Category : Sports

Oct 21


Sports and tech continue towards a mutually beneficial future. A recent CIO profile revealed how some sports organizations are furthering the bonds between sport and tech.

The partnership between the two sectors finds sports organizations bringing startups into events like pitch competitions where the clubs seek out bright potential that harnesses the sporting experience as well. By jumping on the bandwagon, these clubs are making it clear that the game embraces tech well beyond the recent uptick in analytics and sports health–a stark change in direction from the current landscape that finds most organizations lacking the adequate IT infrastructure needed to enter the next generation.

CIO noted some exciting ventures that include the Los Angeles Dodgers Accelerator program and the Cleveland Cavalier’s new CavsEats mobile app that allows fans to order food from concession stands without missing a second on the court. Both rollouts signify huge gains for both sport and tech. While the Dodgers are embracing the large-scale approach to finding its next big venture, the Cavaliers honed in on just one or two startups to begin its process.

Fans should expect to see further integration amongst the two sectors in the coming years. Just like any sporting team or startup looking to be the leader in its field, constant innovation is required. With tech now firmly entrenched in player and fan experiences, we may be seeing the dawn of a new sporting era for all parties involved.

Oct 12


This is the age of Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Snapchat just to name a few. Or, the new way to watch your team’s play even when you can’t.

Thanks to social media, if you miss a big game you can now go on Twitter for an up-to-the-minute highlights or even get a game report from multiple fan perspectives. Platforms such as Instagram will give you the behind-the-scenes information you can’t find anywhere else. Whether you like it or not, social media is the place for die-hard sports watchers to go to these days.

Creating a voice for teams that is consistent with the overall team brand as well as fans is something social media coordinators have to do every day.  “It’s the social media coordinators who are responsible for finding that nexus of humor, truth, and branding,” according to the Complex Magazine article.

Complex Magazine zeroed in on the single-handed and sometimes dual presence that drives the witty social media presence behind NBA teams such as the Brooklyn Nets, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Atlanta Hawks. Some, like the Nets and Sixers, notched many more wins in the social sphere than they ever did on the court.

Complex delved deeper with a profile on the daily lives of social media coordinators who work for The Brooklyn Nets and The Philadelphia 76ers.

It seems as if the teams who have great standings are the only teams who play nicely on social media–they simply can’t take the risk. Teams like the Nets and the 76ers, on the other hand, are encouraged to draw outside the proverbial box as much as possible since neither have top standing.

For the Nets, Sixers and even successful Hawks it seems the secret to a slam dunk is crafting a witty, clever tweet that lands at the right time.

Being empathetic with your fan base is what the 76ers social media crew does exceptionally well. They have adopted the ‘if you can’t beat em…join em’ attitude in regards to their team. This is a creative approach for a franchise that has spent years at the bottom of the NBA standings during a years-long rebuild that has featured two of their #1 draft picks spending their first season on the sidelines with injuries.

Social media highlights for the Nets’ season include capturing moments fans would not have had access to otherwise—shots taken at practice, locker room, pressroom and keeping tweets witty yet aligned with their stylish image.

The Atlanta Hawks made a splash on social media when it had a groundbreaking, interactive ‘Swipe Right’ Tinder night where basketball fans were able to combine love and basketball in one quarter. Matches could meet in lounges filled with Altoids and roses.

All of these teams seem to make waves with mash-up’s that infuse their teams and players with witty pop culture references. The NBA social media coordinators also interact with fans, rival teams while, above all, making sure that they are still brand appropriate.

Reshares, retweets any and all forms of social media attention can help boost sales, merchandise and everything else NBA related.

Sep 28


San Francisco recently hosted the Wearable Tech in Sport Summit–a two-day summit aimed at providing “deep insight into how the sports industry is being shaped by wearable technology and digital fitness.” Presented by Innovation Enterprise, a global innovation enterprise across various sectors, the summit brought together leaders from the sports and fitness industries to discuss how wearables allow the individual athlete to make more informed decisions based on their fitness results.

The summit noted that this new information has made the industry evolve with this new found level of individual analysis. To provide that insight the summit brought in a who’s who of leaders across sports and fitness. Speakers included leaders from Intel, Samsung, Adidas, the USOC and the San Francisco 49ers.

