Innovation in the sports industry is constantly evolving, with activity driven by digital advancements, high-level of social media interactions, broad appeal for immersive sports experience, and fan engagement, as well as the growing importance of technologies such as virtual and augmented reality, blockchain, artificial intelligence, IoT, robotics, cloud, data analytics, wearable tech and many more. In the last three years alone, there have been over 48,000 patents filed and granted in the sports industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in Sports: Exercise gamification

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity. 

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have. 

20+ innovations will shape the sports industry 

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the sports industry using innovation intensity models built on over 101,000 patents, there are 20+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry. 

Within the emerging innovation stage, portable dockable scoring machines, aural feedback type sporting equipment, and activity tracking camera network are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Adjustable weight putters, surf simulators, and polyurethane sports accessories are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are sport bats and sport rackets, which are now well established in the industry.  

Innovation S-curve for the sports industry 

Exercise gamification is a key innovation area in sports 

Exercise gamification allows users to play games during exercise through game-oriented fitness applications. Fitness products are gamified to enhance the fitness experience and help the user in reaching their desired goal. 

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 80+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established sports companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of exercise gamification. 

Key players in exercise gamification – a disruptive innovation in the sports industry  

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators. 

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’. 

Patent volumes related to exercise gamification

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
NIKE 602 Unlock company profile
Peloton Interactive 98 Unlock company profile
Apple 79 Unlock company profile
adidas 79 Unlock company profile
iFIT Health & Fitness 78 Unlock company profile
LG 65 Unlock company profile
Lululemon Athletica 57 Unlock company profile
Samsung Group 57 Unlock company profile
Amer Sports 40 Unlock company profile
Alphabet 40 Unlock company profile
Icon Ip 39 Unlock company profile
Technogym 32 Unlock company profile
Technikka Conexion 31 Unlock company profile
Sony Group 26 Unlock company profile
TOCA Football 24 Unlock company profile
SHOOT A WAY 22 Unlock company profile
Pentland Group Holdings 22 Unlock company profile
Fox Factory Holding 21 Unlock company profile
Koninklijke Philips 20 Unlock company profile
Whoop 18 Unlock company profile
Nautilus 18 Unlock company profile
Tonal Systems 17 Unlock company profile
Toyota Motor 17 Unlock company profile
NuStep 16 Unlock company profile
F45 Training 16 Unlock company profile
Interactive Strength 15 Unlock company profile
FitStar Labs 15 Unlock company profile
InfoMotion Sports Technologies 15 Unlock company profile
Lagree Technologies 14 Unlock company profile
Renovia 14 Unlock company profile
Neofect 13 Unlock company profile
Cleveland Clinic Foundation 13 Unlock company profile
ASICS 12 Unlock company profile
AlterG 12 Unlock company profile
Intel 12 Unlock company profile
Nintendo 11 Unlock company profile
Huawei Investment & Holding 11 Unlock company profile
IncludeFitness 11 Unlock company profile
MAD Apparel 10 Unlock company profile
Boston Biomotion 10 Unlock company profile
Pillar Vision 10 Unlock company profile
Seiko Epson 10 Unlock company profile
MAD DOGG ATHLETICS 10 Unlock company profile
Funky Moves 10 Unlock company profile
Arccos Golf 9 Unlock company profile
ROHM 9 Unlock company profile
International Business Machines 9 Unlock company profile
Polar Electro 9 Unlock company profile
Microsoft 9 Unlock company profile
Performance Health 9 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Nike is one of the leading patent filers in exercise gamification in sports. Some other key patent filers in the retailing industry include adidas and Lululemon Athletica. Exercise gamification is one of the accelerating innovation spheres of cloud-based technology, where adoption is steadily increasing. 

In terms of application diversity, Whoop & FitStar Labs leads the pack. ROHM and Lululemon Athletica stand in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Amer Sports holds the top position, followed by Renovia and Nike. 

The concept of fitness gamification is widely gaining acceptance as gamifying exercises positively influence more engagement. Fitness connected with rewards improves user motivation, bolsters mental health and virtual-based exercises can even benefit people with a variety of health conditions. Exercise gamifications include various app-based workouts, fitness equipment, exergaming consoles, and even corelated (non-digital) methods. 

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the sports industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Sports


GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.