AI changing the game for sports fans
As the competition for fan engagement increases across major global sporting events, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning offer new ways to deliver more sophisticated and connected data experiences.
New research from NTT, a technology and managed services company, highlights sporting organisations need to do more to create the types of experiences that digitally savvy fans demand.
Just 46% of people said their current data experience makes a sporting event more enjoyable.
This shortfall exposes the need for the right technology infrastructure and solutions to deliver the sophisticated experiences sporting fans expect, and AI and machine learning will be the answer.
The research of around 3,700 sports fans from across the globe shows AI and machine learning are extremely effective ways to create more engaging, data-rich experiences.
It found that over half (54%) of people aged 18-34 believe AI is capable of successfully predicting the results of a sporting event.
Around the same amount (52%) said accurate predictions make a sporting event more engaging, yet only a quarter (26%) of people across all age groups are aware of AI and machine learning actually being used at sporting events, exposing a huge opportunity to create greater engagement.
“There's a real hunger in the sports industry for a more futuristic viewing experience for fans,” says NTT global chief marketing officer Ruth Rowan
“Like any organisation looking to thrive, sports providers need transformation to remain relevant and competitive in a rapidly digitising world. Whether that's through live analytics and data enhancements, AI-powered experiences, or connected stadiums – it's clear ICT infrastructure, the cloud, and mobile services have a critical role to play as the sports industry evolves to meet the growing demands of digitally savvy supporters.
This year's Tour de France is another innovation-rich edition. Fans can now enjoy new #NTTPredictor AI and machine-learning features, truly revolutionising Le Tour's viewing experience:
- Le Buzz – a new machine-learning model being trialled for the first time at the 2019 Tour de France. It analyses the movements within the peloton to predict potential key moments, such as the increased likelihood of a crash, a split in the peloton or a change in race dynamics.
- Live stage favourites – Machine-learning based stage favourite predictions were first successfully trialled in 2017. This year they've been improved to update live throughout the stage, based on the events occurring within the race.
- “Catch the Break” predictor – enhanced to better account for the different race strategies in play at different points in a stage, through the creation of individual machine-learning models for every 10km section of the race.
Delving into the viewing habits and preferences of sports fans from across the globe, the NTT research also paints a compelling picture of the future digital and live sports experience.
Central to this is the shifting habits of millennial fans. Over half (56%) of 18- to 34-year-olds said they would increase their use of “second screens” during live sporting events over the next three years.
With 51% of respondents across all age groups electing to track live updates from a sporting event via their second screen (mobile or tablet) – at a rate of once a week or more – the demand for a digital and connected experience is clearly on the rise.
The primary motivation for using a second screen during a sporting event is access to data and stats (34%), with four in 10 people wanting even more statistics to enhance their digital experience.
Meanwhile, over half (55%) of 18- to 34-year-olds said more in-stadium experiences – such as improved connectivity and tech-enhanced facilities – would encourage them to attend live sporting events.
This demonstrates a lucrative market exists for organisations willing to invest in connected stadiums and events.
And the desire among millennials to be constantly connected clearly translates into the live sporting area, with almost three-quarters (73%) saying poor connectivity at a sporting venue reduces their enjoyment of an event.