Josh Walker: President, Sports Innovation Lab – Work In Sports Podcast

Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp, VP of Content and Engaged Learning for WorkInSports.com and this is the Work In Sports podcast.

Recovery starts with innovation. 

I read this the other day and thought, this sounds a lot like what my grandmother used to tell me when she’d cobble some new fandangled way of plowing her garden fields with a series of hoes tied on to the back of her 1940’s era tractor. 

Never short for an analogy or cliche she’d look at me and repeat “necessity is the mother of all invention”

That saying has always stuck in my mind, when there is need there are creative solutions.  josh walker president sports innovation lab

Never before have we faced more need, and never before have innovative minds been more in demand. 

As teams and leagues and organizations look to pivot and change their revenue models and adapt to our new world — the innovative people in every organization are the ones leading the way to the future. 

That is not hyperbolic or overly dramatic. We need innovation. We need a new way to look at our games, our stadiums, our fans, our revenue streams, our products our marketing — everything needs a fresh set of eyes. 

I booked today’s guest, Josh Walker, President of Sports Innovation Lab because multiple people in my sphere of influence pinged me in April and said “did you read this article on how the sports industry will recover, it’s fascinating”

The article was pushed at me from multiple angles from people I respect with excitement and fervor I couldn’t deny, so I read it and immediately thought — who wrote this! I need them for this show!

The crazy thing is… Josh, the scribe responsible for the forward-thinking piece, developed the concept of recovery before there was a need for recovery. See Josh is the kind of futurist we need more of in sports, the ones who can utilize data and research and intuition to see what the industry needs to be, rather than what it is. 

Josh is the President of Sports innovation Lab who, along with his co-founders, former NFL linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski and former olympian and 4-time gold medal winner Angela Ruggiero developed a fluid fan concept that sees sports in a way that earns the fans loyalty rather than expects it. 

You’ll see what I mean.. Here’s Josh — get ready for some incredible, in your face, honest…and some exciting ideas on how to mold our future of sports.

Here’s Josh…

Questions for Josh Walker, President, Sports Innovation Lab

1: There is so much I want to get into regarding your background and sports innovation lab, but let’s start with some of the big stuff. You wrote an article on LinkedIn back in April about what recovery may look like for the sports industry – and it is fascinating.

There is a lot to unpack so let’s take it slow.

You state early in the article that “This crisis will fundamentally reshape how the sports industry operates and generates revenue.” In a broad way I think we can all see that things will change – but specifically, how do you see this current situation reshaping the way the sports industry operates?

2: We often think of sports as having two main experiential avenues: in person at the event in a stadium, or at home through the broadcast media. This runs relatively parallel to the revenue streams… you’ve got your media deals and you’ve got your tickets, sponsorships etc.

But you and your team are embracing a new concept of the “fluid fan” – can you explain what that is?

3: Did you have this fluid fan concept hypothesized and researched prior to COVID, or was this an example of where the situation met opportunity?

Follow: So in a way, you saw the changing landscape of the sports industry prior to this current pandemic – why was this shift to a fluid fan necessary with or without COVID?

4: You’ve established what the fluid fan is and why they represent the future –but how does an organization begin to understand their fluid fan behavior, because, by its very definition, everyone is different, and needs to be approached differently, right?

5: As part of your article you outline the convergence of the “Fluid Fan studio” a sweet spot where broadcast media, social media, and events overlap in a cool looking Venn diagram. It’s pretty, it’s logical… but how does an organization rooted in game-day experience, media experience, and digital experiences as separate silos, get to a place where they can converge these verticals? What is the approach?

6: Can you give us some examples of how organizations are actively creating these participatory communities, and how you envision more adopting this approach?

7: It feels to me like teams and league may be catching on to this approach – in the last year I’ve been to a bunch of new stadiums, and it seems they are being designed with a more “out of your seat” experience with micro-communities within the arena or stadium – where they want to enhance the experience and not just expect people to sit in their seat for 2-4 hours.

Is the future of sports consumption closer than we think?

8: I’m sure this is one you hear from your clients all the time — How does this all translate to revenue creation?

We’re used to the typical revenue streams of butts in seats and broadcast deals – how does the shift in approach affect the bottom line?

9: In your experience – is the sports industry agile and excited to change, or is this like turning the Titanic?

10: You wrote this article back in April, and clearly you have a deep belief in the fluid fan concept – but in the last 2 months, as we still feel far away from normalcy, or maybe even permanently removed from normal as we knew it – has your viewpoint on the future of the industry shifted at all?

11: We’ll finish up with this – you and your team at Sports Innovation Lab are clearly taking a new view and approach to our industry – we have a lot of young, creative professionals in our audience, how does someone enter your side of the industry and get into the creative research-focused roles?

About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the sports media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for WorkinSports.com & WorkinEntertainment.com.

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