In a recent survey of sports marketing trends, respondents were asked: “What do you think will be the biggest challenge facing sport marketers in five years’ time?”1 Whether they were managers, rights holders, property owners or academics, their answer was, without exception, changes in technology.
In some ways this is not so surprising: the pace of technological change is arguably more rapid than ever before and its impact and spread is generally and globally pervasive. But think again. Sports marketing is a relatively new discipline and many organisations are still getting to grips with what it means for them. No doubt some will still be grappling with the intricacies of segmentation and positioning in five years’ time. So the preoccupation with changing technology is not so obvious or inevitable, my point being that no matter where we are in our understanding of sports marketing, we recognise that we will not be able to resist what is coming our way.
Nevertheless, just as many of us would have struggled five years ago to predict the iPod revolution (or, for that matter, the Walkman revolution back in the late 1970s), knowing just what is going to be happening in 2011 in sports marketing is a challenge for us all. There will be some enlightened individuals among us who will foresee developments, and marketing is replete with prophecies of individuals using integrated handsets to access what we currently (parochially?) call ‘the internet’, ‘mobile phone services’ and ‘podcasts’. Who knows if these will be right? But for most of us, reading market signals, observing changes in technology and devising creative ways of using the technology will be our main challenges.
It is pleasing to see that authors who submitted papers to this special edition of the Journal are already preparing for the future. It would probably have been easier for many of them to ‘take stock’ of what is currently happening or what has gone before. Yet such is the dynamism of sports marketing that leading thinkers in the field are already beginning to address how new technology will impact on various sports. What is equally impressive about this work is that they are clearly trying to conceive of how change will be beneficial to sport and add value to the consumer experience. If predicting the nature of technological change is the most important challenge we face, then identifying how we can engage with technology for the benefit of sport has to be next up on the list.
The debate about the proliferation of new media and the convergence of technology has become increasingly relevant over the last few years. To an extent the papers appearing in this edition emphasise the technical aspects of change. But let’s not forget that for every technologically generated space, there will inevitably be a need for content. Quite whether in 2011 we will all still be watching Formula One motor racing on television at home on a Sunday afternoon in June is an interesting point. Similarly, will our dash to the newspaper kiosk every morning for our daily dose of the latest sports news be consigned to the past?
Technological change throughout the ages has been accompanied by grand claims, myths and whimsy. Whatever the outcomes, I hope this special edition of the Journal prompts a debate about when, where and how new technology will impact on sport. Of course it is also to be hoped that it will help sport to improve and that sports marketers view impending developments as opportunities rather than as change for change’s sake. Most important of all, I hope we are all still around in 2011 to appreciate how resonant the research appearing here has become.