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How will 5g technology transform the sports and fitness industries?

Updated: Feb 18, 2022

Our “Technology in Sports” series continues today with a description of how much the awaited 5g technology will transform some aspects of the sports and fitness industries. In the following chart developed by Atos, which we initially shared in the introduction to the series, we can see that this technology has been identified to become “transformational” although we are still far away from seeing major adoption of it.

Atos Technology Impact Framework

Now, before going into the details of how it will impact these two particular industries, we wanted to share a video that explains the way the technology works and the different fields it could potentially be applied to:

In this post, our aim is to identify how sport fans and fitness customers will benefit from the implementation of 5g, and as a result, how it represents an opportunity to drive incremental revenue for businesses.

The impact 5g technology will have in sports

We identify three major areas where 5g can have a major impact in sports from a fan entertainment and engagement perspective:

5g impact in sports

Immersive experiences for sport fans

5g technology will be a huge driver of the further roll out of Augmented & Virtual Reality services that will enable fans to experience immersive experiences around their favorite sport. Some examples could be, as specified in this article by Kevin J Murphy in Ericsson´s website, the possibility for fans to watch the game as if they were on the sideline or in any other part of the field/court and even create “virtual hangouts” with friends in different locations, which could be particularly relevant in post Covid-19 scenarios.

One of the brands that is looking to establish a leadership position in the realm of 5g is Verizon. In addition to their partnerships with some NBA teams, they carried out some amazing immersive experiences for the Super Bowl in Tampa Bay. For example, they rolled out a feature that enabled fans to engage with seven different camera angles while in the stadium or five angles from home. Moreover, they took this a step further to the virtual realm with the creation of the Verizon 5G Stadium in Fortnite. Fans had the opportunity to interact with NFL players and pro gamers and even play four football-inspired games which streamed on Twitch and Verizon’s official Twitter account.

Diego Scotti, CMO at Verizon, had this to say about the impact that 5g can have in the realm of sports & entertainment:

“With 5G, we are beginning to see the transformation of various industries and the innovation that comes with it. Reimagining live events is one of the best use cases for the power of 5G. During a year like this one, it is a thrill to transform the Super Bowl experience by creating a first-of-its-kind virtual stadium in Fortnite that brings a new level of gaming to life, while at the same time we’re innovating the in-stadium experience.”

Verizon is taking their virtual reality capabilities to other sports as they are testing cool features with the New Jersey Devils which include giving fans the possibility to point their phones at players during a game to show real-time speed, time on ice and other pieces of data.

This trend is also enabling the emergence of new start-ups and projects, such as Tru-Spot Technologies, which essentially offers a very similar service as Verizon does, giving fans the possibility of attending games virtually from home. In words of his co-founder:

“We give the fan full control, from your [virtual] seat, you're able to pan around, up, down, and look. You’re immersed. You’re able to walk up the stairs. You're able to basically do all of the things that you would typically be able to do as if you're physically in the venue.”

Real Time Engagement

The low latency 5g provides is ideal for Real Time Engagement actions in a given game. For instance, the Sacramento Kings of the NBA carry out auctions during games using Blockchain technology and 5g is the way to ensure there is no delays in receiving bids from fans.

Other teams such as the Washington Wizards or the Philadelphia 76ers have followed suit and signed deals with Verizon, which is looking to strengthen its position as a 5g provider in the sports industry, to develop similar experiences for their fans.

Connected Stadiums

5g technology can also help transform the fan experience within a stadium. For example, they might be able to check on real time data from players thanks to the improved speed of connected devices or again, share videos of the action they are witnessing with friends. From a business standpoint, this is a great way to foster user generated content and thus, fan engagement towards the sport brand.

Overall, we believe this video from BT does a fantastic job in summarizing how the sport fan experience around these 3 elements is bound to be transformed thanks to 5g technology.

Chelsea FC is one of the pioneering sport properties that is best adopting 5g technology to tackle the three elements we have described, which are pretty much centered in enhancing the fan experience, as described by their Chief Executive, Guy Laurence:

"The possibilities of how we can enhance the fan and stadium experience are endless and our team is excited that it is now live. 5G enables us to begin to merge the physical and digital for ultimate fan experiences. (...) we will be able to deliver the next generation of connected entertainment and continue our quest to be one of the most innovative clubs in world soccer.”

The impact 5g technology will have in the fitness industry

Similarly, 5g will also drive a deep transformation of the fitness industry in a variety of ways.

