SportFWD Conference – Athlete Remix & the Future of Sport

SportFWD: Our first in a series of game-changing events

The Attention Span team hit the ground running in 2018, pulling 26 speakers from all over the country to San Diego for a full day of insights, problem-solving, and future forecasting. We planned for an audience of 200 at Qualcomm Institute on the UC San Diego campus, then ended up packing the house with over 250 attendees. Between panels and keynotes from industry gurus like Guy Kawasaki and Dr. Arah Suppiah, attendees toured the QI’s VR Cave or connected ideas in the sunny courtyard.  If you missed it this year, here’s a recap to hold you over until our next Attention FWD Conference.

Sport FWD - Kevin Acee

January 18th, 2018 @ the Qualcomm Institute

Event Recap

Sports Content and Marketing for Gen-Z

Attention FWD editor and futurist Po Bronson kicked the conference off with a panel of counter intuitive insights into reaching and co-creating with members of Generation Z.

MJG/Fashion founder Mitch Grossbach, the architect of Marshawn Lynch’s unprecedented Beast Mode apparel deal with the NFL, addressed the marketing industry’s favorite concept: the quest for “authenticity.” The key, he said, is not figuring out how to be authentic—it’s partnering with authentic personalities who already have an audience, and enabling them to bring their ideas to life.

Attention FWD multimedia journalist and alt-athlete Claire Stremple gave us a glimpse into what the growing market segment of participatory female athletes wants from brands: “Athletes I care about, who do things I care about, using equipment that works.”

Gen-Z doesn’t just want to see authenticity, they want to interact with it, says Alex Kruglov, founder of SmileTime. He noted that most people don’t necessarily want to be stars or have the most likes, but they do want to engage with the content that does.

From “Not a Sport” to the Hottest Story in the Industry: The Unstoppable Rise of eSports

The second panel, hosted by Attention FWD Editor-in-Chief Josh McHugh, opened our eyes to the explosive growth of eSports. They took a hard look at some the most successful efforts by traditional pro sports leagues to align themselves with eSports fanbases.

Turner Studios’ Pete Scott, who helped spearhead the creation of Turner’s ELEAGUE, advised companies eager to enter the eSports fray to be humble and open-minded in their approach to the unique eSports community culture.

Johannes Waldstein, founder of eSports analytics startup FanAI, predicted that eSports athletes and fans will increasingly use haptic “skins” that will allow them to actually feel and sense in-game action. He also emphasized the importance of interactivity between eSports athletes and their fans.

“Having a passionate fan base used to be enough. That’s too passive for today’s fans,” Waldstein said. “They want their passion reciprocated. Now, fans want the streamer or their player to message them back. Fans want custom content, that is, they want their authentic passion reciprocated in a way that’s relevant to them.”

Cultural Earthquake: Sports as Global Superpower

Sports exert an outsized degree of influence over global culture, international ​politics, personal ​identity, and consumer behavior​. As we can see in an Olympic year, sports and statecraft frequently end up intertwined. The Olympics also remind us of the massive business opportunities that await leagues and sponsors who can figure out the cultural calculus of international fanbase development.

Former ESPN chief counsel and current senior counsel in DLA Piper’s Media, Sport and Entertainment practice, David Pahl discussed the lessons he learned at the tip of the spear during ESPN’s worldwide expansion.

Lisa Olson, an international sports reporter who has covered sports from Australia to Afghanistan and Brisbane to Boston, shared anecdotes about finding common ground with athletes.

Keynote: The Art of Disruption

featuring Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki

A Day in the Life of the Athlete of the Future

Dr. Ara Suppiah, Chief Medical Analyst for NBC Sports Golf Channel and official physician to the PGA Tour, led us through a day in the life of the athlete of the future, circa 2047: Michael Woods, grandson of Tiger Woods. Michael is on a quest to shoot a 50 at Augusta National. To get there, he’ll use a state-of-the-art blend of sensors, genomically-optimized nutrition, advanced materials, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence. Dr. Suppiah concluded the presentation by handing out an artifact from the future: an anti-inflammatory skin patch that actually works today using the electrical signatures of 180 chemical compounds.

AR, VR and Mixed: The New Reality in Sports

Qualcomm’s Patrick Costello proposed that we clear up the confusion caused by all the terminology around immersive experiences by uniting virtual, augmented, and mixed reality under the single banner of Extended Reality, or, even more concisely: “XR.” We like it! Henceforth we’ll be using XR generally, resorting to “AR” and “VR” only when needing to differentiate between specific applications of XR.

In response to the moderator’s question about when XR hardware would be affordable enough for mass adoption, Neil Gupta, a partner at Indicator Ventures, reminded us that every person in the auditorium already owns XR hardware – in the form of smartphones, which will contain more XR functionality with every generation. Gupta sees massive potential for sports training and any application that takes sports fans to places they can’t otherwise go. In other words, XR’s greatest potential is to make once-impossible fan experiences possible.

David Cramer, COO of XR sports platform NextVR, briefed us on the explosion of XR sports content and predicted that the breakthrough known as “six degrees of freedom” will create a new generation of XR sports fans. That’s right, six degrees of movement withing a virtual reality. While ring sports like boxing and mixed martial arts are currently the most intense experiences in XR, Cramer sees a new level of experience coming as XR capture devices get small and cheap enough to be worn by athletes on the field.

The Remixed Athlete: CRISPR & Sports (When, Not If)

Digital biologist Raymond McCauley guided a spellbound audience through the state of the art of genetic engineering. While many think of as a black-and-white matter of ethics, McCauley demonstrated through scientific data and personal experience (spoiler alert: his own kids are genetically engineered!) that the human race’s genetically-engineered future is not only already here, but coming soon to a self-service biology hackerspace near you.

The Future of SAN DIEGO Sports

The final panel of the day looked at the road ahead for professional sports in San Diego. Representatives from the San Diego Padres, 1904 FC soccer team, and the San Diego Seals indoor lacrosse team weighed in with San Diego State University’s athletic director about their projections and plans for the future. While the departure of the Chargers has created a temporary void in the city sportscape, the panelists described a combination of tech-fueled and grassroots approaches that they’ll use to create a professional sports renaissance in the years to come.

Event Press!

Future of sports is almost unimaginable … and happening now
Kevin Acee, San Diego Union-Tribune