Sports Technology in 2020: The Key Trends to Watch This Year

Sports Trends – What Can We Expect from 2020

This article originally was written by Rebecca Hopkins, CEO, The STA Group in City AM. 

Drama is the currency of sport but if 2019 gave us any universal truths, it is that sports brands’ below-the-radar work is the stuff making the real hard yards.

Over the past year, forward-thinking organizations have been focussed on creating highly tailored engagement, often embracing a social message, and better leveraging of newer media platforms. Two organizations which stood out in this regard were AS Roma, which used the transfer window to promote awareness of missing children or World Rugby’s work on TikTok during the Rugby World Cup.

So, what will shape brands in sports’ behaviour in engaging fans next year? Here are the ones I’m backing…

  • Don’t Badge, Make Bank:  last year saw marketers focus on creating tangible commercial returns from their investments. Whether driving subscriptions, selling tickets or lowering costs to increase profits, brands are looking to maximize revenues, not simply flag-wave when creating relationships with fans.
  • ‘If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product’: this was never truer than in 2019 and sits interestingly alongside brand marketers’ quest to generate returns, but how will the exchange of data for rewards continue? Two clear factors influence sports fans’ data sharing, namely do they trust the brand harvesting the information and is the reward worth it – a moving target if ever there was one? Increasingly this means highly personalized, relevant and engaging content delivered in the manner of fans choosing. Woe betide the 2020 marketer who cannot differentiate Snapchat and Spotify!
  • Which R?  VR (virtual reality) has (wrongly) been hyped for imminent and widespread adoption for years; it will undoubtedly score at some point but AR (augmented reality) is far more embraceable. AR comes in two forms, marker and markerless, which roughly means digital images are either related to a product or posted in the sky. Some AR executions have been dramatic (if you missed Estudiantes de La Plata’s Augmented Reality prowling lion, check it out here) but its core attribute is the potential for gamification, a growing force in sports. For example, at live games, rather than firing merchandise into the crowd, fans can catch prizes virtually via their phones. Expect more of this in 2020.
  • 5G or Not 5G?  People get very excited about the speeds and capabilities of 5G but with fewer than 20 UK cities currently enabled, it’s still far from a major factor in fan engagement. As the saying goes, quick downloads don’t compensate for boring content so backing 5G in 2020 is an each-way bet at best.
  • Social Politics:  Any brand operating in sport which hasn’t yet reviewed its environmental, diversity and equality behaviour is already behind the curve; as sports battle to win over ever-younger fans, these will be key. Most has been done with sustainability: Tokyo Olympians will be wearing medals from recycled phones, the Aviva Stadium has 100% renewable energy and eco-cups keep nine million plastic beakers from landfill annually, but with live sports fixtures generating c.41 tonnes  of CO2 pa, fans will look to sports to improve both its behaviour as well as theirs.

See the full article from Rebecca in City AM here.