Digital and Sport

More engagement with digital

Even those who are not necessarily working in the digital world have realized that today data is everywhere and has become a substantial part of our everyday lives. Those who are willing to dig deep, invest and leverage on this exceptional opportunity are likely to put their companies and industries to the next level and secure a bright future. Using data smartly can revolutionize almost all segments of the economy furthermore it may assist companies to regain market shares and interest they lost previously. In most cases data is likely to improve efficiency, accuracy and profitability. Undisputedly it is a major breakthrough in the sports industry as well on multiple levels as it offers the opportunity to attract new fans, retain old ones by personalizing their experiences.  “Fans now have the possibility to become more than just simple consumers they can now participate, analyze, critique fantasize and connect with their favorite players and teams in real time” and can finally compete with the at home experience. Data is not only serving fans but athletes, coaches and federations and event organizers. Sports with peaking popularity like Formula 1 have been successfully incorporating data in their operations as opposed to cycling for example which was unable to adapt to the new consuming habits of the X and Y generations and started to heavily lose its popularity in the 2010’s. Innovation was desperately needed and no wonder the organizer of the Tour de France (Amaury Sports Organisation) partnered up with Dimension Data to regain spectators and please the digital native generations. The same happened when the Tennis Grand Slam tournaments partnered up with long time sponsor IBM to bring big data to the sport. The results are spectacular and the aim of this blog is to demonstrate how big data and digitalization can lead to the renaissance of an industry.

Customized sport entertainment to regain fans

Most of us can live “stadium experiences” at home with the help of modern technology and digital and you can imagine the negative effect it is likely to have on ticket sales on the long run. In order to regain popularity NFL and NHL teams developed their own stadium smartphone applications to deliver exceptional fan experience on site. They reconsidered all the customer journey from A to Z before during and after a game. Their new applications guide fans to the closest available parking space, order food and beverage to their seats, showing them the closest restroom with the shortest line. Last but not least, the apps provide access to instant replays, alternate views and close-up videos. In addition, after the game, the app provides traffic information and suggests the fastest route home to ensure the smoothest and safest fan experience. These platforms are beneficial for all parties as marketers are provided with some good quality CRM data and are able to make the best possible segmentation of their fans and target them with tailor made offers including discounts based on the fans’ profiles. On the long run this is likely to contribute to the rise of ticket sales and a growing fan base.  

While GPS trackers and heart rate monitors on athletes provide data and real time statistics for coaches in order to make the best possible decisions, it also engages more fans and supporters. On the rugby and football fields for example “the sensors record the impact of collision and intensity of activity, and compares them with the historical data in the database to determine if a player is at risk of getting injured or is overexerting”. Digitalization can equally assist umpires in making the most accurate decisions. Most sports related applications nowadays propose analytics functions for coaches and fans just like the IBM Tennis SlamTracker whose predictions about a match’s outcome are based on quick and accurate collection of 10 years of Grand Slam data. Key performance indicators to the match like serve speed joining with ball tracking, how many forehands and backhands were hit and some 100,000 points of data are collected during a tournament. Fans can enjoy live comments and can themselves become commentators during a Grand Slam. Massive data serves the broadcasting and press teams just as much as fans to create good quality content and feedback on the athlete and team performances. Furthermore, these data can afterwards serve for developers to create viable and popular video games for the fans in addition to sports betting which is likely to get more attractive with the existing data history.

Everyone is a champion

How about comparing your workouts to Olympic champions and race online against a former winner of the Tour de France? With the appearance of heart rate monitors and social media platforms for athletes like Strava, ordinary athletes can become champions by winning ‘koms’ of a certain road segment and compete against each other. As an amateur athlete you get the chance to analyze your own performances and compare them to others real time.  

So how about climbing the hairpins of the mythique Alpe d’Huez on your TV screen while you are in your living room and race against your best buddy who is on a business trip in Florida and has access to the same Zwift platform as you?  This new application allows cyclists located in the two opposite parts of the world may compete against each other in real time under real weather conditions on virtual roads.

Pain points

Our conclusion therefore is that data can make sport fun and attractive again for all generations. However, as an athlete and coach focusing on purely data and neglecting one’s sensations can lead as well to injuries. Not mentioning the dangers what happens if an athlete’s or team’s data is hacked and gets into the wrong hands. Finding out that for example the best player of a team is not recovering properly from injury could impact their price and can even lead to betting fraud. Sports industry has the potential to step up to the next level in the digitalization however its actors must carefully pay attention to not get overly obsessed by data so that it stays a pure source of joy for both fans and athletes.

About the author

Fruzsina has joined our team recently and she is a great fan of digital, outdoors and sustainability. Apart from championing our clients in English, French and Hungarian she is also an Ironman triathlon finisher, has cycled 1500km accross Austria, ran up to the Mont Ventoux and skied across the Jura mountains. She is about to graduate from the University of Buckingham Msc course where she majored in Marketing Management. Fruzsi is always excited to bring new ideas and activities  to our team.


4 Ways Sports Business Intelligence is Changing the Game

Does Serena do better in Grand Slams when she runs more? Watson Analytics breaks it down.