Data For The Win: Delivering Competitive Advantage in Sport

The age of local computing is over. Individuals and organisations are now looking skyward to cloud computing as the next big driver in technological innovation. Cloud is also the building block on which new technologies like blockchain, 5G and AI are built – technologies that are set to define the next stage of the human experience. Cloud adoption has spread through every industry and the world of sport is no different, where athletes, coaches and fans are experiencing the benefits of this technology. Cloud computing offers sportspeople the ability to better understand their own performance by providing applications to collate and crunch the immense amounts of performance data in real time. It can also offer fans new ways of watching, interacting and experiencing their favourite sports. As a result, the sports industry will continue to experience significant change as it goes through its own digital transformation.

Real-time review

The America’s Cup is the oldest international sport and in nearly 70 years since the competition began, yachts have come a long way. The 2017 British team had a £100-million budget which allowed them to deliver a catamaran capable of traveling at 60mph. One of the next-generation capabilities included on this boat was created by BT, who produced a “virtual chase boat” which shared a live feed of video, audio, telemetry and data, from 350 different data points, back to the team in Bermuda and to mission control in Portsmouth. The 16 gigabytes a day of uncompressed data was moved via the cloud, using then state-of-the-art Royal Navy 4G technology. This enabled immediate performance analysis and subsequent alterations to be made on the fly.

Marginal gains

The idea of the aggregation of marginal gains, first popularised in the field of cycling, suggests that minor improvements across a large range of different factors can add up to a significant change in performance. It is a mantra that has changed the way many sports are played and now technology is giving the sports industry the chance to build on this philosophy. Cloud computing allows coaches to collate massive amounts of data on athlete or team performance spanning hundreds of data points from years of historical data. In recent years, this volume of data and the subsequent analysis of it, has moved from being an interesting novelty to an absolute necessity.

The massive amounts of data generated from sports, from heart rate to wind speed, need to be properly organised before analytics engines are able to generate insightful recommendations on performance. Sports teams need to leverage the right skills in how to properly handle the range of information produced by athletes and build a data pipeline that can ensure data is not left stagnant and unused.

This data needs to be integrated to bring it together in the cloud allowing users to connect analytic applications and data. If the data is correctly integrated in the cloud it will accelerate analysis of performance and therefore drive faster training alterations. Ultimately, the faster a team can collate and integrate their data the faster they can review insights and improve.

Fan interaction

Off the field, sports fan’s experiences have also been influenced by the cloud’s growing monopoly in the tech sphere. In 2017 Manchester City unveiled the CityPulse wall which shares real-time statistics and player profiles with fans in the social centre of the Etihad stadium, all made possible by sharing data through the cloud. Similarly, Real Madrid, who have only 3% of their fan base at home in Spain, use cloud technology to tailor experiences for supporters abroad. The Real Madrid digital platform, developed using Microsoft cloud technology, has enabled the club to provide a more tailored experience for fans and has seen digital revenues increase by 30% and fan profiles increase by 400%.

More sport

The broadcast revolution changed the way in which we consume sports. A TV in every home ensured that sports fans no longer needed to purchase a ticket to watch their favourite athlete compete. Similarly, cloud has changed the way that we can consume content – over-the-top (OTT) broadcasting cuts out the need for a broadcast, cable or satellite distributor, delivering content directly from source to viewer through an internet based cloud platform. Professional OTT channels can be launched in a relatively short space of time and show a new range of less well-known sports, from Formula 4 to competitive eating, to audiences around the world. The cloud helps platforms fulfil consumer demand and deliver a bespoke experience to fans, whatever their interests.


The cloud represents the next stage of development not only in sport but in every facet of our daily lives. The power of cloud computing can enable coaches to analyse massive amounts of data in real time and from places where this was once impossible. Fans can now engage with their sporting heroes in new ways and OTT broadcasting has led to the quick and cheap distribution of a wide range of lower tier sports. Sport is continuing to evolve in line with the technical revolution and as long as the major players in the industry continue to adopt new technologies like the cloud, the sky’s the limit.

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