Inspiring people at grassroots to participate in sport is one of the key legacy drivers for any government, proactive brand or rights-holder. It is good for business,
ensures loyal fans and ensures healthy people.
According to London-based agency M-is, innovative new technological developments are providing unprecedented opportunities to engage members of the public, and if activated and developed correctly, brands and rights-holders have every opportunity to engage all.
M-is looks forward to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games heralding a fresh and exciting chapter in this ever-changing sector.
New standards of innovation
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics is primed to set new standards in using the latest technology to inspire the masses, from launching the use of driverless cars across the capital ready for the Games, to delivering 8K Super Hi-Vision broadcasts that are set to wow viewers at home (bandwidth/pipe allowing).
Top-tier Olympic partners Intel and Alibaba are developing artificial intelligence-powered athlete tracking technology that is slated to make its debut at Tokyo 2020. The technology will provide real-time biomechanical analysis by 3D-mapping athletes competing across five athletics disciplines.
Cameras will be used to create a ‘3D Mesh’, which will help athletes and coaches to “modify and enhance their training”, according to Alibaba. Crucially, though, it also promises to enhance the experience for viewers of the Games, providing “insights into how world-class athletes train and perform”.
M-is’ digital director, Nick Clarke, says: “The Intel and Alibaba technology is just the beginning – finally fans will be able to follow their heroes, providing real insight and understanding like never before – but we can imagine that by Beijing 2022 this experience will have been developed much further.
Importantly, Clarke explains, such technological examples will re-engage fans with the Olympic Movement, allowing young tech-savvy fans to enjoy authentic and relevant experiences.
Clarke believes that if the experiences are carefully crafted, it could have a huge impact on grassroots sport everywhere – inspiring all who engage to believe “I can do that”.
“You need to strike the right balance. There are a multitude of opportunities available with technology, but it is always important to ask whether they will add to the fan experience.”
Such innovations, if developed properly, will drive new opportunities in training apps, merchandise and wearable technologies.
Additionally, Clarke highlights a potential recalibration of the definition of ‘grassroots’.
It is understandable why Millennials have primarily been the focus of efforts by sports rights-holders and partner brands alike in recent years. After all, this catchment can be transformed into loyal fans and customers for many years to come, and they have their finger on the pulse of technological developments.
However, the world is getting older. Japan, the host of next year’s Olympics, has a higher proportion of over-65s than any other developed country – 28.1 per cent. By 2065, the proportion will have increased to 38 per cent. Worldwide, half of all females who are born in 2066 will live to the age of 100.
An increasing number of grassroots initiatives that are not specific to youngsters – such as Parkrun and walking football – are sprouting up to satisfy demand.
“It comes back again to the IOC’s core values of friendship, respect and excellence,” Clarke says. “Age groups should not be disenfranchised or alienated. They can still be part of something and encouraging everyone to participate in sport can have a huge impact on health.
“There is a massive opportunity to engage older people that cannot be ignored in sport. They are not only expected to work for longer nowadays; they are going to play for longer too.”
M-is has a track record over 30 years of pioneering innovative communications strategies and technologies to provide advice and support to organisations, companies, cities and regions attempting to make a difference in the sports industry.