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The future points to a better blend between in-depth athlete performance data and commercialization

Studies have shown that implementation and application of strategies concerning the balance between ‘on field performance’ and ‘economic performance’ may be useful in the business of professional sports (Hamil, 2008; Krabbenbos, 2013). This has shifted the paradigm of running a professional sports entitiy in the sense that there has been a change from merely profiting from fans’ affection of the individual athlete, the team or the organization. Of course, there are still hardcore passionate fans identifying with professional sports entities and thus attending live competitions but with the influence of affluent fan groups and business-oriented stakeholders, sport entities have come to a tipping point in terms of meeting the requirements of these groups. This reveals a gap to be filled to fully exploit the commercial potential tied to an innovative approach aimed at developing strong future-oriented revenue streams based on stakeholders visiting live sporting competitions due to the total event experience rather than only for the passionate support of their favorite athlete or team. These groups are also attending the competition to ’experience’ and to be ’ entertained’.

These tendencies are interesting for sports entities trying to maximize revenues as it presents a relevant convergence of various sources of capital production. Thus, the mix of different segments at live sports competitions adds to a more holistic generation of social and cultural capital and hence to a better and interrelated total experience. That is explained via the scenario that affluent and business-oriented fans are necessary to take advantage of the full capacity of the venue and to allow the sports entity to invest highly in the peripheral services around the core product (the live sports competition), which leads to a better total experience. On the other hand, more traditional fan groups, e.g. passionate supporters with low budgets, produce the right ’nerve’ and ’intensity’ around the live sports experience that is so important for the total venue atmosphere. That’s an example of how the interrelation between different stakeholder groups of a professional sports entity may raise an interrelated dependency that is so strong that the sports entity as well as the different groups benefit highly from it. Real Madrid’s investment in ’in-venue technology’ and iconic football stars may exemplify this and the same can be said about Manchester United’s business development, which stems from foreign investments connected to the balance between ’on field performances’, entertainment as well as commercial and financial progress measured on the revenue side. There are several actors in the business of sports, which have specialized in conducting performance analysis at team and player levels and such statistical and analytical approaches to professional sports performances hold a huge commercial potential to be exploited in the years to come when it is revealed that these elements may very well go hand in hand with professional sports entities’ growing interest to invest in new technologies meant to enhance the total experience for different business partners and fan groups. Castrol is an example of a corporate sponsor, which has invested in this process due to its stakes in the football world given its sponsorship relationship with entities like FIFA and Christiano Ronaldo. It has activitated its sponsorship via Ronaldo’s ’Tested to the Limit’ campaign and the ’Castrol Performance Index’, see videos below. The latter is a ranking system associated with player performances in the best football leagues in the world. In the academic context, there are also initiatives similar to this, e.g. the performance ratings in the Big-5 (5 big European football leagues) weekly posts where different footballers are ranked based on their performances per position on the field (i.e. defenders, midfielders and forwards). The players in this ranking must have played at least 66% of the playing time to be considered.  For example, Liverpool players Suarez and Coutinho top respectively the forward position and the offensive midfield position in the English Premier League while Christiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Karim Benzema are the top choices this week in relation to the Spanish La Liga’s forward positions. Some of the key performance indicators of this ranking are: shooting in relation to taking advantage of goal potential via precise shooting, change creation in relation to making precise passes that create goal potential, distribution in relation to maintaining control of the game via good passing and bold control, recovery in relation to effective ball recoveries that prevent the opponent from scoring, rigour in relation to blocking the actions of opponents that will minimize opponent’s goal potential. This means that rigour for instance is more important for defenders than for forwards.

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Photo: An example of fan engagement via athlete tracking and performance data (source: FourFourTwo’s Official Twitter account).

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Photo: According to UEFA, performance data matters in the communication of Champions League news (source: Official Twitter account of UEFA CHL).

The frequent media exposure and the development of better and more intensive media portrayals of professional sports may also benefit from this blend between in-depth athlete performance data and commercialization and to improve fan attendance (especially in professional football clubs in football leagues outside the big 5 leagues) it may be a good idea to invest in these new innovative platforms. There is definitely a need to strengthen the bond between the sports entity and different fan segments and business partners throughout professional sports and these platforms may facilitate this while accompanying the need to drive revenues. There is certainly a knowledge base founded in the tracking of athletes’ movement and performance data and professional sports entities can capitalize on the commercialization of this knowledge outcome via their stakeholder engagement. Professional sports and the optimal business models in that sphere tell us that there are interrelated market places to be exploited and that optimized total stakeholder engagement and experiences can boost brand equity and brand loyalty so that stakeholder identification is improved – that will enhance the positive impact on sponsor and media integration and factors like gate receipts, merchandise sales etc. Moreover, this process open up for monetization on new partnerships as betting companies, bidding and hosting processes for sports events, sport gaming, advertising-driven content may account for some additional areas to be exploited for business purposes.



Hamil, S. (2008). Manchester United: The commercial development of a global football brand, International cases in the business of sport, Butterworth-Heinemann.

Krabbenbos, T. (2013). Commercialization strategies in football.

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