I n an interview with Ministry of Sport, HCL Technologies executive vice president & country manager for Australia and New Zealand, Michael Horton, discussed the digital transformation of the sports industry.
HCL, who are currently serving as Cricket Australia’s official digital technology partner, servicing cricket.com.au, the CA Live app and community cricket platforms, recently delivered the HCL and Cricket Australia TechJam, celebrating technological innovation in sport.
Talking about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on fan engagement with sport and the role of digital, Horton said technology will further drive sport’s innovation.
“Even before the pandemic, the nexus of media consumption has been shifting away from television and tilting towards apps and other mobile-based channels,” Horton told Ministry of Sport.
“Fans today are looking for a lot more than just the game.
“They expect thrilling experiences that bring them not only closer to the game, but also to their favourite teams, their players, and more.
“The backdrop of these shifts is that sports entities are in dire need of a holistic transformation to get the ball rolling in this digital age.
“And technology will shoulder a major chunk of this evolution.
“Both sport and businesses have come a long way, and we are moving into a new era where innovation is at their core, and technology is driving these innovations,” he said.
Revealing the key drivers of innovation across the sports industry, Horton pointed toward such things as augmented reality and virtual reality.
“Today, the sports industry is seeing innovation across all areas, and mature businesses are experimenting with cutting-edge use cases of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to bring the audiences to action in stadiums,” Horton said.
“However, over 24% of the digital innovation efforts are focused on business management and optimisation systems, 14% concentrate on reinventing the fan experience, followed by a significant focus on ecommerce, ticketing, media, and game analytics.
“Through all these trends runs a unifying thread that requires sports entities to embrace a digital core that capitalises on data, ushers more productivity, and makes process orchestration nimble and efficient,” he said.
Putting the evolution of digital technology into action, Horton said it is important for sporting organisation to fully embrace a unification of their operations through a digital core.
“[A] key imperative for sport entities is to embrace a digital core that seamlessly unifies all aspects of the operations – from team management, ticket sales, ecommerce, event planning and logistics, sport analytics, and relationships with the fans,” Horton said.
“A platform-based approach that integrates the ecosystem of partners and key stakeholders through a device-agnostic frontend is the key to success here, since users are likely to respond to process changes when they are intuitive and closer to their digital habits,” he said.
When asked about how fan experience can ultimately be improved with the successful integration of digital technology, Horton said: “Fan experience must take on new forms as other modes of entertainment are emerging as strong contenders across the globe today.”
“While live game attendance is in strong need of seamless wireless connectivity to power updates, replays and promotions, enhancing access to venues themselves with short queues, digital ticketing, and fan interaction zones are key priorities to ensure participation and maintain healthy revenue streams from events.
“Beyond the game, content plays a strong role in maintaining the momentum.
“Bringing fans closer to the players through updates on their lives, and pipelining replays, and other bits of action from live events in an integrated digital experience are key strategies to keeping the fans engaged.
“Moreover, other means of engagement, like gamification of content around competitions, teams, and players can not only boost engagement levels, but also bring important first-party data to the business that can power insights and improve business decisioning, while unlocking avenues for new revenue streams.
“The sports industry is seeing exciting developments that are bound to thrill the fans and find success in the new normal.
“However, starting at the basics by aligning operations to digital platforms, and setting a data and analytics strategy into action will form a solid basis on which the business can improvise and innovate further,” Horton told Ministry of Sport.