SportsPro Hackathon 2022: Reviewing the top solutions for sport’s sustainable future


Ten universities took part in the second edition of the SportsPro Hackathon from 8th to 10th April, when students were tasked with designing sustainable solutions for the sports industry. Here, SportsPro profiles the top three ideas and offers a team-by-team rundown of each concept put forward.

Students from some of the leading sports business courses around the world assembled virtually in early April for the second edition of the SportsPro Hackathon, which this year was co-hosted by Wonderful Copenhagen.

The event, which took place over more than 50 hours from 8th to 10th April, featured 20 teams from ten different universities, including the University of East London, Bournemouth University, Sheffield Hallam University, Loughborough University, and the AMOS Sport Business School. Three US universities also took part this year – Ohio University, New York’s Adelphi University and Columbia University – with entries from the University College of Northern Denmark (UCN) and Fifa’s International Centre for Sports Studies (CIES) completing a competitive field.

Similar to the inaugural edition in 2021, the participating teams were once again tasked with developing solutions within the triple bottom line framework of people, planet and profit. They also had to ensure that their ideas aligned with the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), with the overall aim of putting forward a concept that would make the sports industry more sustainable.

Final presentations by each team were assessed by a panel of five judges, which comprised of Wonderful Copenhagen’s head of sustainability Pil Krogh Tygesen, The Sustainability Report founder Matthew Campelli, Sport Positive Summit founder and chief executive Claire Poole, 5T Sports founder Aileen McManamon, and professor Simon Chadwick of Paris’ Emlyon Business School.

Over the course of the weekend, the contestants were able to draw on the advice of a team of vastly experienced mentors from organisations such as Intel, World Rugby, The Ocean Race, Euroleague Basketball, Oracle, and the Seattle Kraken. The event also featured a Q&A with Susie Tomson, the director of sustainability at ThinkBeyond, and a project management masterclass from Chris Collins, president of NorthStar Solutions Group.

The challenges

Primarily related to the city of Copenhagen and its support of sustainable solutions and infrastructures, there were three challenges for the students to choose from.

In the first challenge, inspired by the Danish city’s SailGP event in August, teams were tasked with developing a product, solution or business model that would help to create the most sustainable mass viewership event in the sports industry.

The second challenge, built around Ironman Copenhagen, asked teams to present sustainable concepts that could be applied by mass participation event organisers, while the third task involved creating a solution for stadiums, venues and multi-use arenas such as the CopenHill ski slope.

The Winners

First place: UEL Phoenix

University: University of East London (UEL)

Challenge: Mass viewership

Product: EcoSport

Team members: Shahrukh Sohail, Akash Joseph, Nimish Rampal

The winner of the first challenge and overall event was the UEL Phoenix team, whose stated aim was to make sports 100 per cent carbon neutral.

With that in mind, the team pitched the EcoSport app, which is built around a rewards-based programme and educates fans on how they can help make their favourite sports more sustainable.

After downloading the app, fans would be able to earn points and discounts on things like food, travel, accommodation and merchandise for adopting more eco-friendly behaviours such as taking public transport, eating vegan food and purchasing sustainable merchandise products.

Ultimately, the app would encourage fans to switch to a more sustainable lifestyle around the sports that they follow, 

allowing users to log their activity and access insights regarding their eco-friendly habits. Another unique selling point is that the platform would be sport-agnostic and scalable, while the team highlighted that its idea meets two of the UN’s SDGs.

During their market research, UEL Phoenix, who will present their concept on day two of SportsPro Live in London, discovered that 83.8 per cent of those surveyed would alter their sports behaviour if it were to have a positive impact on climate change, while 94.6 per cent would be prepared to do so if they received rewards in return.

In terms of the team’s business plan, UEL Phoenix said EcoSport would require UK£250,000 (US$325,000) in year one, followed by UK£5 million (US$6.5 million) in seed funding to help it reach one million users within two years. The team envisaged generating revenue from corporate partnerships, grants from international donors and ad placements, meaning the app would be free to use for fans.

“What me and the judges liked about this particular project,” said The Sustainability Report’s Matthew Campelli, “was that it combined gamification, it combined fan engagement, [and] it looked at all three [aspects] of the triple bottom line.”

Second place: Markit

University: Columbia University

Challenge: Venues

Product: Markit

Team members: Agustin Montes de Oca, Pramod Nair, Yash Agarwal, Andrew Moss

Columbia University’s Markit concept secured top prize for the third challenge, with the team’s solution for addressing the sports industry’s contribution to textile waste winning over the judges.

The team’s research revealed that US sports apparel accounts for 3.4 million tons of textile waste every year, equivalent to US$113 billion worth of material, with professional franchises losing between US$500,000 and US$1 million in unsold merchandise per season.

To tackle the problem, Markit would seek to leverage stadiums and arenas in the US as collection hubs for sports consumer waste, creating a circular model whereby materials are diverted away from landfills into resale, recycling and upcycling streams.

Through the initiative, sports fans would be able to collect Markit credits from donating their unwanted apparel, which would then be sorted and either recycled, upcycled or listed. Reusable products would then be made available on Markit’s ‘re-commerce’ platform, which would allow shoppers to redeem credits and access discounts. Orders would then be fulfilled using sustainable shipping methods, including free stadium pick-ups.

Meeting as many as six of the UN’s SDGs, the team envisaged that Markit’s key partners would be US stadiums and arenas, venue logistics providers, and professional sports teams. The students projected that Markit’s revenue would reach more than US$66 million by year five, which would be generated through its re-commerce sales, as well as selling textiles to upcycling organisations and high-value recyclers, in addition to a ‘shipping and carbon offset’ fee for home deliveries.

“Markit won because of its clear focus on real sustainable facts and its bold ambitions to generate both behaviour level change and systemic level change,” noted Pil Krogh Tygesen of Wonderful Copenhagen.

Third place: Team Nera

University: CIES

Challenge: Mass participation

Product: Apptivity

Team members: Adél Koves, Alberto Trovamala, Emmi Zoccolan, Nabor Garcia, Nada Sakr, Rong Chen

Team Nera won the mass participation challenge for their proposed Apptivity fitness app.

Designed to consolidate the most iconic mass sporting events, the platform would allow participants to convert their movement into digital currency which can later be exchanged for sustainable initiatives.

Highlighting the fact that more than one million people take part in marathons annually, Team Nera’s idea aimed to leverage the growing popularity of wearables and fitness apps by building an engaged online community where users can compete with each other in private or public leagues. They would then be able to exchange the points they earn for sustainable initiatives – whether it be ocean preservation, reforestation or recycling – sponsored by the app’s strategic partners.