The fan is the best customer a business can have. They are passionate about the teams they follow and are willing to spend money on them even when they are failing to live up to their expectations. While 2015 has already seen huge strides in sports technology, next year will see even more advances, with the fan being brought even closer to the action.
Here are five technology trends to look out for in 2016.
The hometown team goes global
The concept of a global sports brand is nothing new. English soccer club, Manchester United, has considerable international appeal, with many estimating that their fanbase is close to 700 million, spanning Asia, North America, Africa and Europe. A global appeal, however, used to be restricted to sporting powerhouses, but it's becoming increasingly achievable for more modest organizations.
The Sacramento Kings, while no slouches, would not have been in a position to expand into India a decade ago. But according to a Stanford University report, the NBA side, which has an Indian-American owner, is attempting to raise its profile in India, making its website available in Hindi and 'hosting international Google+ Hangouts during games, and sending some team personnel on outreach trips to India.'
If successful, the side feels that an Indian could easily be playing in the NBA in the next five years, this shows how important technology could be in increasing basketball's popularity worldwide.
Fan engagement becomes deeper
Technology has already brought the fan closer to sport, but opportunities still remain. Social media and video play an important role in this, with many established organizations - like the MLB, NBA and NASCAR - partnering with YouTube early on.
It's also given fans a direct line of communication with the athletes themselves. Leading up to the sacking of former Chelsea FC manager, Jose Mourinho, SkySports hosted a live Facebook Q+A session with Cesc Fabregas, a player, who at the time, was reportedly central to the Portuguese's demise. While the show's editors would have handpicked the most suitable questions, it makes the players more accountable for their actions with the fans.
Wearable tech still on the rise
Recent reports show that wearable tech is going to become even more popular in 2016. The American College of Sports Medicine survey identified that wearable technology will be 2016's top fitness trend.
Perhaps more representative of the improving smartwatch market, many users have been exchanging their fitness tracker for the Apple Watch. Other products, including tech-embedded clothing, smart glasses and jewelry will help the industry bring in over $30 billion in 2016, with 140 million devices expected to be shipped - nearly three times more than 2015's totals.
The development of smart arenas
Set in the heart of Silicon Valley, the Levi's Stadium remains the most high-tech stadium of its kind. Home to the San Francisco 49ers, it has a capacity of 70,000. According to Time magazine: 'The stadium will allow all 70,000+ fans to connect to Wi-Fi and 4G networks to take advantage of personalized services, making the event experience more enjoyable'. The stadium will enrich the fan's experience, allowing them easier access to stats and replays.
Development plans will be a priority for 2016. According to a Stanford University report: 'This could mean one day scanning a ticket on your phone to enter the arena, which sends an alert to a service representative to let them know it’s your birthday, so your favorite cocktail can be delivered to your seat.' This is something we're not far away from either.
More sports startups
A number of sports startups will be entering the market, making use of digital media in particular. Whistle Sports and Bleacher Report have grown their subscriber bases substantially over the last five years, becoming an important source of information for the 14-30 demographic.
The Los Angeles Dodger Accelerator program works with smaller teams to get them funding quicker. This gives them them the opportunity to work with companies that can help them innovate.