The Brand Conference

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29th & 30th September 2015 | Kia Oval, London

Sport and the art of brand conversation Platinum Partners @SportsProTBC #SPTBC2015


The Brand Conference in review The Kia Oval cricket ground was the venue as SportsPro hosted the second annual edition of The Brand Conference on 29th and 30th September. Supported by Omnigon and Ball Street, a day of workshops and round-table discussions was followed by on-stage panels and interviews, as delegates were invited to consider the art of brand communication through sport.

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Ten things we learned at TBC Digital-ready content isn’t worth its salt unless it’s digestible. We learned that, and these ten other things at The Brand Conference on September 29th and 30th. 4) Activation should be a data capture exercise

Brooklyn Nets’ CEO Brett Yormark discusses the pitfalls of naming rights deals for historic venues

1) Want to sell naming rights to an established venue? Change the narrative

Naming rights sponsorships are much easier to sell, and much more effective, for new venues. There is no historic brand equity to wade through, no misgivings of changeaverse fans, and a blank canvas with which to work. Brett Yormark knew what he was doing when he signed British bank Barclays to a US$20 million-a-year naming rights deal for the Brooklyn Nets’ new venue in Brooklyn. But for his next trick, the Nets and Barclays Center chief executive will unveil a new naming rights partner for the soon to be revamped Nassau Coliseum, a Long Island venue with over 40 years of history. But how? He’ll focus on what is new, rather than what is historic, by naming the wider retail and entertainment space project, rather than the arena itself. 2) Clean brands may be the luxury of the elite

Is there a tipping point at which a property outgrows title sponsorship? From the start of the 2016/17 season, English soccer’s Premier League will move to a ‘clean brand’, ending its 15-year association with Barclays, with the league’s head of partnerships Tom Greenwood suggesting there was more value in letting the brand 4 |

stand on its own. “Ultimately the key benefit of the title sponsorships for us and the clubs is about the revenue,” he said. “If you take that away, though, you’re actually leaving a bit of value on the table and putting some value back in the clubs.” How much value is left on the table, and whether this provides a model for smaller rights holders to follow or is simply indication of the Premier League’s ultimate ascension to the global elite, remains to be seen.

Watching a cycling race live is as much about the collection of trinkets and tat as it is about the fleeting sensory experience of having a rushing peloton pass you on the road. Bidons, or water bottles, are prized items. Team Sky commercial director Hugh Chambers revealed that the British team have taken to plastering a unique code on each bidon taken to a race – and the team takes some 3,000 of them to the threeweek Tour de France – and encouraging the recipients/scavengers to use the code when visiting the Team Sky website, an exercise, he said, that helps Team Sky capture “an immense amount of data.”

3) Premier League clubs are sometimes victims of the league’s success

The Premier League has never been stronger thanks to the continued influx of TV money, spurred by surging popularity at home and overseas. Yet clubs aren’t having it all their own way. While the Premier League brand of soccer continues to drive the numbers worldwide, it is becoming far more difficult for mid-ranking teams to cut through the clutter and the sheer volume of content available. It is a challenge that Felicity Barnard, the commercial director at West Ham United, said she knows all too well as her club looks to turn a potential audience of millions, spread across far-flung lands in Asia and beyond, into loyal Hammers fans and, ultimately, cold hard cash.

Cyclists’ bidons are being used to collect data

5) Athletes aren’t actors, and you’ve got to maximise their time

You’ve secured your sponsorship deal, and you’ve locked in your much soughtafter ‘athlete appearances’, but now the hard work starts. Athletes, invariably, aren’t actors. Indigenous sports brands like Nike have an advantage in that they can easily utilise athlete talent doing what athlete talent does best – at least playing

8) On the other hand, brands and rights holders must be sceptical about social media numbers

