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Espresso of Innovation: Hi There, Sports Fans

By Dan West, innovation manager, Draftfcb UK
Hello and welcome to this week's Espresso of Innovation; the hottest news and strongest stories from the world of creativity and technology filtered into a quick shot of inspiration. This week, we’ve got the eye of the tiger.

The world might not be watching the Olympics this year, but 2013’s summer is still packed full of sports with Wimbledon, the Ashes, The Open and the Tour de France all invading our screens. With the passion of the Olympic legacy directing huge focus on amateur and professional sports globally, the sector is an exciting place to see how technology is playing a greater role.

Human augmentation through diet and equipment has long been the competitive edge in sports and an area of intense debate. While doping is clearly an automatic disqualification, there are grey areas where regulations haven’t caught up with science. NASA research has led to the development of biomimicry technologyVasper, which is designed to reduce injury recovery time and boost performance by encouraging production of growth hormones – the body’s natural steroid.

Of course, questionable advances in athletic technology can also have positive outcomes, for example when applied to safety. TheReebok CheckLight Skull measures the severity of a head impact to an athlete, be that a cyclists or rugby players.
If athletes can’t afford all this, working smarter and not harder is the right move: there are emerging businesses that open up the Big Data trend for smaller teams. One such player is Krossover, who are about to launch theirsports IQ (sIQ) to test innate sporting ability. Combine this with analytics tools likeStatwing and savvy individuals could have a powerful base knowledge for placing bets.

And so we come to the fans, the spectators. They are the reason sport is an economically viable industry – so how do you keep these major shareholders happy? There have been two great examples of innovation to attract fan engagement recently from Sky and BNP Paribas. Sky’sAshes coverage plugs into the two-screening trend, satisfying armchair umpires with the same statistics and Hawk-Eye camera view as the commentators in real time. French Open sponsors BNP Paribas allowed French fans to play coach, helping sixth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga train at Roland-Garros by controlling hisrobot opponent via social media.

Technology in sport is all about improving the experience, be it for the athlete or the spectator. However, the fact of the matter is that regardless of how advanced technology becomes, an extraordinary athlete in peak physical condition is the underlying power. This principle is a great analogy for the communications industry: regardless of how many innovations and technical enhancements a company employs, if they don’t have a strong idea at the foundation, they will not win the marketing game.