Five Trends That Guided Sporting Innovation in 2018
In 2016, our Future of the Sports Fan report identified eight key trends that would shape the next few years for fans – both the evolution of the fan experience and fan communities.
Comprising interviews with rights holders, brands, academics and industry experts, the study was not designed as an exercise in future gazing but instead to provide a toolkit for all those involved in delivering fan engagement.
That said, it is fascinating to see how sports have evolved since then and how they continue to re-shape themselves.
Two years later, I wanted to revisit the role that the key trends are playing in this evolution. Here are what I believe to have been the five most influential trends driving sporting innovation in 2018.
#1 Everybody’s Game – sports becoming more accessible, inclusive and appealing for international fans, women and families
Golf is an uncommon inclusion on any list of sporting innovations. However this year it introduced the European Golf Team Championshipsin which an equal number of men and women pros played together in an individual / mixed team event, for equal prize money.
Leading the way in international fan outreach was European Rugbywho took a big risk in moving its two club rugby showcases (Champions Cup & Challenge Cup finals) to Bilbao in Spain – the first time that the finals were hosted outside the normal roster of Six Nations venues.
#2 Game Changers – sports changing to appeal to younger audiences: more fun, more compact, more exciting
With Twenty20 cricket regarded as the gold standard for format innovation to which all other sports aspire, its half pint younger brother, T10made its second coming in December, with rumours there will be more to follow in 2019. Closer to home, the ECB’s 100-ballformat has now been confirmed for 2020.
Other sports vacuum-packing their offerings included athletics with the introduction of DNA (Dynamic New Athletics), a two-hour long, team-focused competition in which teams compete across ten events. Tennis has streamlined its Davis Cupinto a week-long season finale, with a qualifying weekend in February.
An ever-present amongst sporting innovators, Formula E has morphed again to include Attack Modeto increase overtaking and improve its TV spectacle.
#3 Post Passive – fans no longer wanting to be passive spectators
Not usually a major target for punters, the sport of golf witnessed a betting-motivated innovation in 2018 with the one-off Woods v Mickelson, winner-takes-all ‘The Match’.
Backed by Las Vegas heavyweight MGM, The Match saw Lefty and Tiger mic’d up and let loose in an eighteen-hole shoot-out at Shadow Creek Golf Club in November, presenting viewers with non-stop in-play betting opportunities.
#4 Playing with Purpose – sports providing a global stage for positive change
Leading the way this year for sports harnessing their social power was a hugely impressive Rainbow Laces campaign, coordinated by the Premier League and Stonewall. Building upon last year’s efforts, the weekends of 30 Nov and 5 Dec saw pitch flags, ball plinths, handshake boards, subs boards, captains armbands and LED supplement the wearing of rainbow laces to show support for the LGBT community.
#5 The 24/7 Fan – Fans will enjoy sport anywhere and everywhere
Twitter and Facebook are continuing to acquire sporting rights to satisfy fans’ 24/7 demand for sporting content.
Twitter’s recent deal with AS Roma is typical of the trend, where the deal will offer fans access to live matches, match previews, player interviews, team training sessions and memorable moments in the club’s history via the platform.
Significant change across sport in 2018, so what does 2019 have in store?