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Perspectives

Sports industry outlook

Scouting the biggest trends in sports

The sports industry will continue to see an influx of money from new sources, shifting power dynamics in college sports, more widespread use of emerging technologies, and a greater focus on broader societal issues. Our annual sports industry outlook explores how these trends could create new opportunities and challenges for sports organizations, leagues, owners, teams, players, and fans.

Keeping fan experiences at the center

By the end of 2021, we saw most professional sports leagues and college athletics return to a relative sense of normalcy, with full seasons and live fans. We even got to experience the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. Hopefully, we are heading towards a future where empty stands, “bubbles,” and shortened seasons are no longer challenges. It has taken an enormous amount of planning and effort to get to this point, with the return to smooth operations dominating the efforts of many leagues, owners, teams, and athletes. When pandemic-era adversities fade, we can bring their lessons and innovations forward into a new future.

Our 2021 outlook highlighted the need for sports organizations to seek new and varied revenue streams and ways to forge deeper fan connections amid the pandemic. We also underscored the need for greater focus and action on equity and justice issues regarding race, gender, and LGBT+. We have seen some progress in this space, but there is more to do.

We also see trends and opportunities that had been somewhat dormant during the pandemic emerging over the next few years. They have the potential to shift centers of power in the sports business, create massive new possibilities for growth, and cross-pollinate with each other. 

Our sports industry outlook takes a closer look at these five trends:

  • We will see the blending of the real and digital worlds accelerate, with growing markets for data capture and analytics, esports, non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and immersive technologies.
  • College athletics will see some of its biggest changes ever, with student-athletes exercising more self-determination.
  • Blockchain-enabled innovations have a chance to open entirely new markets and options for fans beyond simple collectibles.
  • Sports betting has entered the mainstream, and companies will continue their relentless pursuit of new customers.
  • The role and duty of sports in society will continue to receive increased attention, with a focus on sustainability and mental health.

Download the full report to learn more about the impacts of sports industry trends, key actions to take, and critical questions to ask.

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Want more sports industry outlook content?

From AR and NFTs to sports betting and shifting dynamics in college athletics, hear from leaders in Deloitte's sports practice—straight from their homes and offices—on the trends they're scouting for the year ahead and beyond. Fill out this form to receive access to the videos which dive deeper into insights for sports organizations, leagues, teams, and fans alike.

 
 
 
 
 
 
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