The Business of Technology in Sport

The NBA is one of the games that is taking on new technology.

The unveiling of the electronic scoreboard at Yankee Stadium in New York in the 1950’s; the introduction of the Wilson T2000 chrome tubular steel tennis racquet in 1968; the arrival of the Cyclops electronic line judge at Wimbledon in 1980; the ubiquity of lightweight video cameras from the 1980s onwards, making it possible to record, playback, measure and broadcast live sporting events on television and now online.

Every one of these developments was driven by the same factors – a combination of looking for every advantage possible to win games and looking for new ways to increase fan loyalty, grow audiences and make money.

Watch brand Tissot’s sponsorship of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) since 2008 is a great example of a good fit. Tissot is part of Swatch group, which also includes Swiss Timing, specialists in timing, scoring, data handling and broadcast solutions to major global sports events.

Tissot has partnered with FIBA since 2008. According to the brand’s website “the alliance with such an international sport as basketball underlines the brand’s dynamic nature and its values of precision and performance.”

Intelligent sponsorship by technology providers offers great opportunities to deliver high quality data and enhance the experience of an event. Partnering with the right sponsor could mean not having to invest in building systems, saving time and money. If the technology provider has experience of other sports there’s the possibility to leverage an enormous amount of expertise.

But there are a number of potential dangers.

Clubs may find themselves bound to the standard services and technology in a sponsor’s portfolio or that of a subsidiary, which has the potential to hamper innovation. Other clubs could have more flexibility to adapt to newer systems and give themselves a competitive edge in more ways than one.

Given the mania for gathering data, sponsors could want to collect and own fan data for their own marketing purposes, risking weakening of loyalty and credibility for clubs.

The answer for teams and event organisers has to be to partner with brands and technology providers with a commitment to being transparent and acting ethically.

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