Spring is one of the most exciting times in the world of sports. Optimism abounds as a new season is underway in Major League Baseball; the playoffs are upon us in the NBA and the NHL; and we can even see the beginning of football season in the not-too-distant future. Each new season brings new expectations from fans – for their favorite teams’ performance and for bigger and better live game day experiences.

This week, more than 800 industry executives and experts gathered for the 15th Annual World Congress of Sports Conference in Los Angeles. I was on site yesterday for the opening of the conference, as thought leaders came together to discuss hot topics, share ideas and reflect on where we are headed in the sports and entertainment sector.

Of course, every such conversation must begin with the same questions – how is the sports landscape changing? What can be done to improve the sporting experience for fans and athletes alike? What role will technology play? What new ideas and innovations will contribute to the long-term growth and profitability of sports teams, leagues and venues?

Through each session, I remain confident that Cisco is uniquely positioned to both understand the needs of today’s digital sports fan, as well as help sports and entertainment properties recognize and capitalize on the new business opportunities stemming from them.

Our recently-released Digital Fan 2.0 research provides us with the necessary insights to remain at the forefront of digital innovation. We asked more than 1700 fans around the world about their needs and wants when at a live sporting event, and they were not shy in telling us.

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They made it clear that technology is an essential element of enjoying a live sporting event in today’s digital world With our solutions, fans get the conveniences and personalization that technology offers while enhancing the most essential aspect of being a sports fan – the connections it creates to those around us. Sport is an inherently social activity, and we are dedicated to making those connections more meaningful and possible by connecting fans with each other, to team, to cities and more.

Now – back to the main event. The discussion at the World Congress of Sports Conference reaffirmed the central role that technology plays in an ever-evolving sports and entertainment industry. As experts and executives came together yesterday, three key points stood out to me:

  1. Innovation is King –Innovation is imperative for long-term success. In such a fast-paced industry, the cycle of innovation becomes shorter and shorter. Flexibility is key as we all must constantly listen, adapt and evolve in order to remain relevant. Fostering a culture that values ideas is crucial.
  2. Content Above All – In this era of the 24-hour news cycle, we are all in the media business, because we are all in the business of creating content. Fans have shown an insatiable appetite for more and more content that is relevant, engaging and immersive. Brands must recognize the value in giving fans the content they want (behind-the-scenes, exclusive access, etc.) on platforms they want to use. And increasingly, the emphasis is on experiences – letting fans see, touch, feel more than they ever have before. Will virtual reality be the next big leap forward?
  3. Risky Business – In such a fast-paced industry, change is constant. Organizations that thrive are the ones who have proven themselves to be willing to take risks and step outside the lines. According to Golden State Warriors owner Steve Guber, “Organizations who are risk averse will be in the trash bin.” Seems like pretty good advice.

At Cisco, we’ve long understood that innovation begins with insights. The World Congress of Sports is a great platform for validation from the broader ecosystem of the sports and entertainment industry and a host of top teams, leagues, brands and organizations. The event leaves me encouraged and excited about the direction of the sports and entertainment industry, and all of the opportunities for digital innovation that the future will hold. And I have no doubt Cisco will continue to lead the way.

Learn more about the 350+ stadiums around the world where Cisco has deployed cutting edge Wi-Fi and digital experience for sports fan.