Most Innovative Companies in Sports

Fast Company Magazine just released their list of the Top Ten Most Innovative Companies in SportsYou can click here for their list, complete with detailed reasons, but here is the quick list of company names in order:

  1. New England Sports Ventures
  2. Nike
  3. Andrews Sports Medicine
  4. ESPN
  5. Speedo
  6. HOK Sports
  7. NHL.com
  8. AEG
  9. Levy Restaurants
  10. Ultimate Fighting Championship

I’m not quite sure what to think about this list.  Some of them I definitely agree with (New England, Nike, ESPN, HOK and AEG), while others I don’t quite understand (Andrews, Speedo, Levy and UFC).  This list seems geared towards “established” companies, while some of the most innovative concepts in sports business are from smaller, niche companies, particularly in the worlds of web and mobile. 

What about companies like Fantasy Sports Ventures or OpenSports, which are on the cutting edge for fantasy sports programs?  What about some other professional teams that do some exciting things in social media and CRM?  What about MLBAM, which continues to be a technology leader on the web side of professional sports?  I do like NHL.com’s inclusion on this list, although their website is not a separate business, so this should really reflect the NHL as a whole.  The list is also lacking in international companies (I don’t know much about the international side either, but I’m sure that there are some highly innovative companies out there).

None of this is meant as a knock on the list or the companies on the list.  It just got me thinking that there is a lot more innovation out there, and that a top-ten list is going to miss out a lot of exciting and truly innovative sports companies.  Can you think of some other companies that could have made the top ten?  Leave a comment below with your ideas!

14 thoughts on “Most Innovative Companies in Sports

  • February 18, 2009 at 12:55 pm
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    I think taht with regard to Speedo they are referencing the new suits that you saw most swimmers wearing at the Olympics.
    The new material further reduces drag friction in comparison to bare skin and is part of the reason we saw so many more records fall in Beijing.

  • February 18, 2009 at 1:09 pm
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    I understand, but that should be expected of a company like Speedo. They make swimsuits and should be constantly improving them. In terms of true innovation, I didn’t think that one new product gets you on the list. If so, every new golf ball that goes 20 yards farther would be just as “innovative.”

  • February 18, 2009 at 1:26 pm
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    Levy Restaurants?

    Is watering down ketchup innovative?

  • February 18, 2009 at 6:58 pm
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    I’m going to have to agree with Tyler. If anything, I think the innovation of Speedo’s LZR suit should probably catapult the company to higher than #5, at least for innovation in the past year. The suit was unveiled last February and is responsible for at 62 broken world records since its debut (http://is.gd/k1ZR). That is unheard of! The suit also was responsible for 13 of 14 swimming gold medals in Beijing as of mid-August.

    Speedo has always been THE name brand of swimming, but I think the LZR is beyond the usual advance in the sport. Sure it was only one new product, but it has changed swimming forever. With the hefty price tag, it created such a stir that NCAA briefly considered banning it from competition in order to create a more even playing field for schools with smaller budgets.

  • February 18, 2009 at 8:40 pm
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    Interesting list, thank you for the post. I do agree with you though that they should be looking outside of just “established” companies.

  • February 19, 2009 at 4:27 am
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    These stories are really lazy journalism. I don’t have as much of a problem with the list, as the headline. While these companies are growing and obviously successful, the article provides no instances of innovation.

    While FastCompany is a US magazine, my Top 10 list of ‘innovative’ sports companies would include the Volvo Ocean Race. Massive multiplayer real time online gaming, HD TV from the middle of the southern ocean via FTP instead of satellites, opening of developing markets like Cochin that have never seen the sport before.

    While mass-market sports can take their audiences and sponsors for granted (pre-credit-crunch), often it is the smaller sports that innovate to provide differentiation and real value to fans and sponsors.

  • February 26, 2009 at 10:01 am
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    I think you should look at Prince Sports. They have introduced a new technology for racquet sports called O Tech which is now being licensed to hockey, baseball, field hockey, lacrosse, and other sports. O Tech could be the most innovative technology in sports because it can be applied across a variety of products.

