In a quest to make up for lost revenues from the COVID-19 pandemic, clubs, leagues and federations are getting creative and looking at digital-first strategies—from coaching apps to coursework—to stabilize revenue streams.
Chelsea F.C. was the first club to launch a digital training app, called Perfect Play, in August of 2020. Developed with Chelsea Academy coaches, the app features player tracking technology that analyzes players’ performance and creates a personal training plan.
Retired basketball player and current NBA analyst Kenny Smith set up the virtual Jet Academy for youth with the same goal in mind.
The latest digital initiative comes from Manchester City F.C. The new online platform, Coaching Hub, aims to share City’s coaching, nutrition, and training philosophy with youth coaches and players worldwide. Coaching Hub has strong revenue potential. The price to use Man City’s digital coaches is 79.99 pounds (about $108).
“These digital initiatives are also great brand-building tools,” said Dave Wakeman, the president of the Wakeman Consulting Group. “They charge $108 a year of recurring revenue, and if you continue to add features and benefits, it doesn’t take much before that adds up to a real revenue stream.”
Digital learning from experts has been proven to be a successful business. According to Pitchbook, MasterClass, one of the leading platforms, was valued at $2.75 billion last May, three times its valuation from a year ago.
Last September, an L.A.-based startup followed MasterClass’ success and launched The Skills, an online platform to receive lessons from celebrity athletes like Michael Phelps and Megan Rapinoe. Backed by some of the top venture firms, The Skills’ course catalog contains hundreds of sessions ranging in length from roughly two to five minutes and combines observations on life skills with lessons on technique.
“First and foremost, it’s a nascent market,” said E. Omer Atesmen, the founder and the CEO of The Skills. “There are a lot of companies that are trying different things, from AI or immersive technologies to synchronous and asynchronous interactions between instructors and students. When you start to look at repeatability and coaching impact of various product offerings, certain products are probably a better fit than others.”
Teams and leagues are struggling to create new and continuous revenue streams; they also struggle to attract younger fans. Sports organizations have seen avid fans decrease by almost 33% in the last few years. Aside from being a learning tool, digital coaching has been essential in connecting the interested parties to the brand.
“Creating additional ways for kids to engage with your team and your content can have a powerful financial impact on your team over the long term,” said Wakeman. “Looking at Manchester City, offering something like Coaching Hub enables them to have their ideals, their coaching philosophy, and their team flow down to many levels of the community.”
Wakeman added that “the small touches usually add up much more than the grand gestures. “So, the birthday video that the team sends with Pep Guardiola or Sergio Aguero likely has a much more significant impact on a young fan than winning the Premier League.”