Nine Challenges in Sports

The World of Sports

Sports have been popular for many, many years. Yet with the rise in popularity also comes the rise of challenges and adversity. Outlined in this article are several challenges facing the sports industry today.


While millennials have brought several positive changes to the sporting industry, they have also brought a few challenges that have been difficult to navigate.  Now more than ever, the sports industry is faced with an uphill battle of finding ways to entice millennials to actually attend games.  Keeping them engaged during live sporting events or traditional broadcasts has been challenging.  The rise of technology has made it exponentially easier to view sporting events from the comfort of their own homes. Not to mention, professional sporting groups such as the NBA and NFL have also made it easier through mobile applications and their own TV stations (NFL Network, for example). It’s hard to say why millennials just don’t go out any more.

Cost is also one of the biggest threats to sports industry events for millennials.   Millennials prioritize experiences, but they also want those experiences to be affordable.  With rising ticket prices and stadium costs, attending live events can put a financial strain on millennial fans.  This directly impacts game attendance, since some millennials are fine just watching a game from home.

This age group is one to watch since their viewing and attendance behaviors are likely to have a long term impact on the sports industry.

New Technologies in the Sports Industry

One other challenge the sports industry faces is keeping up with the pace of technological advancements. Many fans connect with their favorite teams through social media, which puts pressure on teams to constantly keep updating their Facebook timelines and Twitter feeds. Likewise, venues must also keep up with the pace. Not having Wi-Fi can be a major turn off for fans who want to stay connected throughout the game. Thus, if teams are not proactive with social media and do not have the capability of enticing fans with modern technology, fans will simply not follow them nor go to games in person.

Implementing new technologies can be expensive.  Virtual reality, advanced analytics, and stadium enhancements are costly endeavors.  Sports organizations with limited financial resources may fall behind on the latest cutting-edge technologies.  These new technologies can also disrupt the traditional revenue models for sports organizations, affecting ticket sales and broadcasting rights.

Gameday Experiences

If technology wasn’t difficult enough, the sports industry is faced with the challenge of finding gameday experiences that simply cannot be experienced at home. This includes:

  • pregame shows
  • halftime entertainment
  • postgame celebrations

Not to mention, coming up with in-game experiences are just as important, whether it be the t-shirt gun, kiss cam, chants, or anything else they can come up with. Many business professionals and marketers might feel like everything has been done already. Also, teams might compete for the same entertainer. Finding the necessary funds for in-game experiences can be tough especially if no one shows up for the games.

With the rise in ticket prices, fans have higher expectations on game day.  Stadiums with excessive post-game exit congestion or inadequate facilities can be a turn off for fans, forcing them to go elsewhere.

Hyper Focus on Negative Stories

One of the biggest problems faced by the sports industry is the hyper focus on negative stories surrounding athletes. For some reason, news reporters (such as TMZ) have shifted towards being the first one to break the most recent scandal. People thirst for these negative headlines. For example, the Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot has recently been criticized for pulling down a woman’s shirt in public; this not only creates a negative image for the Cowboys, but also for the NFL. On a similar note, the NFL is being heavily criticized for its lack of research on head trauma, specifically from concussions. These negative stories will always be challenging for the sports world.

Predicting The Future

The world is constantly changing. Thus, the sports industry is faced with the challenge of trying to predict the next trend, the next big idea that will capture their audience. Coupling this challenge with that of technology, it’s clear that some sports teams and venues will always be at odds. For example, a venue might just catch up with the current times only to find out that something new has come into play. While the future is nearly impossible to predict, it might be worthwhile for the sports industry to study trends and attempt to predict what will be popular in the future.

Societal Issues and Athlete Activism

Sports have become a platform for athletes to express their beliefs and advocate for societal issues they feel passionately about.  The sports industry must balance their support for athletes’ right to speak out with the potential backlash they may face.  Athlete activism can also polarize fan bases, leading to division in team supporters.  This can impact the team or organization in a negative manner.

The Changing Needs of Sports Marketing

One of the problems in sports marketing is data privacy and compliance.  As sports marketers collect and analyze fan data for targeted campaigns, they must remain in compliance with data privacy regulations.  Protecting fan information is crucial and privacy laws like the General Data Protection Regulation add complexity to data management.

Fans turn to a variety of social media platforms to discover the current trends in the sports industry.  While social media provides vast opportunities for fan engagement, managing social media accounts and addressing potential backlash can be a challenge.  Sports marketers must stay innovative to capture the attention of their team’s fan base.  These marketing campaigns can be extremely time consuming and expensive.

The Financial Impact of the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the sports industry, especially when it comes to finances.  Cancelled events, reduced attendance, and lost revenue from broadcasting deals had a profound impact.  Recovering from this crisis and building resilience for future uncertainties has been a challenge for the sports industry.

Injury Prevention and Management

Perhaps the most important thing in the sports industry is player safety.  Sports managers must prioritize the health and safety of their athletes.  Implementing injury prevention and rehabilitation protocols are essential to keep players as safe as possible.

Injury rehabilitation and recovery are essential to help players recover fully and return to play.  Releasing players to early raises the risk for further injury (and additional loss of revenue).  The complexity and length of the rehab process can be challenging for sports organizations.

Overcoming Odds

Even with these challenges, the sports world will continue to thrive. While some teams might fail, others will find ways to make sure they stay in business.

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