In with a sporting chance

As we head for our summer breaks and news take on a decidedly sporty slant, it is time to indulge in the extensive entertainment on offer.

Professional spectator sports have been growing over the last century. The last amateur sports to turn professional were individual sports. Tennis at Wimbledon became an  ‘Open’ tournament in 1968, professional athletes were allowed to compete in the Olympics from 1986 and in rugby union in 1995.

Soccer, American football and baseball have been professional from their start in the 19th century.

What gave rise to the popularity of professional sports?

Improving television and internet coverage, bigger screens, better/cheaper means of transportation (for those who want to follow their teams) and more leisure time have all helped to raise in spectator sports.

Following a favourite sport or team does not need to be expensive, as one can watch it on TV or on the internet and read about it in the media.

Fans on stadium soccer game Confetti and tinselThe drivers for the commercial side of sports were the team owners, or rights holders of events, but also big brands looking to sports sponsorship as a means of projecting themselves as exciting and generally beneficial.

As a result, the rights holders, be that the individual players or the teams/events, keep coming up with new and creative means of providing platforms to advertisers and sponsors. More on that subject in the next article.

Why are we so fascinated by sport?

Sports fascination lies largely in the suspense of seeing who will win. Demand for such events is driven by the quality of the contest and of the participants. People are more likely to pay a great deal of money to see the final of a tournament than earlier stages – even though the latter often has far more entertainment value – because they want to be there when the champion is declared.

tennis pixabaySpectators like a relatively even contest in which the outcome is not predictable. Once the winner has been declared, the contest has little resale value, it is all in the moment… Except for the post match analysis that is enjoyed in equal measure, be that by commentators or among friends and family.

And in that process the appeal of sport is self perpetuating.

International importance

Many contests are now at world level: the World Cup, Wimbledon, the Olympics, Formula 1, etc. Coverage of sport is certainly global and with it sponsorship deals that are forecast to reach £62 billion in 2017. Media rights are forecast to top $45 billion.

Sports tourism, ie the people who follow their teams or attend big sporting events around the world, is growing. These tourists are mainly affluent and well educated men, although with the increasing interest in women’s and para sports, that is likely to change.

Employment in the industry is huge. It is not just the players and their coaches and trainers but also the medical teams, the sponsors, the sports officials, the stadium staff, the ticket sellers, etc. In the EU 1.6 m people were employed in sports related jobs in 2015.

Sports goods and apparel trade from the EU was worth Euro 19.4 billion in 2015 and that was in goods alone, not including trade in licenses, copyrights or ticket sales.

And, with some exceptions, sports are seen as clean and family friendly. Great for big brands to market themselves. More on that in my next article.

Image credit: Fans in stadium, courtesy Fotolia @sidorovstock and Tennis match, courtesy Pixabay