Sports + Technology Convergence: Two Thumbs Up

Enlightening, educational, and entertaining. That’s one way to describe the experience last week for those who attended SGMA’s Sports + Technology Convergence.

Enlightening, educational, and entertaining. That's one way to describe the experience last week for those who attended SGMA's Sports + Technology Convergence (October 24-26; Estancia Resort & Spa; La Jolla, California). This inaugural event was a business to business experience for leaders in the sporting goods industry and leading technology companies to learn how technology will continue to impact all aspects of the sporting goods business – from fitness equipment to sports apparel to running shoes. In all, nearly 160 people from inside and outside the sporting goods industry were in attendance. In addition to the U.S., there was representation from Canada, Scotland, Finland, Germany, and The Netherlands.

Those professionals in attendance ranged from senior management to engineers to merchandising managers to design directors to product developers. Companies represented included Nike, adidas, Russell Athletic, Spalding, The North Face, Under Armour, Rollerblade, Spalding, Saucony, New Balance, Easton, among others. The presenting speakers represented Motorola, Yahoo, Intel, Google, Dow Corning, MIT, Digital Orchid, Fantasy Sports Association, Rocketfish, HOPSports, among others.

“Our speakers focused on how technology will impact and provide new opportunities to create, distribute, sell, and market sports products,” said SGMA President Tom Cove. “Those in attendance learned how technology can enhance access to and frequency of sports participation. From a product perspective, technological improvements have impacted the entire industry – from baseball bats to tennis racquets to workout clothing to walking shoes.”

“This program was both educational and enlightening,” said SGMA Chairman Tom Rogge (President; Cramer Products; Gardner, KS). “It was a worthwhile investment of my time.”

The campus-like design of the Estancia Resort made it an ideal location for an event of this magnitude. Access to the Learning Center and Learning Theatre kept everybody in close proximity to one another from throughout the conference.

In keeping with the theme of the STC, all attendees were allowed to use hand-held personal digital assistants (PDAs) from Visiontree which allowed everybody to view the event's schedule, read the overall list of attendees, record a comment/opinion,

The comments from those in attendance were filled with positives:

“It's been fantastic. I loved the range of topics covered by the keynote speakers. The speakers planted the seeds for what we'll see in the future.” – Catherine Sun, New Balance Athletic Shoe, Inc.

“It's been my first event with SGMA. The Motorola ME program was great. It was a good use of my time.” -- Adam Hoey, Sprint Nextel

“I'm glad that I came. The networking has been great.” -- Joe Pacitti, Sporting Chance Initiative

“The Sports + Technology Convergence was very interesting. The cross-fertilization of ideas and interests was quite clear. This conference was well worth my time.” – Run Sutton, Accusplit

“This program was very well organized and a very professional event. For those who did not attend have missed out on the chance to learn about new technologies.” – Larry Stevens, Exercise Friends

There were five main keynote speakers at the STC:

Scott Martin: Senior Director of Global Marketing for Motorola's Mobile ME products
Peter Moore: Microsoft's Corporate VP -- Entertainment and Devices Division
Jim Carroll: this futurist is “One of the 50 International Names to Know” by Online Journalism Review
Ray Kurzweil: this inventor is called “the restless genius” by the Wall Street Journal and “the ultimate thinking machine” by Forbes
Jim Crawford: Retail Industry Analyst

In all, there were 46 speakers/presenters from inside and outside the sporting goods and fitness industries who presented nearly 20 breakout sessions. Their comments were worth noting:

“There's a great deal of technology out there which can be incorporated into traditional sporting goods,” said Troy Severson of Intel.

“We are leapfrogging Hollywood in our ability to produce interactive entertainment,” said Peter Moore of Microsoft.

“For consumers, it's not about buying a product, it's about the experience,” said Scott Martin of Motorola.

All attendees of the event were given an XBOX game from Microsoft and an interactive sports system from Xavix. And, a pair of Oakley Razrwire Eyewear (with Motorola Bluetooth technology) was given away in a promotional drawing among those who registered on the Sports + Technology website. The winner was Graham Johnston (program manager; Sporting Chance Initiative; Scotland).

In addition to the list of speeches and discussions by thought leaders/experts, there was an Interactive Lounge. There, attendees were able to have hands-on experiences with products that exemplified how technology has impacted the sports and fitness industries.

Plans are currently underway to hold the 2nd Sports + Technology Convergence in the fall of 2007.

The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, owner of the SGMA Spring Market and the Sports Research Partnership, is the global business trade association of manufacturers, retailers, and marketers in the sports products industry. SGMA enhances industry vitality and fosters sports, fitness, and active lifestyle participation. More information about SGMA can be found at