Sports clubs and organisations command loyalty and drive passion like no other industry. They create communities, divide families and generate debate thousands of miles away from the pitch with fans from all over the world.

There are few moments in a sports fan’s life that are as euphoric as seeing their favourite team or hero win big – just ask Leicester City football fans, who caused an earthquake measuring 0.3 on the Richter scale in 2016 when celebrating a crucial last-minute winner.

Digital technology offers the potential for sports organisations to enhance their engagement with both new and existing fans, and to monetise growing international audiences. However, technology also brings the threat of disruption. Many traditional revenue streams are under threat as new rights and sponsorship models emerge that compel sports organisations to find alternative sources of income. In the battle for consumer attention, organisations risk losing mindshare to rivals.

As the sports industry goes through a period of unprecedented change, the ability to recognise this market disruption and respond effectively is more critical than ever.

In this paper we analyse and discuss what it takes for sports businesses to succeed, defend and grow their fanbases and, in parallel, build sustainable business models that ensure ongoing profitability.

Based on research, points-of-view from subject matter experts, and interviews with stakeholders in leading clubs, IBM has identified five areas of focus for sports organisations: understand market disruption, learn from media and entertainment businesses, deliver digital fan experiences, adopt the right fan engagement technologies, and secure enterprise capabilities.

We look at the forces disrupting the sports industry and how organisations must transform and adapt, starting with five key recommendations:

  1. Evaluate the playing field – As fans change the way they behave; disruption is becoming the norm rather than the exception across the sports industry
  2. Think and act like a media and entertainment business – How many brands have the luxury of self-proclaimed fans to the same degree as sports organisations? And where can sports organisations can learn from other industries is in the best way to turn fans into customers
  3. Deliver unparalleled digital fan experiences – Sports organisations must harness the power of technology to create compelling digital engagement to enhance fan experiences and conversations where ever they take place
  4. Embrace the next frontier of fan engagement technologies – New technologies, cloud and AI capabilities are continually being developed. So how can organisations understand the right investment options that are going to drive the most value for their fans
  5. Secure your own enterprise capabilities – Sports organisations stake their global brands and their athletes’ reputations on the quality of the experience that they offer their fans. Technology is only piece of the jigsaw; organisations need to transform in in order to deliver enterprise capabilities and deploy innovation effectively

Understanding these disruptive forces are the first steps to enabling a sports organisation to deliver new fan experiences and transform the business into one that wins not just the hearts of the fans, but their attention too!



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