A classy conference at the Camp Nou
If you’re looking for quality content from a SportsTech conference then the Barça Sports Technology Symposium is a must-not-miss. The event’s fifth edition, hosted on Nov. 14 and 15 at the historic Camp Nou, as always, was the culmination of Barça SportsTech Week which brought together over 1,500 experts in coaching, analytics and tech. All this is as part of Barça Innovation Hub’s, led by Javier Sobrino and Albert Mundet, aim to build a community around tech and innovation in sport.
The two-day symposium has established itself in the industry as a benchmark for SportsTech content and this year’s edition certainly maintained that standard by featuring high class speakers covering topics ranging from performance, data analysis, digital experiences, management, fan interaction and social responsibility. Goes without saying that this kind of expertise attracts top sports executives from all over the world so the event is a great place to network as well. Quick shout out to Steve Gera who did a great job moderating the whole event.
What a Trip!
The event kicked off with a great presentation from Trip Hawkins, founder of EA Sports. Talking about where the idea for digital sports games came from, to the first avatar of EA Sports to the present day where, as he put it, EA Sports are the ones with the leverage when talking to major Sports Leagues and Teams. That is quite a journey! Trip also spoke about a major reason behind the breakout of a game like Fortnite which made a high quality battleground game super accessible to the masses: by humanising the act of shooting someone in the face by doing it in ridiculous costumes and with crazy victory dances therefore making it fun rather than something only for ‘serious’ gamers.
And that was just the start. Each of the next few sessions had some very interesting insights. While I tried my best to, unfortunately I couldn’t catch each session. I had to make time to meet with all the cool people there as well. Here are my big takeaways from the event.
The World and its Impact on Sports
John Casey (Flagship Pioneering), Aaron Frank (Singularity University) and Tucker Kain (Dodgers / Elysian Park Ventures) focused on the future and encouraged the SportsTech community to think a decade ahead while also explaining the importance of human health and sustainability.
Enhancing Athlete’s Performance
Was fascinating great to hear from Bryan Burnstein, Head of Performance Science at Cirque du Soleil, who touched on data analytics at the entertainment group and how it can be used to inform conversations with performers, an interesting touch given the raging success their show Messi has been. He and his fellow panelists, Rui Alves (Formula E) and Bernadet Van Os (NL team) touched on the impact that tech has had on improving athlete and player performance.
Data-Driven Decision Making
The case study presented by Victor Oliver (FC Barcelona) on how they revamped their ticketing structures to increase inventory and provide fans with better seats was very innovative. José Carlos Franco García (LaLiga) and Maurizio Bonomi (AC Milan) discussed they ways in which data can help clubs to manage themselves and better serve fans.
The next panel covered high-performance technology that is being used in sports venues. Speakers were Eduard Martin (Mobile World Capital Barcelona), Fernando Cucchietti (Barcelona Supercomputing Center) and Carlos Rabazo Márquez (Telefonica).
Data Into the Field
One of my favourite sessions of the event and a sore topic for a lot of analyst: How to transfer data insights onto the pitch. Sergi Oliva (Philadelphia 76ers) spoke about how close they get to the actual players while Charles Rohlf (NBA) spoke about the interaction of data with fans. Ian Graham, Director of Research at Liverpool FC, spoke about the impact of analytics in the Board Room of the football club rather than the pitch, mainly it’s impact on recruitment.
Day 2 kicked off with a Mobile focused panel speaking about fan engagement, specifically surrounding the challenges that come with smartphones and connecting with fans in a personalized way. David Bailey (Formula 1), Nichola Spencer (The Rugby Football League) and Penelope Tomasi (UEFA) each provided some great insights. Was especially interesting to understand the challenges UEFA sees from a mobile perspective.
The Game: What’s Next
Next up was another great session. Steve Palmer (The Premier League), Daniel Pelchen (Collinwood FC) from Aussi Rules Football (ARF) and Lorenzo Dallari (Serie A) spoke about how technology and data aid in making competitions remain at their highest level. Understanding the deep analytical structures behind Aussie Rules Football teams (who can have upto 13 analysts!) was really interesting to see.
Social Innovation Through Sports
The final panel was a very important discussion on social innovation through sports. Dr J. Antonio Ramos Quiroga (Hospital Universitari Vall d’Hebron), Mariona Miret (FC Barcelona) and Grant Jarvie (University of Edinburgh) shared some great points about things like using SportsTech to help prevent bullying and limit emotional distress in children. My favourite line however was from José González-Dans (Real Club Deportivo la Coruña) who talked about how the club is using ocean recycled materials for their jerseys, saying how a club by the sea was trying to save the sea. Brilliant.
INDESCAT Sports Innovation Day
The week kicked off for me before the Barca SportsTech Symposium actually, with the Sports Innovation Day hosted by INDESCAT on Nov. 12. The Catalan sports cluster, put on its third edition of its INDESUP Investment Forum. INDESCAT has set out to help members attain new business opportunities by encouraging and supporting innovation, entrepreneurship, visibility, talent, globalization and networking. The event took place in the Auditorium of the Barcelona School of Management of the Pompeu Fabra University (Barcelona) with a really good turnout of around 200 attendees who discussed current trends and networking between start-ups and investors was encouraged. Thanks to Xavi Faura and his team for organising such a well planned event.
Some really good startups presented at the event. Here’s a quick look at them
NutriTape: Adhesive wearable providing nutrition for endurance athletes
Metrica Sports: Computer vision based sports analytics
PunchLab: Sensor based tracking attachment for punching bags
SoCourt: Automated video highlights captured through mobile phones
Volava: Peloton like interactive cycling app
WeFish: Interactive application for recreational fishing
Barcelona in 2020? Definitely!
Once again, FC Barcelona and the Barça Innovation Hub put on a fantastic event. Am already looking forward to the 2020 edition of the symposium! And big thanks to team INDESCAT for their excellent work.
A couple of high quality events in one of my favourite cities in the world. A week very well spent I would say.
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