s excellent Grand Old Team fan forum revealed a brilliant, down-to-earth application for the artificial intelligence tool.
Vocal fan forum participant Golden Toffee proclaimed that “ChatGPT should be the owner of Everton”, after GT says he got a lot more sense out of it (ChatGPT) than the Blues’ majority shareholder and director of football.
On how Everton should make more money out of commercial partnerships the bot outlined six clear strategies, ranging from targeting international markets to providing data and insights to communicate value. Full Toffees discussion here. For what it’s worth, here are the top five most loved / hated football players of all time: