2017 Sports Business in Review

In 2017 I had experienced various different aspects of the sports industry. The following list contains the main keywords that featured the most throughout the year in the sports business landscape. Let’s begin!

  • Disruption– it seems that if a business, idea, technology etc. is not disruptive than it has to refine itself. The way I see it, we have so many companies, products and apps that are trying to disrupt and seek a uniqueness in what is already a very saturated market. How many players scouting apps or platforms are out there? How many fan engagement white label app providers are out there? How many betting companies and monitoring services are out there? I believe you got the point. The focus on disruption is so strong at the moment that it may sacrifice true value and answer current needs of customers and businesses alike.
  • Digital– Digital has become the new focus of sports teams and organisations. I heard approaches stating the digital should be at the core of the business since it is a cross organisation component. Digital sits at ticketing as it sits in content. Digital is in scouting and training. Sports teams and organisation that failed to embrace digital so far are not out of the picture yet but failing to embrace digital in the foreseeable future will leave these organisations far behind.
  • China– in the Chinese calendar 2017 was the year of the Rooster and if you haven’t noticed yet the involvement of Chinese power in the sports industry this is a wake-up call for you. (Pun intended). China’s involvement in sports is anywhere. Starting with shaking the global transfer market and then taking over numerous European football clubs, to sponsoring UEFA and FIFA competitions and eSports. China did not stop at football, there are tentacles reaching the IOC, World Rugby and FIBA. Are the Chinese here to stay? The cases of AC Milan and ADO Den Haag act as a warning sign but I don’t expect the control and involvement of the Chines to weaken, on the contrary.
  • Tech– having discussed disruption and digital earlier, tech refers to the emergence of sports tech and innovation (another word I considered adding to the list). We’ve seen innovation hubs come to life such as the FC Barcelona Innovation Hub, The Microsoft Global Innovation Sports Centre in Madrid and the Sixers Innovation Lab in Philadelphia to name a few. Also worth a mention is the booming Israeli Sports Tech scene with many start-ups which some are already established players in the industry. Tech has become crucial for sports organisations in order to achieve an edge on their competitors.
  • eSports– Esports, wait, eSports, hold on, E-Sports, just a sec, €-sports. Nobody uses the latter but the boom of eSports this year and it’s reported and forecasted revenues cannot be ignored anymore.  Some games are trying to position themselves stronger in the market such as FIFA in comparison to League of Legends and CS:GO. However, we’ve also witnessed sports teams get involved in all sorts of games and not just sticking to their roots. With eSports being discussed as a potential Olympic sport coming 2024 the glass ceiling for eSports is far from being shattered.
  • Content– Content is Dead, Long Live the Content! The online arena where sports organisations battle each other too is forcing them to up their content game. We’ve experienced the most creative transfer market window in the summer of 2017 with player announcements. We saw official club accounts having a laugh at each other on social media (Twitter mostly). With sports teams facing the challenge of engaging with a global and diverse audience, online content is extremely important in maintaining and acquiring new online fans.
  • Fan engagement– for me it felt like the year of fan engagement. Everything is fan engagement and at the same time, it is not quite sure what can be regarded as fan engagement. I’ve witnessed the debate of what is considered fan engagement and what not on several occasions throughout the year. Truth is, it is hard to put the finger and there is no one size fits all. A fan engagement activity will work for a certain audience and the location will have a huge impact on whether the activity was successful or not. We often hear about the differences in culture between American and European sports. Do we want cheerleaders in the Bundesliga and LaLiga? Crystal Palace have had them for a while in the Premier League. Are cheerleaders fan engagement? At the NFL UK series at Wembley Stadium people were certainly happy when the PEPSI man fired shirts at them, is it much different to players shooting balls into the audience on some occasion? Possibly yes. People who work in fan engagement shouldn’t be afraid to test. If the reaction is good first time it might be worth trying again. If the reaction was poor, then we should look for reasons why and not discard the idea after one run.

This was 2017 the way I’ve seen it. I would love to hear what keywords stood out during your year!


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