Innovation gap threatens sports industry's future

Good start-ups are dying too soon due to their inability to engage the sports industry in a meaningful way, and the sports industry at large is losing out on the sustainable benefits of innovating their organisational processes, product offerings and business models due to its inability to effectively engage and leverage the ideas and expertise of sports technology companies.


It’s been six months since we launched SportsTech Match, a period spent listening to stakeholders across the sports technology ecosystem. The more we lifted the lid on the landscape, the more we have seen a bolstering of barriers between sports tech companies and the sports organisations looking to benefit from emerging sports technologies.


In this post, we share six of the most prescient insights that we have collected, all of which point towards an innovation gap which threatens the very sustainability of the sports industry.


Sports organisations often lack resource to invest, don’t always know what they want and often struggle to meaningfully engage with the market


Buyer Challenge 1: Lack of qualified resource / budget / time to find and implement the right solution


“There are too many players in the market, so trying to find new ones is a challenge which means always going back to some of the established players.”

(Global Governing Body)


“There are so many providers that sell their product as the 'must have' product of the year, but with limited track record. It is often difficult to distinguish good solutions from ineffective ones.”

(Continental Federation)


“Smaller sports organisations don't necessarily have technology experts on staff to formulate their needs and seek the right solutions”.

(National Federation)


Buyer Challenge 2: Internal mis-alignment on “jobs to be done” and prioritisation


“Our procurement team often doesn't accurately understand tech solutions, which results in unnecessary delays. Also we often struggle to get internal validation that a specific tech solution is needed and to unlock budget”.

(Global Governing Body)


“Internal policies are not clear and change every time”.

(Domestic League)


“Lack of visibility of what other solutions are used across the organisation”.

(Continental Federation)


Buyer Challenge 3: Misalignment with the market


“I continuously find myself in situations where I am speaking to a company and explaining to them what I need and end up having to adjust myself to their product in order to even be able to use it”.

(Global Governing Body)


“I am often left frustrated by negotiations with startups as they often do not have a legal function”.

(Global Governing Body)


Sports tech companies struggle to get in front of decision makers and sports organisations remain unconvinced about the ROI from investments in innovation


Vendor Challenge 1: Identifying and connecting with the relevant decision makers


“Getting in front of the right decision makers in the relevant sports organisations is our main sales and marketing challenge”.

(Sports tech scale-up)


“We struggle to reach the right audience without incurring high expense”.

(Tech scale-up building into sport)


Vendor Challenge 2: Convincing buyers to weigh-up the benefits of innovation


“Our main sales issue is the fear potential clients have of adopting something new”.

(Early stage start-up)


“I would say the main challenge is getting people within the sports industry to take the leap forward and work with innovative technologies”.

(Established tech company building into sport)


“As we are an early-stage startup, one of the main challenges is to identify the early adopters of our product; people who are open to innovation, people who are willing to try new products, and not to bother too much about the lack of functionality”.

(Early stage start-up)


Vendor Challenge 3: Budget cuts across the industry


“Budgets have been cut - so selling a new product is difficult, even if it has the potential to make money for the club”.

(Start-up)


Why does this all matter?


This all adds up to what we are calling the innovation gap. This is how we describe the current trend of good start-ups dying too soon due to their inability to engage the sports industry in a meaningful way, and the sports industry losing out on opportunities to innovate their organisational processes, product offerings or business models due to its inability to effectively engage and leverage the ideas and expertise of sports technology companies.


From an innovation perspective, the sports industry collectively must focus moving forward on reducing the barriers that stand in the way of sports organisations and sports technology companies developing successful partnerships.


The premium sports competitions (representing less than 1% of all professional sports competitions), are set to benefit from increasing levels of investment and, perhaps more importantly, intellectual capital, to help them innovate and grow. It is imperative that the wider professional and semi-professional levels of sport, as well as grassroots levels, are also given the tools and support to innovate, grow and build a sustainable future rather than building a dependency upon hand-outs from above.



If these ideas resonated with you, whether you are a sports technology company frustrated by unsuccessful attempts to engage the sports industry,a sports rights owner (or other buyer group) unable to find and engage with the right solutions, or anyone in between,contact us today!

336 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All