Possibly one of the oldest recorded sporting fixtures was the battle of David and Goliath but despite the biblical nature of that bout, the ethos of the little man taking on the behemoth is still a vibrant aspect of modern sport. On the field we have seen Bradford City overcome Arsenal, the machine that is Nadal felled by the virtual unknown, Rosol and the Cameroonian footballing minnows overwhelm the force of Argentina. Whilst this is the stuff sports PRs dream of, intense battles are not just the preserve of the track suits of sport, the battles between the suits can be equally exciting.
Last Friday saw the inaugural Sports Technology Awards ceremony take place in central London. Considering the influence technology has had on sport and for how long, these accolades were well overdue; as organizers we were delighted to have brought the concept to market first. My 'day job' sees me work within a sports public relations consultancy and, both first hand and on behalf of clients, a common criticism of many industry awards is that brand size and spend often makes the difference between winning the silverware or leaving empty handed. The joy of a technology awards is that amplification achieved by a big budget is a fairly minor judging criteria, far more crucial are considerations such as innovation and relevance. Whilst the majority of awards - 60% to be precise - were won by some of the biggest brands in sport, 40% of the victors where companies you are very unlikely to have heard of. Even more excitingly for interested watchers from sports management, a fair few of these beat the big brands to win.
Some of the innovations which were submitted were truly inspired. Arthur C. Clarke famously said that 'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic' and last week's awards illustrated his point magnificently. There is now headgear that records force of impact, a vital resource for anyone assessing the wearer's potential exposure to concussion. Horse riders seeking to improve their talents can now plug in their iPod and receive instruction to do anything from a basic canter to highly advanced flying changes. Amateur team managers or captains will be able to reclaim hours back for their social lives by using new software to liaise with their teammates to manage fixtures, transport and their team sheets. Most people reading this will have endured a sporting experience on either a synthetic surface with all the forgiveness of a pot scourer or on real grass that was, in fact mud or baked clay. Not any longer. There is now an artificial turf product that is not only soft, it reflects sunlight to keep you cooler as you play. You may not have heard of some of these ideas but you soon will.
Recognition also needs to go to the sports industry's Goliaths; Speedo, Wimbledon, BBC and Sky Sports were just a few of the major brands which also emerged as winners; whilst it could be tempting to write off their victories on the basis of their ability to spend, it would be an error to do so. What the Sports Technology Awards demonstrated in every category, is that success with technology isn't about the size of your budget, it is about depth of vision and willingness to embrace innovation - regardless of the size of the business behind it. With more major brands taking this stand, rather than doing battle, David and Goliath could even be seen walking off into the sunset together.