The Value of Digital Transformation in Sport

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Sport is an industry unlike any other, a fact that is both a blessing and a curse.

On the one hand, it is an industry fuelled by passion, from the deep and almost unconditional love that a fan holds for their favourite sport or team. Any other industry would long for that kind of emotional engagement.

On the other hand, passion is something we cannot depend on. Sport has long relied on fans passing their affections from one generation to the next, and times are changing. With a world of digital entertainment options now available to global audiences, sport must compete like never before to earn its place in the hearts and minds of today’s consumer.

This requires sports organisations to build an understanding of digital engagement techniques, driven by data, to avoid being left behind. This is the premise of digital transformation, a term that has become hugely popular in recent years but one I still think is confused.

True digital transformation is not about adopting new technology. It’s about systemic and cultural changes that are focused on extracting value over the long-term for the benefit of an organisation, its fans and its network of commercial partners.

Be fan-obsessed

To begin with, it is important to understand that fans, not technology departments, are key to success. We must avoid assumptions regarding what content to show, what platforms to create or which demographics to target. Sports fans are diverse, they are full of surprises and should always be given the chance to express their preferences.

By investing the time and resource into tracking individual fan preferences and analysing the data they share, organisations gain the intelligence that helps create worthwhile digital experiences. As we enter the world of web3, demand for these experiences will only increase, which means every part of an organisation, from the venues it operates to individual back-office processes, should be optimised for digital consumption and data generation.

There are three key areas where organisations can begin building this data-driven approach.

  1. Direct fan relationships

Online streaming, mobile gaming and social media is defining how fans consume, purchase and interact; it is now an expectation that digital experiences are widely available.

Modern fan engagement should therefore be shaped around platforms that enable these constant, multi-channel connections, enabling single sign-on authentication and gathering first party data.

Whatever platforms you are using, more value can be extracted by analysing its data and comparing it to other parts of your ecosystem.

Using business analytics, you can build a complete picture of how fan communities are behaving, leading to better monetisation. Last season, we saw data-driven fan campaigns deliver up to 700% ROI for sports properties and deliver millions in direct sales.

  1. Digital competition management

After years of relying on manual tasks, new digital tools can drastically cut the time needed to achieve objectives while bringing in a wider range of stakeholders than was previously possible.

With new digital tools comes data, which if analysed correctly can shed new light on how different processes are performing, opening the door to major new savings or future innovations.

  1. Enhancing the value of content

This practice of generating data from all areas of the competition creates opportunities to apply new information to the content itself, helping to maximise its value.

Spectacular amounts of real-time data can be captured from live matches, which can then be shared with relevant stakeholders to speed up decision making and improve analysis, be it for coaching or wider business strategy. Meanwhile for broadcast content, the ability to incorporate new data can enhance storytelling and drive a new level of engagement with viewing audiences.

A data-driven future

With a data-driven approach like this, the value of technology comes to life, opening the door to major new savings, future innovations and of course, investment.

Whether you are running a single digital platform or a whole suite of services, it is essential that they can be connected to a single data-based ecosystem, allowing information about fans, competitions and content to be centralised. This is a process that can often require specialist guidance and ongoing support, but it is the step that will keep sporting organisations on the right track.

The story of sports technology is just getting started, so it is important that we lay the foundations right and seek the right support where needed. By creating systems and cultures that can incorporate new products and extract information over time, we will deliver the value required to maintain the passion of fans and deliver previously unimaginable returns.

Tom Woods leads Marketing and Communications at LaLiga Tech, the technology division of Spanish football’s premier division that is leading the digital transformation of sports and entertainment with a range of unique, modular technologies offered under a single data-based ecosystem.