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Sport is dead, long live sport: how to remain relevant from the cradle to the grave

View all · 16 Aug 2018 · revolutioniseSPORT

We are living in the age of impatience and instant gratification.

Deliveroo lets me eat what I want, when I want it. Netflix delivers my favourite shows, anytime, anywhere. Even Facebook provides ‘snackable content’ tailored to me based on my online behaviour.

The message is clear - as consumers, we are spoilt for choice, yet most organisations have but two choices: suit my schedule… or die.

And whilst many companies are recognising the need to adjust their operations and offerings, there is one key industry lagging behind.


The vast majority of organised sports in Australia have seen participation drop since 2001, with only 1 in 5 Australians regularly playing competitive sport. A 2017 report by Ray Morgan suggests people are more likely to engage in activities that offer flexibility (such as going to the gym or for a run) than participate in traditional sports.

A sporting nation we are not.

Our attention spans are growing shorter (most of you will stop reading before making it to the end). Consequently, sports need to reconsider their format if they are to increase their touch points with the broader community and extend the life cycle of their participants.

Consider cricket. The successful introduction of One Day Internationals (ODIs) following a long-standing dominance by Test Matches is evidence that shorter, more digestible formats of the game can lead to increased engagement with the sport.

Sure, traditionalists scream bloody murder, but the numbers don’t lie. Duff & Phelps place the brand value of the Indian Premier League IPL in 2018 at USD$6.3bil. Twenty20 is evolution, evolution is life.

Innovation is not solely the dominion of the heavy hitters. All sports, small and large, must evolve if they are to survive. And some are…

Walking Netball

This program transcends traditional competitive matches, incorporating low-intensity cardio & stretching regimes to promote the social and health benefits of staying active.

By revising the format of their sport and offering greater flexibility, Netball NSW are removing participation barriers for senior women and men (as well as those recovering from injury). This extends the life cycle of existing members and provides more opportunities to acquire new participants.   

Sailing Day Pass

Recognising cost as a major inhibitor for new participants, Australian Sailing has begun introducing their “Day Pass Membership” through clubs such as the Royal Brighton Yacht Club.

Historically, insurances and facility upkeep have meant annual memberships to many sailing clubs average around $1,500- a pretty steep ask of someone who isn’t sure they will even like the sport. By decreasing perceived barriers to entry Australian Sailing anticipate they will be able to increase participation rates. 

Beach Water Polo Fours

Water Polo is a (very) niche sport. Unlike touch footy or 5-a-side football (soccer) if you haven’t played from a young age, it’s unlikely you will take it up later in life.

Even those who have played and love the sport (myself included) find themselves dropping out due to the inability to commit time and money to a traditional 12-week competition.

Cue Beach Water Polo Fours, the rugby 7s of the water. This single-day tournament format twists the rules making it faster paced and easier to score. Additionally, traditional pools are replaced by Australian beaches, making the game more accessible to the general public and establishing itself as a true spectator sport. 

It’s still too early to see what, if any, long term benefits these adaptations will have for their respective sports. However, it’s axiomatic that if sports don’t innovate and continue to move forward, they will be left behind.

What will you do to stay relevant?


Originally published on LinkedIn.