How is digital technology changing how we interact with sport?
Published: 25 Oct 2017
Digitalisation has invaded all areas of society, with sport certainly no exception. It has transformed fans’ relationships with their club or athlete, shrinking the metaphorical gap between the spectator and what’s happening on the field of play or training pitch. For players too – both professional and amateur – it has augmented performance, pushed boundaries and removed barriers.
This sort of revolution does not happen on its own. GlobalSportsJobs is leading the drive for new functional digital expertise into the sports market, which is needed to sustain its current rate of development.
“Sport is accessible pretty much anywhere at any time on some sort of digital platform, meeting the demands of the consumer, generating interest and I believe slowly confirming that the sports industry is a big market and developing rapidly,” commented GlobalSportsJob CEO Will Lloyd. “The influence that digital has had in driving this accessibility, can only be a positive move forward for our industry.”
Here, GlobalSportsJobs look at three areas of sport in which digitalisation has effected the most dramatic changes.
1. Over-the-top content:
Most sports fans now have a variety of screens through which they can satisfy their passion for their favourite sport or team. When they want to consume sport content, it's there; no longer is their access to it dictated by the TV schedule.
Digital technology now allows sports organisations to deliver live content direct to their fans via 'over the top' live streaming or on-demand services. The value of the traditional linear TV broadcasters is now subject to scrutiny.
At the centre of this major shift are Sportradar, global leaders in leveraging the power of sports data and digital content for clients around the world. Just one example of their activity in this area is its partnership with the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to provide a live streaming platform for Davis Cup and Fed Cup competitions.
The British Olympic Association (BOA) is another rights holder joining the revolution. Last year, for the first time, they showed live sport on the Team GB digital channels, when England women's table tennis team played Slovenia in a European Championship qualifier. The tie was streamed on Facebook Live.
All this presents a big problem for TV broadcasters and international sports rights agencies. The view of SportsPro, the leading B2B sports media company, is this: "Technology is disrupting what was considered to be a stable commercial model - one that was previously dominated by an exclusive set of rights holders and broadcasters...
"New opportunities to monetise content without any great capital expenditure is now a reality - impacting significantly on current distribution deals and the availability of broadcast rights."
Video technology has allowed coaches and athletes to gain deep insight into their own performances and has offered a platform to develop crucial gains in performance enhancement.
International Hockey Federation (FIH) has showcased how some of its member organisations have embraced technology, with after-match video analysis and statistical analysis feeding into subsequent practice sessions.
Video footage of practice is also viewed on the sidelines, with coach feedback being communicated immediately, which all feeds into improvement in competition.
Dan Clements, Head of Performance at Hockey Wales, explains: “Coach Logic technology will enhance our senior programmes through the dissemination of video but it will also create learning communities. Being able to log in and communicate with peers and coaching staff on specific aspects of a performance will prove invaluable as a means of sharing knowledge.”
That sharing of knowledge also occurs lower down the competitive hierarchy, thanks to the accessibility of the technology.
Leading software company Hudl offers coaches and athletes the tools to edit and share video, study associated tactical diagrams, and create highlight reels for information, entertainment and recruiting purposes.
The West Australian Football League (WAFL) has been brought closer together by Hudl. The league's disparate semi-professional players, coaches and umpires use it to view the latest match footage and analysis across the state at the touch of a button.
3. Getting closer to the action:
Advancements in digital technology have brought with them a clamour from fans to be closer to the action, whether that be via Snapchat stories from the players' dressing room or virtual reality motorsport experiences.
But data is one other method by which fans' appetites can be whetted. Data enriches the understanding and enjoyment of what is unfolding in front of you on the pitch, offering the insight craved by coaches and fans alike.
Jez Clark, head of leading sports marketing agency Fuse, says: "Technological developments have led to increased demand for real-time insights, so that viewers are able to instantly analyse what's happening, and are armed with the knowledge to predict what will happen next."
Clark states that the rise of mobile is the greatest driver of this explosion in opportunities to engage fans and customers. "It provides greater flexibility in when, where and how users can interact, digest and engage with sport," he comments.
One such example comes from the Football Association (FA), who use platforms such as Stackla to add "an extra layer of engagement" for fans. Stackla is an online platform that aggregates social media content, allowing photos taken at the ground by those in the seats to be shown on stadium big screens.
World Rugby, the world governing body, use technology to allow fans into the control room of international matches. Referees' microphones and cameras installed in the TMO's studio give fans previously unparalleled access to the inner-workings of the officials' high-pressure adjudication decisions.
It's often said that digital technology is 'disrupting' the sports industry. 'Revolutionising' may be a better way of putting it. This revolution is only happening thanks to the industry being able to recruit the best talent to execute these newly sophisticated digital strategies.
As GlobalSportsJobs CEO Will Lloyd explains: “The sports industry is maturing rapidly and has a big need for digital talent. GlobalSportsJobs is at the heart of trying to attract a greater quality and diversity of talent to ensure this marketplace continues to grow in a meaningful and mature way.”