The Covid-19 pandemic has created and is creating a worldwide turmoil in different areas of life. The sport industry is not the exception thereof.

Matches, competitions and events are being postponed, modified or even cancelled on a daily basis. This forces many different industry stakeholders to rapidly come up with solutions that can mainly be found going off the beaten track.

Reminding of Winston Churchill’s famous statement that one should “never let a good crisis go to waste”, several sports actors have tackled the pandemic situation by realising that it it is the right time and opportunity to reinvent themselves and innovate.

How can sport industry stakeholders and organisers find innovative ideas?

  • Be ready to challenge tradition: This requires the ability to think in different ways and to make decisions outside the comfort zone. However, those new ideas should be relevant to the sport community and of course to the sport fans (consumers) who would eventually end up buying the reinvented formats.
  • Don’t forget your stakeholders: It’s often individuals who have great ideas and who put a lot of effort in order to turn the idea into reality. But these individuals only do so until they realise that their ideas are not received with the same enthusiasm. It is crucial to engage with the sport industry stakeholders (sponsors, athletes, international federations, media, national federations, spectators/fans) at an early stage because they are decisive in the success of the plan and can co-create innovative ideas.
  • Preserve fan experience / engagement: Distancing restrictions forced organisers to rethink how to allow spectators to experience a sport event in a unique way, sometimes without being physically present, by developing contingency plans and exploring virtual technologies opportunities.

Some good examples of where sport event organisers  have responded in a smart way:

The UTS (Ultimate Tennis Showdown): Conceived by Serena Williams’ tennis coach Patrick Mouratoglou, the clever international tournament UTS aims to appeal to a younger audience while accentuating the sense of entertainment and bringing tennis to masses with an unprecedented format and new rules such as:

  • Round robin league with 10 players wand 50 matches during 5 weekends.
  • Matches lasting 1 hour (4 quarters, 10 min each)
  • Coaches can interact directly with the players and spectators can hear it all

The FIBA U17 Skills Challenge: After the cancellation of the FIBA U17 Basketball World Cup 2020 due to the pandemic, there was a need to help national federations maintain the bond with their youth national team players and to compensate them for the loss of a once in a lifetime experience. FIBA came up with a ground-breaking proposition of a virtual game. The idea was to enable teams to compete despite being in different places. The teams could complete different skills challenges and send their performance to an editorial team created by FIBA who would combine the two videos and create a game. The teams would only know the outcome of the match once both completed the challenge and their game was published on social media.

Thanks to the pandemic, an acceleration of trends in the sport industry could be observed, bringing new formats and products to showcase sport in a different way.