The Windy City might be earning itself a new title soon enough as the epicenter of sports tech in America.
A recent Crain’s profile delves into how Chicago emerged as the sports tech capital as the field rises in notoriety and profitability. While the profile mentions how this came to be “almost by accident,” a large portion of the credit should go to the ingenuity and adaptability of three specific companies. Collectively, three Chicago-based tech ventures–Sportvision, Stats and Zebra Technology–hold motion-tracking agreements with the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and Nascar. By responding to the athletes’ demands for deeper analytics, the company’s were able to provide keen insight for the players and staff. In turn, these companies rose to prominence as the market continues to saturate.
For Stats, its SportVU system began tracking moves of NBA players and the ball in 2010. Today, the company estimates $100 million in revenue for this year. Sportvision expects similar results. Their first example of sport tech prominence came with it’s famed yellow line that now appears on every televised NFL game. For Zebra, it rose to prominence in 2013 by repurposing its technology to track the amount of ground NFL players cover during each game.
The city is known for its rabid sports culture, a trait not lost on leaders within the emerging sector. However, not all is coming up rosy for the Chicago sports tech industry. With a 26 percent increase over the last five years, the field now boasts 3,000 market research analysts in varying roles. With that increase comes additional companies to compete against.
Recently, Sportvision lost its contract with the MLB to a Swedish analytics rival to track player movement. Similarly, Stats could not retain its title as the NFL’s official stat tracker. While this may dent Chicago’s claim to the sports tech title, it does indicate a depth of competition within the field. It should be exciting to see if Chicago, or any city, can retain the distinction in the coming years as more sports warm to technological advancements.