Don't Sleep on Youth Sports
The transformation of youth sports can be viewed as an important bellwether for the digital transformation that is sweeping across all levels of sport. There are no shortage of digital solutions being created to manage teams, register players, review film, process payments, scout opponents, coordinate schedules, recruit players, feed the egos of proud parents, and the list goes on.
The first wave of successful companies created solutions that focused on helping youth and recreational sports leagues manage their registration and payments more effectively. These companies were and continue to be largely regional in focus.
Recently, investment groups and consumer brands recognized the opportunity to aggregate these regional companies with eyes on owning the digital youth sports market. After all, if executed well, youth sports technology provides brands with:
Access to parents data aligned with child’s interest to upsell and cross-sell products and services.
A replenishing supply of users. This constant stream of new customers provides an ideal a platform for software solutions that can quickly gain scale at little additional cost.
This opportunity has made youth sports the most active area of consolidation across the sports technology market.
Here are the companies driving industry consolidation:
Two key competitors are emerging:
- Blue Star Sports is backed by the Jerry Jones family, Providence Equity Partners, and Genstar Capital
- NBC Sports Group, which operates SportsEngine, acts as a subsidiary of NBCUniversal and Comcast
In a series of developments, NBC Sports Group has reportedly reached an agreement to purchase Time Inc.’s youth sports assets, like SI Play. Expected to close in early 2018, the acquisition will pair the two of the top three most active acquirers in the youth sports world and provide NBC Sports Group with a larger user base.
While it is still early for this market, and most of these roll-ups face the daunting hurdle of integrating disparate technology platforms, the promise to start incorporating wearables, smart equipment, and video highlights to registration platforms is very attractive.
We expect this acquisition spree will continue as other established brands compete with the likes of Blue Star Sports and NBC Sports Group to acquire growing companies with proven user bases like TeamSnap, Hudl, and LeagueApps.
What to Watch For
- A heavier focus on mobile devices and autonomous cameras like Keemotion, Pixellot, and Playsight to capture youth and amateur sports data.
- New market entrants like Gatorade, PowerAde, and Under Armour will target digital youth sports platforms to acquire new lifelong users, strengthen their existing base, and create new subscription services for consumers.
- Pure-play solutions from companies like Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba as they wake up to the opportunity to provide a youth sports ecosystem complete with turnkey equipment sales, custom team apparel, and personalized meal delivery.
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