As part of the Master of Advanced Studies at the International Academy of Sport Science and Technology (AISTS), all students are required to carry out a piece in-depth research on a relevant sports-related issue. Magali Louis, head of research and eduction, and Claude Stricker, executive director, discuss how the projects are developed and the real-world industry impact they have had.
ML: The research papers are the only component of the Master’s programme that is free for the students to choose. We also have a team project, where external clients come in with their ideas and the students work with them, but for the research projects, the students are responsible for their own research ideas. We guide them towards topics that are currently relevant but, at the end of the day, it is their choice. They need to spend nine months on something they are motivated by, or a topic that is something that they want to research in more detail.
We have external speakers come in from clients, or people from different federations, to provide guidance. We had somebody from the marketing team at Omega coming in to present what they would like to research in terms of the sponsorship deals that they have been doing around the Americas Cup in New Zealand next year. Some students might pick up that idea and make it their research paper.
The research project is like your business card. I did the Master in 2004 and it got me my two first jobs, so I tell the students to do something that will open doors for them. It’s only nine months, but that’s time to get quite deep into a subject. I advise them to use their background first, and then look deeper into a field that they already know. For me it was antidoping, and because of the connections I made in the field by interviewing people and researching it, I got jobs with two federations in their antidoping departments after I completed the Master.
In terms of impact, last year a student wrote a paper, titled The Reshaping of the Sports Media Content Ecosystem, Media Companies and the Increasing Role of OTT Streaming Platforms, which was used by one of the federations and has already been picked up by other people in the industry, and published in the Swiss newspapers. The federations are especially interested in how they can use over-the-top, direct-to-consumer platforms to engage with their fans, and we were very happy we could contribute to that.
CS: Another piece of research from last year, Major Determinants for International Federations to Adopt Esports as Part of Their Digitalisation Strategies by our student Jidong Wang, was published by the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations. Jidong had already been doing some work for ASOIF and the topic came up of how its members were approaching esports, so he looked into the factors and the development of that.
The AISTS goal is to make sure there is a good bridge between scientific expertise – not necessarily only in sport – and the wider sports industry. Jidong worked with Professor Giovanni Derchi, whose main topic of research is not sport, but he could bring his experience in other fields and make sure that the best methodology was applied. Then it was the role of the student to bring the sports-specific knowledge, and of course with Jidong’s positioning with ASOIF, it was natural for him to work on this topic.
It is not the role of ASOIF to implement the research, but to support it, to distribute it among their members and let them see the conclusions Jidong had come up with. They had a working group on esports, they had also a forum where they were discussing esports and its potential growth and how traditional sports federations can integrate it. ASOIF is an organisation providing support in terms of debating, discussing and sharing knowledge within their circle, which includes members of Olympic Federations, so it definitely helps our student’s work to have that impact. Now it’s up to the federations to develop their own programmes with esports.