8 of the Most Innovative Sports Organisations

December 7, 2023

8 of the Most Innovative Sports Organisations

New technology continues to drive innovation within the sports industry. Whether sports organisations are looking to provide enhanced experiences for their loyal fans or leverage technology to get that 0.1% advantage over their competitors, innovation is becoming common in the sports industry.

Wondering where your team stands?

Here are eight of the most innovative sports organisations in the world.

1. Golden State Warriors

The team that has dominated the NBA on-court over the last few years is also the team that is dominating off-court too. The team’s stars, such as Steph Curry and Kevin Durant, are investors in early stage startups and technology companies. Always looking to enhance the experience for their fans, the Warriors were involved in the first ever VR Live stream NBA game. They were also one of the first teams to experiment with Google Glass (although this didn’t last long), which allowed fans to view player stats through their Google spectacles.

The team even used technology to sign SuperStar Kevin Durant when he was a free agent. During their pitch to lure the star, they used VR to show him what it would be like to be a member of the warriors team. This experience included experiencing coaching from the locker room to courtside views of the arena.

2. Sacramento Kings

It’s no surprise that the team that played the Warriors in the first ever VR Live stream game in 2015-2016 comes second on the list. Moving away from VR, the Kings were also the first NBA team to ever allow people to buy tickets to games with Bitcoin. They introduced this option way back in 2014 – at the time it may have seemed like a crazy idea. In 2017, it doesn’t seem that crazy at all which reminds me of a Peter Diamandis quote, “the day before something was a breakthrough it was a crazy idea”.

3. Bayern Munich

The German football titans believe so strongly in innovation that it’s actually one of their main values as an organisation. Earlier this year the team introduced an AR app that allowed their fans to take selfies with the team’s stars such as Arjen Robben. The team also places a very strong focus on big data which is highlighted by their partnership with SAP. The aim of this partnership is to maximise performance on the field and improve the experience of fans at their stadium in Munich.

4. Philadelphia 76ers

Philadelphia was one of the first organisations to set up an innovation lab, when they launched it in 2016. The lab runs an incubator that looks for startups at the intersection of consumer products and sports. Selected startups go through a six month program with the winner of the incubator receiving sponsorship from the team including continued mentorship/advisory. The 76ers have also invested heavily in eSports and were the first to purchase eSports franchises (Dignitas and Team Apex).

5. Dallas Mavericks

With Mark Cuban at the helm there’s no surprise that the Mavericks are up there in the rankings. The Mavericks constantly look at improving player performance to help give them an edge on the court. They have recently placed a strong emphasis on improving player sleep and as a result partnered with Bedgear Performance Bedding. The team at Bedgear worked with each player to develop personalised sleep systems.

“We are always looking for innovators that will help enhance the Mavs’ performance — whether it’s physical, mental or some combination of both,” Mark Cuban (Mavericks owner)

6. San Francisco 49ers

The home of the 49ers, Levi’s Stadium is one of the most innovative stadiums in the world.  The stadium has about 1,700 beacons spread across the venue. These beacons pair with the stadium’s mobile app to improve the customer experience by helping fans find their seat, locate friends and identify the closest car park exits when leaving the stadium. You can even get Hot Dogs and other hallmarks of the American sporting experience delivered to your seat.

The team has also formed a collaboration with Amazon Prime Now, enabling fans to receive everything needed during game day (within the hour) delivered directly to their ‘tailgating’ spot.

7. Atlanta Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks are investing heavily on connecting with millennials. One of their main initiatives is their Tinder swipe right night, setting up dedicated locations where Tinder users can hang out and meet (dedicated locations set up in the stadium).

The Hawks also partnered with Emory Healthcare to develop a facility with a sports medicine centre. The centre combines technology to better treat players, including the use of 3D motion capture technology.

8. Manchester City

The dominant English Premier League club recently hosted the first ever hackathon by a Premier League club (HackMCFC). They had a staggering 400 people apply to be part of the Hackathon, with the focus on leveraging available data to develop ideas aimed at improving every key aspect of players (from player movement to passing). The winners of the Hackathon developed a machine learning algorithm to help players make better decisions in games.

Like many of the other teams on this list, Manchester City has also invested in eSports by signing their first ever eSports player who will represent the team in gaming tournaments.

Sports organisations are continuously looking at ways to leverage innovation and technology, with VR/AR continuing to be at the forefront. However, judging by the investments made by the teams on this list, eSports appears to be a growing area of interest with competitive gaming and fantasy sports continuing to attract plenty of investor attention.

In summary, here are the top ways that sports organisations are driving innovation:

  1. Player recruitment through VR
  2. VR live stream of games
  3. Adding Bitcoin as a payment option
  4. AR mobile app to take photos with sporting stars
  5. Using big data to improve player performance
  6. Investment in eSports franchises and signing eSports players to represent the team in competitions
  7. Delivering sports tech startup accelerator programs.
  8. Improving player sleep through personalised sleep systems
  9. Innovative sports stadiums to improve spectator experience
  10. Partnerships with companies (eg. Amazon, Tinder) to enhance the experience of fans
  11. Using 3D motion capture technology to help give players an edge
  12. Leveraging machine learning to help players/coaches make better decisions during games

Innovate or die.

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Shay Namdarian

Shay is the General Manager of Customer Strategy at Collective Campus. He has over 8 years of experience working across a wide range of projects focusing on customer experience, design thinking, innovation and digital transformation. He has gained his experience across several consulting firms including Ernst & Young, Capgemini and Accenture.

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