Editor's Take: To boost stadium attendance, the sports industry is creating new ways of engaging fans. This article explores how the athletic community embraces advanced technology to bring back in-person sports excitement, while equally benefitting the players on the field.
Technology and innovation have unbolted the gateway for expansion and growth in the sports industry for a customized fan experience. Digital technology has been employed and augmented in every facet of the sports industry. It is no longer a secret that technical advancements have radicalized and transformed the entire sports identity and fan experiences but have also invigorated other ancillary industries that were dependent on sports.
During the pandemic, the sports fraternity faced an elephantine challenge of getting sports to fans who were under lockdown. In the year 2020, there was a huge dip in the numbers of fans attending the NFL with only 2.3 million attendees as opposed to over 16.67 fans’ in attendance the previous year in 2019.
Not just NFL, NBA, or MLB, but sporting events across the globe saw a setback in terms of stadium attendance. Luring fans back to the stadiums resulted in major sporting leagues embracing modern technologies. It was clearly understood that creating an experience ‘extraordinaire’ along with worthy entertainment was no longer a choice but a normal fan expectation. Mastering sports content delivery across multiple channels along with real-time digital optimisation and branding and marketing opportunities was a bonus that was possible only through the application of new-age technologies.
The flap of a hummingbird
With better-poised internet connectivity technology bridged the gap between the fans, brands, and sports. Technology magnified and customized experiences that were sharable and amplified with immersive innovations such as AR/VR experiences within the stadium converting fans into loyalists. Alongside high-speed cameras or the ‘Slo-mo’ has proven to be an asset in an athlete's performance assessment and also added the extra edge for fan excitement. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Milorad Cavic lost the 100-meter butterfly to Michael Phelps by one one-hundredth of a second almost like the fluttering of a humming bird’s wing and the high-speed cameras spotted the time lag.
AI has captivated a lot of attention throughout the sports industry with pre and post-game analysis, in-game activity, and even fan reactions. Coaches and athletes have been employing data science in their fields to improve athlete and team performance.
Interestingly, from March 2015 to June 2018, the NBA reviewed 26,822 plays from 1,476 games. In 4,297 minutes of action, the officials had missed or incorrectly called 2,197 plays, or about 8.2 percent of all calls reviewed. This amounted to 1.49 wrong decisions in the final minutes of each close game. Amalgamating AI and ML-based technology, has helped in better outcomes and fair judgments in the game. In games like football drone cameras are able to give sound offline judgments and tracking systems such as Hawkeye give clear on-field decisions.
AI that cares
Understanding what impacts the physical or mental health of the athlete has been possible due to AI integration. AI-enabled IoT evaluates and charters a personalized diet, coaching, and psychological therapy based on data analysis reducing the chances of stress or injury, and enhancing the efficacy and fitness of athletes, spectators, and coaches. The deep learning-based diagnostic analysis of biomedical sensor data analyses the cognitive brain activity, neuro generative health issues in sports like rugby, American football, ice hockey, boxing, and soccer to name a few. Liverpool Football Club, U.K. has stated that it reduced the number of injuries to its players by a third over last season after adopting an AI-based data-analytics program.
Scout for the best
AI has proven to be very useful when it comes to recruiting or extending contracts of players. Team owners especially have found sound dependence on AI-tracked statistics of every player every season. The IPL (Indian Premier League) records and assesses the commercial value of every player before the auction. Additionally, teams in football and basketball have added AI in athlete scouting during the field of play. Most teams use the technology to scout and spot potential players with specific data-identified attributes for example body guarding in basketball, throwing speed and spin in cricket, and video tracking for their in-field performance, where terabytes of data are collected and help teams determine the player’s future performance. Sean Durzi, a 19-year-old defenseman in the Ontario Hockey Leagues was scouted through an AI-powered analytic system that ranked Durzi in the top 40.
The past two decades have already proved that technology-led developments in sports have been phenomenal. The world heralds an exciting beginning that is creating a demand-based experience for the entire sports industry. Movies like Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis, based on the Oakland Athletics Baseball team, where the team manager despite the poor funding uses data analytics and makes a competitive team. It further demonstrates that in fact data and the prudent use of technology can neutralize poor resources and enhance team performances. Through time it has been established that as long as sports remains a lucrative market, technology will be developed and merged with it.
This article has been written by Saket Dandotia, Co-Founder Magnifi.