Sport is a global superpower. It can fuel economies and unite fans across the globe, irrespective of social class, race or demographic. It brings out the competitor and comrade in all of us and has a gift for hyperbole, making our emotions bigger than life. Sport is collective, primal and fun. Uniform’s viewpoint examines how technology can revolutionise our relationship with sport from the perspective of players, spectators and viewers.
‘The Future of Sport’ is based on primary research comprising interviews with over 30 industry professionals and an online survey of over 427 individuals spanning 25 countries and 40 nationalities.
Sport is nothing without players, from grassroots to elite level. Yet despite the explosion of live coverage and global viewer numbers, across the world, participation is declining.At any given time, almost 3 million football-fixated kids and adults are playing FIFA. Hooked on the buzz of competition, fun and banter, they can indulge their competitive streak and become sporting legends all without leaving the sofa.At Uniform we call this ‘Generation sofa’: a generation who love sport, but enjoy it by proxy and pixel rather than muscle and mud.
It’s a dangerous split. Seduced by the latest tech, social media inspiration, performance tracking equipment and platforms to publish success, some technology users are increasing their fitness. But most aren’t. How can we harness technology to tempt people off the sofa and into fields, arenas and gymnasiums? Just as technology can keep people indoors, it also has the potential to encourage viewers to get moving.
One solution could be to take a leaf out of the gaming industry. Incorporating gaming trends such as reward functions or borderless competition into sport technology could inject the grassroots experience with the fun and informality of play, encouraging real, physical sport any time, anywhere and at any level. Not only does a big commercial prize await brands prepared to lead the revolution, but major plaudits too.
We believe the shift from the pitch to the couch can be challenged by technology. We see clear paths for brands to rise above the noise, distractions and competition and employ technology in new, impactful ways. Ways that will unlock the imagination and build relationships with over 6 billion potential players and brand devotees.
Whether dedicated season ticket holders, curious one time visitors or corporate guests, the atmosphere in stadia is created by the spectators. Their excitement can galvanise players and even win games. Spectators embody the ferocious camaraderie unique to sport and instrumental in creating communities from disparate individuals, sometimes with only one thing in common. The love of the game. We know how important spectators are to the entire ecosystem of sport, so how do we reward their energy and loyalty? How do we give them the best experience possible? And whose responsibility - or privilege – is it?
Now is the time to embrace everything from updated e-programs and insider insights to pre-ordering food, drinks and memorabilia and priority booking for 6 months hence. Replays and real time footage on smartphones can be served up on demand. Big data is primed to transform into insight and geo-personalised experiences.
The opportunities to enrich the spectator experience have never been so engaging, creative or adrenaline-inducing. The brand that supports their love of the game in engaging, valuable and inventive ways is the brand they will remember. Every time.
The viewer is everyone: it’s dad watching golf on a Sunday morning, mum following tennis on a minimised screen at work, the young girl live tweeting an LFC match and her brother stirring up debate on Everton forums. Digital is revolutionising their experiences and redefining what it is to win, blurring the boundaries between pitch-side and screen-view.
The rise of technology in sport is creating new ways to reach players and fans viewing sport outside stadiums, arenas and pitches. It’s opening channels to lucrative commercial opportunities and rewarding relationships. The introduction of sensor sportswear, IotT enabled furniture and player performance monitors and cams are evidence that viewers will pay more for and care more about a tailored experience, a pitch-side view and multi-sensory viewing experience. Tomorrow’s winners will be the brands that understand what it is to watch sport however, whenever and wherever possible, speaking to and with their consumers 24/7, not only during game time.
Just because you can’t be there doesn’t mean you can’t be in on the action. We see the shift from traditional venues to live sport consumption anytime, anywhere, as an invitation to a global audience hungry for sport. Brands can and should harness this surge to reach a fanbase that never sleeps.