This week I attended the Business of Sport Summit (BOSS), put on by the team at Connect Media Group. BOSS examines sport industry trends; looks at strategies and tactics to innovate, grow and succeed; and brings together Australia’s leading sporting industry executives.
Currently, being involved in the not-for-profit sporting space, I find there is a lack of innovation and creativity where risk aversion is common. So to keep up to date and refresh a number of important corporate sport growth ideas, I found this conference to be one of the best I have attended. It is very similar to the Sport Matters Conference, held in Singapore prior to the Formula 1 each year. So let’s take a look at some snapshots from the 2 day conference, with Part 1 of a 4 part series.
“Anyone can be successful at cost-cutting, only a few talented CEO’s can change the game”
Rejuvenating the Olympic Spirit
New Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) CEO, Matt Carroll opened BOSS talking about rejuvenating the Olympic Spirit. He focused on “be the leaders of change, not the object of change”, as the AOC takes on a more proactive path in the Australian Sporting Landscape. During change, he leads by “keeping the ship sailing, the crew working and everyone calm”, as you must get the fundamentals right before you can focus on embarking in the future.
Matt emphasised the importance of “pushing the reset button” and then commencing the rejuvenation process, when in a negative state. Moving forward the Olympic movement is about understanding what it means to the youth and being more proactive in community engagement all the time, rather than just game time. He spoke of the importance of reducing duplication across sport, sports becoming more efficient and utilising the Olympic alumni more effectively.
The Front of the Pack
Marina Go (West Tigers Rugby League Football Club), John Harnden AM (Australian Grand Prix Corporation), Jeremy Loeliger (National Basketball League), and Andrew Fagan (Adelaide Football Club) spoke about the “competitive pressures of the modern business landscape”, and the focus of sport leaders needing to seek more diverse opportunities.
Marina led the conversation talking about the high cost of sport and reaching a revenue plateau. With changing consumer behaviours, culture and social in Australia, sports have never had to be more savvier about how they do business than now. She emphasised the importance of connecting with emotional stories, hiring people that know more than you do and being prepared to make the right decisions even if they may be unpopular.
John spoke about the ever increasing complexity of our society and sports being intensely scrutinised under the microscope. He felt that leaders needed to deliver the compelling and stand out from the crowd, as competition for the fans time will continue to increase. His message was about “compelling through simplicity” and how do you frame it up? John concluded with, do things differently and bring people along to create a united vision.
The National Basketball League has gone through a very successful revitalisation period under the helm of Jeremy Loeliger. Jeremy discussed the complexity and nature of change as the paradigms of sport are changing and change is becoming more disruptive. Resisting change is no longer an option and the nature of change has changed. He discussed that “you are never too big to fail” and the importance of being nimble so you can embrace change that is efficient and quick. His closing remarks focused on “how can you remain ahead of the curb” and being proactive in “time well spent or time well-changed”.
“Warriors are those who get up when they have been whacked”. Andrew talked about paradigm shifts in the industry, being prepared to deliver against the traditional and with every challenge there is an opportunity. He spoke about developing more leaders in an organisation, mobilising resources and delivering a compelling vision. Something he finds invaluable is to “Gauge the Team” by getting staff to answer 6 key questions, each week, that relate to the organisations values. He has a commitment to do things better, develop intellectual curiosity and be prepared to “do it first”. He spoke about hiring experts from outside of sport as the complexity is too much for generalists.
As a group they talked about how we run super complex sporting structures that deal with radical change day-in-and-day-out. The need for diversity has never been greater, to ensure we can deal with the changing demographics of Australia. They feel there will be more cross-code collaboration in Australia as it makes sense from an economic; fan and partner; and family attractiveness point-of-view.
They concluded with their thoughts around drawing people in. It was emphasised that we needed to get people to be a part of the conversation, as well as delivering stories and narratives that people fall in love with. “Win your way”.
Sports Teams and the Digital Fan Experience
Paul Rogers (AS Roma) delivered one of the best sessions of BOSS. He started with, “What happens when you wake up one morning and realise your entire digital strategy is wrong?” AS Roma have one of the leading fan engagement strategies in sport and it all started with what they got wrong with their strategy. Paul focused on getting people to sit up and take notice and realise that it is ok for fans to have a second team.
Top 10 mistakes for AS Roma:
- Prioritised their website, rather than how people wanted to consume
- Created content for increased website ratings
- Tried to force website visits and therefore missed the conversation
- Wanted to control the What, When & Where
- Get fans to follow on all social media platforms, repeating the same content
- Used social channels as one-way communications
- Didn’t open up to great user-generated content
- Promoted products but didn’t respond to questions, therefore letting customer service go
- Ask for data but didn’t treat as an individual, delivering generalised content rather than local
- Took fan support for granted
“We are in the attention industry”
Paul Rogers AS ROMA
Communications Feedback from Fans:
- This is about me as a fan, not you as a brand
- I won’t leave social media
- I don’t want to visit your website
- My time is valuable
- If it isn’t instant, it better be incredible (I want it now!)
