This week, I spoke with David Fowler, who works at sports technology marketplace, SportsTech Match. David gives us an insight into how his sports career began, his highlights and his perspective on the sports tech landscape.
Question 1: David, it’s excellent to have you on Ash’s Sports Talk. How did your sports career begin?
My professional sports career began when I was 16. I left school not long after my 16th birthday to pursue my dream of becoming a professional footballer with Kilmarnock FC in my native Scotland. I was only ever going to be an average footballer, so after a few years, I was back into full-time education and on the path to getting a marketing degree. That was my route into my first “office job” with a leading market research agency, and from there, I transitioned into a role within a sports marketing research agency.
Question 2: Throughout your career so far, what have you enjoyed the most?
I realise now more than ever how much I enjoy being part of a team. Sports brings together such passionate and like-minded people. The most fun times I’ve had have been the times when I’ve come together with colleagues at a team-building event ahead of delivering a major event such as the world cup or as a reward for delivering a major project.
I’m currently consulting sports rights owners and tech companies, and consulting can be a lonely business. I’m also building SportsTech Match, a procurement platform for sports technology. We have a small team of great people contributing to the project. Nevertheless, I do miss being part of a bigger team and movement. On the flip side, I enjoy having free hands to decide how I shape the next chapter of my career and the SportsTech Match project!
Question 3: Tell me more about being the Co-Founder at SportsTech Match. What does the organisation represent, and what impact do you aspire to make in sport?
Our vision is to connect sports and technology to drive innovation. We see many sports tech companies dying too soon due to their inability to engage with sports rights owners effectively. On the flip side, we see sports rights owners retreating from the market due to negative experiences and increasingly aggressive sales tactics from sports tech companies. We have the vision to be something akin to the Upwork of sports technology. We aim to provide buyers with the tools to manage their procurement processes and vendors to respond to buyers’ needs.
Question 4: Once stadiums begin to welcome back fans, what differences do you think we’ll see with the fan experiences influence by technology?
I think we will see an acceleration of trends that have already been set in motion. The fan journey will be increasingly digitalised from access control to food and beverage to fan engagement. This will open up new opportunities to collect data that helps us to map and improve the experience.
Question 5: I can imagine a challenge for major sports brands is having a specialised and personalised understanding of their enormous audiences. How have technological activations helped to build up a full awareness of each sports fan?
Many rights owners in sport understand the importance of having a single view on every fan. Many rights owners have made investments in ticketing, CRM, and fan engagement technologies (to name a few), generating lots of data. However, most were not prepared to ingest and make sense of this data in a central data management platform and in a way that could drive engagement and commercial value.
There are now so many data consultancies and software platforms that aim to help sports rights owners at all levels solve this problem. This will be one of the most dynamic and fast-growing sports business sectors over the next few years.
Question 6: David, reflecting on this discussion, what is your key advice for someone wanting to pursue a career in sport?
Relationships are key in every industry. But I suspect it is even more important in sport to build your network. There are loads of people at all levels of sport who are accessible. You would be surprised. It’s important first to understand what area of sport you want to grow in.
Once this is clear, my advice is to build your network by attending events, exchanging information with people you want to connect with (e.g. share an article or report that might be relevant to them), start blogging to showcase your thoughts and opinions or take on an internship or volunteer position if you are in a place to do so. Don’t spam people, and don’t open a conversation with a request for a job!
Wow, what a great interview with David! Hopefully, you found this just as beneficial as I did. There were many key lessons around data being the key, relationships make the dream work, and we’re in charge of our own fortunes!