Josie Stevens demonstrated the power of authenticity with Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ campaign

at being athletic. But what do you do when the link is less tangible? Creative production agency 180 Amsterdam showcased what can be done with 30 minutes of player time, some nifty super slo-mo work, a bombastic soundtrack and an unremitting commitment to deadpan in their superb work for DHL and its involvement in the launch of Bayern Munich’s online fan shop in China: 6) Authenticity is key

In principle, the brand marketer’s role is simple: create deep connections with fans and consumers in order to sell more units, whatever they may be. In practice, however, it is not quite so straightforward. Fostering brand loyalty, developing organic links and creating a sense of belonging – by now familiar phrases in the sports marketing lexicon – all rely on authenticity to be successful. Some campaigns, like Jaguar Land Rover’s ‘We Deal In Real’ rugby initiative, spell out their intentions while others let content do the work. According to Sport England’s Josie Stevens, the government agency’s ‘This Girl Can’ campaign achieved impressive results engaging British women around sport because nothing is more authentic than portraying real women doing real workouts.

content strategy. Strategic development director for Microsoft’s global sport team, Stewart Mison, and Susan Agliata, the head of branded content solutions for Europe, Middle East and Africa at Google, both propounded the need to embrace user-generated content (UGC) and harness the reach of social media influencers such as YouTube ‘superstar’ KSI. Mison revealed that, through its client – Real Madrid – the Microsoft team has struck up a relationship with Brazilian defender Marcelo: “South America is a major market and we’ve seen about a ten per cent take up by using him in certain markets as an influencer,” Mison said.

9) Sport can do more to promote activism

While influential figures from the world of entertainment regularly throw their support behind political causes – British actor Benedict Cumberbatch recently urged for greater action amid the ongoing migrant crisis, to name but one – Lee Daley, founder and chief executive of Daley Strategic Advisory, suggested sportsmen and women could play a more prominent and impactful role in promoting activism, should they so choose, due to the sheer power they can command in the social sphere. “At some point someone needs to stand up and say, ‘We have the power to affect change in society and we should do something about that,’” said Daley. 10) ‘Official’ is still alive and kicking

7) Content strategy must embrace UGC and ‘influencers’

Utilising the reach social media ‘influencers’ can lend to a brand can play a major role in delivering a successful

The emergence of social networks has offered unparalleled direct engagement with a mass audience, but brands and rights holders have to ensure they are not merely shouting into the void, argued Team Sky commercial director Hugh Chambers. “We’ll look back on this time in 20 years and think how primitive we were in terms of understanding our fans,” said Chambers, imploring his colleagues to work harder to build up their own networks and to own the data themselves, noting that a more curated, targeted approach which is seen by an engaged crowd is worth far more than reaching a huge but apathetic public.

Soccer star Marcelo is a key influencer for Microsoft

Like John Lewicki, McDonald’s senior director, head of global alliance marketing, speaking before them, the day’s final panel on brand focus and sponsorship, moderated by Unofficial Partner blogger Richard Gillis, drove home the benefits of being an official sponsor. Heineken International’s global sponsorship manager, Tim Ellerton, cited the importance and “huge role” played by sponsorships across a variety of properties, not only sport, for the Heineken business, while Mark Cameron, the brand experience director, global marketing for Jaguar Land Rover, argued that despite some memorable campaigns, “by and large brands have to work harder if they are going to be effective outside the official space.” SportsPro Magazine | 5


Challenging perceptions As one of the biggest brands in the world and through its alliances with the two largest sports properties around, McDonald’s benefits from a marketing reach few can rival. In a keynote interview at The Brand Conference at London’s Kia Oval in September, John Lewicki, McDonald’s senior director and head of global alliance marketing, touched on the fast-food giant’s strategy, supply chains, and stance amid the ongoing Fifa storm. By Mike Kennedy


