LAS VEGAS – Vendors targeting the emerging new market of sports technology should focus on five specific core areas – athlete data, smart venues, immersive media, sponsorship, and esports, according to the founders of Boston-based Sports Innovation Lab.
Dozens of exhibitor booths put a buffet of technology on display – wearables designed to help athletes measure their performance and improve; automated scoreboards, virtual reality experiences and more.
Angela Ruggiero, CEO and co-founder of the Sports Innovation Lab, is also a former Olympic medallist, having played for the U.S. women’s ice hockey team in four different Games. She says her focus on sports technology is to help companies focus on the core five opportunities with data. Presenting at CES 2018 as part of the Sports Zone, the former athlete-turned-entrepreneur partnered with the Consumer Technology Association and Turner Broadcasting to organize the sub-conference.
“We want to accelerate innovation in the sports tech industry,” she said on stage. “We want to use our software platform that can organize and aggregate thousands of companies to help our members make decisions.”
Josh Walker, president and co-founder of Sports Innovation lab, is a former vice-president at Forrester Research and a serial entrepreneur in the software space. He’s looking to develop software that can be more prescriptive in guiding sports tech vendors. But first, he needs the data.
“Focus on the baseline is something we’ll be telling our members,” he says. “Collect that data you need to start measuring human performance.”
Ruggiero and Walker shared some insights from a research report they developed with the CTA, Tracking Trends in Sports Technology: A Sports Technology Market Outlook. The full report is available to members only. But the founders shared details on their five core areas of focus.
- Understanding esports and what lessons it holds for fan engagement. “I was a skeptic at first,” Ruggiero says. “But I started learning about this and I’m a believer now.” While traditional sports may not be disrupted by the new trend of competitive video games attracting large audiences, they should be paying attention to how its stars are building up fan bases.
- Experimenting with immersive media. VR content may seem flashy, but without the right content it’s not going to be compelling, Walker says. Companies looking to create VR experiences in the sports area will find that all the major leagues have their rights locked up. So they will have to look to more niche sports, or find opportunities around the pro sports experience – such as going inside the locker room.
- Building smart venues with security at the outset. Any stadium operators must make sure that stadium security – namely cyber security – is well implemented before building more connected fan experiences on top of that, Walker says.
- Redefining sponsorship categories. “When I was an athlete, you’d show up at an event to play and there was really limited time to spend with fans,” Ruggiero said. “Now you have to be tweeting every day.” Technology is leading to entirely new experiences with athletes that creates sponsorship space that hasn’t been explored previously.
- Collecting and quantifying athlete data. From genetics, nutrition, sleep, performance, and more. Even if some of the uses of the data aren’t clear yet, Walker cautions against making the mistake of not collecting it if you’re in a position to do so. “Get the baseline data now,” he says.