5g impact in fitness

Connected Fitness & 5G

In our opinion, virtual & connected fitness solutions “are here to stay” even when we finally get to put the pandemic behind us. Some users have turned the possibility of working out at home into a habit and it seems they will not be returning to a gym soon. On one hand, Statista has projected a constant increase in the number of worldwide users from 2020 to 2024:

Fitness app users worldwide

On the other hand, the success of “connected fitness” brands such as Peloton, Tonal or Zwift does not seem to be temporary. While it may be difficult for them to maintain their current paces of growth, they have been able to prove to the industry that users are greatly satisfied with the services they offer, while also proving to be highly convenient.

The roll out of 5g technology will enable these fitness brands and services to improve their current “real time” offering thanks to the low latency the technology provides. Moreover, we will not be surprised if some of them launch virtual fitness experiences in which users can perform their workout at home while simulating being in an actual gym class full of other people.

In fact, as Victoria Petrock from eMarketer points out in this podcast episode, this could lead to greater personalization of the experience as users could potentially decide to attend that class or workout with friends they choose, the music or video content they want to listen to or in the long term, enjoy augmented /virtual reality features from these connected devices. And this could open up some more advertising opportunities for brands. Imagine a virtual reality ride in which users suddenly drive by a particular food brand establishment with certain food items on offer that can be ordered online and delivered to the user´s address or a fashion brand promoting a new line of athleisure clothing.

Moreover, Ms. Petrock had a great quote with regards to how 5g will enable "marketing to become more interactive rather than interruptive."

Ultimately, as we shared in this post, the future of the industry relies on being able to develop complete and seamless omnichannel experiences for customers, and 5g will be critical to make that happen.

Fitness Gaming

Combining the emergence of “at home workout” solutions, their adoption by customers, the development of new technologies such virtual/augmented reality and people´s innate desire to “play,” we believe there is a huge opportunity for Active Video Gaming, as we shared in this post.

5g should only help accelerate this segment as it will improve the user experience significantly and it will not be long until we see services like the following one being more common among households.

Personal Training

Finally, the realm of Personal Training may also see a great benefit from 5g technology. Coaches will be able to monitor customers in real time and thanks to connected devices, study customer data related to performance during the session and suggest improvements or new exercises on that given moment.

For example, imagine a Personal Trainer engaging with customers through an app like Trainerize. Initially, the trainer had shared the workout routine for a given day with its customers that they will perform at home (without needing to go to the gym). The customer might then have some doubts about the way in which a particular exercise is performed. Thanks to virtual reality technology powered by 5g, the coach can then project him or herself in the customer's home performing that exercise and focusing on the most important ques to remember.

Not only does this transform the actual training experience, it could potentially change the customer acquisition model. Think about it, gyms traditionally relied on acquiring most of its customers from the population that lives within a short distance of the facility. But, if customers find a way to interact in real time with any coach in the world and not be impacted by delays in the connection (which is one of the problems 5g will solve), why would they be forced to go to a personal trainer “near home”? With 5g, users' choices increase exponentially and the best coaches in the world may have the opportunity to take their business internationally much easier.

3 main business benefits 5g may have in the sports or fitness industry

As we said at the beginning, we are still at the early stages of 5g technology being fully adopted by the mass market although, as we have seen, it could be a huge catalyst of transformation for brands in the sport & fitness spaces.

In essence, this technology provides, in our view, benefits along three critical business objectives:

  1. Probably the greatest benefit is customer & fan engagement as 5g will drive the development of other initiatives that improve the overall experience as we have described in the examples above. This is, for the moment, the main focus of the NBA for example. As Steve Hellmuth, EVP of Media Operations & Technology for the NBA confirmed during a webinar you can access for yourself through this link , thanks to 5g´s low latency, synchronized views of games in real time with people in other locations is one of the key priorities for the league. In addition, tests around gambling and augmented reality will be carried out in an effort to improve the broadcast experience for fans.

  2. Moreover, by improving connectivity, sport and fitness businesses will be able to attract new customers, particularly from “far away” locations. These brands will be able to monetize from these fans much better and increase their international revenues.

  3. 5g will also enable improved collection of customer data, which will lead to better personalization of the experience and ultimately, higher revenues.

We hope you found this brief overview useful. As the technology keeps evolving and gaining traction, we hope to be able to bring further details, examples and business cases to help you understand better how it can help your sport or fitness business thrive.

Meanwhile, keep safe.


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