Andy SteenApril 09, 2019

Trends, Business, and the Future of Sports

Sports marketing, sponsorship, fan engagement, player tech, these are all things that have come on heavy in recent years. Previously, sports were simply about the main media networks, the prime times, the most popular sports, and the players. But now… the business of sports has grown infinitely and means so much more.

Sports are more exciting than ever with the attention being paid to fan engagement. Athletes are more entertaining, stats are more revealing, tech is more advanced, and the experience is prime!

But beyond traditional sports, other disciplines are drawing major attention. For example, esports are in the big leagues now. The emergence of a strong gaming culture and the opportunities for fame, glory, and camaraderie have laid the foundation for esports to continue to grow in popularity and success. My previous esports blog highlighted the dramatic growth of the market with 380 million esports viewers today jumping to nearly 560 million viewers by 2021. And the mobile, social, always-on nature of esports makes it a growing global phenomenon.

FanVest, an event and community platform for the business side of sports is hosting its annual summit, The Business of Sports & Esports, in Oakland on April 10, 2019. The event brings together key influencers to strategize across this exciting and growing industry.

The one-day event spotlights 3 panels discussing the following topics:

Sports Marketing: Strategies for Engaging Today’s Fans (which I (@andydances) will be participating in along with: Doug Bentz (@douglasbentz), VP of Marketing & Digital for the San Jose Sharks, Kristen Gambetta (@kgambetta), Director of Sports & Entertainment at Rakuten, Julie Dolak (@JulieDolak) Senior Manager Global Brand Partnerships & Talent at Uber, and Kimberly Cook, Chief Revenue Officer at Hookit).

  • Digital Media & Streaming: Where Is It Headed?
  • Esports Today: Where Are We Headed?


Esports and how to better connect with its fans and potential revenue is certainly a hot topic. But when it comes to the future of all sports, I believe all trends point to one key factor: delivering real-time experiences anytime, anywhere, for all kinds of sports. Providing fans #Experiences that Matter.

Technology continues to advance and plays a huge role in fan engagement and making sports a thriving business. Tech leaders like Avaya continually innovate, and we are seeing new ways that fans can watch games, consume content, interact with their communities, interact on-site and use data in all sorts of ways… including placing bets!

It’s a dynamic industry that grows and fluctuates rapidly based on the trends fueling it. Here are additional things we see in store for 2019 and beyond:

  1. Digital Fan Safety Digital identity tools like facial recognition and scanning are becoming more readily available. This presents stadium operators the ability to provide faster transactions, reduce wait times and more to positively influence the fan experience. It also requires venues to partner with the right technology provider to ensrue the digital fan experience is safe and secure. With Avaya’s Identity-as-a-Service (IDaaS), fan and customer experiences are secured in a highly controlled environment. The mobile-first IDaaS solution incorporates industry-leading biometrics to authenticate fan profiles, unlock sensitive data and authenticate the customer’s identity and data for a frictionless and secure in-stadium experience.
  2. Blockchain With the rapid growth of blockchain technology, sports and fan transactions are becoming increasingly popular channels for creating a global, decentralized sports industry chain. This spans sports, media, fan transactions, betting and more. In fact, sports betting is anticipated to make up 40% of all online gambling by 2022, creating an opportunity for companies to leverage blockchain for keeping their customer’s digital identities and data in check. The fight for fan engagement, or attention as a currency, just might be won over via coin.
  3. The rise of the mobile app in sports sponsorships. In the past, naming a stadium was the premium sponsorship asset, but mobile apps will change that. Sports apps that deliver digital tickets, offers, upgrades, gaming, social, analytics and premium content will become more valuable as teams widen their fan base to engage global virtual fans. The most strategic and lucrative sponsorship will become the mobile app. 
  4. Integrated Call Centers Contact centers have the opportunity to redefine the fan experience. The smartest clubs are integrating technologies across the organization to collect, measure, and optimize data that will provide full customer context for each and every interaction. From ticket purchase to planning an event, switching seats, or even asking simple questions via social media, contact center agents will be better equipped with the not only the right channels but the right information to better support the fan lifecycle.
  5. Emerging Channels for Sports Viewing Whether you’re trying to ‘cut the cord’ or just simply find a reliable network that broadcasts your favorite sports in your preferred manner, platforms for viewing sports are changing rapidly. There are so many choices and services available, and everywhere we turn we see a new platform offering exclusive live streaming. This space will continue to evolve well into 2019 and beyond, but for these emerging channels to succeed, they need to have the right infrastructure in place to provide valuable content in real-time, which is what every sports fan craves, and what they deserve.
  6. 5G is in its infancy: 5G’s impact on the sports and entertainment world makes it difficult to identify all potential opportunities. 5G will replace 4G networks with improved speed, coverage, and reliability. The mobile broadband 5G can deliver is going to change live sports as we know it, from our phones and devices, to data and transactions, in-stadium experiences, and even newer technologies coming into the stadium or pushing harder than ever before. Think more VR, AI, tech visors, robotics. There is still much innovating to be done here, with a predicted 4 million 5G mobile connections anticipated worldwide in 2019, leading to one billion globally by 2021.

Essentially, we’re seeing more of a play towards using technology to connect every fan to everything in the sports world. Long term, the ‘smart stadium of the future’ will become a reality. But in the near term, there will be more of a focus on the digitization of fan behavior and how we as technology providers can not only facilitate, but also optimize, and secure the overall fan experience.

Andy Steen

Andrea "Andy" Steen specializes in leading internal and external strategic communication initiatives with an expertise in managing and developing high-performing communication teams and social, digital, mobile-led business solutions. She also leads Avaya's Sports Marketing Team. Follow her at @andydances.

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