As we entered a new decade some 2 years ago, we have made some noteworthy predictions on how the sports industry will evolve over the next ten years. One thing seems certain: we are in for some big changes!
Looking forward to the next decade
As I explained in an earlier blogpost (11 important future trends in the world of sports ), looking forward is always fun. Analysing new trends, changing demographics, new technologies and changes in society are generally catalysts for predicting change going forward. Sports is no exception in this perspective. Certainly today’s world is witnessing a lot of change, varying from the war between Russia and Ukrain to Covid and a bunch of different new technologies. All are changing our lives.
Such events and trends offer an excellent opportunity to make some bold (and less bold) predictions on the main innovations in sports in the next decade. Below I have summarised my top 10 sports innovation predictions. If I have missed one, feel free to comment or add in the comment box below.
Prediction 1: The sports media landscape will dramatically change
This prediction is an easy one! If one thing is for sure, it will be the way we will produce, deliver and consume media content. It is an open door to state that traditional media have to change. But really, they will have to in order to survive. What can we expect?
To start with, in the future we will watch and pay for content in a different way. We will only view content at our own convenience and only pay for the content we watch. New generations do not want it any differently. It means, traditional TV is out and streaming will be the standard. In the further future, we will only pay per view, menu a la carte! We will increasingly decide what we want to see, including camera angles, stats, interviews etc. Expect a kind of netflix for sports to come to the fore and a battle for media rights.
Also expect an increasing number of sports federations, leagues and clubs starting to produce and sell or broadcast their own productions. Additionally, as it will become very easy for everyone (including you and me) to produce new content, the number of sports (related)productions (background, funny, add-on etc) will rise enormously. GenZ and Gen Alpha will play a leading role in this transition as they will be the main consumers and producers and will easily navigate through this mountain of newly generated content. Expect new platforms to emerge!
If you want to know my view on how the media sportslandscape will change, read my article: 6 powerful trends in sports media and broadcasting
Prediction 2: Sportification and gamification will gather momentum
New sports will emerge whilst some traditional sports will slowly disappear. It could well be that individual sports will grow at the expense of team sports. No doubt, there will be huge changes in the sporting landscape. Expect sports such as outdoor sports and at home sports to gain in importance. Traditional sports that are not changing their format or not adjust in time to the needs of future generations, are likely to lose share. Technology and social cohesion will be key in this perspective.
New sports will emerge as with VR/AR/AI technology an entire range of new opportunities will arise. Expect current e- games to become real new sports; e-athletes equipped with VR goggles will battle it out. Kids are likely to become more active in sports again as technology will be blended into sports, a requirement for future generations. Sports with a tech game element in it! What more does a kid want? It is gamification and sportification all the way. Location will be no longer an issue. You can play tennis at your local club but also crossborder with your friend in Tokyo.
Interesting read: Sportification new mantra of the gameindustry
Prediction 3: Sustainability in sports will become even more important. Sports are going green!
As so many people are interested in sports, sports will play a leading role in promoting and supporting sustainability. Influencers, consumers and regulators will be the driving forces. Nothing less than a neutral footprint will and is already the target! It means new stadiums have to be carbon neutral, have to be fully recycable, should recycle waste and have to find ways to generate their own energy and water usage. Additionally alternative ways of transportation to and from the stadium will be stimulated. It means, electric transportation, bicycle lanes, trains and trams and less parking spots for fueled cars. Shared self driving and self parking cars will be the name of the game and reduce parking spots.
It is the venue, food, freight, waste and especially transport, where huge steps still can be made. For a more extensive explanation read my article Sports going green!
Prediction 4: Stadiums will become social meeting places offering tailored experiences and convenience all the way
Stadiums are evolving. This is an easy prediction. In 10 years time a newly build stadium will have few resemblances with the stadiums of today. Yes, the average stadium still will be a place where people gather. However, the experience will be entirely different. VR/AR will be commonplace in the future and provide the spectator a different tailor-made viewing experience. Robotised kiosk delivery and guides/holograms equipped with artificial intelligence will improve convenience, reducing queus and waiting times. 5G will provide real time data and stats and allow for exclusive in-stadium social networking platforms. Artificial Intelligence will alter stadiums into deep learning organic structures.
But that’s not my only prediction as far as stadiums are concerned. Seating capacity in newly build stadiums is likely to become smaller or at least becoming more flexible, in order to accomodate the fan that wants to have an improved experience, that is not only limited to the game. Moreover, the recent Covid pandemic might well accelerate this trend as people want to feel safer and more secure.
