| Oct 20, 2022

Taking the Lead in Sports Innovation and Technology

The sports industry is naturally competitive. As in any field, outpacing the competition today means having the best technology.

Competitive technology has been improving sports for decades, both on and off the field. Coaches use video to film their players, which they can review back at the training center after the game — showing athletes where they went wrong rather than telling them. On the business side, franchises implement digital tools to create more sponsorship inventory, such as community-based mobile apps and virtual TV ads. 

We may not be describing an industry-revolutionary product like iPhone or the Metaverse, but these are innovations that, at their core, have improved how we play, watch, and manage sports. Newer technologies, like artificial intelligence (AI), are already making more progress, like dynamically adjusting ticket pricing to drive sell-through for franchises. We’ve already seen evidence proving teams that fail to keep up with advancements in sports technologies fall behind on the court, the field, and across their bottom line. 

Technology Is Improving the Sports Game

Today’s teams realize the competitive edge technology affords them. New data collection and sensor technologies incorporated into the practice and live game facilities are driving significant change in how coaches manage and train teams. With player performance data, they can make better decisions. They can measure the players’ movements and health statistics during a game or practice and determine who plays better with whom for an ideal lineup on the field. 

Take basketball: Sensors on the players track their speed and movements. If they gravitate to the same spot every time they run downcourt, coaches can address it, directing them to multiple locations. Sensors can track when they shoot the ball, how quickly it leaves their hands, and where they’re most successful on the court. All these little pieces inform how coaches instruct their players and ultimately train them for peak performance. When Natalia Chavez’s team implemented sensors, they had no idea they were about to track one of ESPN’s top plays. But they did just that. She launched the ball over 45 feet. halfway down the court just as the buzzer rang in overtime. Her team won — and thanks to the sensors, her coach (and all the fans) could track exactly how incredible her shot was. 

Next-Generation Technology Is Enhancing Our Sports Experience

1. Monetizing sensor data
Data and sensors are powering improvements in performance, but with that data comes a number of ways to add more value. With sensors to track a player’s speed, distances traveled, and acceleration rate, these next-generation stats can be sold and used in media to report with greater insight: “This player tends to go 10 miles an hour on the court, but this player goes 12.”

That data can also sell sponsorships — “Fastest player of the game, brought to you by Indeed” — to generate greater revenue for the team. Sports betting organizations, for example, would be interested in buying and offering their users more data to make decisions and formulate new elements for their betting platforms. 

2. Advertising technology
Innovations in advertising allow teams and sponsored content to reach the right audience more consistently. The advertising can be customized by place: Someone watching the game in Philadelphia could see Philadelphia ads on their TV while a viewer in New York watches that same game and sees ads specific to New York. Ads in the stadium can be distinct from ads for at-home viewers, a tremendously useful advancement for sports marketers and advertisers because those dedicated local fans add more value than at the national level. Our company has focused on this area with the goal of bringing more revenue to teams by aggregating these local fans for brands.

Many teams are also experimenting with virtual advertising. Viewers watching the game on TV see a graphic logo placed mid-field. Only when a player runs through it do those home viewers realize the ad is not really there. People at the game see no ad at all because it’s fully virtual. As technology continues to innovate viewing entertainment, imagine what the future of virtual advertising might look like. 


3. Ticketing technology
Digital innovation in ticketing means teams get the right ticket in front of the right buyer at the right time. It also works to accurately price tickets in more intuitive ways. For example, the moment a team knows about an incoming rainstorm, seats undercover could go up in price, while exposed seats could go down to optimize sell-through. Fans’ priorities will affect their decision-making processes. The one who wants to see the big game and stay dry will pay the premium to avoid an exposed seat. The fan who prioritizes a better ticket value will buy the less expensive seats in the rain and trust in their poncho.

An innovative ticket tech platform, Event Dynamic, offers a technology called the “TV button.” Teams can use it to optimize the price of all the seats in view for people watching the game at home. Filling up those seats first means viewers watching remotely will see the stadium full, even when it’s not. The content is more enjoyable to watch because the team seems popular — even better, viewers may be more inclined to watch live, in-stadium, because it appears full. 

4. Fan engagement
Actively engaging fans is a key competency of any successful team. Those that expertly incorporate digital platforms tend to see higher fan engagement. They can host virtual watch parties, where fans experience the game with a sports legend or ex-player from their favorite team, for example. Increasingly, U.S. sports franchises are also expanding their offering of proprietary subscription-based premium memberships, providing fans with admission to all regular season games, as well as exclusive team content and perks, like merchandise discounts and access to ballpark social spaces, as well as digital platforms connecting fans around the globe.

These subscription services give fans another level of access to bonus content and features, elevating them to “members of the team” rather than regular fans while adding another source of revenue for teams and sports organizations. The Arkansas’ Hogs+ program has helped engage an entirely new base of fans – even to the point where 50% of their subscribers aren’t in their ticket base. 

Between the players, the coaches, and engagement with fans, there are so many millions of aspects that go into creating a successful team. By investing in sports technology, we can optimize more of them while adapting to a changing industry. Innovation increases your odds of winning; stay ahead to stay competitive. 

Michael Schreiber
Executive Author

Founder and CEO, Playfly Sports

A dynamic innovator in his field, Michael leads Playfly Sports with vision towards the future and a keen understanding of the needs of his clients. view profile


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