What Does the Subscription Economy Mean for Sport and Recreation?


First and foremost the subscription economy means opportunity. It’s not a threat to individual governing bodies, or associations & clubs, or even to training providers. Nor is it a burden. It’s a massive opportunity to embrace and engage participants on their terms and to focus on them, not on your ‘product’. This means change, however. Possibly massive change, but a mindset of opportunity rather than resistance will reward the brave.

Speaking to the Guardian shortly after taking charge of Sport England, CEO Tim Hollingsworth supported this when said, “[the organisation needed to] think and behave differently [to get more people reaping the benefits of exercise] we can’t keep offering the same things to the same people.”

While the focus of the article was primarily disadvantaged groups, Hollingsworth went on to say, “We have to be more entrepreneurial on the digital side. The principle is that you are taking more of a risk for a great return, because if we carry on doing the same things we will get the same output.” Then, referring to creating a ‘lastminute.com for sport’ he said, “It is not quite the silver bullet but it is one of the most fundamental requirements of sport to get right. We are working with the Open Data Institute but it is a huge piece of work because we need the entire sector, including sports clubs and local authorities, to understand the benefit of opening up its data.”

Subscription Economy

According to a YouGov survey, 89% of the British were already subscribing to a subscription service in 2017, up 11% on 2016. This likely includes things like gym memberships which is more of a payment plan and a way to tie people in to a fixed term than what we really mean by the ‘subscription economy’.

No, the focus in the subscription economy is on the customer and is relationship-based not transactional. We should be thinking more of Uber and Spotify and the disruption they caused to the automotive/taxi and music industries, respectively, than the transactional subscriptions offered by gyms.

Netflix is even more interesting from a sport and recreational standpoint. Why? Because it brought different content distribution mediums (TV, movies) under one subscription service, and went on to develop their own content.


Monthly subscriptions. Binge watching. No ads. On-demand through multiple devices/formats. Personalisation. Customisation. But, would Netflix have been so successful had they not been able to aggregate different distribution channels? That’s difficult to know for sure but what is certain is the value it brings to their customers.

What does this mean to me?

As we stated earlier, the subscription economy presents a great opportunity to governing bodies, associations & clubs, and training providers alike. It’s much more than new approaches to pricing or simplifying the membership process. It’s thinking laterally about what your customers want; using data to enable personalisation and customisation; and facilitating multiple sport and recreation activity participation under one service (subscription).

That all means sharing data as Tim Hollingsworth pointed out above. It’s also great news for tahdah as we hold multiple governing bodies data in one multi-tenant, cloud-based system (obviously separately and walled today) making that sharing of data seamless when required.

Not only does tahdah afford the individual the opportunity to manage their multiple activities in one digital system, we can also facilitate governing bodies in truly leveraging the subscription economy, putting their customers front-and-centre in everything they do.

It might be tempting for some to think that the pendulum has swung too far in favour of the customer. If that’s you, then check out the performance of subscription economy companies versus the S&P 500. Revenues over a 5 year period are growing at a factor of 9 greater than the standard index.

Subscription Economy Index

To find out how tahdah can help you bring that growth and participation to your sport, please contact us here.



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