SportsPro Hackathon 2021

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Earlier this year, 14 teams from nine of the world’s top sports business courses convened virtually to compete in the first ever SportsPro Hackathon. All told, more than 90 students took part over the weekend of 9th to 11th April, during which they had just 51 hours to create, flesh out and present a concept to a team of six judges, with the winners securing the opportunity to showcase their idea at SportsPro Live.

The participating students, who were representing universities spanning Istanbul and New York all the way to Liverpool and Ohio, were tasked with putting forward products or businesses that adhered to the triple bottom line, a framework established to encourage companies to focus as much on people and the planet as they do on profit. That meant the teams had to develop a solution that would contribute to the sports industry becoming more socially, environmentally and financially sustainable. 

Day one included an opportunity for participants to network with their fellow competitors, but crucially it was also when they had to lay out a basic idea for their product and start setting a strategy in motion. Then, on the second day, the students were given access to mentors from organisations such as the National Football League (NFL), golf’s European Tour and BeIN Media Group, who offered advice to help the teams develop their ideas and shape them into something that could be presented to the judges.

“It was really fun when you look back at it, and such a great opportunity as well,” says Pollyanna Roberts, a student at Sheffield Hallam University. “[It was] an amazing opportunity to get our eyes and ears into the industry, see what’s out there, see who else is out there and meet people in the industry, as well as current students and fellow students in other universities.”

Following four-minute presentations given by each team on the final evening, the judges were left to evaluate the concepts based on customer validation, execution and design, the business model, and whether they adhered to the triple bottom line. Prizes were then awarded for the best presentation, the most financially sustainable concept,

the most socially sustainable concept and the most environmentally sustainable concept, before the top three teams overall were revealed.

While there could only be one winner, the judges were clearly impressed with the diversity of ideas across the board.

“There were things that I just didn’t anticipate,” says Simon Chadwick, professor of Eurasian Sport at Emlyon Business School, who led the judging panel during the hackathon. “I knew people would be talking about carbon reducing technologies and ways of reducing gender inequality and some of the more obvious things, but I think in amongst them there was a really significant range of different ideas.

“You’ve got to commend these people for their hard work. You’ve got to commend these people for their ideas. But you’ve got to commend these people for having the confidence to do this, because I think it’s a big, big thing for a 21-year-old to stand up in front of the world and try and convince them that the ideas that you have are the best ones out there.”

If you would like to be involved in the 2022 SportsPro Hackathon as a participating university team, judge, mentor or partner, please click here.