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How Sports and Tech Are Evolving And Driving Fan Engagement in Europe

The fast-paced sports industry has seen a transformation in the last few years thanks partly to new innovations in technology. Whether these techno...

The fast-paced sports industry has seen a transformation in the last few years thanks partly to new innovations in technology. Whether these technological advancements are applied at the stadium, such as the use of virtual reality and AI-powered immersive experiences, or off the pitch like advancements in streaming services, sports brands and organisations are tapping into these trends and tools to accelerate fan engagement. 

In the UK and Europe, technology is disrupting the sports industry and changing the way fans experience their favourite sporting events. In fact, according to a survey by Mastercard Sport Economy Index 2023, two-thirds of European sports fans say tech is crucial to their match experience.

For a deeper dive into the world of sports and technology, and to learn more about the emerging trends in Europe, Andrew Fingerman, CEO of PhotoShelter, recently spoke with Samuel Westberg, CEO of LaSource, at The PhotoShelter Summit.

Samuel has been in the Sports industry for the last 12 years, moving from his work at a professional club to the Tech Startup side for the last 10+ years. LaSource is a B2B agency based in Paris, focused on sport, digital and technology, which was created four years ago to accompany the best startups in their European growth, bridging the gap between sports governing bodies and sports tech startups. It enables organisations to create new formats of content and better experiences for fans. 

According to Samuel, sports organisations are going through a major digital transformation, which the pandemic has accelerated. He said that LaSource has created a model that gives them access to new innovative and digital solutions to meet their strategic objectives.

Let’s dive into the conversation to find out more!

In conversation On How Sports and Tech Are Drive Fan Engagement

Andrew: Sports and tech have evolved so much over the years. Are there any trends you’re seeing among your clients and what their needs are now vs 5 years ago?

Sam: Yeah, absolutely. Just at a high level, I think that for people of our generation and older, the idea was that we used to receive a lot of information. We used to watch sports events and consume content in a passive manner. I think that with the current generation, this has completely shifted. 

Digital is now used at its full potential to create more interactivity and participation. And I think that everything that is related to that, people being part of the story they’re watching is fundamental. So I think that elements like user-generated content have become prominent and are fundamental for the way organisations should look at capturing content and acquiring content. 

I think that interactivity is also fundamental, we need to understand what people are expecting, and how they are reacting to each piece of content. And for them to be able to have a voice and a say in terms of what type of content they’re looking to consume. This, for me, is the major shift. Passive audiences are becoming very active ones. They want to interact extensively and I think that fan engagement is at the forefront of all the digital strategies of all the sports organisations currently because they understand that they can not only leave that engagement layer to social media platforms but also understand they have to know how to capture some of that value on their side as well. 

Andrew: I was at an event last year where the NBA head of interactive spoke and he shared an incredible stat which was that ‘99% of NBA fans across the world will never set foot in a stadium or an arena where a live game is taking place.’ So you can imagine the ways that technology can be leveraged to bring the game to those 99% of NBA fans in new ways to build deeper relationships with them. What are your thoughts about opportunities like this?

Sam: Yes they have embraced content creation. They let fans be the ambassadors of the brand. And with the NBA app they put forward so much content, including behind-the-scenes. International fans can feel that proximity to the actual league, the brand and the actual sport. They are definitely at the forefront of next-generation fan engagement. 

Andrew: From your experience working with sports organisations and tech companies, how are they working together to foster quality relationships with the new generation?

Sam: They have been doing a good job of leveraging social media platforms to reach this audience. However, one of the limits is how they have transformed that engagement on their proprietary platforms, which is where they will be able to grow their business and leverage those fans. 

I think there is a lot that can be done on proprietary platforms that haven’t been leveraged yet and that is what organisations are starting to realise. When you think of the NBA, for example, I think that they definitely are doing a great job at understanding what their fans want. They have the NBA app and they are building a huge team internally to actually be in control of what their tech stack looks like. There is a big untapped potential for sports organisations to leverage the fandom of fans.

Andrew: What differences do you see in how sports organisations and tech companies in Europe are tackling fan engagement, compared to those in the US or other parts of the world?

Sam: So a couple of elements on the major differences between the US market and the European one, first of all, is the balance of power. In the US, the leagues have all the power. In Europe, broadcasters have more power than the leagues because the leagues don’t own the clubs and because the majority of the revenue comes from the actual rights. Whereas the NBA, for example, they control the money, they control the clubs and they are not dependent on one broadcast or another and know very well how to break up their rights to optimise and get the most value out of it. 

I think that’s one fundamental difference and this is why you can’t approach those markets in a similar way. The second thing that is very true is that the US market is so focused on revenue and the governing bodies are pure businesses. Versus you have to always remember that in Europe, most of those organisations are under, for example, UEFA which is not a private organisation. It is an organisation whose aim is to redistribute the content to all the national associations and leagues in an equal way. So the appetite to innovate in the US is much faster. I think that Europeans are still following the lead in terms of innovation coming from the US, which they then adapt to Europe.

Andrew: What main challenges do you see sports organisations have when capturing and producing live content?

Sam: The main challenge is how to move away from what is considered fundamentals in sports organisations and then leverage new technologies to adapt to the needs. Another one is how to have a global content approach vs a content for linear vs a content for digital approach.

Andrew: What are some of your predictions for the year ahead? What’s next for LaSource?

Sam: Audience participation is going to be key and how you bring that into the narrative.

“People don’t want to see stories only, they want to be part of it.”

Sam Westberg, LaSource

Interconnecting various systems and automating a lot of the output will also be key and then the tech that allows you to analyse, segment, and target more extensively will be key. 

Collaborative approaches between organisations will be key to consolidating sports market share and its growth.

For LaSource, we want to keep choosing the best technologies to put at the forefront of that digital transformation and want to help more rights holders and governing bodies leverage those by helping not only with their choice of tech but also in their strategy to deploy those.

Watch this clip where Sam explains what lies ahead for the sports tech industry and LaSource in 2023 and beyond.

If you’d like to learn more about how professional sports brands and other organisations use digital asset management tools to organise their media and share content in real-time, we’d love to hear from you!

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