As the NFL returns to full action after an unprecedented hiatus, speculation has been rife about the continued profitability of the $2.86 billion sports league. However, the NFL is no stranger to commercial pressures and has often proven itself willing to adopt emerging technologies as a way to keep the fans coming and boost revenues.
As we shall see, the NFL has emerged in recent years as one of the most technologically-minded sports leagues in the world, often embracing new tech trends in order to stay ahead of the competition. Let's take a look at the top five ways that technology has and continues to transform how the NFL operates.
1. 5G Broadcasting
While many sports leagues have been keen to extol the potential benefits of 5G technology, the NFL has taken the most significant steps toward making it a reality. Since the end of 2019, the NFL has worked alongside Verizon to install full 5G connectivity in 13 of its stadiums, a mammoth feat that has involved more than 6000 miles of fibre optic and copper wiring. The intention is that 5G technology will improve audience interactivity, as well as opening the door to VR and AR home broadcasts in real time.
2. iPad Playbooks
If you have watched an NFL game on TV recently, you will likely have noticed the abundance of iPad devices on the sidelines. This is because the NFL has implemented a system where every single person involved in the League, players included, have their own specially-wired iPad. Players' iPad devices contain playbook instructions that can be updated in real time by the coach. Ping notifications are sent to ensure that players never miss an update, and bespoke training guides for each player are instantly uploaded to each device.
3. Digital Sportsbooks
What's more, the digital transformation has also affected how audiences engage with the NFL. The rise of online sports betting has allowed for a flourishing of digital sportsbooks, where fans in certain states and even in countries such as the UK can bet on their favourite NFL teams during real-time play as well as before the game. In addition, digital platforms such as the sports news site WSN.com provide all of the latest odds on every single team in the league, which fans can access via their mobile devices at any time. Sports betting has never been easier.
4. Audio Helmets
One more major innovation in NFL strategy has been the implementation of audio helmets that allow the coaches to communicate directly with all players on the field at any time. Radios were first installed in football helmets all the way back in 1956, according to smithsonianmag.com. However, it wasn't until 2019 when the technology really got going. Thanks to a bespoke audio system designed by the tech company Gubster & Schnakenberg, there are 260 million encrypted frequencies designed to protect each team's communication lines.
5. Smart Fabrics
Finally, the use of ‘smart' fabrics to increase player mobility and impact on the field has had a significant impact on NFL strategy as well. The NFL has implemented Under Armour fabric for every uniform, which features in-built heating and cooling mechanisms to regulate the temperature of the wearer. The smart fabric is also made of a unique, ultra-thin stretchy mesh that makes grabbing and pulling virtually impossible, all while allowing maximum freedom of movement.
These are just some of the ways that emerging technologies have helped to transform the NFL in recent months and years. Stay tuned to see what other changes await.