Profiles

Tech to be used to drive fan engagement in sports this year

- January 7, 2015 3 MIN READ

Ever noticed all the NBA or European football jerseys when you’re out in the CBD? The era of sports teams belonging to a city is truly over as teams and leagues look to make money by becoming global brands. The keys to going global are winning championships and creating superstar players – easier said than done. Enter the SportsTech industry, which is helping teams desperate to gain ground on their rivals.

As more teams look to SportsTech help them make a name for themselves overseas, here are the areas set to boom in 2015:

Fancy Stats 

While athletes in post-match interviews often chalk wins down to every player going out and leaving it all on the field, almost every aspect of a player’s on-field performance today is tracked and monitored to maximise their effectiveness. The field of analytics has become big business, with teams tracking things such as tactics and player fitness.

Australian startup Catapult Sports is one of the leaders in the sports analytics industry, working with teams across Australia and big-money leagues like the NFL and MLB to track player movement. Catapult’s technology allows strength and conditioning coaches to assess a player’s fitness, find their strengths and weaknesses, tailor training regimes to different players — and see who’s really leaving it all out on the field. The analytics field will be a big grower this year as teams look for new ways to bring the best out of their players.

Fan Engagement

Much to the chagrin of major sporting leagues, HD television channels and the comfort of the couch are giving fickle sports fans an attractive alternative to trekking it out to a stadium to watch their favourite team play. As a result, leagues, teams, and stadiums have been hard at work trying to find ways to make attending games cool again.

Stadiums have tapped into the fact that a lot of us get antsy when we’re separated from wifi and have introduced free wifi in stadiums. This is perfect for sports fans, who love talking sports on social media – Twitter reported seeing over 672 million football tweets during last year’s World Cup. At the most basic level, stadium wifi lets fans engage with the game on social media, but of course, there’s a lot of room for creativity.

Predictably, given its proximity to Silicon Valley, Levi’s Stadium, home to the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers, is a leader of in-stadium fan engagement. By downloading the stadium app, spectators can buy seating upgrades, watch instant replays of key moments of the game, connect with other fans, and order food and drinks to be delivered right to their seats. Australian stadiums are catching up, with most now having introduced free wifi in their stadiums, and a few also creating apps. There’s still a long way to go before Australian teams and stadiums reach the level of cool attained by their overseas counterparts, meaning 2015 will be a big year for local startups in this space.

In-Game Technology

Since I am one myself, I can acknowledge that sports fans are notorious whingers. When it comes to decisions that didn’t go our team’s way, we all have a well maintained mental catalogue of times the referee missed that illegal tackle or the ball clearly crossing the line. But have no fear, sports tech is here!

FIFA (finally) introduced goal line technology on the world stage at the 2014 World Cup after testing it out in various leagues for a few years. Other sports, like the NHL, have started to put cameras on referee and player helmets to provide more angles and footage to weed out offences. Look for this technology to become more advanced.

Sport stopped being about feats of pure athletic skill and endurance long ago, no matter how many times big business football teams try to portray themselves as local family clubs, and advanced tech is now vital in winning games and fans. As a Liverpool FC fan, I just hope tech can help my team finally end its title drought.

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