Last week we attended an Innovation Summit in the area of Sports Business in Austin, TX.  Speakers consisted of thought leaders in the sports industry in areas like analytics,  marketing, virtual reality technology advancements, operations and strategy.  They represented huge organizations; UFC, Los Angeles Lakers, LPGA, Seattle Sounders FC, Canadian Olympic Committee, and ESPN to name a few.  The information at was shared had both great depth and scope that could not only be applied to our sports clients but also brands in any industry.  The main focus of the summit was gain insight in an ever changing environment and learn how leading organizations evolve through effective strategic planning to ensure objectives are consistently achieved.

To say the least, we had a great time “geeking” out with other executives in this exciting and growing industry.  But what did we learn over the two days of presentations and talks that has our mind’s blown?

  • Virtual Reality (VR) will be the future for sports organization’s ticket revenue models.  Currently, commercial real estate projects are at an all-time high as sports brands (teams) try to build the biggest and most impressive stadium projects.  But what if there is a good chance that fans will no longer be attending games at such a feverish pace or willing to shell out $250/game for the NFL experience?  With Virtual Reality, sports teams can in the future not only sell every seat in the physical stadium but also sell it out 1000s of times over with virtual reality tickets that give you the exact same experience of a specific row and seat.  The effects of this technology will have “good” and “bad” implications to sports teams.  The good effects will be that stadiums can be built with a smaller foot print to save smaller market teams and taxpayers money and you can sell multiple “court-side seats.”  The negative will be that the physical stadium experience will be less sought after and in return be valued at a lower price per ticket when you an stay at home and drink/eat whatever you like and have the same experience (including interacting with other fans).
  • Virtual Reality will absolutely change the way brands and sports teams interact at the sponsorship and promotion levels.   Just as digital and social marketing has done for traditional advertising, VR (and Augmented Reality) will do the same for sports marketing and promotions.  Brands and sports teams will now have the ability to have superior data to sell multiple promotions or advertising space in their stadiums to each segmented market.  Just imagine being able to offer an In-N-Out burger night to Cleveland Cavs fans that live in the California market but have tuned in to watch the Cavs at home at the Q.  So instead of just marketing to Lakers fans, the brand has the ability to market to new fans in the same city.
  • The viewing experience will become more and more real for fans.  Expect VR, Augmented Reality (AR), wearables, and the Internet of Things to add components to your fanatic experience that will rival and beat the in-stadium experiences.
  • Big data is and will be the future of all businesses…including sports.  Moneyball was the tipping point for the movement that now has all sports teams employing dozens of analysts, technology staffers, and database masters.
  • This one might to the largest reach for me but traditional athletes will play second fiddle to “YouTube” and other digital and e-sports celebrities like Dude Perfect in the next 5-10 years.  The movement of our society has been slowly shifting to a true voyeuristic view of celebrities.  This includes sports figures (just like we have seen in the fitness industry) because society wants to know everything 24/7 so Twitch, YouTube, and other technologies like Facebook Live will continue to grow and make larger sports celebrities that have relateable skill sets and appearances.