cDonald’s is one of the world’s biggest companies, a fast food chain with 35,000 restaurants in 119 countries. 1.75 million employees serve a staggering 69 million people around the globe each day. Its sponsorship portfolio includes the two biggest properties around – the Olympics and the Fifa World Cup – together with a number of key alliance relationships in its home US market, the National Football League (NFL) and the National Hockey League (NHL) among them. For John Lewicki, McDonald’s senior director and head of global alliance marketing, expanding on the experience that sport offers and giving something extra to the interested parties – the spectators – is what the company’s involvement in sponsorship is all about. “A lot of people look at us as this huge global brand,” he says, speaking in an interview on stage at The Brand Conference at London’s Kia Oval in September. “But all of our restaurants are franchised or owned and managed by a local market and so we really started with the grassroots aspect of it; of getting involved in the community and really pushing and helping the community in some way of getting kids to be active and playing and that’s evolved into these global properties that we are associated with.” Lewicki has a dual role in overseeing global alliances with both the Olympics and soccer’s Fifa World Cup, together with a responsibility for the relationship and the activations of those partnerships. This responsibility, and that of his intimate three-strong team, he 6 |

McDonald’s ‘golden arches’ logo is among the most recognisable brand symbols in the world

says, “transcends into the host market in activating on site” on a global scale and on a national scale in the US. “We’re more of a flat-line organisation when it comes to the sponsorship area,” he explains. “So our roles really are to work with our brand teams to help identify properties that we’re going to be involved in, and then our experts are brought in to negotiate contracts and ensure that we’re getting the tools that we need out of them for our marketing teams. So we’re somewhat a small, lean machine from a sponsorship standpoint but we work with multiple marketing organisations.” McDonald’s first entered into a partnership with the World Cup for the 1994 edition of the tournament, which was held in the US, its home market, and joined The Olympic Partner (TOP) programme when its category was created for the Atlanta 1996 Games. According to Lewicki, the company took on the two sporting behemoths at a similar time to ensure its presence was felt both at home and abroad. “We got involved with both because of the US and the rest of the world: the US had a propensity to be about the Olympics and not the World Cup; the

rest of the world had a propensity to be about the World Cup and not about the Olympics,” explains Lewicki. “At the time the US was about 50 per cent of our total business so it was an even split. So we bought both to satisfy half the world with one and half with the other.” Having the luxury to make such decisions emphasises the might of the ‘Mac’ and the sponsorship budget at the company’s disposal, but Lewicki is keen to point out that every alliance the company pursues is directed by sound business strategy, even though there are certain sponsorships he might like to venture into or scale up if he had his way personally. “The passion that I have is for ice hockey,” Lewicki says. “There are things that I would love to do on a world level for ice hockey, but it makes no business sense. “So we have to look at it in this way. Over the years of being involved in sport I have lost a lot of my passion for sport because it is a business and I have to look at it as a business and I have to be objective of what we do from a business standpoint and what we get involved in, because it has to make sense cost-wise, association-wise, relevancewise, authenticity-wise for our business,” Lewicki continues. At a national level McDonald’s favours a short-term approach to its sponsorship properties, assessing how these evolve and what it gets out of them as its business evolves. “We move in and out of properties based on what our marketing objectives are and where our business is at the time,” Lewicki reveals. “With the Olympics and the World Cup, they are longer-term arrangements and as they move around the world

John Lewicki, McDonald’s senior director and head of global alliance marketing, pictured at The Brand Conference at London’s Kia Oval on 30th September

our business changes. So when we get into a smaller country we look at our marketing objectives; what we’re trying to do and what is going to help us accelerate our business objectives, what’s going to help us break through competitive clutter and what’s going to give credibility to where we may not have it if we’re launching a new product or in a particular audience of relevance. “Our agreements in the US are no longer than two years because we need that fluidity, because our objectives will change and we need to be able to fish where the fish are,” he adds. “We want to be relevant and authentic to our audience so we need to go where they are finding us authentic and relevant. On a global

