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10 Buying Trends Shaping the Sports Business

Updated: May 2

10 Buying Trends Shaping the Sports Business

The sports and entertainment market is undergoing a significant transformation. To remain competitive and top of mind when fans are seeking entertainment, leading leagues, teams, and associations are adopting new technologies at an unprecedented pace.

The buying process for technology at sports organizations is also changing rapidly. Understanding these new buying patterns can help technology companies sell more quickly, more effectively, and see greater product adoption.

Sports organizations are now operating under a new set of rules. Similar to other industries, many sports organizations were caught off guard by the rapid transformation toward digital-first business practices. Many are still transitioning their legacy teams, built around 5-year TV broadcast deals, to embrace more nimble (and more fickle) digital-first fans. Fans are increasingly looking for more intimate and unique experiences as well as more personal connections with their favorite teams, leagues, and athletes.

Here are the top ten buying trends that will help you tailor your sales and marketing strategy to meet the evolving needs of sports organizations around the world. These trends are consistent, whether you sell  products or services for broadcast production, marketing, ticketing, athlete performance, or fan engagement.

1. Purchasing Decisions Are More Transparent

Selling technology to sports organizations used to involve tapping long-term personal relationships with a few senior people. That top-down approach is largely outdated. Now, you have to maintain those top-level relationships (as they still control budgets) but technology purchases involve a group of decision makers and influencers. Now, you have to connect with, educate, and convince a much broader team of users, any of whom can support or derail the purchase. Your internal advocate might not even know everyone who might be asked to weigh in.

This bottom-up decision making isn’t new, but it’s relatively new to sports. Younger staffers expect to contribute, and they want to have more input — especially on tools they'll be using regularly.

  • Expect more people to be involved in buying decisions 

  • Expect more scrutiny of your company, reference checks and due diligence

  • Don't force a sale, though, it will make adoption really hard

2. Sales Cycles Are Longer

Sales cycles are getting longer because prospects are doing more pre-sales research before reaching out to contact a short list of vendors.** Buyers are overwhelmed with information and they're sorting it out for themselves. By the time a potential buyer reaches out to a sales representative, they are usually far down the decision-making path (70% or more) and potentially close to making a purchase. This means that sales teams need to have an advanced consultative approach to their sales process.

  • Develop educational resources - video and written content like guides, whitepapers, and case studies will drive pre-sales research and establish your company as a thought leader.

  • Use account-based marketing (ABM) to track personal and account-level interactions to see what accounts, rather than individuals, are showing more research or buying signals

  • Adopt consultative selling and train your sales team to understand and address the specific needs of well-informed prospects

AI generated football pitch

3. Integrated Solutions Are Preferred

Sports organizations increasingly prefer integrated technology solutions that consolidate multiple functions. Whether it's for athlete performance management, fan engagement, or operational needs, today’s preference is shifting from best-of-breed to comprehensive platforms that offer end-to-end functionality. This shift simplifies the technology stack, reduces complexity, and enhances usability. The Kitman Labs platform is an excellent example, as it brings together data from multiple systems to provide a comprehensive view of each athlete.

  • Invest in open APIs and integration

  • Enable easy-to-customize workflows to easily match existing processes

  • Make partnerships a priority

4. Value Must Be Quantified Quickly

Sports organizations are bottom-line oriented, and from the outset, you need to let them know how your product or service can influence either their revenue or costs. Or enable them to do something that was previously impossible.

Focus on enumerating the return on investment (ROI) your technology delivers with an ROI calculator, specific case studies, or with references. Quantify the value you can bring, even if it's approximate. Providing a high and a low range of ROI will help the organization prioritize your solution against competitors and other projects.

  • Increased revenue by selling more or adding new products

  • Improved fan engagement and fan loyalty

  • Decreased costs through efficiency or reduced staffing

5. Security Is A Must

Given the high stakes involved, sports organizations are prioritizing security in their buying decisions. Organizations now demand solutions that can safeguard sensitive data from breaches. Secure solutions that meet industry best practices are becoming essential, such as single-sign-on (SSO), granular roles and permissions, secure fan data management, and compliance with international data protection regulations.

Ensure your product offers robust security at every level, and showcase how you will keep your customer's data secure.

  • Focus on privacy, SOC2, and GDPR compliance

  • Provide clear user rights, tracking, and data ownership policies

  • Guarantee compliance with local privacy regulations

6. Global Appeal Starts With Local Expertise

Global sports organizations often require localized solutions that cater to specific regional requirements, including language adaptations, compliance with local laws, and integration with local payment gateways. Technology providers that can offer localized support and services are likely to win more contracts and foster longer-term client relationships.

