By Jackson Gaskins
Technology has changed the game.
Over the last 10 years, almost every industry has improved through the emergence of new technological advances. It’s changed how insurers manage risk and how retailers optimize pricing. It allows blockchain enthusiasts to mine for digital money directly from their cell phone and even provides world-class financial literacy education to investors around the world with the push of a button.
Any business or industry looking to stay competitive in 2023 is using emerging technology to their advantage. The sports industry is no different.
I have seen first hand how technology has revolutionized the way we watch, play, and experience sports. From advanced analytics and data visualization to evaluation tools and streaming services, technology has changed the way we interact with and understand sports.
I spent the first six years of my career working in professional sports. From the NFL to the NBA and even Minor League Baseball, one thing remains the same – information is king!
One of the most significant changes that technology has brought to sports is the use of advanced analytics and data visualization. Teams and organizations are now able to collect and analyze an enormous amount of data on everything from player performance to team strategies.
Companies like Diamond Kinetics have introduced next-level data collection and analytics for baseball and softball through the development of motion data. Their light-weight sensors can be attached to nearly any baseball/softball bat and generate easy-to-understand metrics, data and swing analysis tools to both players and coaches.
Made popular in the industry following the success of the Oakland Athletics in 2002, and famous through Brad Pitt’s movie Moneyball, a greater understanding of the sport through technology and statistics has allowed teams to make more informed decisions.
Fun fact: Miguel Tejada won the 2002 American League Most Valuable Player award, but was hardly discussed in the movie.
You don’t have to be a professional athlete to access this amazing sports tech. Companies like Whoop, who have received more than $400 million in total funding, offer wearables for the every-day athlete to monitor sleep, recovery, and daily effort around the clock.
Trackman, a radar system that reads club/bat and ball data, is used by a wide audience including professional athletes, amateurs, casual players, business owners and equipment manufacturers. Have you ever seen a golf simulator? The technology used to predict where your ball was hit is probably created by them.
Sports fans have grown to expect more data. More stats. More access.
Such interest has driven yet another major change to the sports landscape – the rise of streaming services. In the past, fans had to rely on traditional TV broadcasts to watch their favorite teams and players. But now, with the advent of streaming services like ESPN+, NBC Sports Gold, and Amazon Prime, fans can watch games and events from anywhere, at any time. This has made it easier for fans to stay connected to their favorite sports and teams, regardless of where they are.
Amazon entered the streaming game this year with a historic partnership with the National Football League to host Thursday Night Football. Armed with next-generation data, the broadcast is filled with user-friendly content designed to improve the traditional viewing experience. Thursday Night Football averaged over 9.5 million viewers per week.
Fun fact: Amazon will pay the NFL about $1.3 billion per year for the next 11 years to stream Thursday Night Football.
Over the last decade, the valuation of the three major leagues – National Football League, National Basketball Association, Major League Baseball – has increased by almost four times, outperforming the returns on the S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average stock indices by 25% and 42%, respectively.
Fun fact: In June 2022, the Denver Broncos sold for $4.65 billion, a record for the most expensive team purchase.
The cash influx isn’t exclusive to the professional leagues. Large television deals and a robust sponsorship landscape has helped generate the multi-billion-dollar college athletics industry.
At the college level, few have done a better job of incorporating technology, data and new media better than On3 Sports. Created by long-time entrepreneur Shannon Terry, On3 is a massive database and networking company that connects, educates, and inspires fans, media, coaches and athletes.
Athlete profiles are filled with rankings, measurables, recent stories and even their Name, Image & Likeness valuation. The profiles leave no stone unturned and no question unanswered.
In an era where NIL is at the forefront of nearly every recruiting conversation across the country, hundreds of companies are jockeying to be the go-to NIL marketplace for student athletes. Much like the dot-com bubble in the 90’s, some will go on to become massively successful in the industry worth hundreds of millions while others will become a footnote in the history books. Those that do it well today (Opendorse, MOGL, PostGame) must continue to innovate and develop an ecosystem beneficial for athletes and brands simultaneously.
We all have a front-row seat to what will likely be the next 30 years of sports media, technology and innovation.