The summit boasts over 150 industry leaders and over a days worth of networking opportunities. To back their findings, the summit also has over 20 case studies from “only the most innovative companies.” These studies and presentations revolved around topics from mobile fitness to sports science.

I wasn’t unable to attend the summit this year, but I am excited to hear what emerges in the coming weeks and months. As the summit noted, the landscape of these industries continue to change at a rapid pace. With sports and fitness tech both constantly upgrading and evolving, it is important to stay on the pulse of innovation, especially if you are planning on making investments. While I can’t personally endorse this year’s event, it looks to be the sort of summit the industry will continue to need in the coming years.

Did you attend this year’s summit? Let me know in the replies. I’d love to hear your takeaways.

Sep 18

Artist: Zabou, Chance Street, Shoreditch, London

Artist: Zabou, Chance Street, Shoreditch, London

Athletes are a commodity. Their performance, training methods and even downtime has become more detailed science than athletic artistry. With wearable and data technologies, sports are showing a rise in audience interaction and a lowered expectation of privacy for players. Some of them are beginning to feel more like lab cases than athletes.

Brian Bulcke, a defensive lineman in the Canadian Football League, says, “I feel like a guinea pig sometimes when we talk about athletes and technology, and I stress that we’re people too.” Bulcke continues, “We’re professionals, so I think the respect line on privacy, security and all that kind of stuff needs to be maintained in athleticism, despite being entertainment.”

Because the Canadian lineman works as a business development lead for a program that mentors tech companies at Ryerson University in Toronto during off-season, he can speak directly to both sides of the struggle. Part engineer, part athlete, Bulcke is attempting to develop tech that takes the ‘guinea pig equation’ out of the locker room. However, he believes it will ultimately come down to athletes playing a more active role in the conversation about the ubiquitous uprising of tech in sports.

“It’s the athletes and the people on the frontlines that will help define the industry. We’re the early adopters but we’re also a megaphone for the rest of the athletes in the market,” adds Bulcke. “Over the years we’ll see more and more athletes permeate into the wearables space.”

His advice is for players to give pushback if the lines between personal and professional tracking becomes muddy.

“I do think there’s a line there, and we focus purely on when you’re at the workplace, and the workplace for athletes is when you’re practicing or playing games or doing rehab and assessments,” said Brian Kopp, president of the North American division of Catapult, an Australian company whose wearable devices are used in major league teams in the NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA and college-level sports programs. “When you go home and you’re doing whatever on your own time, you’re not wearing our device […]”.

But what is most disconcerting to athletes? The more metrics and tracking big-data algorithms, the higher the likelihood for negative salary negotiations based on performance data during very specific training sessions. In other words, players aren’t allowed bad days — big data is always watching and recording. Sports fans have very little sympathy. According to a portion of fans, players as entertainers who make inordinate salaries; if tracking enhances the audience experience, it’s justified.

“The insights that come from the data that evolve and advance the story and make the game potentially more interesting for fans – that’s where I see one of the big opportunity areas, and we’re already starting to see that,” says Stacey Burr, vice-president and general manager of Adidas’s digital sports business unit. “I don’t know how that whole world works, to be honest with you; we’re just providing facts and figures, and I think there’s somebody else that has a set of mental models that they use in terms of what the future opportunities are for individual players.”

Wearable technology continues to generate massive global revenue for sports, fitness and activity monitors. As the wearable tech industry is expected to grow from $1.9bn in 2013 to $2.8bn in 2019 (according to analytics firm IHS), the sports tech versus privacy subject will most likely heat up as well.

Sep 9


The social media celebrity has killed the traditional sports marketing agent. That’s at least what marketer Evan Morgenstein recently told Forbes. Morgenstein believes that, ”The athlete market is dead. Sports agents are losing so many deals that they used to get as full endorsement deals to ‘celebrities’ just willing to lend themselves on social media. [There is] no need for appearances or traditional advertising.”

Morgenstein holds the sentiment so true that he’s abandoned professional athlete marketing for the “social media celebrities” that cut into his former sector.

Though most athletes should expect lesser endorsement payouts in the coming years, Morgenstein believes that the top athletes can still expect even higher payouts–like Houston Rocket’s James Harden’s recent $200 million deal with Adidas. However, to achieve these types of deals a player should expect to not only produce on the court, but also on social media. Figures like points per game and jerseys sold matter just as much to a marketer as does the athlete’s social media following.