- No 3rd chances (You can’t trick people)
- I trust my friends, family and complete strangers rather than your brands
- I am not a number (personal touch)
- Expect it to be live and on-demand; unfiltered; and epic
“how are you helping me and how are you making my life better?”
Paul Rogers AS ROMA
AS Roma’s New Digital Rules
- Put fan’s 1st (every decision)
- Create new ways to empower fans (They are content creators, they want to play a part and express themselves)
- Simplify everything and make it easier for fans to consume content
- Tell stories in the most visual way possible (what is the best platform and way to communicate)
- Fans aren’t always looking for our content, our contents need to find fans (Paid)
- Website needs to offer fans and visitors something more than social does
- Question every piece of content (If you are bored producing it, maybe fans will feel the same way)
- Social media is not a broadcast channel (we are not the only voice on our feed)
- Create content they want to share with their own followers
- Success is measured by engagement, not likes and followers
- Use analytics to understand what fans consume and enjoy
- Publish content that interests fans – not the content that interests you
- Be flexible – if content isn’t working, refine it and then move on (experiment)
- Help fans find what they are looking for, not what you want them to find
- Don’t take yourself too seriously all the time (its ok to have fun and keep people guessing)
“If you are bored producing it, maybe fans will feel the same way.”
Paul Rogers AS ROMA
The Future of Sport
Scott Dinsdale from Accenture led with, “what is the ‘Napster’ moment for sport from a digital point-of-view?”. He spoke about the degree of transformation with digital as the focus. There are changes in consumer value, high disruption to incumbent power centres and a few winners are taking most of the outcomes.
Scott provided five challenges in digital transformation in sport:
- Questioning entrenched “beliefs” (note: facts and beliefs are two different things)
- Lens – where does achieving your outcomes get in the way of delivering the best customer outcomes?
- Lens – Competing in a market of exceptional
- Build value through connecting vs controlling
- Lens – value (Metcalf’s law)
- Lens – 365 days or bust
- Making phygital magic
- Lens – Holy grail
- Lens – Stay distant to the AR/VR/e-sport long game at your peril
- Digital from the inside out
- Lens – Incumbency’s structural Achilles heal
- Lens – The Code, writ-board, as multi-sided platform
- Paying for all this
- Lens – order of magnitude (budget) shift (need to shift marketing to 20% of budget)
- Lens – platform economies (how is a collaboration going to scale revenue?)
- Lens – your handicap: little disruption as yet
Sport as a Theatre
Patrick Kidd OBE (Invictus Games), Commodore John Markos (Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race Committee), Neil Wilson (Victoria Racing Club) and Nick Vanzetti (ESL Turtle Entertainment) spoke about how can strategic partnerships with government, sponsors and stakeholders be optimised to improve the delivery of world class fixtures?
Patrick led the conversation talking about sport as a vehicle. Connecting to the community about lifestyle, celebrating peoples ability and overcoming obstacles of what you can do is what Invictus Games are all about. He mentioned that the best events have a “purpose” and have a clear vision on what is the context, connection and inspiration. The “power of purpose” connects the dots and helps drive an appropriate legacy.
Cross-state engagement is critical for the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race to effectively leverage stakeholder investment and enhance fan engagement according to John. They have shifted the mindsets away from “that’s how we have always done it”. They focus on ensuring sponsors come back and say “thanks for looking after us”.
Neil is all about re-imagining the Melbourne Cup through understanding that on-course it is much more than just a horse race and off course they need more engagement than just the one week period around the event. The Melbourne Cup now makes more money out of content than they do from wagering. They are beginning to build the hero perspective around the participants (jockeys). They understand that they need to shift the value-proposition for those at the event and potential consumers in the future.
Nick blew our minds on the out-of-this-world growth of e-sports and the tribal nature that is exponentially building amongst its fans. E-sports is the new age of sport players, with the players having greater fan engagement than most traditional sport athletes. Their whole focus is on how they can continue to build fan engagement and grow fan engagement.
Part 2 of the Business of Sport Summit, released in two days, will include:
- Jack Elkins (Orlando Magic) – innovation playbook
- Clive Dickens (Seven West Media) – innovate, disrupt or die
- A panel will speak on value-driven partnerships
- Dr Adir Shiffman (Catapult Sports) – empowering athletes and encouraging innovation
- Billie Whitehouse (Wearable-X) – bringing technology and fan engagement together as one
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