The Nominees For The 2018 SportTechie Awards Are…

Today we are proud to announce the nominees for the 2018 SportTechie Awards. These selections highlight the teams, executives, sports technologies, venues, and investors that most deserve recognition for their work in pushing our industry forward.

The final winners in each of these five categories, along with the SportTechie 10, a list of the people who are pushing the boundaries of the sports industry, will be announced over the course of the second week of December. Stay tuned for more details.

We are extremely grateful to have received many thoughtful nominations for each category from you, our audience. Narrowing down that list for each category to the final nominees below was no easy task. Thank you for your support.

And the nominees are…

Outstanding Sports Team
FC Barcelona

Barça encompasses teams within five professional sports spanning La Liga soccer, EuroLeague basketball, roller hockey, futsal, and handball. FC Barcelona’s innovation hub, works with startups to develop products for its sports teams, runs an online platform for the continued education of soccer professionals, hosts in-person conferences, and is hoping to open up the analysis of soccer. The organization is also currently renovating its soccer stadium, with a focus on luring people to Camp Nou even when there aren’t live events. The club’s tech-centric museum is the second-most visited museum in Spain, and the team is adding new storytelling tools to engage fans around the world.

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers ran the first crypto giveaway in sports in September, hosting Digital Bobblehead Night, where the first 40,000 fans received a downloadable digital token representing individual Dodgers players. On the field, the Dodgers’ front office is as data-driven as any team is in Major League Baseball. The widespread adaptation of performance-based analytics helped steer the Dodgers to a World Series appearance in 2018. Behind the scenes, the Dodgers venture capital arm Elysian Park Ventures also led a $30.5 million Series B investment in leading high school esports company PlayVS during November.

Vegas Golden Knights

The Vegas Golden Knights jumped onto the NHL scene last season as not just the newest expansion team, but also tech stalwarts. The Knights attempted to curb attendance of away-team fans at home games in the playoffs of their inaugural season with a digital ticketing program that offered loyal fans access to cheap tickets that could not be resold on secondary sites such as StubHub. The team embraced social media and launched shows with exclusive franchise content on Facebook Watch, Twitter, and Twitch. Due to the team’s location, the Knights are also positioned to be among the first in professional sports to leverage new sports betting technologies.

Outstanding Executive
Adam Silver, NBA commissioner

Silver has been the NBA commissioner since taking over from his predecessor, and former boss, in February 2014. This past year, under his leadership, the NBA has been at the forefront of innovation. In May, the NBA’s esports affiliate, the NBA 2K League, tipped off its inaugural season. In October, the NBA became the first major league to sign on MGM as an official betting partner. And this season the league is rolling out the option for fans to stream individual quarters of games, live and on-demand.

Al Guido, 49ers president

Guido was named president of the San Francisco 49ers in February 2016, having formerly served as the team’s COO. During Guido’s time with the 49ers, Levi’s stadium has hosted Super Bowl 50 and the largest U.S. soccer tournament this century, the Copa America Centenario. Guido also serves as the CEO and co-managing partner of Elevate Sports Ventures, a partnership between the 49ers, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Devils, and Creative Arts Agency that was launched in 2018. ESV’s focus is on transforming the business side of the sports industry. Guido talked about his plans to keep the 49ers at the cutting edge of innovation at SportTechie NEXT in September.

Jessica Rovello, Arkadium CEO

Rovello has overseen a year in which Arkadium has landed big name customers while she and her cofounder husband, Kenny Rosenblatt, are working to buy back the company from investors. Arkadium offers media companies AI-generated interactive tools that can run alongside sports content. In the sports context, it added the Associated Press and SLAM to a broader client list that already includes TIME magazine, Gannett, CNN, and TMZ. Rovello and Rosenblatt swapped president and CEO roles in 2015 while moving the company’s overseas studio out of Russia-annexed and sanction-stricken Crimea.

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Outstanding Sports Technology
Hawk-Eye

Hawk-Eye’s technology has long been used to help judges make calls in tennis, but the company rocketed to the global stage this year by powering the video assisted referees during the FIFA World Cup. Hawk-Eye’s VAR uses an automated three-dimensional line system that’s calibrated with lasers before a match begins, and helps refs spot infractions. Despite the technology facing several high-profile glitches, Pierluigi Collina, the chairman of FIFA’s Referees Committee, said that with VAR, the success rate on decisions that had the potential to alter a game’s result increased from 95 to 99.3 percent through the World Cup’s 48 group-stage matches.