“The first question asked by PR people is, what’s your social media numbers? What’s your engagement numbers? What kind of sell-through are you getting? These are the questions that sports agents never had to answer in the past,” Morgenstein elaborated to Forbes.

As social media continues its further immersion into the fabric of our lives, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to see this sort of shift. Social media represents a significant pulse for fans and athletes. Just as sports has embraced analytics, so too has its advertisers. Certainly, the social media celebrity may eventually burst, but for now, it continues to grow as some athlete endorsements lose air.

Sep 2

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 5.03.23 PM

Will Smith’s latest film Concussion unveiled its first trailer today. In Concussion Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, the doctor who discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) after he conducted the autopsy on former Pittsburgh Steeler Mike Webster. Omalu’s work blew the door open on CTE and its ensuing research. Without Omalu’s findings, player safety may not be at the levels that is it today. Slated for a Christmas Day release, Concussion appears poised for a huge opening weekend.

The NFL has yet to release a statement about the trailer, but the league looks less than stellar from the preview. With such a hot button issue, Concussion could become a contentious film come its release. Regardless where you stand, Omalu’s work deserves credit for being the catalyst in protecting the brains of players.

Watch the trailer for Concussion here.

Aug 25

Source: John Martinez Pavliga/Flickr Creative Commons

Source: John Martinez Pavliga/Flickr Creative Commons

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.

Jul 23

via Penn State/Flickr Creative Commons

via Penn State/Flickr Creative Commons


Between Golden State’s Klay Thompson’s concussion during Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals and the gut wrenching head-to-head collision between Morgan Brian and Alexandra Popp during their Women’s World Cup match, concussions are once again at sport’s forefront.

These injuries serve as a reminder that it isn’t just the traditional warrior-esque sports facing protocol and safety revisions. While Brian’s injury proved to not be a concussion, similar incidents like the collision of Chelsea’s Oscar with Arsenal’s David Ospina earlier this season left fans with jarring reminders that player safety needs optimization in all sports.

While the soccer world is championing a revised substitution policy that protects players while leaving the game’s three substitution rule in place, several college football teams adopted a new measure to gauge the severity of blows to a player’s head that will take effect next season.

Wearable tech company i1 Biometrics will soon provide college football programs with its new real-time cranial data gathering technology. Programs signing on include Texas A&M and South Carolina. The technology is able to collect player’s impact data through wearable sensors that is then sent to a mobile device operated by team doctors. While i1’s doesn’t diagnose a concussion, the data indicates the severity and location of a player’s head injury.

In short, i1 believes that, “…our state-of-the-art mouthguard is transmitting real-time information, allowing real-time decisions about a players’ ability to continue on the field. It’s the first solution to be inside the player’s head to protect them from the inside out.”

Currently, i1’s sensors go into a player’s helmet or mouthguard. However, that will soon change when they soon roll out their product in headband form. Though slated for basketball players, this could prove useful to other sports like soccer. With all hope, real-time data like this will help sports that aren’t as impact-heavy to catch up the evolving landscape of their sport as well.

May 8

Source: Inside Performance Baseball/Facebook

Source: Inside Performance Baseball/Facebook

For many around the world, a community is essential to one’s being. A community establishes a sense of camaraderie amongst otherwise strangers. It bonds people for the common good of seeing their community and people flourish. As generations evolve, communities have become less important in many regions–abandoning them altogether in some circumstances.

However, that isn’t the case in Northern Vancouver, British Columbia. The power of its community brought an essential baseball facility back from the brink of closing–helping propel the sport and the region’s athletes to new heights.


Inside Performance Baseball

Wes Taylor is the General Manager at Inside Performance Baseball, a position he’s held since 2012. The prior year, the massive facility was owned by another owner who may have been too ambitious with his endeavor. “His eyes were bigger than his stomach,” Taylor explains of how the ambitious training center closed within a year of opening.

However, Northern Vancouver couldn’t spare to lose a facility of this stature. On top of the “six or seven” little leagues the area has, it also serves as home to high school and a women’s fast pitch teams. Additionally, recreational leagues are a common activity for Vancouver residents.

