Seven sports tech trends to watch out for in 2023

The connections between sport and technology are strengthened with each passing year, as athletes, clubs, governing bodies, broadcasters and brands use new innovations to improve on-field business, define operational efficiencies and increase revenue.

Big tech companies like Amazon, Google and Microsoft partner with some of the biggest names in global sports to deliver enterprise-class infrastructure and services, while a thriving startup ecosystem has the flexibility and entrepreneurial spirit to create entirely new markets.

Despite the challenging macroeconomic environment, sports technology companies have secured US$7.3 billion in funding as of the end of 31St October, according to SportTechX, while Drake Star Reports says there were 734 deals reached in the sector in the first nine months of 2022.

The next 12 months will see widespread adoption of previously experimental technologies, first steps in entirely new areas, and some market corrections along the way.

The ties between technology and sports will be strengthened in 2023


1. The sports industry is exploring what is possible with generative AI

The sports industry has adopted artificial intelligence (AI) technologies for everything from digital content creation to predictive injury prevention. But just like in the enterprise world, these algorithms analyzed existing data sets to automate actions, detect patterns, and make recommendations. Generative AI can create something entirely new from these ideas, paving the way for a wave of new creative and career opportunities.

Companies like OpenAI and tools like ChatGPT can provide accurate answers to human questions, while DALL-E can generate images based on these requests. The ability to create stories, images and even videos will be invaluable to the sports industry, which can leverage the technology to create everything from marketing materials and news articles to personalized multimedia content.

Artificial intelligence is already being used to create outstanding videos but based on pre-set parameters. Generative AI could allow fans to request specific packages or sponsors to ensure their brand is always in sight. Perhaps it will also be possible to create custom non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

The benefits apply equally to elite and amateur sports. In fact, generative AI can unleash activities for lower-league recreational and youth sports that were previously impossible due to a lack of resources.

This enthusiasm should be tempered with some words of caution. The technology is still in its infancy, and as anyone who’s read an automated baseball box score report will tell you, some of the use cases are a work in progress. There are also ethical questions about generative AI due to its ability to synthesize human voices and images.

But the seeds of revolution were sown. The market is expected to be worth more than $110 billion by the end of the decade, according to one study, and OpenAI alone is valued at $29 billion with suitors eager to make sure they don’t miss out on the next big thing. in technology.

The Australian Open offers NFTs

The Australian Open launched the unique NFT project last year (Image credit: Australian Open)


2. Web 3.0 is maturing into something meaningful

Nuance is hard to find in the conversations about Web 3.0. Evangelicals believe that blockchain-based technology is the answer to all ills of sports and society, while critics refuse to believe that NFTs will amount to anything more than exploitative means of speculation. What will unite the two camps in disgust is the suggestion that the answer is not black and white.

There have been many NFT projects that have used sports as a way to convince the public to part with their money. Some were either ill-conceived, others were get-rich-quick schemes. In both scenarios, people were left out of pocket as markets collapsed. But just because digital assets can be “owned” in Web 3.0, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are valuable. It is true that some NFTs will be of financial value in the same way that they are a piece of art, but others will have a similar price path to real-life goods and will be there for a purpose.

The next 12 months will see the sports industry take a more considerate approach to Web 3.0 and recognize the long-term benefits of the technology rather than the short-term revenue gains. Digital goods will gain actual utility, enhance a sense of community, or provide fans with tangible satisfaction. Blockchain will provide a different model for new and existing use cases, be it tickets, memberships or trading cards, and the value of these assets will either be negligible or tied to this utility.

Buying something in Web 3.0 will be like buying something in the real world and not necessarily as an investment.


3. Mixed reality is finally gaining some momentum — but not the metaverse

Virtual Reality (VR) has been around for several technological generations but has yet to find an audience. There was a lack of ambition, but a lack of consumer demand and adoption of the hardware and infrastructure needed to produce, distribute, and consume virtual reality content.

There are signs that this is about to change. Meta’s insatiable pursuit of repositioning has raised awareness, attracted developers, and offered some compelling use cases. The NFL has an officially licensed NFL Pro Era that puts players in the shoes of a quarterback, Golf + helps amateurs hone their game, and there are professional coaching apps. Meanwhile, Sony is hoping PlayStation VR 2 will gain a supporter among more hardcore gamers, and HTC launched the Vive XR Elite portable headset at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Reliance on games and the cost of hardware remain barriers to adoption, but if Apple’s long-awaited augmented reality (AR) device finally appears in 2023, it could be a landmark year for a technology that has long threatened to break into the mainstream.

However, the metaverse will continue to find its feet. There will be more partnerships, more proof of concepts and a lot more innovation from some of the major players in the industry, but there is still no audience for these new digital environments. The metaverse may be the future but 2023 will not be the year of the hack.


