Investment Opportunities in Sports: Outlook for 2023

By ICR Global Media, Sports & Entertainment Team

The Global Media, Sports & Entertainment Track at the 25th Annual ICR Conference hosted industry and thought leaders at an “Investment Opportunities in Sports” panel on Tuesday, January 10, 2023. This panel, in addition to individual company presentations throughout the conference, shed light on key trends in the sports industry as we kick off 2023:

1. Strengthening fan engagement is key to growth strategies in sports.

The transition towards short-form content, the growth of individual streaming options and fragmenting interests in sports have made fan engagement a key focus for companies providing sports content and experiences. Data has become an important tool in identifying both existing and potential fans, as well as their behaviors to aid content curation in sports as Netflix and others have done with scripted content. According to Bo Han, Founder & CEO of Buzzer, the organization and execution of these data-driven insights will be the “next frontier” in sports.

2. Technology and gamification will shape how we watch and interact with live sports.

Gamification will continue to develop as a driver of increased fan engagement and watch time through the integration of sports betting into live content. Overall, gamification will make for better fan experiences at home while driving increased sponsorship and advertising revenue. An example is the PFL’s (Professional Fighters League) SmartCage technology, which delivers real-time insights into a fighter’s performance and offers computerized scoring to show viewers who is winning the bout.  As mentioned, increased data will also play a large role in the future of sports. Brands are willing to pay large sums for actionable insights into their consumers and their behavior and rely heavily upon data-driven predictive technologies.

3. Gen Z is here to stay, and they are key to the future of sports consumption.

Younger generations today watch sports differently than their parents. This presents a large opportunity. As Michael Prince, President & CEO of the U.S. Polo Assn, noted, there are approximately 100 million children playing sports today which translates to a multi-billion-dollar addressable market — with Gen Z’s overall spending power reaching $100 billion. This generation is at the prime age for developing life-long affiliations with sports, leagues, and teams, particularly for under-followed and growing sports. With the plethora of ways Gen Z and Millennials watch sports, media rights have seen a dramatic increase in value over the past decade. Due to the multiple forms of content that can be created from one long-form sporting event, networks will continue to pay top dollar for this content.

The “Investment Opportunities in Sports” panel, hosted by Ashley DeSimone, Partner and Head of Global Media, Sports & Entertainment at ICR, included the following panelists:

  • Donn Davis, Co-Founder & Chairman of the Professional Fighters League (PFL)
    • MMA company with a sports-season format
    • Fastest-growing MMA company in the world
  • Michael Prince, President & CEO of U.S. Polo Assn
    • Official brand of the Unites States Polo Association
    • $2 billion company with global reach (190 countries)
  • Bo Han, Founder & CEO of Buzzer
    • Short-form and live sports content optimized for mobile-viewing
    • Best start-up tech company of 2021 by SportsPro OTT
  • Drew Sheinman, Founding Partner of Brand Velocity Group
    • Disruptive private equity firm behind BBQGuys, SCORE and much more
    • Focus on sports and entertainment with partners such as Eli Manning
  • Steven Olenick, Chair of the Sports & Entertainment Practice at Mintz
    • Mintz offers a wide range of legal services
    • Steven counsels on a variety of complex sports law matters

In addition to the panel, the ICR Global Media, Sports & Entertainment Track hosted presentations from many companies working in sports content and experiences, as well as media and entertainment more broadly. The GMSE team is proud to have represented these companies within this fast-growing and exciting new vertical at ICR.

Get the full list of presenting companies on the ICR Conference website. For more information or to hear about how you can be involved going forward, reach out.

Follow the entire ICR 2023 trends series on the ICR Insights blog.