“All the little leagues use the facility in the offseason. Where would they go? Where would they train if they didn’t have this place to go,” Taylor explained. Not only is that sentiment a driving factor for Inside Performance today. It also was the rallying cry for several parents in the community. Soon, local parents,myself included, banded together to buy the facility back from the bank. Some became active members, with Wes Taylor serving as the pivotal day-to-day figure. Others chose to donate as silent partners. In the end, the group of parents opted to donate the same amount, making this a true communal effort. In 2012, Inside Performance Baseball officially had been revived.


Coming Together for the Community

The local parents came together to support their children as well as the long line of athletic talent in the region. Now in operation for nearly four years, Inside Performance will never be a Fortune 500 company, as Taylor describes. Instead, every dollar earned goes back into the center so it can benefit the athletes in need. “We all have a reason for keeping it going, the main reason being there isn’t another facility like this in the lower mainland of Vancouver,” Taylor explains. “It has to stay open. It’s a priority for us.”

While he doesn’t want to give direct credit to Inside Performance, Taylor has noticed an uptick in baseball and softball sign ups in the years since reviving the facility.

With seasons starting now, Inside Performance heads into its slow season. Winter is where the most business occurs, while the summer is often home to players looking to hone their skills after a rough start as well as the late-to-start-training rec leaguers. Now, Taylor continues to give credit to many community members including Brooks McNiven, Manuel Fonseca, Bill Ireland, Marty Dome, and Blair Peters as some of those that made this all possible for Northern Vancouver’s community.

Apr 29

NFL Logo Credit Matt McGee

The NFL recently announced that it will become a taxable entity, ending its long-standing and long-debated tax-exempt status. After facing many forms of crisis over the last few seasons, the NFL took a voluntary measure to end one that had been lingering for quite some time. In fact, Commissioner Roger Goodell said by changing the league’s tax status, the league would eliminate a “distraction.”

Although this changes the NFL in some capacity, the true ramifications are not all that severe. The NFL made the smart business decision for two main reasons:


Less Transparency, More Public Praise

When the league went through its most recent stretch of negative PR surrounding domestic violence, player safety and the Washington name debate, Roger Goodell’s enormous salary was one of the first points brought up. Last year, Goodell’s reported salary was $44 million, while the prior year was $30 million. Other league executives’ salaries also had to be disclosed as part of the league’s prior tax status. Now, as a private business, the league and its owners won’t have to defend Goodell’s competency or pay. Additionally, it is expected that the commissioner’s salary will continue to rise through the years. Now the NFL won’t have to make it public information.

Another perk to the NFL’s change is the uptick in public praise. While Congress appears to remain skeptical of the league’s intentions, public perception will most likely improve in this regard. In recent years, retired Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) estimated is his that pro sports exemptions cost the American taxpayers $91 million a year. With the average American pining for any financial relief they can find, taking a portion of a sports league’s taxes off their books is certainly welcomed.


Beat the Government to the First Punch

Many in the public and private sector wondered how the NFL and other sports leagues even qualified for tax-exemption in the first place (1966’s AFL-NFL merger is the large reason). With so much pressure on the league for its handling of player safety and off the field transgressions, the NFL faced mounting pressure from Congress on both sides of the aisle. In recent years, Senator Coburn and Cory Booker (D-NJ) brought forth similar legislation to end the NFL and other sports league from benefitting from the current standard.

By following in Major League Baseball’s 2007 decision, only a few major sports leagues in America still operate as a 501 (c)(6)–leaving the NFL and LPGA as two of the remaining leagues. Additionally by dropping its status, the league will join the ranks of its players and teams that have paid taxes throughout the years. Additionally, the league is expected to only pay out $109 million in taxes over the next decade.

While this certainly avoids further congressional pressure on the subject, many on the hill probably won’t be satisfied enough. This may have taken the league out of the crosshairs on this subject, but many more remain–though it will be easier for the league to deal with under its new tax status.

By beating the government to the punch, the league took an appropriate step to cut down on negative PR while removing some transparency from the public. Essentially, nothing will change for the league besides its tax filing. Certainly, this won’t end the league’s woes but for now it does ensure one less “distraction” for the NFL and the famous shield.