Australian sports data and analytics pioneer Catapult Sports sees U.S. colleges, baseball and ice hockey as three key growth areas for North America, as the market for wearable technologies and the ability to improve performance continues to expand to what CEO Will Lopes says is a $40 billion potential market.
“From a total addressable market perspective, there are 20,000 teams on the elite level globally. We still have a huge amount of coverage to go, just with that elite level,” said Lopes in a video call from Catapult’s Boston office, his operational headquarters. “Then when you get to the ‘prosumer’ side you’re talking about hundreds of thousands—youth academies, high schools—even before you get to the individual athlete.”
Catapult Sports has been a leader in the sports analytics sector since its inception as an Australian effort to improve the performance of the nation’s athletes for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. In the decades since becoming commercialized, Catapult’s wearable GPS has become ubiquitous in many leagues, including top tier English and German soccer, as well as the NBA. With more than 3,400 teams as Catapult users, some have speculated that the market is reaching maturity. To the contrary, Lopes says expansion potential remains in other European soccer leagues as well as in the U.S., a country that accounts for most of the company’s revenue.
In the U.S. “the big prizes are the NCAA—the FBS and FCS teams—there’s still quite a strong potential growth there,” said Lopes, adding that the world’s elite sports, including top colleges, probably are a $2.6 billion market themselves.
The company recently inked a deal with the Boston College athletic department to supply gear and analytical services for 10 teams, including football, women’s lacrosse and field hockey. It’s a first for Catapult, a multi-sport cross-services deal that Lopes hopes to replicate elsewhere, and an opportunity to grow into non-revenue collegiate sports. “Athletic departments at universities today are dealing with some really significant issues around budgeting, scouting for new athletes and player safety,” said Lopes. “Giving them the opportunity to shape that technology umbrella and utilize it not just in one sport, but across all sports, becomes very unique in this market.”
The company is also expanding into analytics of movements, recently introducing products for hockey and baseball, especially for goalies and pitchers, whose workloads aren’t distance- and speed-based, like what Catapult traditionally measures. For instance, Catapult’s goalie package measures the number of times a goalie goes down from feet to knees for blocking, the intensity and asymmetry of lateral movement, and other stress load metrics. The Los Angeles Kings, Hockey Canada and the Philadelphia Flyers are among the organizations using the tech.
In baseball, their software focuses on inertia-based movements, for swings, throws and pitches, to develop analysis of injury risk. That product hit the market this month, with the expectation that MLB teams, which lose about $425 million in payroll annually, will be a key market. “Studying micro movements, both in baseball and hockey, opens up a tremendous opportunity for us,” adds Lopes.
The expansion of products also comes as Lopes has largely completed Catapult’s shift from a one-time-sale gear business into a subscription service since taking the CEO reins in late 2019. Now, the GPS wearables—usually a sports-bra like harness—are packaged with the data and analytics software to make sense of the information gathered. In the first half of this year, nearly nine out of every 10 dollars of Catapult sales were by subscription. Subscription revenue rose 29% through June, with annualized contracted subscription volume up 43%, a number Lopes says is a leading indicator of future revenue.
Catapult isn’t the only company focused on athlete tech. The emergence of athlete performance data remains a hot growth market, based on the deal flow of the sector over the past year. A recent report from brokerage Capstone Partners identified $3 billion in fitness tech mergers and acquisitions in 2021, including Catapult’s purchase of video analytics business SBG for $34 million. The appetite for sport tech deals remains strong, with 70 public or pending SPACs with $22.5 billion in capital dedicated to finding a sports, consumer tech or health and wellness technology business, according to the Sportico Sports SPAC Tracker.
For now, Lopes says Catapult isn’t competing with consumer tech like FitBit, which Google parent Alphabet bought for $1.76 billion in January. Instead, the company is focused on integrating SBG’s video capabilities with Catapult’s GPS-based data, to enable things like data-rich video scouting tools for coaches.
But the explosion of consumer wearables points out a key difference between Catapult and many competitors, he contends: mainly, being able to apply analytics to data that otherwise has little use. “Despite the vast amount of investment, whether it’s by Google, Apple and others, there’s very little being done in terms of actually helping athletes improve performance,” Lopes said. “A lot of it is just, ‘I’m going to tell you what you’ve done.’ We have a unique value proposition that resonates with elite teams. Bringing some of that insight, knowledge and technology to the lower end of that market is something we’re very excited for.”