The sports industry is international, but to improve personalisation, you should try to cater to diverse business cultures:

  • Adapt your product, marketing materials, and sales approach for different regions

  • Understand local regulations and data privacy concerns to build trust

  • Demonstrate your global capabilities without losing sight of the importance of local nuances.

AI generated image represent the revenue opportunity in sport

7. Cloud-Based Platforms Are The Norm

The shift towards cloud-based solutions is unmistakable across all sectors, including sports. Cloud-based platforms and SaaS solutions offer scalability, flexibility, and enhanced data management capabilities. Cloud services that provide customizable and scalable options to sports organizations are seeing increased uptake, particularly those offering hybrid solutions integrating public and private clouds. While fan data might be centralized and stored in-house, leveraging and monetizing that data can be done in the cloud.

  • Unless hardware integration is required, deliver cloud-based or SaaS solutions

8. Interactive Media Solutions Are Still Early

Broadcast TV isn't going away, but younger fans want a different relationship with their entertainment than their parents did. As media consumption habits change, there is a growing trend toward short form content and interactive and immersive media solutions within sports organizations.

These include virtual reality (VR) experiences, augmented reality (AR) applications, and other digital media technologies that can create unique fan experiences. Products that combine live sports action with interactive features are increasingly popular. There's no clear winner yet, but there's a lot of experimentation right now.

  • Be consultative and honest - nobody has the answer

  • Prove your technology performs in controlled tests

  • Quickly learn and iterate improvements rapidly

9. Analytics and Insights Are Expected

Data-driven decision-making is now at the forefront of modern sports business management.. Buying trends show a significant lean toward analytics solutions that can provide deep insights into both player performance as well as business operations. 

Athlete fitness is, of course, critical, so technologies that flag anomalies or provide early warning signs are highly valued. Equally, adjusting ticket prices regularly to optimize yield helps generate more revenue (maybe to fund those athletes and their performance teams?). Group ticket sales and marketing strategies informed by analytics are also more effective and quite appealing to sports organizations.

  • Highlight the changes or differences to a baseline so progress is clearly visible

  • Show your product's ROI as a primary metric

  • Use AI to analyze macro-trends across departments and teams

10. Flexible Payment Models Make Closing Faster

Finally, there's a clear trend towards flexible payment models including subscriptions, but there are models with even more variations. Sports organizations face budget fluctuations and financial scrutiny, making CapEx-heavy investments challenging. We're past that time in history when the broadcast team made huge hardware purchases. Now, procurement teams prefer vendors who offer flexible, subscription-based pricing models that align with the financial dynamics and seasonal flux of sports organizations.

  • Make it easy to start small and grow quickly as tech is adopted across the org

  • Provide a structure that rewards case studies, promotions, and references

  • Incentivize longer-term contracts to provide cashflow stability

Beyond These Trends: A Strategic Roadmap for Success

Understanding buying trends is just the first step. To achieve real success in the sports technology market, you must develop a well-defined go-to-market strategy for your sales and marketing teams.

  • Identify Your Niche: Pro sports? College? Grassroots? Youth? Find your area of expertise and tailor your product and marketing accordingly.

  • Develop a Compelling Value Proposition: Clearly articulate the unique and simple value that your technology brings to sports organizations.

  • Invest in Content Marketing: Create valuable content that educates and resonates with your target audience. Buyers won't speak with you until they're 70% done with their own research, and if you're not educating them, your competitors are.

  • Leverage the Power of Case Studies: Showcase successful implementations with other similar sports organizations.

  • Build a Sports-Savvy Sales Team: a team that understands the sports industry and also understands your specific domain, is critical. You only have a short window to instill confidence, so ensure your reps can make a great impression from the start.

The sports industry presents a significant opportunity for technology companies. By understanding these new buying trends, and developing a more strategic go-to-market approach, you can position yourself to become a trusted partner.

Ready to Take Your Sports Tech Business to the Next Level?

Tom Kuhr provides sports tech and SaaS companies with the strategic direction necessary to refine and optimize their market approach. With a wealth of experience in tailoring sales and marketing strategies for the sports industry, leveraging Tom's expertise as a fractional CMO can help your business exceed sales goals this year. To capitalize on these buying insights, and translate them into profitable business actions, contact Tom directly.

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May 01
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

And there are people on the "buying team" that don't even come to meetings with the technology companies.

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