The world of sports in the near future is ever changing. However, change will accelerate in the coming ten years, which will have a huge impact on the sports landscape in the future. Some new sports will come to the fore at the expense of traditional sports that are not adjusting in time to their new user groups. We discuss several categories of sports, which are likely to gain significant market share.
Life is not as simple as it used to be
In the old days life was pretty simple. As a kid you went outside to play soccer or you went to the local tennis club to play a match against a friend. It’s not that easy anymore. The kids of today have to divide their attention over so many things, whilst their time is limited. Social media, gaming, school, sports, friends, the list is significantly larger that older generations had to deal with. It is just one of the reasons, why many team sports see participation rates coming down. Kids have too many things on their minds.
Technology is main catalyst behind widening generational gap
No doubt the generational gap will become bigger in the near future. One can argue that the gap between babyboomers and generation X was relatively small, but the speed of change going forward seems to accelerate.
Technology is one of the main reasons for this. Whereas in my childhood television was still kind of a novelty, the kids of today are totally comfortable with whatever new technology they are bombarded with. Kids born from 2007 and onwards, which can be classified as Generation Alpha, have never experienced a time without smartphones (may I remind you that the Iphone was introduced only in 2007). They are called generation glass or screenagers and you understand why.
They eat, sleep and breathe tech! From the moment they were born, tech has been fully ingrained into their lifes. In fact in some cases they are more likely to trust tech than their nannies, tutors or divorced parents. They are totally familiar with the Alexas and SIRI’s of this world, just to mention a few. These kids, born from 2000 onwards are the consumers of tomorrow and they are hugely different.
There are currently 2,5 mln of these Alpha kids born every day according to McCrindle. It means that in 2025 there are a total of an astonishing 2 bln Alphas on the planet, which will soon after that year start spending big bucks! By 2030, they will represent 11% of the workforce and combined with GenZ even 45%. That’s just 10 years away! Some of the traits GenZ has, will even be more prominent within Gen Alpha. Better be prepared!
Why? Because they are better aware than anybody else of what tech can mean for them, now and in the future. This also will be the case for sports. Tech will be the main catalyst for change and this change may even be accelerated by Covid 19, as this event has created an earthquake in the sporting world. It means that some (new) categories of sports will become more popular and hence show above average growth, whilst some more traditional sports stand to lose market share, particularly in case they are late in adjusting their models to the new requirements. Below, I will discuss five categories of sports that stand to gain market share going forward.
Also interesting to read: Gen Alpha to create huge changes in sports
1. Esports will become mainstream sooner than later
No doubt E-sports will be a big winner in the near future. If you are not aware of what E-sports are, just watch the video below. It checks all the boxes of what Generation Alpha wants. What is it precisely, you may wonder. Well an E-sport can be defined as a multiplayer video game played competitively for spectators, typically by professional gamers. I am sure you have heard of games like Fortnite, league of legends, Dota and Call of Duty.
It means big bucks! According to Newzoo global revenues from E-sports in 2019 amounted to around USD 1.1 bln and are expecting to grow very rapidly in the coming few years to at least USD 1.8bln in 2022 but very likely substantially higher. Mind you, there were already an estimated 450 mln viewers of E-sports in 2019. Goldman Sachs estimates that E-sports viewers represent just 5% of the online population. That’s still incredibly low and shows the tremendous opportunity!
Ok, back to why the current and future generations like it so much. Several reasons: E-sports have a high tech element, you can play E-sports online together with your buddies whenever and wherever you want, you don’t have to have a high level of physical athletic ability (i.e everybody can be a star), E-sports have low barriers of entry, Olympic status is looming and sponsors and media are pouring in like crazy. If you don’t like it, run, but be aware that you can’t escape!
Key ingredients: tech, gaming, identity, flexibility, level playing field
Also interesting to read: 10 awesome reasons why E-sports will take off
2. Sports to be played at home
Corona changed the world and if one thing has become clear, it is that we can do an awful lot more at home than we formerly anticipated. This also is the case for sports. Streaming and technology are the magic words now and in the future. Streaming offers a wide array of different opportunities where sports is concerned. Working out at home means that you don’t have to travel anywhere and can exercise in the comfort of your house whenever you want. It means that activities such as home yoga, fitness and meditation will gain market share big time.
