With SportsPro Live just days away we asked some key personnel at this year's event for a small preview of the kind of insight delegates can expect at the Excel in London on 11th and 12th April.
In the final edition of our roundtable Q&A Series, SportsPro Live's experts in innovation: Angela Ruggiero, Sports Innovation Lab's chief executive and co-founder; Joe Edwards, the International Basketball Federation's (Fiba) head of digital marketing; and Stephen Duval, co-founder 23 Capital; offer their thoughts.
What was the most significant development you saw in the sports industry in 2017?
Angela Ruggiero: Technology vendors are emerging and shaking up everything; and sponsorship is no exception. This was on full display at the Olympics where categories are shifting to include new entrants like cloud and AI vendors (Alibaba, Intel, etc), who are not only buying sponsorship, but also increasingly delivering the sports events themselves. But it's not just about new sponsors and new content, it's about the right sponsors and the right content.
Joe Edwards: 2017 has been about the shift from media to influencers, our budgets and resources have tipped in the favour of influencers over pure media spend, especially in our campaign work and it’s yielding the results you’d expect from a more trusted channel.
Stephen Duval: The changing face of broadcast partnerships starting - from traditional broadcast to multi silo digital platforms.
What problem can technology solve, or do you want technology to solve, in your sector in sport?
AR: What can't it? 2017 showed us over and over again that sport is the testing ground for new technology deployments. The public sector used to guide what kind of technology the private sector uses, now the private sector has to figure it out on its own - and sports is the perfect place to do so. For example, 'smart venues' need to develop anti-drone solutions, ensure tickets are purchased by fans not bots, and establish a process for large event ID access management- which will carry over into 'Smart Cities' in the future. This way of thinking applies across the entire sports technology ecosystem.
JE: Right now I’d like an intelligent method to be able to identify gaps in the rights agreements and decisions broadcasters make with our rights to drive more and more digital and social awareness, reach and engagement, at pace given the nature of sports media rights (any one result can change a decision to broadcast a game).
SD: Ticketing and fan engagement - data collections and consumer trends effecting brand partnerships and consumer engagement.
Where do you see the most exciting progress taking place in the sports industry?
AR: The opportunity to build, measure, and more acutely service global fandom. I'm really excited about personalized on-demand content and in bringing a customer relationship management-mentality (CRM) to sports. By measuring who your fans are, the industry seems better equipped to understand this disparate fandom and demonstrate how strong the market is for sports previously considered niche or inaccessible. The over-the-top (OTT) revolution highlights the health, diversity and dispersion of this fandom, previously forced to consume only large sports in a standard format. The sports industry is being disrupted by other forms of entertainment such as Netflix and we can't afford to ignore our fans and their specific, on-demand needs.
JE: The OTT landscape for me is also an intriguing one navigating the needs of the business versus the current rights, I find it very interesting juxtaposition how digital moves at the speed of light but rights contracts and legal departments are at a standstill, I’d love to see a method where more flexible contracts are written to meet the needs of the fan at a quicker pace.
SD: IP owners to be self-publishers in a digital era with the proliferation of content platforms and new technology into digital rights production.
What’s the biggest change you’d hope to see in sport in the year ahead, and beyond that?
AR: The massive increase of tech (three-fold increase in last 10 years) has produced a lot of confusion in the market. At the Sports Innovation Lab, we'd like to see the industry get smarter and know what technology solutions can improve their business and the quality of sport itself. For example, new technologies such as augmented reality (AR) applications that help guide fans from their home to their stadium seat, make the game more fun and easier. The first wave in the industry was data collection - we as an industry are now creating innovative ways to analyse this data to affect positive change. I would love the industry to figure out how to be smarter and better at capturing, monetising and innovating through data and the new tech products hitting the market.
JE: I want to see more social activism, we see many players in the National Basketball Association (NBA) standing for what they believe and social issues, but I’d like to see this more adopted by the leagues and federations, I’d also like to see pure sports organisations adopt more of the cultural aspects of sport, both these things I believe will make sport more and more relevant and grown the game.
SD: IP owners becoming self-publishing broadcast platforms across live and non-live, and across other platforms such as betting.
Is there a session or showcase you’re particularly looking forward to at SportsPro Live? If so, why?
AR: My session: 'Tracking Trends in Sport Tech' of course! I'm also looking forward to 'Formula 1: Using technology to drive new commercial opportunities'.
JE: The 'Harnessing OTT' session.
Angela Ruggiero, Joe Edwards and Stephen Duval will be speaking at SportsPro Live, which is taking place at ExCel London from 11-12 April, more information here