The window for engagement with fans, athletes, teams and brands in the global sports landscape has never been bigger. Some companies in the space are new attackers looking to create a niche, others are constantly reinventing themselves while still others are names you may know but have found a new path to success. Who are some of the ones we have our eye on, and you should to? Take a look.
Amazon’s virtual assistant, which powers the company’s Echo devices is expanding its Alexa has a Sports Update feature that lets fans get live score updates and schedule information. Other companies are also building sports-related Alexa skills; Turner Sports debuted Catch Sports last month to help fans find ways to watch their teams. Certainly worth a listen.
Current United States immigration policy leaves us in strange and unchartered waters. One area that has come under question is how policy changes will affect the thousands of professional and amateur athletes, not just Americans competing abroad but the wide mosaic of foreign athletes who play, train and live in the United States.
Stakeholders from the United States Olympic Committee to the NBA have raised questions and concerns recently, in what could become one of the biggest sports business stories in the United States in 2017. However, in that mix of angst comes some light. As is the case so many times, necessity becomes the mother of invention, and with that invention, an entrepreneur rises to serve a niche that is smart, simple and growing, despite the anticipated or discussed changes in US foreign policy. The company is called ASIYA, and its mission is to create Modest Active Wear, especially the hajib, for women who want to play in athletics. The opportunity has arisen as women in conservative countries, especially in the Middle East, become more attuned to their opportunities, and as conservative women in other counties rise in athletics. ASIYA has found its way to a niche for an active female, and seems to be serving it well.
3. Atlanta Braves
The Braves move to SunTrust Park in a few weeks, with the most technologically advanced stadiums in the world. An all-fiber network will keep fans connected no matter where they are, while 15 Seconds of Fame, a social app that delivers personalized videos to fans after they appear on stadium jumbotrons will keep everyone in their seats no matter what the score. On-demand ordering, customized seat deliveries and even tailored camera angles will all be in the mix as Atlanta welcomes what will be the first of two new stadia this year, with the Braves pulling out all the stops to be first and fast.
The Greek yogurt giant has invested billions into being the leader in the active lifestyle space, and continues to find new ways, from athlete partners to interactive messagiung inside their cups, to engage and go beying a simple consumer experience. It has launched a new line of yogurt drinks, more variations on its Flip mix-in product, additional yogurt flavors, and a concept café in select Target locations. They have even built cause marketing and job placement into their mantra, making them an athletic brand of choice for the millennial, with some great flavors as well.
5. Home Plate Peanut Butter
Is there a way to re-invent an American staple? No, but you can make it tastier, healthier and build in a charity component as well. Think Girl Scout cookies or popcorn for a new generation. The Texas-based company was founded by a group of former baseball players including Josh Beckett and Marco Scutero, who saw young players in the minors trying to make a meager living by eating cheap foods like sugar laden cheap peanut butter. HBP is all American made, with great ingredients and is becoming a staple for those in and around baseball as well as for those groups looking to raise money by selling minikits for charity. It is mail order and at retail, and is priced below the gourmet stuff and just above low-end brands. A simple idea done well.
We all know how big eSports are becoming but Ninentdo is trying to capture an even bigger and unwieldy audience, the casual gamer in the mobile space. The Japanese company created a platform where users can build their own Super Mario levels and share them with others with a new platform that can tie the devoted console players to the mobile space seamlessly, solving a huge issue for gaming by linking the casual and hard core players for perhaps the first time. Need not to mention the impact Pokemon Go had on the marketplace; now with Switch and the addition of Mario games to iOS devices; Nintendo continues to move the needle.
7. Pro Football Focus
How does a football data business grow? By constantly finding new audiences and delivering the best and most innovative data for anyone who cares about football; from coaches and agents to teams, media companies and consumers. The Cincinnati company, owned by Former NFL star Cris Collinsworth, has quickly become the “must have” for NFL teams and a growing number of college teams, and is now pushing into the consumer space to be for football fans what the Bill James Baseball Abstract was for baseball fantasy players. Their innovative evaluations are easy to understand and first rate, and have brought a new level to how data is being used for the gridiron.
This ticket reseller is continually disrupting the ticketing industry. Virtual reality tech is adding value to their ticket sales process and next as a purcashable upgrade, their ticketing apps are available on an array of devices including OTT machines allowing for more points of purchase even in a-la-carte driven marketplace, and on-deck is a central network to authorize tickets to allow for a full industry-wide commitment to direct, paperless, and dynamically priced tickets. Although many attacker brands have appeared in this space, StubHub leads through innovation as they continue to lead in the global live events marketplace.
No longer your grandfather’s trading card company, the New York-based sports and entertainment brand found a way to marry their growing digital business with the traditional, launching the ToppsNow platform last year for pop culture, WWE, UFC, MLS and even MLB. ToppsNow gives fans a window to purchase iconic images of events, from The Walking Dead to A Walkoff Home Run by Kris Bryant, almost in real time, and the actual card, gets mailed to consumers within 24 hours after the moment occurred. The result was a massive reinterest in the company by fans and collectors, with close to 700,000 cards sold last year alone, and expansion of the business into even more properties, like Star Wars, this year.
10. UBER and Fanatics
If you are a commuter on the go, you know UBER, and if you like apparel or memorabilia of any team, you have probably purchased from Fanatics, the company that is essentially the sports apparel version of Amazon; a multi-billion dollar business that is the back end for gear for everyone from NASCAR to MLB. However their partnership, where fans can order and have merch delivered to them within minutes after a big event like the Final Four or the Super Bowl, has brought on time sports merchandise deliverable to a new level. Can drone deliveries be next for Opening Day?
Lots has been done on improvement of player safety with headgear, but what about protective material like shoulder pads or shin guards? Not much. Enter XTECH. The New Jersey-based company has caught the eye of a growing number of football teams, from the NFL to high schools, with a new design using shock absorbing, lightweight material that is waterproof and adaptable to every type of heavy molded plastic that has been the standard for years. While concussion prevention and brain injiry is still key, this new form of protective padding is to the 21st Century what the flak jacket was to the 1980’s.