But there is much more. Technology has entered the living room and means virtual everything is possible now. Chips, wearables, monitors, Virtual, Mixed and Augmented Realitity are just a few examples of technologies that can deliver you a sports experience at home. Think about new virtual experiences such as competitive cycling, running, golf and biathlon at home. Together with your buddies, wherever they are, you can simulate a competitive experience and have fun. It ticks the boxes for future generations: health, sports, convenience and even online socializing with friends! Sports 3.0 is near!
Key ingredients: tech, flexibility and convenience
Also interesting to read: 7 great examples of virtual sports
3. Outdoor and adventure sports
It should be clear by now that tech and convenience are important requirements for the new and future generations. However, it doesn’t mean they don’t want to be active outdoors. They do! However, as this generation cherishes its own independence and own identity and likes to be flexible, it could mean team sports might suffer. This generation likes to go out and practice with their buddies, not necessarily in a competitive way. If a bit of technology can be added to the fun, it is even better.
Watch some of the videos. It’s high adrenaline, it creates a sense of freedom and these sports certainly add to one’s identity. It is the kind of sports these generations tend to like. Hence, don’t be surprised if green sports like adventure cycling, technical and non technical spinoffs of surfing, climbing and yes cycling will take off.
Key ingredients: Independence, tech, togetherness, flexibility, outdoors and sustainability are the keywords here!
Also interesting to read: 10 high adrenaline innovative surfing spinoffs
4. Tech sports, an entire new ballgame
Technology plays an ever more important role in our lives and it will do so in sports. So far, we particularly discussed existing sports that with the help of technology are likely to see accelerating growth. However, we did not discuss yet to what extent technology will create entirely new sports. Don’t neglect this, because it will! 5 years ago, you probably wouldn’t be aware of a sport like drone racing or drone surfing. Both of them are relatively new and use existing technology to create a new sports.
But there is more. Watch the video below. Hado is a new Virtual Reality Sports which is creating a big stir in the Asian markets and is likely to grow. Another example is a new sports that was created with the help of Artificial Intelligence called Speedgate. This is just the beginning, because many new tech related sports are expected to enter the stage.
What to think of sportification? Huh? Let me explain. Imagine Fortnite! Not on your computer or TV screen, but live! You are becoming the participant or E-athlete in your own game! Again, live! It means making all the moves with your own body in for example an old factory complex. Put your goggles on and go! They do already exist! VRarcades (as some of them are called) are popping up everywhere (see video)! You really can become the next generation VR athlete here.
In above examples I particularly discussed traditional tech related sports, but clearly technology is an all-purpose word. I won’t elaborate but just think of what biotech, genomics, bionics and space technology will be able to do? They will have a huge impact sometime in the future and undoubtedly new sports and spinoffs will be created on the back of it.
Key ingredients: tech, identity, flexibility, independence
Also interesting to read: Sportification new mantra of the sports industry
5. Traditional sports that are prepared to innovate and adjust
Traditional sports sounds a bit old fashioned, doesn’t it. In many cases they are. However, they are traditional and for that reason unlikely to disappear. There are just too many people, that are participating in these sports. They will be around for some time. Nevertheless, a lot of them will lose market share. We are already witnessing it. Traditional sports like American football, tennis, golf and even soccer see the number of participants declining in their traditional stronghold countries. If they won’t be able to change their formats in order to facilitate the new generations, they will stand to lose market share.
Some of the federations of aforementioned sports are slow in adjusting, which may cost them dearly, others are more innovative like for example rugby. It will be vital to introduce new technologies into their sports both where the fans and the participants are concerned. If not, they are in for a rough ride.
Key ingredients at the moment: togetherness, tradition
Also interesting to read: New formats in traditional sports: winners and losers