Game-Changing AI: Rewriting the Rulebook for Creativity and Sports
If we were to pick out one inescapably hot topic so far this year, it would most certainly be the emergence of AI, how it will shape the future of our creative industry and, quite frankly, everything else beyond it.
In this case, it’s inaccurate to think about how AI will shape the future, a more fitting statement would be to think about how AI is shaping the present. Because here we find ourselves, already at the mercy of the big-brain AI Large Language Models (LLM), trained on huge swathes of data, marching around semi-supervised, ignoring Asimov’s ‘Three Laws of Robotics’ and ultimately plotting the demise of mankind. Or so the film script goes.
Thankfully, we’re not quite there yet, but where are we? That seems to be the head scratching question occupying much of the industry, and even if we figure that bit out, where will we be in six months’ – let alone a years’ – time? That’s the problem with dealing with exponential change, once you’ve found your footing, you realise the floor is now 10 feet above your head and raining discarded ChatGPT prompts and Midjourney generative images down upon you.
As ever, our industry has opened the door to welcome the innovation, perhaps partly in the hope that we’ll be spared during the impending apocalypse, but not least because it has become impossible to ignore the knocking. In a recent podcast, early internet pioneer Marc Andreessen, stated his belief that AI ‘is going to be like air, it’s going to be everywhere, and you will just have to figure out how to live [with it] in this world’.* And so, as we drink down our AI-air soup, we desperately look for a point of context by which to benchmark this innovation.
What we find are numbers that are startling. The time taken for the most generation-defining tech companies to reach 1 million users has been on an impressive trend downwards: Facebook? 10 months. Spotify? 5 months. Instagram? 2.5 months. OpenAI’s ChatGPT, the most popular AI LLM to date, took 5 days to reach 1 million active users.* (Meta’s new kid on the block, Threads, has since reportedly reached 1 million users in under 2 hours, though that was with a good kick up-field from its older sibling, Instagram.)
Let’s scale that up. How about the time taken to reach 100m users? Again, the trend is down and to the right, with TikTok the most recent title holder at 9 months. ChatGPT however, did it in two. In fact, the LLM has recorded the fastest adoption rate of any tech product ever.*
Thus, the gold rush ensues. Total generative AI funding in Q1 2023 exceeded the total for the entirety of 2022 by a rate of 4x.* In a recent report, McKinsey benchmarked generative AI’s impact on productivity as having the potential to add trillions (with a ‘t’) of dollars in value to the global economy.* ‘What of us?’ I hear you cry, well Goldman Sachs estimates that AI could expose some 300m full-time jobs to automation.* Help.
With that rate of growth and level of interest, it’s clear the cat is not just out of the bag, but it has bounded fully out of sight. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t be overcome by fear, for before us lies an abundance of opportunity. Speaking at Cannes, NVIDIA founder and CEO Jensen Huang expressed his belief that whilst AI will ‘supercharge’ creators across industries, it is up to us “to direct this AI to generate content that [is] aligned to your values and your brand tone.”* Joy, a role for us humans.
We’ve certainly seen it first-hand here at 50 Sport, as our creative teams have taken on the challenge of bringing the beast to heel and exploring the possibilities offered up by this nascent technology. And those possibilities are far-reaching, whether it’s via one of the now numerous LLMs, or generative image sites such as Midjourney or Dall-E, to the quite astounding AI video software offered by Stable Diffusion or Runway. Those in specialist roles now have transformative tools in their arsenal, and it’s up to us all to define how far we go in embracing them to shape our industry. (Not least us lowly Client Servicing folk, who battle our own existential angst with the arrival of much more charming, less-caffeinated AI communicators.)
And so, to AI’s role in shaping sport. We’ve already come a long way since the fledgling application of big data seen in the Billy Beane ‘Moneyball’ days. Data-driven insights and analysis are commonplace across the sporting landscape, and AI will revolutionise all that has come before it, so much so that it is forecasted the AI-powered sports sector will already be worth $19.9bn (£15.6bn) by 2030, a 10x growth from where it stood in 2021.*
What’s most interesting for teams and athletes is the democratisation of the playing field across all corners of sport, no longer do big budgets or staff numbers need stand in the way of progress.* Automated machine learning is becoming the workhorse of lesser resourced competitors, whether that’s through providing performance data and recommendations, training optimisation, injury risk reduction, or through the fulfilment of ‘back-room staff’ roles such as recruitment and tactical analysis. The bar will continue to rise ever higher, and as our old friend Andreessen succinctly frames it, what happens when everyone has a 140+ IQ assistant with infinite knowledge (and patience) helping them?*
That democratisation has the potential to extend deep into the fan experience, the increased availability of data in lower leagues and tournaments can be harnessed by AI and turned into automated coverage and journalism, using natural language to build narratives around games, all whilst monitoring fan sentiment to optimise messaging in real time and react to negative sentiment ‘appropriately’ (so let’s play nicely everyone).*
Once you factor in the already future-facing, experience-enhancing AR and VR tech (hello, Apple Vision Pro), suddenly the AI soup thickens into custard, and every fan has a game day experience tailored exclusively to them, at home or in the stadium. These personalised moments can extend as far as your imagination can take you; curated highlights, customised discounts, biometric response-based experiences, the list goes on (and on).* Sports organisations and marketers will have the opportunity to bridge the real and virtual worlds in a way that’s never been done before, to truly immerse every fan into the sport they love.
So, as we watch the inevitable tide wash over all corners of the industry, we’re left wondering, what happens next? The honest truth is that no one really knows. And maybe that’s okay. Perhaps all that is clear is that harnessing AI is the next stage in unlocking humanity’s collective potential. Perhaps in turn it will do much to remind us that the essence of human connection, empathy, and our own shared experiences is irreplaceable. Time will tell. In many ways we are like explorers of a new world; we must all go together. (Special thanks to the LLM that co-authored this closing statement).