Friday, 1 February 2013

SportNext Event - New Sports - Growth Strategies

Last week I went off to the SportNext Live Session at the SportCafe in the Dudok Arena in Hilversum. The session was interesting, but the chatting with other attendees was the most enlightening as always!

The event included a number of interesting speakers and round table sessions. The theme of the event was about new sports and their positioning, however sometimes the sessions went off topic! Additionally there were clinics for the following new sports:

  1. Speedminton - A cross between badminton, tennis and squash, played anywhere.
  2. Streetball - Basketball on one half a normal court, played with just 6 players 
  3. Bossaball - A cross between volleyball, football and trampolining on a bouncy surface.
  4. Urbunathlon - A marathon with obstacles and assaultcourse elements.
  5. Crossfit - A sort of bootcamp - I didn't really get the difference I have to admit!
My achilles tendonitis was playing up, so I couldn't take part unfortunately, but the bossaball was  definately the most fun to watch from the sideline! Wilco Nijland the MD of Bossaball Holland was there and even did a demo of the smashing in mid-air after jumping on the trampoline part of the blow-up field. The two words that the top 3 new sports in the list have in common, are "fun and quick-results." It is not like you have to wait long for a point to be scored!! Which can't be said of squash, but I love that sport! [See my ISMB students video promoting squash as part of the Olympics 2020! Shameless plug!]

The event got me thinking ... How are the sport associations like the badminton, basketball, football and volleyball embrassing these new versions of their sport? Or are the ideas for these new sports coming from the associations themselves? Or do the associations see these new sports as competition instead of possible strategic partners? 

Of the new sports listed above, the badminton association and basketball association seem to be embrassing these new sports with open arms, creating competitions and tournaments for those sports as appears on their websites. The football and volleyball associations appear less enthusiastic by the looks of their websites.

A number of associations, including KNHB [Dutch hockey association] and KNGU [Dutch gymnastics association] are creating junior or senior versions of their sports. For example Funkey hockey for juniors or Fithockey for seniors or Acro Maatje gymnastics for young children. These are ways to speak to different target segments from their traditional audiences and act as a way of promotion and funneling new members into the traditional system.

You would have thought that the associations would jump at this chance to either assume the new sport into their world, or invest in it as a side venture, or take it over, or create a strategic partnership for a win:win. It is not like traditional sports associations are not struggling to attract new members and keep afloat at the moment - is it? Of course it is more difficult for those new sports that cross over into multiple combinations of sports or require huge logistical investments like Bossaball.

The UK Football association is a good example of a traditional sport not willing to change and introduce new versions - for fear of damaging the "beautiful" game, that was until recently when the FA decided to change the game for youth players to make the teams smaller, pitches smaller to match the age range, goals smaller and a move away from "win at all cost" attitude.

My background is badminton, I played for a French club and number 1 in my county and beat the number 1 in England once!!  I have to admit when I see speedminton I cringe!! So I am one to comment on "don't change the beautiful game". But let's face it, sports should be doing anything they can to commercialize, attract new target audiences and keep their members even if it is with a different version of the sport, or just for the sponsors.

With my International Sports Management Students [ISMB] - during one of our badminton lessons, the students were given the assignment to create a new version of badminton for young players. It was a fun lesson for all involved.


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