Don Pinkston with

Dick's Sporting Goods Park makeover: It's Ciao time!

“In the next 60 days, the Rapids are going to have access to things nobody else in the world has.”

So says Don Pinkston, President of Ciao Telecom’s North American division, who became the first-ever jersey sponsor of the Colorado Rapids this past May.

At the World Soccer Celebration presented by Western Union in Skyline Park on Friday, Pinkston had a lot to say about his company’s relationship with the Rapids. In short: it goes way beyond the Ciao logo on the jerseys. Pinkston truly believes the two organizations are a perfect fit, and plans for Ciao and the Rapids to grow together, starting with transforming Dick’s Sporting Goods Park into a cutting-edge, twenty-first-century smart stadium.

Pinkston was “blown away” during his first visit with the Rapids, after members of Kroenke Sports & Entertainment approached Ciao about a potential partnership.

“When we thought about our brand and who we want to be, everything just fit perfectly,” said Pinkston about Ciao and the Rapids. “The Rapids and Kroenke Sports & Entertainment are phenomenal. They’re all about relationships and partnerships, and they truly view us as part of their family.”

Being the Rapids’ first jersey sponsor during a World Cup year played a big role in Ciao’s decision as well. “The Rapids carry Ciao with them everywhere, and that’s just worth so much to us,” Pinkston said.

Smart stadiums

Ciao essentially has four components: Ciao Mobile, Ciao Cloud, Ciao TV, and Ciao Technology. Each comes together in what Pinkston describes as a convergence of telecommunications and new technology.

“There is little-to-no technology in DSGP,” said Pinkston. “We’re looking at providing full wireless, full coverage throughout the stadium.”

Ciao’s plans are far greater than a basic telecommunications upgrade, however, and the details are mouth-watering. The last of those four components, Ciao Technology, could mean big things for the Rapids community.

“The things we’re developing don’t exist today. They’ll be totally new,” said Pinkston. “The really cool part...we’re developing it directly, initially, for the Rapids.” And it all begins with what Pinkston calls a “four-prong thrust.”

“First of all is creating smart stadiums” he said. “Creating stadiums that provide wifi, cellular access; experiences with your personal devices to totally create a personal user experience.”

That user experience won’t just be for those fans at the game, either. Ciao plans on creating a unique fan-engagement app that includes everything, from tickets and parking, to vendors, team shops, and cameras, all while sharing these organic experiences via social media for the world to see.

Pinkston didn’t want to spoil the surprise by leaking too many details, but he did say the first of those announcements could come within the next 60 days.

“We’re going to invite every Rapids fan to DSGP and launch this, and let them all experience it together and showcase to the world that Rapids fans are a part of this, a unique thing in professional sports.”

Building for the future

The rest of Ciao’s “four-prong” approach includes building smart cities, smart parks, and even smart campuses. Pinkston said it’s all about Ciao and the Rapids community growing together.

“The more time I spend with people throughout this organization, the more comfortable and more excited I get about our future. Not only about growing our own business, but also helping and finding ways to make the Rapids the premier team in MLS.

“We talked about it in our board meeting can we find a way to help the Rapids win the MLS Cup this year? We may be a technology company, but there’s got to be something we can do!”

In the end, Pinkston said Ciao found the “perfect fit” in their new partners. “I truly believe that Ciao could not have picked a better partner for sponsorship in the professional sports world,” he said.

“I couldn’t be more excited about what we’re doing and where we’re going with this.”