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Putting fans in the spotlight

Fans react during an LA Galaxy-New England Revolution match. Fanpics

When the action heats up in a pro sports game, where should the cameras point: at the athlete making the big play, or at the fan reacting to it?

Careful — in the age of the selfie, it’s a trick question.

A California start-up eager to monetize fans’ obsession — with themselves — has begun mounting crowd-facing cameras in a few sports venues on the West Coast and is hoping to bring the technology to Boston.

On Friday, a cofounder of San Diego-based Fanpics flew to town to meet with representatives of the Bruins and TD Garden, and the company says it is in “early discussion with Boston teams for possible installs over the next year.”


The Bruins and the Garden declined to comment, but as Marco Correia, a cofounder of Fanpics, explained, the company’s service corrects a weakness in traditional sports photography.

“Historically, all of the cameras have focused on the players and the field,” he said.

In contrast, Correia explained, Fanpics allows fans to tell their own “story.”

“We’re in the age,” he said, “where everybody is the producer of their own content.”

Fans interested in starring in a game, without actually playing, download the free Fanpics app, register their seat number, and then await their close-ups.

The cameras capture fans at exciting moments — as determined by a Fanpics rep at the game — and the photos are sent to registered users’ phones for easy upload to Facebook or Instagram.

“They can look back and say, ‘This was me. I was there,’ ” Correia said.

In this time of personal branding, are the fan photos just a bit of selfie-ish fun or a sign we’re approaching peak narcissism?

That depends on how they’re used, said Craig Malkin, an instructor in psychology at Harvard Medical School, and the author of “Rethinking Narcissism.”


“If people are [posting] pictures to invite their friends into their lives, then it’s a form of connecting,” he said. “If it’s simply about showing off, then it isn’t.”

Fanpics first launched at San Diego State University, in early 2014. Later in the year it installed cameras at the 27,000-seat StubHub Center to capture soccer fans watching Los Angeles Galaxy games. In May, the firm signed a deal to shoot Kings and Clippers fans at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles.

If Fanpics manages to work its way into professional sports nationwide, it’s a good bet that the photos will get big play on holiday cards, as many of the pictures capture family members at their most joyous, bonding over sports moments.

The technology frees up fans to enjoy the game by taking the self out of selfie. But the downside of unposed portraits will be familiar to any American who has cringed at a picture of herself careening down a flume ride, hair flying, mouth wide open.

In the sports version, the danger is that the automated cameras will catch you looking bored during a crucial play, stuffing your face, or — as one Red Sox fan learned during a recent game when he was captured by TV cameras — fighting a losing battle with a poncho.

What if you don’t want to be photographed? Correia says the company posts signs alerting fans that cameras are in operation, and notes that sports photographers regularly show fans as part of the crowd scene.


For now, that leaves the camera-shy with few options other than wearing a disguise, but the company is working on technology that would allow opt-outs that could include blurring a face or superimposing a mascot’s photo.

Fanpics says it has not yet met with representatives from Fenway Park or Gillette Stadium because focusing on indoor venues, where multiple teams play, makes more sense financially.

So for now at least, that leaves Red Sox and Patriots fans to bear the hardship of shooting photos of themselves watching games, or, banish the thought, enjoying the action without a self-promotional shot to show for it.

Photos showed a range of emotions during an LA Galaxy-New England Revolution match:


Beth Teitell can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @BethTeitell.