HomeCourt

HomeCourt was built by a team of engineers with experience at Apple, Facebook, and Google. The app uses computer vision to track body movement with an iPhone, using that to analyze jump shots. From just the one smartphone camera, HomeCourt creates a series of statistical dashboards, spray charts, and video clips. Investors include prominent NBA names such as Steve Nash, Mark Cuban, Sam Hinkie, and Jeremy Lin. In September, Nash appeared on stage along with CEO David Lee at the Apple Keynote to tout HomeCourt.

WSC Sports

WSC Sports generates highlights using artificial intelligence, streamlining the video production process and significantly increasing video engagement. The company’s flagship partner is the NBA league office—though all 30 teams are direct customers—but WSC also works with the PGA Tour, March Madness Live, Turner Sports, and MLS. WSC Sports’ technology analyzes live broadcasts, identifies in-game events, and turns that into video clips. It has helped leagues cater content for international audiences without needing significant additional resources.

Outstanding Venue
Arlington Esports Arena

The Arlington Esports Arena opened as the largest dedicated esports venue in North America this year. The $10 million arena is owned by the city of Arlington, Texas and fills about half the space inside the Arlington Convention Center. It is managed by NGAGE esports, an event management company that is part of Infinite Esports & Entertainment. The stadium may be small compared to major pro sports venues—it can seat 2,500 fans—but its existence as a purely esports venue is significant. The arena plans to host between 30 and 50 events per year, and officially opened with a $750,000 Counter-Strike tournament last weekend.

Johan Cruijff Arena

The Amsterdam soccer stadium is home to Dutch powerhouse Ajax and regularly hosts the Dutch national team. It also now houses Europe’s largest commercial energy storage system based on electric vehicle batteries, serving as a prototype for more ecologically friendly arenas. A total of 4,200 solar panels at the venue feed into a 3MW storage system that is the equivalent of 148 new or secondhand Nissan LEAF batteries. Automobile manufacturer Nissan, energy company Eaton (a 2017 SportTechie Award winner), and the Amsterdam Climate and Energy Fund collaborated with the soccer club on installing the system.

Prudential Center

Prudential Center is home to the the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and Seton Hall’s men’s basketball team. It features the world’s largest arena scoreboard, with more than 29.6 million pixels stretched across 9,585 square feet. The arena, nicknamed “The Rock,” is also set to benefit from the fact it is one of the few pro sports venues in states where sports betting is legal. FanDuel will promote “Live In-Play” betting options for Devils fans via its sportsbook app, following an agreement with the arena’s parent company Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment. The Rock also now features branding from casino operator Caesars Entertainment and a betting lounge sponsored by Devils partner William Hill.

Outstanding Investor
David Stern

Stern is a former NBA commissioner, and his diverse portfolio includes investments in fast-growing sports media startup Overtime and basketball analytics firm ShotTracker. He is also an investor in streaming platform SportsCastr, which enables fans to act as sportscasters during live events and debuted a blockchain-backed cryptocurrency token this past summer to reward fans who produce content. Overtime launched a web series that documented its own professional esports team this past year, while ShotTracker’s real-time analytics were used courtside by NCAA Division I college basketball coaches for the first time at the 2018 Hall of Fame Classic.

OneTeam Collective

The NFLPA launched the OneTeam Collective in late 2016 along with Intel, the Sports Innovation Lab, and a few other partners to form the first athlete-drive accelerator program and venture fund. Through OneTeam Collective, players can exchange their IP rights for equity. OneTeam Collective’s business concept is creating opportunities for both active players and for those who have retired for the league. The group already has invested in a growing number of tech brands, including WHOOP, SportsCastr, StatMuse, Hashletes, The Fan Health Network, Octi, Rep the Squad, and CampusLore. 

ThirtyFive Ventures

Thirty Five Ventures is the investment firm co-founded by Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant and his business partner Rich Kleiman. While playing near the heart of Silicon Valley, Durant has invested in social streaming platform Caffeine, sports media company Overtime, autonomous drone startup Skydio, transportation company Lime, online delivery service Postmates, and several other tech startups. Durant and Kleiman even announced plans to co-executive produce a sports business show called The Boardroom, which will soon launch via the ESPN+ streaming platform.

Read more: sporttechie.com

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