What can the top leaders in sport teach us? This is part 3 of a 4 part series looking at some insights from the Business of Sport Summit (BOSS), which I attended in Sydney last week. Part 1 “Learning’s from the BOSS” and Part 2 “What the BOSS Taught us!” have already been released.
Part 3 continues the theme of globalisation, the future of sport and digital loyalty.
Forging the Future of the A-League
David Gallop AM (Football Federation Australia) is one of the most highly regarded and successful sports leaders in Australia over the past couple of decades. He spoke about where the A-League is going in the future and how they are ensuring they get an increased slice of the market when it comes to bums on seats. It has been a challenging couple of years as fans watching games at stadiums has been on a decline.
Worldwide, soccer is the biggest global sport with over 300,000 clubs, 300 million players and 3 billion fans. Football Federation Australia (FFA) is seeing positive growth in participation numbers, with female girls being the fastest growing demographic. They understand the changing sporting landscape with 50% of Australians having at least one parent born overseas and 25% of Australians being born overseas that there are new opportunities to expand their player and fan base.
Gallop’s team are focusing on “you got to have a team” as they setup to build tribalism into the football communities in Australia. They are looking to expand the A-League from 10 to 12 teams during the next two years and with the high performance program being decentralised from the AIS to A-League club academy programs they seek to bring the players closer to the fans.
The A-League has been positioned to avoid clashes with other winter footy code seasons. They are now looking at the viability to expand with a 2nd tier competition supporting the A-League.
Sporting Storytellers – Driving Engagement
Christine Finnegan (St Kilda Football Club), Andrew Abdo (National Rugby League), Scott Munn (Melbourne City Football Club) and Gavin Kirkman (PGA of Australia) spoke about how to reach new audiences in a congested content and media market.
Christine spoke about how St Kilda Football Club are focusing on what is our territory and where is our flag on the ground? They have identified what St Kilda is all about and how various socio-economic communities blend, merge and live in harmony in one community. The club drives what is good about St Kilda and use that narrative to leverage growth. St Kilda Football Club knows that nothing fuels growth more than winning and the need to get everyone on the bus together.
Andrew discussed the challenges the NRL face including the changing demographics in Australia, how youth consume entertainment and sport, and consumer-focused businesses with scale. The NRL sees opportunities in personalisation through their platforms, profiling by storytelling and partnerships for brand alignment. They use profiling to drive tribalism and to connect with youth.
Scott showed how cross-continent brand alignment can pay dividends for sport clubs. Melbourne City Football Club is part of the City Football Group which includes Manchester City and New York City Football Clubs. The structure of City Football Group is that two aspects (Football Talent – Scouts, and Marketing at a partnership and strategy level) are centralised, and the other aspects having localised departments. There is one global CEO providing consistency across the brand. They are investing in E-Sports Leagues with 386 million global fans.
Gavin continued the focus on changing mindsets and building growth in the female market. They are facing continued downward trends in female participation, although 50% of the attendees at the Australian PGA Championship corporate marquee being female. They continue to seek premium and relevant content, and understand the need to profile and promote Australia’s golf future stars.
Empowering the Consumer
AFL is Australia’s largest sports league from a fan engagement and event attendance point of view. Scott Jendra (AFL) spoke about designing data systems that prioritise fan engagement. He noted the following priorities and issues the AFL are tackling to ensure continued growth:
- Fan Experience
- Strategic Investment
The AFL is focusing on increasing the consumer experience across all platforms, with consistency and ease being at the top of the list. Scott is focusing on new technology to stay ahead of the pack, utilising Google Home and Amazon Alexa to help fans access information that is personalised to them, easier. They are working on strategies to centralising data and how they can monetise data in the future.
Exporting the AFL
David Koch (Port Adelaide Football Club) is most commonly known as a TV presenter on Channel 7’s Sunrise breakfast program, but he is also the influential Chairman of Port Adelaide Football Club (Port Adelaide). David knows the challenge of fundamental change having transformed the club from near insolvency to one of the most innovative sports clubs in the country.
Port Adelaide used a number of pillars to rebuild the club including:
- Bring the heartland back (they had lost trust)
- Broaden management gene pool
- Attract prestigious corporate partners
- Become a better employer
- Think like a start-up (continue to pivot)
They used strategies that allowed for failing fast and cheap to ensure that they could learn and grow quickly. Port Adelaide changed their Board culture and direction by increasing diversity of its members. This included bringing on Holly Ransom, at the tender age of 24 years old, onto the Board.
Port Adelaide took a punt on investing the game into the Asian market. To do this they established an advisory board of expats in Hong Kong to enhance their approach on business and sport political diplomacy. David emphasised the importance of showing commitment to the long-term when dealing with Asia.
Noting that sport as well as health and wellbeing is a major priority for China’s government, they feel AFLX will be the AFL product that is best suited to the Asian market. This is due to rectangular venues already being available, with a staggering 75,000 rectangular fields due to be in existence in China by 2020.
Port Adelaide have focused on the game day experience being built around rituals as they bring people together as one. Their 2018 marketing campaign will focus on “more than the face in the crowd”.
Reaching Out: Digital Drivers for Loyal Fans
Olly Wilton (Twitter Australia), Spencer Retallack (Netball Australia), Antonia Beggs (Cricket Australia) and David Lampitt (SportsRadar) discussed engagement strategies being key drivers for survival, let alone growth in a crowded sporting and entertainment market.
Antonia emphasised the importance of converting participants to fans and using media to tell a story. Cricket Australia focus on being the scriptwriters in the places where people want to consume content. They want to engage fans both at the match and off it with wonderful messages stories of the moment.
Spencer continued the conversation with inspiring the love of the game being a priority and is always asking what we are doing to inspire and connect. They are looking at a fans first pricing strategy and are looking to predict the future rather than ask what people want.
“If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” HENRY FORD
Changing the way world experiences sport and powering fan engagement experiences is emphasised by David. SportsRadar focus on creating insights from the data avalanche. They see a future in machine learning and Artificial intelligence.
Olly noted Twitter provides a rich creative canvas to create a global audience. Twitter will focus more on live video content, especially around pre-shows. He spoke about segmentation and vanity metrics, where the data has to be useful. Making sport more personable and emphasised social issues help drive fan engagement (human side). Sport needs to be the amplifier and accelerator of information and content.
As a group they were asked what is fan engagement?
- Connecting people to inspire happiness and confidence
- Making people give a shit and important to share
- Creating content that people want to share
- Live, don’t know and don’t have access to it
- Ensuring every experience is positive and meaningful
Part 4 of the Business of Sport Summit, released in two more days, will include:
- Andrew Clarke (Sydney Football Club) – End of data for data’s sake
- Kerry McCabe (Players Voice) – Bordless business
- Nick Bice (Volvo Ocean Race) – Adventure technology
- and more…
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