Sports Loft Members’ Expectations for 2022
Following on from our previous where we shared our own perspectives on trends to watch out for in 2022, we turn our focus to the thoughts of senior leaders at our member companies to learn about their biggest takeaways from 2021 and what they’re expecting from the year ahead for their companies and the industry:
What were your biggest learnings / takeaways from 2021?
Andrew Hall, CEO, BALLN
“The last year proved that it is possible to build great product and culture with fully remote teams - before the pandemic, I would never have imagined this possible - the silver lining from 2021 was that great products and a healthy culture can be created on 100% remote strategy.”
Will Brooke, Co-Founder & COO, Slate
“We saw that sports teams know that they need to follow their fans to where they go to tune it, socialize, or share highlights. Fortunately we’ve seen the industry isn’t shy to adapt to how quickly fans’ tastes change.”
Daniel Kirschner, CEO, Greenfly
“We've seen a massive shift with sports organisations really starting to understand their average revenue per fan and actually starting to track the spend per fan. In doing that they've shifted marketing efforts to finding new younger Gen-Z fans and maximizing revenue per fan.”
Nick Pinks, CEO, Covatic
“We have found product market fit this year – we are seeing clients come to Covatic as we have found the balance between privacy, engagement and advertising. We have been fortunate to have seen the industry move towards a user centric approach which is where we have focused our efforts.”
Nathan Peterson, President, Tagboard
“Interactive livestream experiences emerged in the last 12 months as a winning platform to keep fans engaged. Cloud solutions are making it cost-efficient and easy to create this content, and social channels make it easy to distribute to fans. Consequently, the industry has found that you don’t need giant studios full of hardware to produce compelling and impactful stories, so we are going to see the landscape shift further and more original content produced in-house.”
How do you think the ways that fans will engage with content, their teams and their sports will further change in 2022?
“One of the biggest changes for sports teams and leagues is the realization that digital content will be just or more important than TV broadcast. Younger fans don't watch full games, and don't watch TV, so creating content that is designed for social media (and not just TV clips) is creating the need to build out a new function whose mission is to capture short-form content before, during and after sports events to build a digital media inventory.”
Ben Reynolds, CEO, Spalk
“The cost of producing broadcast quality live events is going to continue to tumble next year -- this will open up lots of opportunities for content localisation & personalization. Gone are the days where you needed 10 cameras, five operators and a $5m Studio to produce a pre-game show - you can now use Tagboard. Gone are the days of flying commentators around the world to stadiums to commentate - you can now use Spalk.”
“There are two key trends I see emerging fast in this coming year. The first is an increased use in a once deemed antiquated technology, QR codes. The QR code reemerged through the pandemic as consumers were required to scan to access information at local restaurants, and technology caught up making it simple to just swipe to your camera where all major smartphone cameras now auto-read the code and send you to a mobile experience. This will be used for polls, reactions, questions and answer sessions, sports wagering (where legal), gamification, contests, and yes advertising (merch sales, etc).
The second trend I see is alternative commentary through increased livestream watch parties and alternative audio sources. If you look at FOX Sports as a key example, they cover every major sporting event with not just their linear broadcast commentators, but also a carefully selected group of talent produced on digital platforms. If it's Michigan vs. Ohio State, they are finding a former player from each school to give you a unique perspective and fueling the show with fan questions and commentary from social channels. ESPN also dove headfirst into alternative audio this year with the Peyton and Eli Manning coverage of Monday Night Football.”
Donny White, CEO Satisfi
“Fans do not live on a schedule that current employment standards allow across sports organizations. Everything is on-demand. The expectation for immediate experience and answers is already there but it is only going to get stronger in 2022. Our technology is providing additional staff to meet this need, who just so happen to be digital in form. The fan that can access their team anytime, from anywhere, will be the nirvana fan.”
