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Innovation encompasses much more than most people expect. Let’s explore the different types and domains of innovation and discover the steps to implement innovation successfully. 

Act now, prepare for tomorrow, know where you’re going in the future. Discover more about innovation in the sports industry and how we can help you.
Defintion of innovation

What is innovation in sports

In short, innovation refers to creating more effective processes, products, and ideas.

Further definitions include translating ideas into actions that will provide value for which customers will pay or reward you with their loyalty – or will increase efficiency of your company resulting in cost savings.

The purpose of innovation is to win new customers, new markets or new products or to streamline business processes in order to save costs. Rather than a different department or different tasks, innovation should become a mentality, being a main driver of business growth.

4 types of innovations

A very common idea is that companies are either innovative or they’re not. Think of some companies you’d consider innovative, why is that? They launch the newest apps, products or solve new needs? The latter is called radical innovation, and is only one type of innovation that’s possible to implement in your business, and the most risky one at the same time. There are a lot of models that divide innovations into different types, but let’s go over the most common one as a starter: 

Existing technology in a new market

New technology in a new market

Existing technology in an existing market

New technology in an existing market


Architectural innovation

This type of innovation is simply taking the lessons, skills and overall technology and applying them to a different market. 

Similar to the same model in business development, this is a low risk strategy as the business case of the technology has previously been proven. In most cases, it will requires tweaking of the technology to match the requirements of the new market. 

NN Running Club _ the first digital running club in Belgium

An example here is a case I launched myself for Energy Lab. We used their corporate vitality software, designed to accomodate in-company training sessions and events,   and repurposed the main elements together with a lot of additional features such as a blog section, dashboards, invite functions so that we could use it as the first digital sports club in Belgium: the NN Running club. 


Radical innovation

Radical innovation is the most exciting type of innovation, and is what most people have in mind when thinking about it. It’s all about creating revolutionary technology to solve needs that haven’t been met before, and can even involve creating new markets or industries. 


Incremental innovation

This type of innovation can be as simple as updating your current technology or app. 

This is the most common form of innovation as every company apply it in one form or another. In short, it optimizes your current technology to increase value to the customer by adding features, bug fixing, design changes etc. This is the usually the least exciting form of innovation, though it can be crucial for your survival. Take the marketing, sales and customer service automation tool Hubspot for example. They have been growing and innovating tremendously the past years, but decided this year to focus on optimizing current technology instead of launching new features. A decision which was warmly welcomed by the user community.

Example of architectural innovation by Nike. This application allows you to design your own shoe.

A famous example here is the Nike ‘Shoes by you’ application which allows you to custom design your own shoe. 

I saw a recent and brilliant example of this in Belgium, where the Fitness chain Jims fitness, recently launched a mobile application. The challenge? Many customers buy a subscription but hardly ever use it, which increases the churn rate of these customers.  Their solution? A mobile appllication, that allows them to access live video’s of club lessons, accessing stretching tips and full training sessions right from their home. 


Disruptive innovation

This involves applying new technology or processes to your company’s current market. 

Important remark: at first, new tech will be inferior to existing technology. Initially it might be more expensive, fewer features and will take some updates before it can compete with existing companies. But when they reach this point, older companies might be too late to catch up. 

Innovation throughout your business

Focus domains

The types of innovation above can occur in different domains. I divide these in innovations that enhance your business goals, marketing goals or innovate your product or service. 


Business model innovation Innovations to make your lives easier: process innovation Innovate your way of working


Customer experience innovation Innovating your communication strategy

Product or service

innovation in sports nutrition innovation in sportswear innovation in sports medicine. > Leave this up to the research partners

How to get started

Innovation modellng

How to translate ideas into actions quick and efficient. 

For innovation projects we will use the techniques of design thinking. Similar to to the inbound marketing strategy for marketing & sales, where you apply customer centric thinking to anything you do.  As we always have the business goals in mind, we’re basically matching what’s desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable

The approach here will be slightly different depending if you’re starting from an overall consumer / business point of view versus a specific problem chosen. But here are the main steps involved:

Insights on the problem

As always, it starts with empathy: psychology again, place yourself in the shoes of your customer and make sure you truly understand the needs of those you’re designing for. As mentioned earlier, these needs can be part of the horizon 1, 2 or 3. Current issues, problems that will soon arise, or future problems that probably don’t even exist yet. 

What your role will be

Where is your place here? Measure success. Stakeholders. Defining your role and KPI’s are important to know where you’re going. 

This will be the point where you hand over your briefing to external partners or peers.

A minimum viable product 

Create or edit an existing solution. This is the phase where you will quickly create a MVP – minimum viable product – to test your idea and launch it quickly. This will avoid an idea to get stuck in continuous development. 


The area to focus upon

Here you will generate a lot of ideas without boundaries or restrictions. The sky is the limit. Albert Einstein once said: taking ideas from different industries and applying them to new markets is where the real genius happens. So brainstorm, but also do some research about existing solutions and they might inspire you to come up with new ideas as well.

About the future

Time to think about the future vision within the solution you chose. It’s important to know what your house should look like before you start building it. Here you should develop the future vision, which will be tightly linked with how you defined your role here in the previous step.

Implement your solution

Get your solution to your potential customers and ensure you get feedback quickly and thoroughly. If it’s a new service, rule of thumb is that you should have customers paying for your service as soon as possible. It’s not because they like it, they will actually pay for it. 

Another important factor


And depending from the sport you’re in, as every sport has different subcultures, values, channels and influencers.

Focus points in sports

  • New way of working > keeping employees engaged

  • Big data

  • Content on demand 

  • Marketing automation/ automating repetitive tasks  

  • Role of the sports federation

VR Tennis

Future of sport

  • Do you want to brainstorm about how we can measure sports participation objectively? 
  • What can e-sports mean for the future of sports? 

  • How can we get non-active people to move or sport? 

  • How will people sport in the future? 

  • Who will they sport with and where?

  • Which financial means will be available for sports?

  • Which sports will be popular?

Ethical debate

  • Will we still have jobs? 
  • Will technology take over from personal contact, thus losing all the social benefits sports has at the moment? 
  • What with privacy? Do we want to become a fully government or company controlled world? 
  • What’s the future for mankind if AI is taking over? 
  • Ethical questions? Top sports: how can we divide into categories, gender equality and use of technology or technological enhancements?
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The whole point about innovation is that’s it’s supposed to be new. Got any new ideas and you’re looking for guidance on how to implement them? Let me know! 


It was a pleasure to work with Julie! She is a fast deliverer and has an attitude of great professionalism: she is proactive, focused on detail, interested and hardworking. Does all the tasks quickly and well. A great asset to any team. Julie was in charge of the strategy and detailed workflow creation of the NN Running Club community. As a community manager she defined the structure of ads, posts, mailings, and partly frontend platform features. Julie is also a very nice and attentive person to work with, a real asset to any team!
Robin Decottignies Energy Lab explaining how he experiences the cooperation with Julie - MySueno - for the strategy & set-up of the NN Running Club.
Robin Decottignies
Account Manager Energy Lab
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Julie Vandenhouweele - Marketing & Innovation expert

 Tel: +32 474 49 24 13 

Email: julie@mysueno.leansights.be

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Digital transformation of sports businesses
Act now, prepare for tomorrow, know where you’re going in the future. Discover more about innovation in the sports industry and how we can help you.