The European – and especially French – professional sports sector is not known for its ability to quickly embrace technological transformations and innovative solutions. However, by reorganizing their services and redefining new relationships with private and financial players, some sports organizations have in recent years been able to give a much greater place to innovation and thus stimulate their development. decryption.
“From now on, we can set ourselves the target of seeing the first company to emerge from French Tech enter the CAC 40 by 2025. This is a movement that we have already observed in the United States: several large American companies that have become world-dominated have been replaced by start-ups born of technological innovation. In these terms, Cédric O, Secretary of State for Digital, spoke to 2,000 entrepreneurs and investors last September at a meeting organized by the French Digital Association.
A speech whose timing is not left to chance. A few days earlier, four start-ups from the tricolor technology ecosystem, one after the other, announced that they had completed a fundraiser of more than €85 million. And the most important of these concerns… Sorare: The start-up specializing in NFT football cards announced the completion of a $680 million operation that will value this new unicorn at $4.3 billion. A capital increase that is not an end in itself, but just a step in the development of the company. Sorare aims to establish itself in the long term as a world leader in entertainment according to the ambitions of co-founder Nicolas Julia.
Is professional sport lagging behind in terms of innovation?
If the world of sports technology is in turmoil with many young shoots who manage to raise funds to accelerate their growth; actors in professional sports find it difficult to play a roleearly adopters by integrating technological developments very early in their operation. Clubs generally prefer to stick to a conservative approach – in both sports and business – so as not to disrupt their organization.
“Today, agility is seen as an important success factor. But in top sport, organizations are still petrified in their processes! As long as it works, everyone will keep their fingers crossed that the trend continues. And we only want to innovate when difficulties arise. But just when everything is going well, you have to think about being one step ahead in your strategy. Still too few players in the sport try to anticipate developments in order not to fall victim to increasingly complex dangers”, analyzes Franck Isaac-Sibille, Vice President of LOU Rugby, responsible for strategic marketing, partnerships and development.
This difficulty in tackling innovative topics stems from the nature of sports organizations, which are less programmed than a company to evolve to cope with change. However, they hold all the cards to build successful models, including knowledge of their communities. “During the first lockdown, companies like Peloton and Zwift experienced extraordinary growth. But why have these solutions not been launched by the UCI or the Tour de France organizer (note: ASO)? These two actors know the practitioners and cycling fans like no other! But traditional sports organizations have not developed this culture of business creation by trying to provide additional services to fans. However, it is important to diversify their sources of income,” said Arnaud Drijard, co-founder and CEO of Sport Innovation Society, during his performance at the microphone of the agency LaFourmi’s Horizon Sport podcast.
In addition to a DNA historically rooted in associations, other constraints related to the functioning of professional sport – notably the very persistent pace of events to be organized and the overexposure of the media – significantly slow down the sector’s innovative capacity. “Clubs are always interested in discovering new solutions. On the other hand, they sometimes have great difficulty doing projection work and qualifying the projects presented because they are too much in demand! Major French clubs receive almost more starter applications than CAC 40 companies! The sports world – and more specifically professional football – attracts a lot. But even a club like Paris Saint-Germain, which has become one of the biggest franchises in world sport, is the size of a small SME,” explains Edouard Bouvet, co-founder and CEO of IQollectiv, a next-gen engagement.