“New sports fans, if we’re speaking about younger sports fans like Gen Z, are increasingly consuming shorter highlights on social and that’s only going to continue in 2022. The rise of TikTok and media platforms like Wave TV, House of Highlights, and Overtime speak to this continued progression towards highlights and big moments. Twitter’s recent announcement that they will be updating their platform to accommodate a format similar to TIkTok & Reels shows they too will be accommodating more short-form content - this will undoubtedly include highlights & big moments in sports & entertainment.”
What should we expect from your company next year?
“We closed a $6M round of financing, and it was our first in a few years with a heavy tilt towards dev resources. Our data exploded in 2021 as we started rolling out role-focused Assistants in areas like Ticketing and Parking. As such, we expect to add another 100 customers and seven new hires.”
“We’ll be rolling out across Mobile, Web and Connected TV platforms, and growing our sales efforts in North America and EMEA. We’ll be launching a Series A round in Jan 2022, and making new hires across customer success, engineering and sales.”
“We’re building an athlete investment round in the first couple of months in 2022 including additional ambassadorial deals with several EPL players. That will really help us drive into the Tik Tok audience. From a product perspective we’ll be expanding out from IOS and into Android. We’ll also be further developing the AI so that we can go deeper into assessing each of the skills in our player card.”
“We are going to continue to disrupt an old stale hardware business and arm the sports producers of the world with intuitive software they can use to create more impactful programming from anywhere in the world. We really believe the future of media production is in the cloud, and we’re doubling down on it. We’re going to continue to grow our world class team and continue to help out clients produce more content like this!”
“I've received some really heartfelt messages in 2021 about Spalk’s impact -- "Ben, I wanted to thank you for everything Spalk has done. I'm immunocompromised and Spalk has enabled me to keep working as a commentator", one commentator writes. "I've loved being a part of Spalk's commentary lineup. My wife and I have a newborn and being able to continue working without travelling away from my family is a god-send" reads another. We know we’re delivering and somehow i expect we’ll be getting more of these messages in 2022!”
How do you see your clients’ needs evolving in 2022?
“Sports organizations are working more effectively internally and that’s going to continue next year. The same content that drives fan engagement can also be leveraged by sponsors and broadcasters and other partners. We're seeing marketing teams embracing fans to co-create content that resonates more with fans, and getting their partner ecosystem to promote events to amplify the marketing team's efforts.”
“We are starting to see multiple internal stakeholders take ownership of different areas of our product. For example, we have a Ticketing Assistant, so the folks in ticketing can manage that. We have an Assistant in F&B, and another group can focus on that. Now that we have a team of Assistants deployed, we expect our clients' needs to be more focused.”
“Live Broadcast Production is really hard but the demand for more live content is only growing. Every piece of technology has to work exactly on cue. When it doesn't, you have control rooms phoning control rooms, 5 minutes out from a match, trying to see if someone misspelt a stream key. The production manager at a sports league or broadcaster in 2022 is going to need to be able to adapt to this brave new world of remote production and we spend a lot of time thinking about this - we are furiously building tools to support them with this transition.”
Being able to tap into international markets & fanbases is going to get even more important this year - it's going to be a big focus for a lot of leagues and clubs. We expect to see more demand from content teams who want to be able to engage with fans and optimize their content for those markets.”
And finally, give us your boldest sporting prediction for 2022!
Maybe not ‘bold’ but as I’m based in Brooklyn.. Nets for 2022 Champs!
Lewis Hamilton will come back with a vengeance and win F1 (again) in 2022.
Kevin de Bruyne becomes a 3 X PFA player of the year in the EPL!
Buffalo Bills win the Superbowl, and West Brom will win promotion to the EPL and finish the year in the top 10. Wolves get relegated (sorry Charlie!).
Superbowl: Minnesota Vikings (SKOL)
EPL: Liverpool (YNWA)
World Cup: England
I'm a New Zealander, living in America, running a company composed of South Africans, Australians, Kiwis, Germans, Bulgarians, Swedes, Danes, Dutch, Finns, Belgians & Spaniards.. so whatever I predict is destined to offend somebody…
So here we go: Qatar 2022, it's finally coming home!
Seattle Mariners end the longest playoff drought in professional sports. Bolder prediction? M’s win the World Series. You heard it here first.