Technology in Sport: What Does the Future Hold?
Published: 08 Dec 2017
The rate of change within the sports industry is ever-increasing and its direction over the next decade and beyond, is difficult to forecast.
What is certain is that sport will need a diverse array of skills to ensure it is flexible and fully equipped to continue thriving in an unpredictable but exciting future.
"It's fascinating how the industry is adjusting to attract a new type of digital talent that historically hasn't been bred within sport," says GlobalSportsJobs CEO Will Lloyd. "We are at the heart of the industry's drive to attract a greater quality and diversity of talent to ensure this marketplace continues to grow in a meaningful and mature way."
Here, GlobalSportsJobs makes a few predictions about how that growth might take shape over the next few years.
Beacons are physical landmarks that send signals to nearby smartphones via Bluetooth or 4G, alerting customers (or potential customers) to relevant information or personalised offers.
The hardware is small and inexpensive, and when installed in sporting arenas, can help clubs and federations build loyalty, gather data and give fans a platform to become more digitally engaged.
The potential of beacons to maximise revenue has already been proven by pioneers of the technology in top-level American sport. One NBA team saw average matchday transaction volume across merchandise, food and seat upgrades rise 87% in the first season they were used.
The Football Association (The FA) understands the potential of beacons for digital engagement. Push messages prompting fans to vote for a man of the match via their smartphones, asking them for their song choices or to answer quiz questions are just some of the options they are considering.
Outside the confines of the stadium, the FA are also looking at using so-called 'proximity marketing' techniques in fan zones and fan parks, providing supporters with interactive maps and daily schedules.
As well as maximising matchday revenue, there is immense value in the insight beacons can provide on fans' real-life behaviour, where they spend their money and the digital activations and offers they engage with.
eSports (video games which are played and watched online by 385 million people per year) is the industry which some believe could overtake 'real' sport in the competition for the eyeballs of future generations. eSports will be a medal sport at the 2022 Asian Games and could even be included on the Olympic programme for Paris 2024.
Experts estimate revenue from eSports will reach $465m (£355m) this year, compared with $130m (£99m) in 2012. Leading global sport marketing agencies like Lagardère Sports are taking a central role in this exciting growth.
Their thriving global eSports practice offers comprehensive end-to-end services, including strategic brand consulting, team marketing and sales, as well as media distribution, brand and event activation.
They recently partnered with SportsBusiness Journal/Daily to launch the inaugural Lagardère Sports eSports Rising conference in November in California, an event which promised to "provide the ideal landscape to examine all facets of the booming industry and provide open dialogue between top stakeholders."
Andrew N. Pierce, the Lagardère Sports President & CEO, Americas, said: "We are committed to serving as a business accelerator for rights holders and brands in all places where fans are engaging with sports, and eSports is a growing industry with an exciting trajectory.This first dedicated eSports conference is emblematic of how that industry is surging on the sports landscape."
FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, also committed to expanding FIFA’s presence in eSports when he launched his new strategic roadmap: FIFA 2.0 - the vision for the future. One of the actions laid out by in FIFA 2.0 was to increase FIFA’s role in the exploding eSports market and work to capture a greater share of that market by better leveraging the popularity of the FIFA video game and the FIFA Interactive World Cup. Recently, the announcement was made of the first-ever EA SportsTM FIFA Global Series and FIFA eWorld Cup 2018. Replacing the FIFA Interactive World Cup, the FIFA eWorld Cup presents a bold new name, format and attitude that is better suited to the massive potential and demands of eSports and is set to engage even more fans across the world.
TV in trouble?
The so-called 'cable cutting' phenomenon in many highly developed nations has seen many households abandon linear paid-for TV, preferring to satisfy their sporting passions online, particularly through social media and OTT subscription services.
This splintering of the audience towards myriad different platforms and specialist content services poses a big problem for TV broadcasters. Sportcal, the sports market intelligence specialists, forecast a potential 'tipping point' for the sports media rights industry, where a set of rights may be sold to "a single online broadcaster/distributor operating globally, instead of to a range of TV broadcasters on a territory-by-territory basis."
In an interview with former Sky and YouTube media guru Steve Nuttall, Sportcal quotes him as saying: "The pace of change is accelerating. Simple maths tells you that if viewership has been up by over 50 percent, year on year, for YouTube for several years... in comparison to a TV industry that is flat, then you just have to wait for the maths to take over."
However, he adds: “I don’t want to give the impression that everything will switch to online. TV is very resilient and smart, and as long as it continues to innovate, it has an amazing future. Digital is not necessarily out to eat TV. It could partner with TV.
“If you’re a broadcaster now, you want a compelling presence on every screen your audience cares about. It’s part of fighting back, part of TV focusing on the end user."