Sports Spectatorship Set to Improve with AI

Sports Spectatorship Set to Improve with AI

July 17, 2019

New NTT research shows over half of people aged 18-34 believe AI creates better sports spectatorship  but only a quarter know how it’s actually applied in sports.

As competition for fan engagement increases across major global sporting events, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning offer new ways to deliver more sophisticated and connected data experiences according to new research released by NTT.

The research carried out by Toluna surveyed 3697 respondents aged between 18 and 65 from the UK, USA, Singapore, Australia, Germany, and France.

The research highlights sporting organizations need to do more to create the types of experiences that digitally savvy fans demand. Just 46% of people said their current data experience makes a sporting event more enjoyable. According to NTT, this shortfall exposes a need for the right technology infrastructure and solutions to deliver more sophisticated experiences for sporting fans.

The findings from respondents claims AI and machine learning are extremely effective ways to create more engaging, data-rich experiences. Key results indicated:

Over half (54%) of people aged 18-34 believe AI is capable of successfully predicting the results of a sporting event.

Around the same amount (52%) said accurate predictions make a sporting event more engaging.

Yet, only a quarter (26%) of people across all age groups are aware of AI and machine learning actually being used at sporting events, exposing a huge opportunity to create greater engagement.

NTT Global Chief Marketing Officer Ruth Rowan says fans want greater futuristic engagement in sports spectatorship.

“There’s a real hunger in the sports industry for a more futuristic viewing experience for fans. And, like any organization looking to thrive, sports providers need transformation to remain relevant and competitive in a rapidly digitizing world. Whether that’s through live analytics and data enhancements, AI-powered experiences, or connected stadiums – it’s clear ICT infrastructure, the cloud, and mobile services have a critical role to play as the sports industry evolves to meet the growing demands of digitally savvy supporters,” says Rowan.

According to NTT, new AI-led products is available for spectators at this year’s Tour de France. Rowan says it features its NTTPredictor AI and machine-learning features, which claims to revolutionise Le Tour’s viewing experience:

Le Buzz – a new machine-learning model being trialled for the first time at the 2019 Tour de France. It analyses the movements within the peloton to predict potential key moments, such as the increased likelihood of a crash, a split in the peloton or a change in race dynamics.

Live stage favourites – Machine-learning based stage favourite predictions were first successfully trialled in 2017. This year they’ve been improved to update live throughout the stage based on the events occurring within the Tour de France.

“Catch the Break” predictor – enhanced to better account for the different race strategies in play at different points in a stage, through the creation of individual machine-learning models for every 10km section of the race.

Live data insights and predictions – from NTTPredictor will be featured throughout the race on @letourdata on twitter.

Delving into the viewing habits and preferences of sports fans from across the globe, the NTT research also paints a compelling picture of the future digital and live sports experience. Central to this are the shifting habits of millennial fans. Over half (56%) of 18- to 34-year-olds said they would increase their use of “second screens” during live sporting events over the next three years.

With 51% of respondents across all age groups electing to track live updates from a sporting event via their second screen (mobile or tablet) – at a rate of once a week or more – the demand for a digital and connected experience indicates an upswing in demand.

The primary motivation for using a second screen during a sporting event is access to data and stats (34%), with four in 10 people wanting even more statistics to enhance their digital experience in sports spectatorship.

Meanwhile, over half (55%) of 18- to 34-year-olds said more in-stadium experiences – such as improved connectivity and tech-enhanced facilities – would encourage them to attend live sporting events. This demonstrates a lucrative market exists for organizations willing to invest in connected stadiums and events.

The desire among millennials to be connected translates into the live sporting area, with almost three-quarters (73%) saying poor connectivity at a sporting venue reduces their enjoyment of an event.


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