As we covered in Issue No. 149, sports tech is no longer just a stats game.
This season, the digital transformation of sports is fully underway, driven by innovations in fan engagement and athletic performance. Picking up the pace, the market is set to eclipse $50B by 2030.
From blockchain to AR/VR, teams are upgrading the digital fan experience.
- In January, the Brooklyn Nets trademarked the “Netaverse,” a VR simulation that gives fans first-person views of players on the court.
- Data Driven Sports (parent company of ShotTracker) added a digital suite of new products, including automated visualizations, AI-powered trend analytics, and 3D gamecast, to all NCAA DI games.
- Sorare raised over $680M to build its NFT-based fantasy football (soccer) platform and has deals with elite European clubs Real Madrid, Liverpool, and Juventus.
- Selling collectible sports highlights, Dapper Labs (creator of NBA Top Shot) raised over $250M in September and works with the NFL, WNBA, UFC, and LaLiga.
Scrambling to compete, stadiums across the country have earmarked over $10B to enhance their capabilities in the real world, outfitting arenas with high-tech upgrades to lure back fans.
But, as it’s always been, improving the fan experience often goes hand in hand with winning more, and sports teams are leveraging tech to do just that.
With hundreds of millions on the line, pro sports teams are highly invested in keeping athletes in top shape, from injury prevention to performance optimization. Welcome to the year of the quantified athlete:
- Last November, Kitman Labs, an AI-powered athlete management platform, raised $52M to help reduce injury risk and enhance performance for over 700 sports teams.
- StatusPRO, which closed a $5.2M seed in August, uses AR and VR to simulate virtual practice sessions and also uses that data to give fans an immersive look into team activities.
- Sports recovery and analytics startup Orreco raised $3.6M last year and recently teamed up with on-demand diagnostic startup Scarlet Health to offer testing for athletes.
- Catapult, which syncs performance data with video, has partnerships with all 32 NFL teams and provides intelligence on both individual and team performance.
Crowdsourcing solutions, the NBA held its own tech summit this year, while the NFL pioneered smart mouthpieces to study head trauma. Meanwhile, WHOOP and Oura have become the go-to tracking wearables for elite athletes, working with virtually every professional league in the country.
Up next: Striving to be the best, some are even zeroing in on the molecular level—from gene doping to DNA testing—to attain peak performance.
Punchline: Sports tech is compelling because new innovation tends to trickle down into the mainstream. For instance, following a fractured leg, Tiger Woods relied on a portable, custom-made golf swing simulator to get back in shape, which is now available to the general public.
But we’re still in the early days. With athletes and sports teams proving to be eager early adopters of new tech—and blockchain—expect an explosion of innovation to come.