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In the sports industry today, teams and players are increasingly leveraging every possible advantage to boost their performance on the field. Data aggregation and monitoring technologies have become highly sophisticated, with players recorded and analyzed by cameras, sensors and wearables for every aspect of their game. Advancements in wireless sensor technologies, real-time visualization and RFID tagging, all underpinned by the collation and analysis of big data, mean the most intricate details of player performance can be monitored in real-time or near real time. Performance monitoring also extends off the field to pre-game preparation and post-game recovery, from nutrition and sleep monitoring to injury rehabilitation and prevention. As an example, the German national football teams closely monitor heart rates during regular training drills, flagging if a player is getting sick or fatigued on the basis his/her heart rate is elevated compared to previous runs on the same drill.
Combining individual tracking, optical and other data types with detailed event data can provide a more complete picture of the sequencing of events, leading to more powerful insights on broader team performance. Performance visualization and software have enabled coaches and management to analyze team performance, both live and post-game, to help identify patterns of play and inform decision-making more efficiently and accurately. The integration of data and analytics has allowed coaches to perform highly granular analysis, in real time, that previously was simply not possible. Analytics platforms such as Kinduct and Hudl have given coaching staff access to automated video analysis (including long jump, frame by frame and past/present movements), personalised dashboards and statistical analysis on opponents, ultimately turning data into actionable insights.
DATA & ANALYTICS
Data & analytics has revolutionized scouting in professional and amateur sport, with vast databases enabling teams to identify talent, reduce risk and inform decision-making throughout the recruitment process. As an example, Stats Perform manage a global database covering 730,000 player across 250 competitions, whose extensive scouting workflow tools facilitate the day-to-day management of scouting departments for global clubs. Longer-term performance trends of key targets from around the globe can be closely monitored and then actioned at the click of a button. Brentford FC, an English football team in the second-tier division (The Championship), have developed highly sophisticated in-house statistical models to guide transfer policy, generating £120m in player trading profits since 2015 despite having the fourth-lowest playing budget in the league.
Keeping up with the global, connected fan not only requires new technologies and distribution models but also new forms of content, delivered at right time and in the right format. We expect content providers to continue expanding service offerings to enable fans to feel even closer to the action, such as behind-the-scene clips and interviews, that are in both short- and long-form, and are always-on. Looking ahead, we expect the need to sustain viewership and enhance fan engagement to drive activity in the sports tech space, as content providers look to adjust to the requirements of the connected fan and monetize accordingly. We are already seeing broadcasters and OTT platforms alike capitalizing on this trend, with DAZN’s documentary series “The Making Of” serving as a prime example, by allowing fans to relive career-defining moments for some of the most high-profile athletes on the planet. Netflix’s ‘Drive to Survive’ behind-the-scenes documentary on Formula 1 also proved to be a huge hit globally. Furthermore, we foresee the connected fan driving connectivity and infrastructure investments in the smart stadium/venue space, as fans now demand in-stadium engagement for everything from on-demand instant replays to half-time food & beverage delivered directly to their seat.
ATHLETES AS PUBLISHERS & MEDIA BRANDS
The rise of athletes as social media influencers is not a new concept, however its proliferation across the entire sports industry has hastened in recent years. Sports stars have become more than just on-field entertainers, rather they are now publishers and media brands off the field too. This new era of the influencer athlete has served to create real authenticity and connections with fans, enhancing fan engagement and ultimately deepening fan loyalty. Whilst there is certainly additional responsibility, the opportunity for athletes to tell and share their own story directly with fans has enabled them to increase their personal brand value, and ultimately their value to existing and potential sponsors. In this way, the sports media publishing landscape has been turned on its head. We expect disruption to continue from the sports tech space, driving further innovation and the emergence of new players as platforms look to partner directly with athletes and teams, handling and informing all matters related to social and digital media. We expect competition and overlapping business models to drive a degree of consolidation, both within the space and between other content platforms (e.g. pureplay OTT providers).
THE RISE OF 'OVER THE TOP' (OTT) CONTENT
Whilst the sports media industry has arguably lagged developments in the wider media & entertainment industry, the market is witnessing a tectonic shift in the way content is produced, delivered and consumed. As a result, the sports tech industry has seen significant activity in this space, both from leading technology and media conglomerates, and from new OTT disruptors. New specialist OTT technology service providers, such as MPP Global, Cleeng, Alpha Networks and Deltatre have emerged in recent years to help clubs, federations and even broadcasters enter and enhance their OTT or live media streaming offering. That said, we do not foresee traditional pay TV providers, Telco operators or content owners being rendered completely outdated in the medium term, for the reasons aforementioned. Looking forward, we expect opportunities for further value creation to drive activity in the sports tech space, largely through content segregation, expansion beyond live offerings and international expansion.
E-SPORTS, FANTASY SPORTS & BETTING GAIN RAPID POPULARITY
The mismatch between the size of esports industry ($1,1 billion in 2021) and its current (454 million esports viewers) and potential viewership base (2.5 billion gamers globally) underpins the immense growth potential in the space. Media rights & sponsorship is expected to drive the revenue growth, with media rights owners and brands increasingly entering the space given the highly attractive viewership dynamics outlined above. Going forward, this trend will accelerate in the sports tech space as esports becomes a core strategy for all major traditional sports franchises.
In a new ecosystem where loyalty is increasingly hard to establish, Fantasy Sports are valuable tools, enabling leagues and teams to have a direct dialogue and monetise their fan base. Not only does it allow leagues and teams to tap into younger generations and find new fans, but it creates a more loyal fan base, often helping to convert casual fans into more dedicated fans. Fans are also driven to watch a broader range of games within their respective fantasy sport.
Betting is already a fundamental part of fan engagement strategies as a means of gaining and growing the attention of sports viewers. From a sports tech perspective, data-capture and analytics capabilities will underpin the industry’s advance, enabling bookmakers to offer a wide range of highly engaging, profitable betting options.