Digitization has invaded all areas of society, with sports certainly no exception. It has transformed fans’ relationships with their club or favorite athlete, shrinking the metaphorical gap between the spectator and what’s happening on the field of play. Additionally, for players – both professional and amateur – it has augmented performance, pushed boundaries and removed barriers. This sort of revolution does not happen on its own, and gaming executive Adam Bjorn discusses the role digital technology plays in advancing the sports industry.
Sports is accessible pretty much anywhere at any time on some sort of digital platform, meeting the demands of the consumer, generating interest and confirming that the sports industry is a big market and developing rapidly. The influence that digital has had in driving this accessibility, can only be a positive move forward for the industry.
Most sports fans now have a variety of screens through which they can satisfy their passion for their favorite sport or team. When they want to consume sports content, it’s there; no longer is their access to it dictated by a TV schedule. Digital technology now allows sports organizations to deliver live content direct to their fans via “over the top” live-streaming or on-demand services.
At the center of this major shift are companies like 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 the partnership Sportradar has with the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to provide a live streaming platform for Davis Cup and Fed Cup competitions.
Explains Bjorn, “Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or a local social media service within the different corners of the globe, these tools are at every professional, semi-pro and even recreational level. Horse racing, tennis and golf are where I’ve used this the most, as sports pitting individuals against each other, the slightest bit of news of a bad back, family issues or travel delays, brings great value to these types of sports. Horse racing leading up to events like the Kentucky Derby and Breeders Cup gives great coverage of every athlete participating, and workout times and possible injuries are reported very quickly via this method and usually very early in the morning, due to when workouts are taking place. You need to have real-time information to be able to maximize your knowledge of the event.”
The British Olympic Association is another rights holder joining the revolution. Last year, for the first time, it 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.
However, what is emerging is something even better and more lucrative. New opportunities to monetize 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.
The International Hockey Federation, for example, has showcased how some of its member organizations 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.
Sharing of knowledge is also enhanced and now occurs lower down the competitive hierarchy, thanks to the accessibility of technology. Leading software company Hudl, for example, 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.
Adds Bjorn, “Big Data is really changing sports in the way athletes train to how teams play the game.
With live attendances starting to decline in some sports even before this year, stadiums, teams and leagues were trying to enhance the fan experience. As much as I would love to go to sporting events, I know I have a much better advantage by staying home and watching it live, getting the broadcasters opinions, real-time data on current player stats, and getting a general better feel on how a match is flowing from the comfort of my home or office. Personalized marketing is another aspect of Big Data. Sports organizations, teams and leagues and generally companies all over the world are using big data to reduce their marketing wastage and going after more targeted advertising direction through various niches that fit their consumers.”
Advancements in digital technology have brought with them a clamor from fans to be closer to the action, whether that be via social media stories from the players’ dressing room or virtual reality experiences. But data is one other method by which fans’ appetites can be whetted.
It’s often said that digital technology is disrupting the sports industry, but revolutionizing 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.