Artificial Intelligence in Sports – Current and Future Applications


The North American sports industry is a cultural and economic staple generating billions of dollars in revenue each year. Spectator sports fall under the broader category of arts, entertainment, and recreation, representing 1.1 percent of the GDP in 2016. Artificial intelligence in sports may have been rare just five years ago – but now AI and machine vision and making their way into a number of sports industry applications, from chatbots to computer vision and beyond.

We set out in this article to examine the applications of artificial intelligence in professional sports to help business leaders understand current and emerging trends within the industry.

In this article we will explore the following sub-topics in order:

  • Summarized insights from our research on AI in sport
  • Current applications of artificial intelligence in professional sports
  • Potential future applications of artificial intelligence in professional sports

Before exploring the present applications, we’ll begin with background facts and a quick summary of the findings of our research on artificial intelligence in professional sports.

Background Info and Insights Up Front  

The North American sports industry is projected to reach $73.5 billion in revenue by 2019. Revenue can be divided into four main segments:

  • Gate revenues: Primary ticket sales from sporting events.
  • Media rights: Fees paid by the media to broadcast sports on networks/stations.
  • Sponsorship: Fees paid to have a brand associated with a team, league, facility or event, including naming and category rights.
  • Merchandising:  The sale of licensed products with team and league logos, player likenesses, and other intellectual property.

Since 2010, gate revenues have remained the leading revenue segment. However, according to a PwC research report, media rights are projected to become the leading segment of revenue beginning in 2018.

Media outlets are increasingly focused on enhancing the spectator experience through technology and AI is helping to shape the look and feel of the sports enthusiasts’ experience.

Current applications of AI appear to fall into four major categories:

  • Chatbots – Sports teams are using virtual assistants to respond to fan inquiries across a wide range of topics including live game information, team stats and arena logistics.
  • Computer Vision (as it pertains to professional auto racing) – Researchers are training deep learning neural networks to achieve accuracy beyond humans in the ability to identify specific cars at high speeds which typically produce photographic images with reduced clarity.
  • Automated journalism – Media outlets are leveraging AI-driven automation to expand their sports coverage capabilities and increase revenue.
  • Wearable tech – Companies are using AI in conjunction with IoT devices to gather data to attempt to optimize training and performance.

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