Data as capital and ethical implications in digital sport business models

Daniel Read, Aaron C.T. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)


Professional sport has entered the digital economy as organisations adopt data-driven business model innovations. The purpose of this article is to highlight the potential ethical vulnerabilities sport organisations and their leaders face when adopting digital sport business models. Here, we treat data as a species of capital that can be converted into economic capital once it undergoes a computational transformation via a data-driven business model innovation. We argue for two advantages in this approach. First, it helps make transparent the mechanisms through which digital sport business models work. Second, it reveals how the extraction and application of big data exacerbates inequitable power relationships between sport organisations and supporters – the big data divide – that leads to ethical vulnerabilities for sport organisations and their consumers. We suggest that sport consumers might be particularly vulnerable to digital data risk as a consequence of their high levels of brand loyalty and involvement, which tend to encourage trust in the sport properties soliciting, analysing, and monetising their data. Platform broadcasting partnerships, e-ticketing in smart stadiums, and cryptocurrency-based fan tokens are used as examples of data-driven business model innovations based on the conversion of data to capital, demonstrating how sport organisations risk violating the trust of supporters when using digital strategies. The article concludes with directions for future research to deliver an ethically informed data-driven sports industry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1389-1408
Number of pages20
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2023
Externally publishedYes


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