4. The battle of the platforms heats up

The world of sports used to have clearly defined boundaries. Broadcasters, publishers, developers and bookmakers operate in their own sphere of influence, with fans running between them for different things. The digitization of sports acts as a centrifugal force for these previously disparate services, with the advent of cross-functional platforms that believe that specialization is no longer the recipe for success.

These platforms may still have a core proposition, be it video, content, or something else, but this is surrounded by a set of supporting capabilities that encourage users to spend as much time as possible on an app or ecosystem. This generates more data and more revenue opportunities.

DAZN is adding betting, social features, and NFTs to its streaming service, OneFootball is offering a suite of multimedia and Web 3.0 experiences, and FanDuel is partnering with video. Fanatics, which specializes in e-commerce, is also launching a betting company.

But perhaps the most interesting platform will be Apple’s iOS once its League Soccer (MLS) partnership goes into effect. It’ll be fascinating to see how new features for sports and apps native to the iPhone help support the company’s biggest rights move yet.


5. Fitness Caller death reports will be exaggerated

2022 was the year that the connected fitness market that thrived during lockdown experienced a painful correction. Demand for high-end equipment waned as fitness fanatics returned to the gym and the status associated with such a purchase waned. Peloton, the leading lighting company, has simplified and cut back on functionality.

But all this will mean adding more democratization and placing this sector on firm and long-term foundations. Peloton supplies its equipment via Amazon and offers refurbished bikes via eBay, while its platform is available on multiple devices. Apple Fitness+ is going from strength to strength by opening up to anyone with an iPhone, not just an Apple Watch, while platforms like Zwift are still making waves and Netflix offers fitness content from the Nike Training Club.

The content is out there, and wearables are still selling strong. In fact, hardware continues to attract investor interest as well, taking 18.4 percent of all sports tech funding in 2022, according to SportTechX.

The difference is that it will be used with wearable devices, or with devices at all. Gone are the days of tightly integrated hardware and software, but connected fitness remains an optimistic space.

Stadiums are using technology to bridge the gap with the home experience


6. The digital playground is not science fiction

There have been countless presentations from tech industry executives over the past decade (and possibly longer) on how technology will revolutionize the in-stadium experience. They introduced a utopia of how you can order food and drinks from your seat and watch replays on seat mounted screens.

Both outlook and technology have advanced greatly. Getting a burger and a pint delivered to you in the stands at a packed Twickenham stadium sounds surreal, and a smartphone negates the need to install dedicated equipment. Modern stadiums are being built with futuristic infrastructure and some are being upgraded.

In 2023, technology appears to have matured to solve specific problems, venue operators have the confidence and resources to invest, and spectators have the willingness and willingness to adopt new approaches. Expect mobile ordering and 5G applications to proliferate within stadiums and smart signage, along with more retail without checkout, biometric entry, and blockchain-enabled mobile ticketing.

“The conversations will move more to specific interest groups…[and] We believe that societies will eventually develop around products like NFTs and work through technologies like blockchain. ”

Louis Willitshire, CEO, Seven League


7. Social media is dividing

Social media is an essential part of the modern sporting experience whether at home or on the field. Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok are all popular platforms for sharing and consuming sports-related content, but few have the influence — if not the reach — of Twitter. The ongoing uncertainty at Twitter since Elon Musk’s $44 billion acquisition in October has led to a reassessment of the industry’s relationship to the social network when it comes to content creation and advertising.

Some brands have concerns about content moderation, while others lament the job cuts that have affected Twitter’s sports business. Twitter will still have its supporters and remain an important tool for sports, but the questions posed reflect a broader shift away from the era of unfiltered, generic social media.

Facebook is now as much about private groups as it is about your newsfeed. You could say that Instagram and TikTok are consumption platforms and WhatsApp groups are hotbeds of conversation. Even Twitter has caught which way the wind blows with its Circles feature.

In the Web 2.0 era, message boards and forums were the first forms of user-generated content, with communities formed around shared passions, often under pseudonyms. While it’s unlikely we’ll see mass adoption of a sports-specific social network, Discord and Reddit have become important channels and offer insight into where things are going.

“There has been a pivot to privacy in the industry and we believe the days of a public schedule across all social media… are coming to an end,” Seven League CEO Lewis Wiltshire told SportsPro.. Anyone who follows me on Twitter will see posts about the San Francisco 49ers, Tottenham Hotspur and around that time I went to a Bruce Springsteen party. Basically this is a weird suggestion – why would anyone but me care about all this stuff?

“The conversations will move more to specific interest groups…[and] We believe that societies will eventually develop around products like NFTs and work through technologies like blockchain. ”

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