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Sport has embraced the advance of technology for its own evolution in a variety of ways over the past century. New innovations that have been adopted to help the sport progress, improve, or generally run with greater efficiency. True, these technological adoptions have sometimes come on the back of great resistance. But they soon they find their place, becoming the norm, part of the fabric of its respective sport.
Can we ever comprehend a time in horse-racing, for instance, when there was no such thing as the photo-finish?
Technology has embedded itself into almost all aspects of the sporting arena: professional or amateur. To improve the game, or enhance the experience for the spectators. To boost performance, or reduce mistakes. To draw in greater fans, or encourage more participation.
It’s easy to think of the Wimbledon tennis championships as the bastion of tradition. Where things have remained the same across the generations. In one sense, there’s a degree of truth to this. There has been a resistance to certain changes in favour of tradition, without a doubt. Such as: the adherence to players wearing white kit, or the fact that the tournament is still played on grass.
Yet chart the evolution of the event down the years and you’ll find the integration of new technology woven into the fabric of the All England Club. Adopted to enhance the competition, improve the visitor experience, or engage with dyed-in-the-purple-and-green-wool fans.
Leaving aside the somewhat remarkable evolution in rackets, footwear, and hairstyles (surely the days of the perm have gone for good?) we can also think back to the early 1980s and the introduction of cyclops, or its latter-day replacement in Hawk-Eye.
But technology wasn’t introduced solely to stop John McEnroe questioning how serious the Umpire might be.
Leap forward to 2017, and we can see the full embrace of digital, mobile, and even AI technology being brought into play, to enhance the All-England Club’s engagement with the fans, and to improve visitor’s experience of the event.
Because sport, like any other industry, needs to keep pace with the way their customers engage with the world. And the expectations they have when it comes to the levels of accessibility made possible by the technology of today.
Sport is a highly-competitive world, both on and off the field of play. There are so many activities, distractions, and pursuits, all vying for our attention, our time, and our money.
And for a sport to survive and flourish it needs a strong fan-base, and a continuing flow of new participants, generation after generation.
It’s about engaging with fans on the platforms that they use in their everyday lives; from Twitter transfer gossip to signing up professional video gamers to allow their brand to flourish in the virtual world.
And it’s about making the pathway to their chosen sport as compelling, and as free from barriers as possible.
OK, so the All-England club’s adoption of this level of technology might represent the need to keep up at the elite end of the sporting spectrum. But the need to attract participants, new-starters, or even to encourage people to keep returning to the sport, or local club, is as important for grass roots sports, as it is for those at the more rarefied heights.
Which is where leveraging the tools that modern technology provides can make a major difference. This might be utilising social media to engage and inform, or introducing applications and software that makes life a little easier for your customers. Or even back-office management tools to improve efficiency – cutting back the admin, and freeing the time to focus on your fans, players, and potential newcomers.
Sport is as old as society itself; and the romantic among us will think of athletic endeavours as tests of human skill and character. But technology has long-since been a welcome bedfellow; using innovation to lend a hand on the field of play, and in the administrative background.
As clubs across all disciplines face greater challenges to find, recruit, and retain – while working to tighter budgets and time-constraints, so there’s a growing need to explore technological solutions that will provide the edge they need.
Posted by Gareth Hill on
18 July 2017 at 9:00 AM
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