Sports Tech From an India Lens
By Vinit Karnik, Business Head - Entertainment, Sports & Live Events, Groupm
2017 was a year of many firsts for the sports industry in India. Besides surpassing the $1 Billion mark, we also laid out tenets for the foundation of building other sports besides cricket as spelt out in Sporting Nation in the Making V report authored by GroupM and SportzPower. There is also a rise and amalgamation of Data, Tech, and Analytics gaining steady momentum to be at the center of on-field decision-making, improved coverage and enhanced predictions for better fan engagement in the sports arena.
Technology bridges the gap between multiple stakeholders involved in the business of sports through interventions at two primary levels i.e. on-field and off-field data capturing and data analytics / visualization. Like for example ex-India captain Anil Kumble has started Spekta.com in partnership with Microsoft and has developed an AI sticker that attaches to bats and throws up real-time data on four parameters of a cricket shot—quality, swing, power, and twist. While this product taps into the need-gap of real-time data capturing, the result it throws could potentially help an upcoming batter make the transition to the next level by making minor tweaks to his game.We have made giant strides in the arena of athlete performance measurement, wearable technology, broadcast management, fan engagement and even sponsorship valuations through technology. Enlisting some key thought buckets where Sports Tech is creating significant impact and noise.
1. Media Outreach
The rise of the “phygital” or semblance of physical and the digital world is an important discussion and trend in sports today. Fans today, wield a powerful weapon in the form of their smart phones and are constantly eager to engage, share and interact with fellow fans while consuming their favorite sporting event. Merger of digital and physical environments are set to transform the sports viewing experience –be it LIVE or catch-up content. Innovations in this space are happening right now and is set to accelerate rapidly in the future. Enhanced production quality with viewer friendly representation of statistical data improves game-day anticipation and often pushes viewer’s expectations.
Building on the “catch-up” phenomenon, real time bite-size content highlighting moments that has potential to build social conversations is an element that carry on a moments conversation for much longer moments from live sporting action which touches an emotional chord or cajoles a fan’s voyeuristic side or tickles his/her funny bone… Sports technology through multi-camera sports broadcast setup not only helps you identify these moments in real-time but also enhance them with un-seen footage and disseminate via multi-media platforms helping engage with audiences who doesn’t hold any specific interest for sports.
Tech in sports like in any other field is now a necessity and advancements are only going to enhance and improve the world of sports
Multi-channel distribution with regionalization of commentary and local language connect cultivates relatability amongst audience and enhances assimilation of the finer nuances of the sport which in turn increases interest in content, both viewing and participation wise. Organizations like Volcano City has managed to cut out a niche for themselves by delivering innovative live streaming and localization solutions to offer global video content in multiple languages to a host of different platforms simultaneously. This in turn helps building local communities and encourages formation of smaller sports cliques who connect, consume, engage and interact with fellow fans inducing individuals to get involved and contribute to the game even if they can’t play it!
Sports Tech has managed to bring alive interactive viewing—one of the most potent tools that bring together like minded viewers across platforms, helping them connect and increase interactions which in turn increases interest in sports and builds a committed fanbase. Hotstar’s initiative during Vivo IPL 2018— WatchN’Play is an excellent illustration of interactive viewing. WatchN'PlayVivo IPL 2018 was a skill-based game wherein a user got to test his cricket knowledge and expertise along with millions of other users tuned into the match.
2. Federation and sports authorities
Another aspect of Sports Technology is percolation of enhanced on-field performances at every level through data collection, monitoring, benchmarking and analysis of the players performances at an individual and team level. Done at the grass roots, this helps enhance selection, development, training leading to improved on-field performance at the highest level. When it comes to data capturing and monitoring, greater the width and depth of an athlete’s game-data captured, better the result. Entities like Sports Mechanics who’s working with Reliance Foundation Youth Sports (RFYS) reaching out to over 70,000 athletes across 4,000+ institutes annually has managed to ease out the process of real-time game-data and personalized athlete data collection, archiving, benchmarking and analytics using sports technology effectively. This helps in analyzing the performance of the players which helps determine the coaching/training/nutrition required by each, and it also helps set targets based on past self and peer performances. Such tech tools help now with talent scouting based on historical data and performance analytics and also tracking of training milestones powering productive performances that help achieve better results.
Fans are experiencing and soaking in sports like never before. In-stadium or on-screen experiences, fans are served with high quality involvement of live content and analysis of the sport. However, while the in-stadia and broadcast technology has scaled massive heights in terms of an immersive experience, we’re slowing approaching a glass ceiling in that space. This brings to light the aspect of fantasy leagues and gamification and the impact they have on the consumption of sports content.
Gamification of sports and the entire fantasy league concept has helped sky-rocket interest in sports as it has opened up so many virtual reality avenues for sports fans and doesn’t limit the experience to only playing or viewing, but also having ‘your-skin-in-the-game’ from a fan’s perspective. Homegrown Dream11 is one such concept; which capitalized on this innate fan behavior, identified the need-gap and garnered massive sports fan base by harvesting fantasy cricket, football, kabaddi and basketball games.
In conclusion, Tech in sports like in any other field is now a necessity and advancements are only going to enhance and improve the world of sports in terms of improved athletes, better on-field performances, immersive on-screen experience and more involved fans in times to come.