Adapt to win in the sports industry with the help of IBM

Sports has the power to create loyalty that can be passed down from generation to generation, uniting people around a brand.

As the sports industry goes through a period of unprecedented change, the ability to recognise this market disruption and respond effectively is more critical than ever. IBM has produced research that looks at the forces disrupting the sports industry and how organisations must adapt to remain frontrunners.

Nothing brings people together like sports. Sports has the power to create loyalty that can be passed down from generation to generation, uniting people around a brand. Technology offers the potential for sports brands and organisations to enhance their engagement with both new and existing fans, and to monetise growing international audiences. However, technology increasingly brings the potential for disruption.

Based on research, points-of-view from subject matter experts, and interviews with stakeholders in leading sports businesses, IBM has developed five strategic tenets for sports organisations to help them futureproof their businesses.

1. Understand market disruption

  • Changes to fan behaviour: eSports is growing fast, with the global market projected to exceed USD 1bn in revenue this year. Year-on-year increases of 53% in the minutes of sports streamed and 24% in the number of paying subscribers to sports-streaming services. The number of unique devices used to access over-the-top (OTT) sports content rose by 32%.
  • Changes to rights models: “OTT providers have introduced a global aspect to broadcast, and at the same time we’re seeing massive consolidation in traditional broadcast companies. Until greater clarity emerges, we’re investing in flexible infrastructure that enables us to respond fast to change.” Bill Jinks, IT director, AELTC
  • Changes to sponsorship models: Sponsors are moving away from the pure ‘brand eyeballs’ approach towards co‑creation of content for delivery via digital and social platforms.

2. Learn from media and entertainment business

How many brands have the luxury of self‑proclaimed fans to the same degree as sports organisations? “Data is king. The sports organisations that utilise data to engage their fans better have an edge over the competition, because a better-engaged fan is a more commercially viable one.” Rebecca Hopkins, CEO, Sports Technology Group

3. Deliver unparalleled digital fan experiences

IBM has developed four recommendations for the creation of digital fan experiences:

  • Capitalise on your history, do not hide behind it.
  • Measure the success of your digital content with an objective eye.
  • Reward fans for the time they spend.
  • Enhance but do not detract from the live event.

4. Adopt the right fan engagement technologies

  • Harness data for your business, athletes and fans “We used to collect about 23,000 data points per tournament. From 2020, we’ll increase that to more than 700,000 data points, collected and reported in real time, using the information to drive real insight for players, broadcasters and fans.” Michael Cole, CTO, European Tour.
  • Generating value from video: In 2016-2017, YouTube searches for football highlight videos increased by 90% and watch time of ‘funny’ sports videos rose by 50%. (source:Google)
  • Capitalise on the potential of AI: Leatherhead Football Club began using IBM Watson to provide pre‑ and post‑match analysis and opposition scouting, helping coaches and players optimise their performance.
  • Follow the money when adopting consumer technologies: Few sports organisations have capitalised on trends such as voice technologies, giving early adopters the chance to lead the way in their sector.

5. Secure enterprise capabilities

  • Envision a bold future: Bring together stakeholders from different departments (commercial, digital, athlete performance and IT).
  • Champion an agile approach: By adopting new ways of working that are design‑led and product‑focused.
  • Build an unbeatable team: Find individuals who can translate business needs into technology solutions.
  • Create a flexible foundation: By adopting cloud and software‑as‑a‑service technologies.
  • Support technology with the right people: Create mixed-skill teams and empower employees to participate in conversations about technology and the future.

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