Sports marketing has gone through major changes in the past decade. Through the growth of new digital and social platforms, technology has created vast new opportunities for fans to consume sport as well as new revenue streams for rights holders and brands alike. The latest technology that will no doubt have enormous impacts on sports communication is the roll out of 5G.

In simple terms, 5G (Fifth Generation) will bring users much faster speeds in downloading data which will lead to a higher connectivity speed. The faster speed allows fans to download images and videos up to ten times faster than what most of us are used to with 4G.

In turn, the introduction of 5G will have major impacts on the entire sports viewing experience, both live and at home. Gone will be the days where thousands of fans in stadiums struggle for connectivity. With 5G, fans will be able connect to the internet with ease as well as receive match updates and stats on their smartphones in real time. Additionally, this high-speed connectivity could allow attendees to watch instant replays in tandem with the live game, which is one area where TV has always been better at than being at the game in person.

For those not lucky enough to attend the live action, don’t stress, 5G provides many spectating perks from your living room too. 5G can provide fans with 4K, high-definition content that can be accessible on a broader range of devices and platforms. Broadcasters will also be able to deploy more cameras across the stadium, perhaps even drones, which will enrich the whole viewing experience.

5G will also make VR a reality when consuming sport, which for a while has felt like a distant dream. FC Barcelona will become the first European stadium to have dedicated 5G and VR coverage. The club and partner Telefónica will place 360º cameras in different locations around the stadium without the need of cables. With VR glasses, the spectator will be able to choose whether they watch the game from the side-line next to the substitutes, the Director’s box, behind the goal or any other viewpoint they desire. The whole aim of this being to allow fans at home to feel as if they are actually at the game.

In the UK, Vodafone demonstrated the capabilities of their 5G technology through their recently announced partnership with Wasps Rugby. Will Rowlands, second-row forward, performed a rugby tackle on a bag at the Ricoh Stadium (Coventry) which was transferred via 5G technology to teammate Juan de Jongh on stage in London. Juan, who was wrapped in a specially designed haptic Teslasuit, was able to feel the force of Rowlands tackle over 100 miles away in real time.

One sport that will most likely flourish from the roll out of 5G is eSports. The sport, which has seen huge growth in recent years, completely relies on high speed connectivity. 5G will be advantageous for all parties in the eSport realm as the lightning-fast connectivity will make it much easier for gamers to connect without that annoying lag most of us experienced growing up. Fans wanting to watch eSports will be able to download content at much quicker speeds and at much higher resolution on platforms such as Twitch. And since 5G does not require wires, gamers will no longer be confined by the limitations of their platform’s hardware and instead will be able to compete using their mobile devices. What all this means for eSports is greater fan acquisition and retention, and therefore a greater proposition for brands considering entering the space.

As 5G becomes more operational and mainstream in the world of sport, new content and revenue opportunities for rights holders and brands will unfold. In turn, brands and sponsors will have to re-think their marketing and activation strategies. Providing immersive experiences for fans to feel closer to the sport they love will be key and creativity will have to be pushed even more. So, for all sport marketers out there, stay on your toes because 5G has arrived and it’s not going away.


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