Sports Tech in the age of COVID-19
26 May 2020
The sports industry has been among the hardest hit sectors with virtually all major sports leagues on an indefinite hiatus, as a result of COVID-19 and social distancing guidelines.
Sport is a major contributor to economic and social development, a factor that is well recognised by governments. In fact, the UN’s Political Declaration of the 2030 Agenda, reflects on “the contribution sports make to the empowerment of women and of young people, individuals and communities, as well as to health, education and social inclusion objectives.”
Given its importance, the sports world is in need of innovation and new ways of thinking, which will result in the resumption of live events and drive the growth of the industry. Technological will play a major role in the future of sports, to ensure event safety as well as ensure profitability of the industry.
Leagues, teams and players have leveraged the social media age to grow fan engagement, however most of the interactions have been driven by venue and game content. Without live sporting events, interactions have changed, and sporting organisations are finding new ways to connect with fans. Athletes are using social media to engage with fans in innovative ways such as live, one-on-one interactions. These initiatives are keeping sports personalities and organisations relevant and top of mind.
There is a real possibility that crowded stadiums won’t be part of the sports experience in the short term, baseball in Korea and soccer games in Europe are currently taking place without fans in the stadiums.
Leagues and teams are using digital platforms, such as team apps, as part of the fan experience beyond game day content. Sporting organisations have an opportunity to leverage these platforms to grow their reach beyond sports media channels. Technology enables teams to develop intimate relationships with their fans by providing them exclusive content as well as unique experiences. Additionally, they can build insights on fan preferences and use that knowledge to offer fans tailored, direct-to-consumer products and services. This is particularly important at the moment, when fans cannot shop in stadium fan stores and have to purchase fan gear and memorabilia online.
The one sport that has flourished over the last few months is esports. Unlike every mainstream sport, esports events are online, remote, and mass tournaments can still be held virtually. With sports fans itching for live content, sporting leagues and teams have the opportunity to blend the virtual and traditional sporting experiences. Formula 1 drivers recently participated in the F1 Virtual Grand Prix series, drawing new fans to the event. Such initiatives are expanding fan bases and are developing new commercial assets that leagues can monetise.