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GlobalData: AR investment in sport will be driven by fan engagement in broadcasting and mobile devices


Augmented reality (AR) driven fan experiences in broadcasting and mobile devices offer the most lucrative and accessible opportunities for AR integration. AR graphics in broadcasting creates a more engaging and insightful analysis of events, while AR on personal devices can increase fan engagement, observes GlobalData.

According to the leading data and analytics company’s latest report, ‘Augmented Reality (AR) in Sport – Thematic Research’, AR adoption in the sports industry is limited but increasing. In 2020 AR was worth $7 billion globally, and GlobalData forecasts the AR market will be worth $152 billion by 2030.

Sarah Coop, Thematic Analyst at GlobalData, says: “As media competition intensifies for sports rights with the rise of over-the-top (OTT) platforms, broadcasters will invest in more sophisticated technology to attract or keep contracts and engage with fans. For example, Sky Sports invested in AR-driven avatars of players competing in The Hundred cricket tournament, enhancing analysis and fan engagement.”

One main area that the sports industry is using AR for is improving the at-home viewing experience. This has become even important in recent years, as younger sports fans are more likely to watch at home than older ones, while the COVID-19 pandemic meant that for a long period, fans were unable to attend games in person.

AR on mobile is also an accessible platform for marketing sports and engaging with a younger audience. For instance, TikTok has entered into sponsorship deals with sports federations, such as the Confederation of African Football, and Rugby Six Nations, creating AR social media filters and match highlight clips for fan engagement.

In an interview with GlobalData, Bryan Henderson, Director of Cricket and NFL at Sky Sports predicted that we are going to see, “an absolute technology boom over the next five years, both from a broadcast point of view and a personal app use gaming point of view. I really do think we’re on the verge of some great AR technology.”

Coop continues: “Tech sponsorships and partnerships will advance AR adoption in sport. The sports sponsorship landscape is changing, and technology companies are at the forefront of this change. In 2021, telecoms operators accounted for $420.6 million in sports sponsorships deals, and IT services companies spent $205.9 million, according to GlobalData’s deal sponsorship database.”

Technology companies can partner with sports federations to improve infrastructure, connectivity, and technological capabilities. For example, Verizon is working with the National Hockey League (NHL), trialing its 5G network for in-stadium AR experiences on mobile. However, smaller sports federations will miss out on large-scale technological partnerships and investment.

Coop adds: “Research and innovation by big teams will eventually trickle down to smaller sports teams and federations. New and innovative AR use cases are regularly being announced, as evidenced by Manchester City Football Club announcing plans to create a virtual stadium in the metaverse in February 2022. These developments will pave the way for widespread AR adoption in the industry.”