As the year came to a close and January quickly rolls by, we reflect on the past 12 months. 2021 brought many victories, obstacles, and moments from athletemental health awareness to mega broadcastings deals and industry-shifting partnerships, all have shaped the sports industry as we know it.
Some of the most influential and educated voices in sports business have locked in their predictions, but only time will tell where 2022 will take us.
One of the hottest topics when discussing 2022 is the landscape of broadcasting and streaming rights for professional and collegiate sports. Here are some of the most common predictions:
“Traditional sports media rights have never been higher. I expect this will change in 2022.” - Jonathan Anastas, Board Chair at Alpha Esports Tech
The common consensus is that streaming platforms will take over live sports and possibly bring a majority of them behind a paywall. More specifically, Amazon, HBO Max, Showtime, and more have all begun this shift. Many predict that Amazon will buy a large portion of NFL rights this upcoming year.
Formula 1 will see a big rights increase.
After a younger generation continues to be attracted to F1 and Netflix’s “Drive to Survive” had major success, ESPN will be under the microscope as their current deals come to a close later this year.
The sale of BT Sport will impact the pan-euro broadcasting industry.
As the sale of BT Sport is becoming more inevitable, there are many questions at hand for the future of their current broadcasting rights, specifically for the Premier League.
There will be a race to acquire major eSport streaming rights.
With Youtube is in their last year of its $160M deal rights for Activision Blizzard’s Overwatch League, Call of Duty League, Hearthstone this year will bring change for eSports.
Content outside of live sports has been evolving over the past few years, and many are predicting a new wave of media to strike in 2022.
Behind the scenes, content will grow tremendously.
As mentioned, F1 saw great success following the release of Netflix’s behind the scene series Drive to Survive. Likewise, HBO’s Hard Knocks continues to gain fans' attention year over year. Many believe that more and more sports will adopt this content model in the new year.
NIL will further fuel the need for athlete brand building
“College athletes can build meaningful relationships with brands that could result in financial support to foundations, helping their teammates, and setting themselves up for future success at the next level. We’ll begin to see the arms race between the major football and basketball universities.” - Jonah Ballow, Founder, Head of Content Strategy + Production, HEARTLENT Group
Social media will further drive the importance of fan engagement.
While live fan engagement will also see changes this year, social media has been predicted to be a focus for many sports organizations. As we have seen this past year with the virality of TikTok, NFL franchises like the Detroit Lions have tapped into a younger demographic and re-engaged them to drive their interest in live sports.
“One of the biggest changes for sports teams and leagues is the realization that digital content will be just as or more important than the TV broadcast. Younger fans don’t watch full games and don’t watch TV. So creating content that is designed for social media (and not just TV clips) is creating the need to build out a new function whose mission is to capture short-form content before, during and after sports events to build a digital media inventory.” - Daniel Kirschner, CEO, Greenfly
Sports sponsorships will experience seismic changes in 2022, seeing a shift away from the traditional endorsements we’ve previously seen.
Athletes will walk away from their controlling apparel sponsors.
We saw USWNT players Christen Press, Megan Rapinoe, Meghan Klingenberg, and Tobin Heath announce their gender-neutral online clothing brand re—inc. Many more examples like such have led industry professionals to predict a major turn in the apparel sponsorship space.
“Sponsorship will be led by non-endemic and luxury brands. We see this trend with brands like crypto.com as well as Gucci and Vans. Digital sponsorship deals will be built on data, delivering custom content, and CSR efforts.” - Katie Lavin, VP Marketing, Events, and Communications, National Lacrosse League
“In 2022, the majority of brands will spend more of their advertising budgets on social over television. 2021 was a big year for rights holders to embrace themselves as media companies — their investments into their social assets will deliver the biggest ROI.” - Amir Zonozi, President and Cofounder, Zoomph
Lastly, another common consensus for 2022 is that Cryptocurrency will continue to be intertwined with sports and change the way athletes are compensated.
CashApp will strike partnerships with more athletes and sports organizations throughout the year.
We saw OBJ, Aaron Rodger, Bryce Young, and Bubba Wallace all barter with CashApp this past year which led to some of the biggest names in sport taking large portions of their salary in form of Bitcoin.
To say the least, we have much to look forward to this year!