With the cancellation of in-person events and restrictions on participation, many sports organisations were forced to accelerate their adoption of digital platforms to help keep their communities and members connected and active. Over 2 years on from the start of the pandemic it’s clear that this digital led approach, born out of mere necessity is proving to be beneficial for the industry, with organisations such as Sport England and UK Sport recognising the importance of digital transformation for the sector and including this within their strategies and funding.
Have you started to consider how you can capitalise on the opportunities that digital transformation presents in connecting your communities and re-engaging people in sports and physical activity?
First and foremost, with the increasing number of people using and engaging with digital platforms, it is wise to consider how these technologies could be used to inspire and motivate individuals to participate in sports. By creating digital spaces for people to connect and share their experiences, the sport and physical activity sectors can foster a sense of community and belonging amongst participants. A recent study found that 76% of internet users participate in an online community, particularly ones that are focused around their interests and goals. With the results also revealing that making connections with other people who have similar interests (66%) is one of the primary drivers behind why users engage in online communities.
Beyond peer support, one of the key benefits of investing in a strategic approach to digital transformation is the ability to reach a wider audience, both in terms of geography and demographics. With the ability to offer online classes, tutorials and resources, sports organisations can engage people who might not otherwise have been able to participate in traditional in-person activities. For example, individuals who live in remote areas or those with disabilities can now access sporting events and activities that were previously unavailable to them.
Moreover, digital platforms can also provide a wealth of data and insights for sports organisations. By leveraging this data, sports organisations can gain a better understanding of their members, their behaviours and preferences, and use this information to create personalised experiences and tailored content that will help to increase engagement and retention.
A report by Deloitte found that having more data created more creative ways to contract with sponsors and increased the success rate of sponsorship contracts. Sporting organisations could partner with brands that catered to the demographics and preferences of their members, providing additional benefit to their partners and sponsors which also translates to additional revenue and sustained partnerships.
Another important aspect of digital transformation for the sport and physical activity sector is the ability to offer virtual events and competitions. With the pandemic forcing the cancellation of many in-person events, digital platforms have enabled sports organisations to continue to host competitions and events virtually, keeping their communities engaged and active. This has also helped to broaden the reach of these events, allowing participants from all over the world to take part.
Although restrictions have now been lifted and in-person activity is returning to pre-pandemic levels many sporting bodies have realised the value of virtual events on participation figures, with many continuing to organise virtual alternatives as part of their yearly events calendar. Not to mention the fact that many virtual events are more cost effective to the organiser, with less time and funds required on securing a venue, organising volunteers, etc. which translates into cheaper or even free entry for participants and thus increasing the accessibility of sporting events and encouraging more people to participate in sports.
So, how could your sports organisation capitalise on digital transformation?
To capitalise on the opportunities that digital transformation brings, sports organisations should focus on a few key areas. Firstly, they should consider investing in technology that’s flexible and adaptable.
This relates to the platforms and the associated technical architecture that underpins them. CRM, member management, qualification awarding, loyalty programmes, community products, event bookings all require many touch points within a sport organisation. They also share vast amounts of data across the platforms. The ones that easily allow for 3rd party integrations through APIs to retrieve external data, send data for reporting, trigger notifications and events within other platforms, all empower the organisation to have more granular control over the user experience.
Secondly, they should focus on building a strong online presence through social media, email marketing and other digital channels. This may also include investing in video equipment for online tutorials, or setting up an online shop to sell merchandise. This can help to raise awareness of their activities and engage with a wider audience.
Sport organisations should also focus on addressing any digital skills gaps within their organisations by supporting staff and volunteers with training and education to help improve their digital proficiency. Without the ability to effectively utilise digital tools, professionals are limited in their ability to innovate and improve their offerings, making it harder for them to stay competitive in an ever-changing market.
Finally, sports organisations should focus on creating a personalised and engaging experience for their members. This might include offering online training programmes, hosting virtual events or setting up online communities where members can interact with each other.
The sport and physical activity sectors have a huge opportunity to leverage digital transformation to re-engage people in sports and physical activity and continue to connect their communities. By investing in digital infrastructure, building a strong online presence and creating a personalised experience for members, sports organisations can capitalise on the opportunities that digital transformation brings and connect their communities in new and innovative ways. Not to mention, increase their membership figures and sports participation from grass roots all the way up to elite level. The future of the sport and physical activity industry is digital, and it's time to embrace it.