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How has the sports fan experience evolved in recent years?

Regardless of wider circumstances, sports fans across the globe have a passion for attending live sports events; whatever the competition, they will always entice fans through the gates - but the manner in which we enjoy our sporting events is constantly evolving and the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant effect on how we engage with our favourite teams and athletes.

The emergence of new, innovative digital technologies that created an augmented home experience whilst the world was locked down has influenced a new level of sports fan interaction.

Not only do fans expect the same level of engagement from the comfort of their fireside, but they also expect a similar level of immersion into the action from within the stadium itself.
Throughout this article, we take a look at how emerging technologies are changing the sports fan experience.

How has technology re-invented the sports fan experience?

It is crucial for sporting organisations to embrace and adapt to the constantly changing landscape of how their fans engage with sports they love. Many have a dedicated core fan base with whom they have cultivated a strong relationship, but the emergence of global digital platforms is enabling them to reach out to new, untapped audiences.

Social media, for example, has become a driving force across the sporting industry with teams, clubs and athletes investing in their online presence to stay connected with fans. According to MVPIndex, since the start of 2017, posts published by entities from the “Big 5” U.S. sports leagues (MLB, MLS, NBA, NFL, and NHL) and NASCAR have generated 16.7 billion engagements.

The advancement in technologies in our day-to-day life has also created experiences and opportunities for new sports to evolve, like the ever-popular eSports or drone racing.

How did the pandemic elevate the digital sports experience?

The absence of in-person fan experiences throughout the global pandemic placed further emphasis on sporting organisations embracing cloud-enabled digital technologies to keep fans engaged.

Even with the return of fans to stadiums today, COVID-19 has significantly altered consumer preferences when it comes to the sports fan experience. A new IBM Institute for Business Value survey of worldwide adults found 55% of those surveyed are currently more likely to watch sports via digital platforms than live television.

The expectation, post-pandemic, is for access to quick and personalised information via personal devices; fans want rich, effortless, augmented experiences and it seems those habits are here to stay. The pandemic has, in a very real sense, forced sports around the globe to evolve exponentially faster to accommodate our growing appetite for sport on demand.

What is next for the sports industry?

From augmented realit to virtual reality, to the concept of the smart stadium. The sporting industry is constantly evolving with the times to create new experiences for audiences sitting at home. That’s not to say that the physical experience of attending your favourite event is being neglected.

Smart stadiums that completely optimise the fan experience, offering things such as live updates, stat attacks and other information key to the in-game experience, are slowly gaining momentum. One of the leaders in this space is Amsterdam Arena, home of the soccer team AFC Ajax.

Bottom line, the sports fan experience has advanced well beyond simply buying your match day programme at the turnstiles. Sporting organisations must build on the lessons learned to continue to deliver a seamless online experience through cloud technologies, analytics and AI to serve the future needs of the sports fan

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