Technology has radically changed the sports industry, helping it grow into a federated, multimillion-dollar industry in a little more than 100 years. This change includes several improvements in different aspects of every discipline, starting with apparel and clothing, to measuring systems and monetizing sports.
Let’s explore the relationship between sports and tech more closely – the ways it has evolved over the years, and see where we’re at now.
Equipment and apparel
Back in the day, training was limited to what athletes could do naturally with their bodies and a limited set of machinery. With wearables, one can monitor the physical state of the athlete, such as heart rate, hydration levels and more.
This helps coaches see the effects that the training has on the athlete and optimize their training accordingly. At the same time, modern gym equipment allows building strength in certain parts of the athlete’s body by isolating some muscle groups without overtraining others.
Sports clothing has also changed greatly to better suit the athletes’ needs. Half a century ago, clothing was meant to keep the athlete comfortable while exercising. Now, wearables and clothes play a much larger role in improving overall performance.
For one, lighter and more comfortable shoes are now available and adapted for different disciplines and surfaces. High-tech fabrics wick the sweat away from the body instead of absorbing it, while membranes help keep the athlete warm and dry when training outdoors.
Broadcasting and fan engagement before and after Covid
The development of the web changed the way athletes interact with their following, giving birth to fan engagement platforms and content hubs all over the internet. With the help of these platforms, athletes and team managers can gauge the reaction of their communities about a certain change in a team quickly. Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, facilitated this interaction, connecting athletes, team directives and fans.
In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic became a black swan for the sports industry, pushing it for innovation. Due to the heavy losses that the sports sector experienced last year, teams and players were forced to consider alternative revenue sources, like esports simulators and betting.
Today, as the sports industry is recovering, and there is still a period of limited attendance to venues, teams can offer immersive services that could allow fans to attend events virtually and still get a great experience.
Sports – d ecentralized
Another trend triggered by both the pandemic and a call for a more immersive fan experience is the introduction of blockchain, NFTs and fan tokens into sports. Through these technologies, athletes and teams get access to new revenues, while fans can play a profound role in their hero’s life.
NFTs can be harnessed in different ways – first, generative NFTs can be based on the players of a team or on athletes of any sport to act like collectibles with unique capabilities for fans. Second, they can also portray special moments in the life of an athlete or a team, and serve as collectibles for fans to remember those moments. And third, we are witnessing a rise in play-to-earn models, where digital assets can be used as virtual currencies in virtual worlds, giving fans access to unique rewards.
Fan tokens – a kind of inner currency issued by a team, federation or platform – are another novel way to create new revenue sources, provide more engagement for fans and bring fans and teams closer in the post-pandemic world. These tokens give fans direct access to special promotions – including meet and greets with their favorite athletes – and help the team to make decisions via token holders’ votes.
What does the future hold?
There is no doubt that technology will keep powering all aspects of sports. Still, decentralized technology, mainly due to the great potential for fan engagement and monetization, is likely to play a key role in the development of the sports industry in the next decade.
Paired with other new technologies created to entice the users to consume products and services coming from their favorite teams, it could become one of the main alternative revenue paths for sports teams and players in the near future.
Ryan Wilkinson, head of product at Blockasset.co
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