18 - April - 2023

The phenomenon of integration in the Sports tech and Fitness tech world

Integration with complementary tech businesses seems to be the flavour of the season in the world of sports and fitness tracking companies. The more recent being the much-awaited Spotify – Strava linkup or closer home and possibly a first in the Indian landscape, the partnership between leading audio and wearables brand, boAt lifestyle and Sports analytics company, Stancebeam. In the former case, Strava is of course known for its aggressive integration strategy (having integrated with a plethora of platforms/devices including but not limited to the smart watches of Apple/Garmin/Samsung, Snapchat, MyFitnessPal, Peloton, Razorpay, etc). However, adding Spotify to the mix just ensures that Strava users spend more time on the platform. The integration allows users to easily access music, podcasts and audiobooks from the Strava app while tracking activities. Importantly, this new integration removes the need for users to switch between apps. A win-win to both platforms given the fact that the integration not only offers value to their respective users but also merge and widen the two communities.

Announced early this month, the Stancebeam-boAt partnership is another new age integration which sort of highlights its partnership with the recently hyped “Powered By” phenomenon. Entering into the premium segment for the first time, boat launched the Lunar series smart watches with sports motion sensing AI technology (called StanceOS) powered by Stancebeam. This integration enables more professional and amateur players to access in-depth cricket analytics (for both batting and bowling) through smart watches. Again, this integration also removes the need to use sensors on bats cutting down on additional physical hardware which sports persons have to wear. This integration is also a first in the sense that it sees a unison of a fitnesstech/lifestyle brand and a hard core sportstech company. Traditionally, integrations have happened in the digital fitness space ala Strava and its allies and so do in the sports tech / sports performance space where the data from hardware devices like VALD, STATsports, InBody, Playermaker gets linked up to an AMS (Athlete Management System) like Smartabase, Kinduct or an all-encompassing collaboration platform like Teamworks.

The third such new age integration in recent times has been between two iconic companies – Japanese watch brand, CASIO and pioneering heart rate monitoring brand, Polar Electro from Finland. The outcome of this integration is the new Casio G-Shock watch which is powered by Polar’s 25 algorithms covering sleep, training, wellness, activity, performance, and recovery. We are not getting into the nitty-gritties of this watch but this collaboration is substantial for both brands to expand their market reach and customer base. As the smartwatch category is growing, it is a prudent call by both brands to complement respective features, brand values to counter competition. Polar, still considered to be the gold standard in heart rate monitoring, have in fact, started offering their algorithms to select industry partners in their new “Powered by Polar” initiative. Some may say this is diluting their own brand, but it is evident that new brands have piggy-backed on the years of investment in research, category building efforts by Polar and others that have been in the game for a longer time.

Cutting to the chase, these integration usecases are signals of time to come. There are three quick learnings for sportstech/fitnesstech companies from these partnerships. Number one is about expanding communities by sharing userbase with a complementary business/brand. Customers, today, are inundated with tons of apps. By integration, companies can make life easier for their customers, removing the need to switch between platforms/devices, thereby increasing their usage time on your platform and enhancing their loyalty. Number two is about scalability. Sportstech companies like Stancebeam will always have a challenge to scale up as professional, amateur sport have limited numbers – integration offers an opportunity to diversify, cross-promote, cross-sell and grow your business. Number three is about monetising algorithms. There is no point in holding your proprietary software close to your vest. As the world is moving from hardware to using AI-powered products, it makes sense to gain additional revenue from algorithms built from years of grind and just not survive but prosper in a competitive market.

To conclude, as this phenomenon of integration evolves, it’s the end users who will eventually benefit in their respective pursuit of excellence or recreation in sports resulting in scalability and soaring bottom lines for the sports-tech and fitness-tech landscape.

- Abhishek Padwal (Founder & CEO, HiG Sports)