The year 2020 promised to be a golden one for sports and the industry watched in dismay as event after event was cancelled or postponed due to the onset of the global pandemic.
If there is anything positive to take from this crisis for sports organizations and brands, it is that those that were tech focused were able to adapt and adjust in areas like fan engagement, esports and remote production to help them move forward and protect revenue streams. Open-to-innovation organizations did not get stymied when the music stopped in 2020, as technology had been woven into their thinking for many years.
Communication and events organization The STA Group has issued a report titled “What the Tech Happened to Sport in 2020” in an attempt to make sense of some of these issues and identify trends for the future.
Throughout 2020, times were tough and every organization had to scrutinize every line on the P&L statement. The need for a demonstrable return on investment was achieved through speed of service, rationalization of human resources and reduction in areas like travel.
The STA Group identified a number of key trends that drove the industry forward in 2020, including artificial intelligence, which the company said has “come to the fore and is proving exceptionally effective at unearthing new insights and challenging thinking.” All organizations are now doing some form of data harvesting and AI is helping to make that data more valuable.
Not surprisingly, a major area of success during the pandemic has been esports, as it does not rely on physical production and physical venues. “After years of discussion and debate around its relationship with “traditional’ sports,” the report says, “the genie is truly out of the bottle. What is now clear is that any sport which isn’t reviewing an esports strategy for 2021 is likely to be found wanting a second time.”
There will continue to be many issues around the return of crowds to venues well into 2021. The availability the COVID-19 vaccine will play a major role, but for venue managers certain issues like crammed food and beverage areas, questionable toilet facilities and transactions in cash might not prove acceptable in sports’ ‘new normal.’ Technologies that enable in-seat ordering and blue light hygiene can address some of these issues but will be expensive to adopt.
The pandemic put an end to the idea that people must be in specified places to do certain jobs, specifically in sports broadcasting. Since it wasn’t possible for production teams to gather on-site, this concept was upended as various team members learned how to successfully deliver their part of the production working from home.
“The pandemic certainly influenced us to think differently in this regard, and hopefully we’ll see it make an impact in the areas of sustainability and environmental awareness too,” according to the report. “If it does, the types of outside broadcast mobilizations traditionally seen for major sports might eventually be consigned to history for good.”
Despite everything that happened in 2020, the sports technology sector remains vibrant and diverse and continues to evolve at pace. 2020 threw the bottom line into sharp focus, the report concludes, with a key takeaway being you should ensure your brand steps up the tech thinking in 2021.
The STA Group is dedicated to informing, inspiring and celebrating all aspects of sports technology across the international sports sector. It strives to showcase genuine excellence, recognize visionaries and sports leaders, and deliver a transparent and robust appraisal of the sports and tech sector.