Professional sports teams are becoming increasingly involved in technology and innovation. So much so that some franchises go as far as launching hubs dedicated to the investment and incubation of startups, in the hope that it will positively impact athletic and business performance.
The list of professional sports teams with innovation labs includes FC Barçelona, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia 76ers—and now, English Premier League team, Arsenal F.C.
Arsenal recently announced the launch of the Arsenal Innovation Lab.
The Arsenal Innovation Lab is a ten-week startup accelerator program to connect Arsenal with startups that can help shape the future of the football club, on and off the pitch. To identify the best startups that can address their most important business challenges, Arsenal has partnered with corporate innovation and early-stage investment company, L Marks.
Arsenal and L Marks will be working together to find sports and technology startups to help the club across five specific categories. For each of the five categories, an Arsenal senior executive will be assigned to provide mentorship to participating startups.
Below are the five categories and mentors assigned to each:
1) IMPROVING MATCHDAY EXPERIENCE – To give fans the best possible matchday experience, from the moment they leave their house to arriving in their seat at Emirates Stadium, and back again.
Mentor(s): Charlotte Kenny, Head of Fan Services // Tom McCann, Head of Sales, Service & Operations
2) ENGAGING FANS GLOBALLY – To provide memorable experiences to Arsenal’s millions of fans around the world.
Mentor: Charles Allen, Head of Marketing
3) TRANSFORMING PARTNER OFFERING – To provide new ways to build strong partnerships that benefit both the club and the supporters.
Mentor: Alex Wicks, Head of Partnership Development
4) BUILDING A RETAIL OPERATION FOR THE FUTURE – To offer a world-class experience to supporters when they shop online, visit stores or take a tour of the stadium.
Mentor: Simon Lilly, Retail Director
5) WILDCARD – To connect with innovative technologists and entrepreneurs that can help take the franchise forward.
Mentor: James Murray, Head of Business Strategy
To entice forward-thinking startups to join the program, and help along these 5 dimensions, the Arsenal Innovation Lab is offering a handful of resources: mentorship, product validation, testing in a live fan environment, a network of sports industry professionals and the opportunity to gain investment. The amount of the investment being offered by the Arsenal Innovation Lab is where this accelerator differs from others. Whereas many traditional accelerators have pre-determined investment terms, the Arsenal accelerator sets terms on a case-by-case basis.
The main value proposition that the Arsenal Innovation Lab is offering startups is the opportunity to build a strong relationship with the iconic English club. However, to do so, startups must pass through the programs 4 stages:
- ACCELERATOR PROGRAM
The first stage has already begun, as the lab is currently accepting applications from now until October 12th at midnight.
A full timeline of events is as follows:
APPLICATION DEADLINE – Oct. 12, 2017
Application review will take place until October 12 when the Innovation Lab will notify successful applicants and invite them to Pitch Day.
PITCH DAY – Nov. 21, 2017
Startups invited to Pitch Day will have the opportunity to pitch to Arsenal’s senior leadership to secure a spot in the program.
PROGRAM START DATE – Jan. 15, 2018
January 15th marks the start of the 10-week program
DEMO DAY – Mar. 19, 2018
The program concludes with a demo day for startups to showcase the progress made during the program and present a proposal for future collaboration with Arsenal.
Whether the relationships developed through the accelerator program will lead to the outcomes that Arsenal is hoping for remains to be seen. However, Arsenal–among the growing list of other pro sports teams–are ba