  • February 26, 2009 at 9:10 pm
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    I agree that the list contains far too many established companies and brands. Our marketing team just introduced a shoe called Protege–you may have heard of it but it’s essentially a $34.99 basketball shoe worn by Al Harrington in practice and play (and I might add he’s doing pretty well in it). The specs of the shoes he wears are exactly the same as the shoes sold at Kmart. I use this as an example of one product created to break down barriers to accessibility. I think companies that can help increase participation–especially in sports like golf and skiing that require a signficant investment–will be the ones to watch in a downturned economy. I certainly don’t negate the accomplishments of the top 10; I simply think the reporter needed to diversify the portfolio.

  • March 4, 2009 at 8:27 am
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    Too bad that when I click on the link provided to The Top Ten Most Innovative Companies in Sports,you get an advertisement that is supposed to be gone in 10 seconds. There’s a button to “Skip This Ad” but either way you go, the ad just keeps loading and reloading and you never get to the source material.

  • March 4, 2009 at 9:16 am
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    Joan – I don’t have a problem viewing the content of the article after clicking “Skip this ad” so this may be a problem with your browser.

  • March 7, 2009 at 4:56 pm
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    Good post Russell, but did this writer forget about Under Armour this past year. When I think Innovative, I think being able to analyze the mark and create new products and events to keep a company viable in the sports marketplace. UA has produced soccer & baseball cleats, HS All-star Classic game sponsorships, casual wear, and and a expanded their woman’s line. Not bad in the last year or two. UA at least has to make the Top 10!! By the way where is Levy’s restaurant that sounds good!!

  • March 9, 2009 at 2:16 pm
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    Some real good thoughts and less than creatie post. Ultimately a ploy to drive traffic and sell magazines with controversial headlines and list of “Top 10” content that requires no originality. Typical media tricks – but then who would want to rely on a good a old fashion product value? media won’t write about you because it’s not controversial.

    I find the acceptance of innovative swim suit hypocritical to all sports debates – we accept swim suits that make you faster, but put livelier baseballs in there and that is sacreligious. What’s next, webbed socks? Not just picking on Speedo, but the golf ball that flies farther, antilock braking is car racing, the list goes on.

  • March 11, 2009 at 9:46 pm
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    A worthy post no doubt. And appreciated.

    In many ways, I agree with respect to the selection of “biggees” or safe selections here. However, I’ve come to anticipate that 90 percent of the trades and insiders are going to go this route. To make a parallel to a non-business equivalent, it’s the way I feel about All-Star voting in pro sports. Another factor is that there’s just so much happening out there underneath the high-profile surface level. So many smaller, nimble and unconventional companies, not to mention the bevy of incredible agencies that are making the “biggees” look good with their work behind the veil. Granted, I’m an agency guy. But there’s often a “unique” level of creativity, resourcefulness and innovation that’s required when you’re not wearing that power brand on your chest coming in the door.

    It’s hard to ever get something like this and have leave you with anything but mixed feelings.

    Under Armour is indeed doing great things. As for the UFC, I’d give them the nod with no problem, considering they’re the only totally new sport to make successful entry, illuminate a significant and die hard market of fans, and show considerable long-term potential. This from something that began at a truly raw and barbaric level, but has asutely re-crafted itself “just enough” to fall into a place that is acceptable within the more edgy and extreme that emerged and has engraved itself in the sports & entertainment norm in roughly the past 10 – 15 years. They’ve also strengthened their international appeal beyond N.A. through successful events in Europe.

  • March 13, 2009 at 2:45 pm
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    If you are looking for innovation check the latest product we released for FOOTBALL and other sports. We designed a wireless wristband form football players so the coach can call in a secure way the plays to execute. http://www.idcoach.com – That’s innovation…
    The product between the nominated for the Emerging Technology Award at CTIA (The biggest show in the wireless market) http://tinyurl.com/bznp5x

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