How the Social Media and the iPhone are Disrupting the Sports Industries
Anyone who thinks that the sports industries will never be affected by social media and mobile devices has been hiding under a rock. If you are over 40 like I am, you have watched the rise of the internet and how it has quickly morphed and embedded itself in every aspect of our lives. With the Internet of Things (IoT) rising among us more rapidly than our eyes can see, the sports industry will have to make some major adjustments to compete against the power of the mobile devices that are shaping our youth’s behaviors.
The timeline can be divided into two major parts.
1. The internet rise into our lives
2. The introduction of the iPhone
Let’s see how both have affected athletes’ behaviors.
Prior to the iPhone release in 2007, the impact the internet had was mostly informational. We were all tied to a computer and a land line which limited major behavioral changes. The internet then enabled us to access information and make decisions faster. Since we could consume larger amounts of information, people would spend more time online surfing the web, shopping, connecting, and doing things they would have otherwise done in. person. However groundbreaking these new habits were, they did not affect young tennis players that much because there was little on-court distraction and socialization still happened face to face.
Fast forward to the iPhone generation where everything is online, mobile, and instantaneous with augmented reality at our fingertips.
Let me share one anecdote that should drive it home. I run some popular tennis programs in the Washington DC area and last summer happened to coincide with the release of Pokémon Go. I got to see first-hand how screens are more powerful than the outdoor fun we offer. If you are familiar with the DC area, then you know how hot and humid the weather can get in the summer. Motivating kids to run after tennis balls in these conditions is already challenging but not usually impossible.
I had a group of 30 kids between the age of 10 and 14. 100% of them had a mobile phone with apps, and 80% of them had Pokémon go on their phone. After one hour of tennis, my instructors could not get any of the kids to move on the courts because the temperature was above 85 degrees. My staff would give them ample water breaks to cool down and hydrate but what would happen instead is they would each grab their phone and use the 5-minute cool downs to run around the courts to catch Pocket Monsters around the facility. They were willing to run for virtual results but not for real results during their rest.
This is a small example of what goes on in the lives of our youth. They are now connected on Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and its darker relative Finstagram (or Finsta). They have all sorts of tools they can use to communicate face to face with Facetime and the dual camera functions that all modern phones have. This access to instant communication and perceived “live” hangout means that this young generation is constantly distracted and likes life at a fast pace with instant gratification.
This behavior is exactly the opposite of sports where it takes years to fine-tune techniques and even more time to develop into a worthy competitor. With the Internet of Things (IoT), you can expect Smart everything. What is the solution when you are now competing for attention against mobile devices of all sorts? Sports providers are going to have to be very creative to upgrade how sports are accessed and learned to match the constant need for speed and communication that the next generation needs. Sports are going to have to become more interactive, connected, and social in ways that they did not need to be before. It is a very exciting time in the world of sports because the disruption is already happening and the few companies that are decoding the Modern Athletes’ needs will be very successful.
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