If you want to know more about this prediction or sports trend read The top 10 basic features of future stadiums
Prediction 5: E-sports will become one of the biggest sports around and gain Olympic status in 2028
This prediction is not a difficult one! E-sports is the exclusive domain of GenZ and Gen Alpha. In ten years time they are grown-ups but will still love their e-sports games. They form by far the biggest part of population by that time. Additionally e-games and e-sports can be played anywhere in the world with any other person; in fact a computer and internet will do to play with someone on the other side of the globe. This makes the sport extremely accessible to anyone. Equality, togetherness and technology is what counts for the new generations.
Of course you can argue whether e-sports are a sport or not. Boomers may argue it is not, but GenZ will tell you that e-sports require skill, strategy and focus. The top players are genuine athletes with a high fitness level. They are already earning millions of prize money right now. With players, viewers, sponsorships and advertising growing fast, revenues are growing exponentially and will surpass the revenues of leagues such as the NFL, NHL etc.
Opportunities for further growth are numerous as games will be transformed in real live sports with e-athletes equipped with VR/AR googles playing their own heroes in the real world. The IOC will recognize the popularity of E-Sports and hence it will obtain Olympic status. What to think of for example HADO? Technology and sports combined. It is already tremendously popular in Asia and growing fast. Undoubtedly many more sports will follow.
Interesting read: 10 awesome reasons why E-sports will take off this new decade
Prediction 6. Balance of power will shift towards the athlete
My prediction is that the future athlete will become ever more powerful. Player contracts will be entirely determined by big data, which give a detailed picture of what the athlete is capable of in terms of both athletic and commercial performance. Best offer will win!
With GenZ identifying themselves with individual athletes rather than with teams, the commercial power of athletes will further increase. Their roles as influencers, ambassadors and role models will become more important. Hence they will be in a strong bargaining position vis a vis both the brands and the clubs they represent. It will all be in the data and the ability of the athlete to align with their values. Transparency and realness pay!
Interesting read: The evolving modern athlete
Prediction 7. Performance levels of athletes will significantly increase on the back of technology, bio-medical science and neuroscience
The fight against doping is ongoing but will become increasingly difficult as the difference between what is artificial and what is natural is likely to become ever smaller. Science is learning how to rebuild humans.
No doubt difficult ethical questions will pop up. Is it allowed to replace an injured natural bodypart with a better artificial one (think 3D etc)? Will genetic enhancements be allowed in order to prevent injuries? Are non-damaging performance enhancers allowed in order to create a level playing field? Will neurotraining be allowed as long as there are no negative side effects. Athletes will be walking on a thin line! However, my prediction is that some dogmas related to these issues will slowly disappear as patients in the real world will be the ultimate beneficiaries.
Also interesting to read: The bionic athlete is not far away: 10 strong reasons why
Prediction 8. Traditional sports betting business model will be completely disrupted
Bookies, be aware! Your business model is about to be disrupted big time and you better adjust quickly! Yes, there will always be a place for sports betting, but not in the traditional way any longer. The arrival of AI and the blockchain will put traditional betting business models upside down! The role of the bookmaker will fade away and a new peer to peer betting system will have developed with more transparency and lower costs. New technology will allow for real time and tailor made betting in the stadium and anywhere else. You want to fabricate a bet with your friend in the stadium. Consider it done! It will be there!
See also: How will the blockchain impact sports
Prediction 9. Women sports will increase in popularity, gays and transgender taboo will be buried
One of the few ways to grow sports, both from a fan and a participant angle, is to grow women sports. After all, global participation of women in several popular sports is still significantly lower than that of men.
Additionally, from a marketing brand perspective, equality will remain a major theme. Expect salaries of women to increase (in fact you can see it already happening around you in sports like tennis, soccer and cycling) , also on the back of female athletes becoming major influencers and role models for (younger) fans. However, as long as the gap in popularity of women sports exist, this salary gap will not be bridged. It’s simply a question of demand and supply!
As far as gender is concerned, GenZ and Gen Alpha won’t accept anything else than gender equality. Expect gays in masculine sports to come out more frequently. Coming out will be the new normal.
Prediction 10. Fan engagement will increase through new ownership and decision models
Professional sports begin and end with the fan. No fans, no sports, it’s that simple. The fans of the future are different from the traditional ones. GenZ and Gen Alpha like to share, are entangled with technology and are used to make their own decisions. With 5G around the corner, interactivity between fan and player/team will increase, both during the game and also on and off the field. Additionally, it will become much easier to become co-owner of a club given technologies such as the blockchain. Co-ownership models will become en-vogue.