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Digital Trends 2024

Every year our team breaks down the technologies and developments that will shape the digital landscape over the next 12 months. Explore our predictions for 2024 and how they will impact the sports industry.

trend 1

Web3 shakes down, machine learning powers up

Web3 shakes down, machine learning powers up

Umbrella terms like web3 and metaverse have been contested, and the emergence of more practical applications powered by machine learning and large language models have created an ecosystem that the sports industry’s place in remains uncertain.

Our clients are asking us which technologies might truly disrupt their businesses and which might present genuine commercial opportunities.

We remain confident in our directional truth that we are at the start of a third age of the internet. As was the case in the first and second eras, some technologies will begin to emerge as category-defining, while others will fall away.

2024 will be the year this shakedown really happens.

trend 2

AI: Cut, create, cultivate

The adoption of generative artificial intelligence (GAI) has skyrocketed over the past year, having an even greater impact than we anticipated when we forecasted its growth in last year’s report.

We saw tools like ChatGPT reaching 1 million users in five days and 100 million users in just two months after launch.

So what has been the key differentiator? There has been a clear on-ramp for consumers with easy interfaces and understanding of what it means for them. The easier to use, the greater adoption.

In 2024, sports organizations will have a better idea of how to use AI to unlock efficiencies in their existing processes, devise new and innovative content formats and identify new commercial opportunities in large data sets.

AI: Cut, create, cultivate

trend 3

Stop saying ‘social media’

Stop saying 'social media'

The major platforms don’t exist simply to connect us publicly with friends and family – that behavior has moved to private messaging apps and groups.

The social graph has shifted to an interest graph: some of these interests we express explicitly but increasingly algorithms are able to predict and serve our interests simply by the way we behave and consume content.

The term ‘social media’ has long meant different things to different people. For publishers to be even remotely ‘social’ implies a level of commitment to, well, socialising.

In this context, the phrase ‘social’ has become unhelpful, misleading and suggestive of an old-fashioned approach to digital publishing. So what comes next?

trend 4

Here comes the money: Women’s sport monetizes through digital

Over the last 12 months globally, we’ve seen women’s sport move to the next level of its growth trajectory, underpinned by increased investment.

However, while the women’s sports commercial landscape has seen a shift for the better, a vicious cycle is still prevalent – brands say there is not enough media coverage to justify advertising dollars, while broadcasters say there are not enough advertising dollars to justify media coverage.

We must keep the accessibility of sports front and center.

The key change we expect in 2024 is that investment into women’s sports will continue but – crucially – engagement will convert to tangible dollars.

Here comes the money: Women’s sport monetises through digital

trend 5

Your stadium will get smarter

Your stadium will get smarter

Fan and commercial partner expectations will put digital engagement at the forefront of the stadium experience in 2024.

The trend towards ‘smart stadia’ is being driven by technologies that enhance the fan experience and deliver value to stadium owners. We used to refer in theoretical terms to an ‘Internet of things’, which has now become a semi-reality

Adoption of these technologies in sports venues has rapidly accelerated thanks to lower prices and better connectivity. The real value of smart stadia will come through reduced overhead costs, improve revenue, and deeper fan connections.

This will only happen though if venue owners invest in the right tech infrastructure.

trend 6

Personalization becomes business critical

Personalized experiences are now an expectation, not a frill. Consumption options will change because they must, before audiences drift away. This is especially true for sports.

The driving forces behind this trend come from changing consumer needs. Every sport worries about an aging audience in-stadia and on TV, and the scale of competing attractions for the attention of Gen Z (and their successors Gen Alpha, individuals born after 2010) is well understood.

Sport must look at their audiences more closely to cater to specific needs across all groups.

Personalization becomes business critical

trend 7

The rise of the mega influencer

The rise of the mega influencer

In 2023, we saw Cristiano Ronaldo join the Roshn Saudi League, Lionel Messi move to Major League Soccer and Taylor Swift start dating the Kansas City Chiefs’ player Travis Kelce.

For the past decade, most sports rights holders have held onto influencers for dear life, but the quick hits – measured through pre-agreed social media posts and in millions of impressions – haven’t always been enough to convert new fans into hardcore ones.

So, what is real influence? How can Taylor, Lionel or Cristiano have a bigger effect over a league in a matter of months, than years of work by micro and macro influencers?

power rankings

Top media platforms in the global sports industry

For the first ever, we’re ranking the most important third party media platforms for the global sports industry.

We arrived at the rankings through a detailed analysis of:

  1. Where we see clients putting their efforts, the results they’re achieving
  2. The audience profile and growth opportunities specific platforms offer
  3. The commercial reality and commercial potential of each platform
  4. The functionality they offer both rightsholders and users

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