Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

An Increasingly Digital World Brings Opportunity in Sports and Beyond

April 2, 2020


Last week, I was once again reminded of the incredible ability for technology to bring people together. I participated on behalf of Cisco in SportTechie’s virtual State of the Industry Conference as a panelist on a session entitled Bridging the Digital & Physical Worlds – Forecasting the Future.

Via video conferencing, I joined Navin Singh, Chief Commercial Officer of the United States Golf Association (USGA) and Andrew Shannon, the Director of Emerging Technology at the Atlanta Falcons, as well as more than 6,000 sports business industry attendees who tuned in from around the world.

There has truly never been a more apt topic to discuss than the merging of the physical and digital worlds. We’re being forced to rethink so many aspects of our daily lives, and it’s no surprise that technology is becoming an even more integral part of that conversation than it already was. At Cisco, we’re experiencing this first-hand, as our networks are seeing significant spikes in usage with more people working from home (nearly 12Bn Webex meeting minutes since March 1!) and millions of children through to college students doing distance learning and streaming educational videos. We know that our core solutions are solid, the backbone is scaling, and we’re focused on delivering “the last mile” for our employees, partners and customers at home who are depending on connectivity to maintain some semblance of normality.

With that in mind, here are a few of my key takeaways from the panel discussion:

  • Flexibility, speed and continual acceleration will be more critical to success than ever before. That’s just a new reality that we’re seeing in every aspect of life. And a great example of this is what we built together with the USGA for the US Open at Pebble Beach last June. As the Official Technology Partner of the USGA and its Championships, Cisco’s technical know-how paired with their knowledge of the sport allowed us to create a Connected Course that truly enhanced the experience for fans on-site and fundamentally shifted how people think about connectivity at golf tournaments. Consider that just five years ago, fans couldn’t even bring a cell phone to the course with them, and then think about the fact that our network at Pebble Beach saw 25 TB of data during the 2019 US Open. That’s more than the 2019 Super Bowl! The rate of acceleration is truly incredible, and in the next five years, technology is only going to continue to be integrated further into the fan experience across all sports. I can’t wait to see what our continued partnership with the USGA brings over the coming years, and how it continues to push the industry forward.
  • The Venue as a Media Platform: As we look around the sports and entertainment world, we see venues themselves becoming media platforms. Venues are being designed to create compelling engagement points for consumers, and also be capable of distributing content throughout the footprint and around the world. This notion puts connectivity and video distribution at a premium, a reason why Cisco Vision, our end-to-end dynamic signage solution that combines high-definition video delivery with state-of-the art digital signage, is depended on by facilities and venues around the world. During the panel, Navin really brought this to life by sharing how the USGA thinks of a golf course as 18 unique stadiums, instead of one larger venue. This presents them with 18 unique opportunities to provide fans with bespoke content and experiences that they won’t be able to get elsewhere. Together with the expertise of partners like Cisco, the USGA is able to provide a digital experience to complement the core live experience that fans can’t get anywhere else.
  • Collaboration is Key. While this may seem like common sense at a company like Cisco, I think more than ever what our current global situation is teaching us is that we need each other. No single person has all the answers or understands every different aspect of the business. Our customers don’t have to understand everything about technology, they just need to understand their own business, and where the opportunities lie. That’s where Cisco comes in to be a guide and problem solver. This is true across all industries, and particularly relevant in sports and entertainment, as hundreds of venues, leagues, teams and organizations have used our platforms around the world to enhance the live experience for millions of sports fans.

Thanks again to SportTechie for putting on a great – virtual! – event that I was thrilled to be a part of, and a big thank you to my fellow panelists for the fantastic conversation. If you’re interested in additional highlights from the conference, please visit SportTechie’s State of the Industry website. Stay safe, stay healthy, and I look forward to seeing everyone at a match again soon!

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