scale, because we are locked in longerterm for the Olympics and World Cup, we have a property and then we start to evolve it to our marketing mix to what it is and how it can be used for us in that current time state; where it is being held in the world and where our business is from that standpoint.” The connection between fast-food restaurant and sports event doesn’t sit as the most natural of associations and, in the case of the London 2012 Olympics, a media storm in the UK over McDonald’s role as official restaurant of the Games saw the company coming “under attack,” as Lewicki put it, more so than it had done at any other time through any of its Olympic or other

associations. “London 2012 was the greatest Olympics ever from a host standpoint, but also challenging from a media standpoint,” recounts Lewicki. “[The media] didn’t tie what we were doing and what we were trying to do from a consumer standpoint, just the fact of ‘Why is McDonald’s sponsoring the Olympics?’ The fact that we were serving food in the athletes’ village. But we were fine up until a point. We talked about it and we used a platform of ‘feeding the athletes’.” This platform focused in on the presence of McDonald’s restaurants in Olympic villages and parks for every Games stretching back to Atlanta, but Lewicki suggests the UK media, and SportsPro Magazine | 7


A McDonald’s outlet at the Olympic Park during London 2012, where the company provided meals at the athletes’ village as an IOC TOP sponsor

by extension the public, simply did not buy this idea that athletes were stocking up on Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets while competing in the highest calibre of sporting competitions. “The problem was that the media doesn’t see that because the media is not allowed [in the village], so the media makes their assumption and it really came to a head in the UK where the media really did not believe that we fed the athletes,” argues Lewicki. “But we were pushing through 14,000 transactions a day during the Games in London. So we know that the athletes ate our food, but we couldn’t tell it because we couldn’t verify it because the athletes then got shamed. But there were 14,000 transactions going away somewhere!” Lewicki notes the positive spin from which McDonald’s benefited after Jamaican sprint star Usain Bolt revealed how he had chomped through scores of McNuggets each day during Beijing 2008 due to his dislike for Chinese cuisine. “Thank God for Usain Bolt,” 8 |

he exclaims. “And I will say this from our standpoint, we have never had an affiliation with Usain Bolt. We have never paid him, he has never been an endorser, but here’s a guy who’s true to himself and that didn’t bother him. So it could’ve been us or anybody, but there was a guy who was true to who he was where others kind of shy away from it. “So we still feed the athletes and it’s still a big platform for us at the Olympic Games, but we’ve moved away from talking about that. From a consumer standpoint we talk about it more from an industry standpoint; we talk about our supply chain. We talk about the quality of our food, we talk about what we do in almost a business-to-business type of environment for influencers and the medical community to talk about the quality of our food and why we’re there, why we believe we should be there.” Lewicki adds that McDonald’s supplies the United States Olympic Committee (USOC), both at the USOC training facility in Colorado Springs – where up to 700

athletes can be in residence – and at each of the high-performance centres set up in host Olympic countries during the Games. “Through our supply chain we supply them their food,” he says. “Now it’s not manifested as a Big Mac, but the ground beef is in their lasagne that their chefs make, or our buns are used for their chicken patties. They’re using our lettuce, our eggs, etc. So that’s now how we’ve altered that particular part of the conversation to talk in that environment and influence about the quality of our food and our supply chain; the safety of our supply chain. “That is just a hurdle that we continue to need to get over. By us going out and saying that we feed the athletes – that’s not going to give us the credibility, so we have to bill it in a different way,” he explains. “So we’ve turned our association with the Olympics more into the aspect of doing things for our fans so they can enjoy the Games.” Having been firmly embedded as a sponsor within the world’s two biggest

sporting events since the late 90s, some would suggest this leaves McDonald’s in a premier position from which it can never walk away. “I would argue that it can,” counters Lewicki. “It becomes a question that at some point it’s going to become too expensive, too cumbersome or too difficult to manage. I won’t say that they’re there yet, but they potentially could be. The realities of where they’re being hosted and how they are being run present challenges to everyone. And one of the tenets that we’ve always done at McDonald’s is we do things the right way. “We’re a brand leader, we feel very important about that position – we are not going to get in a position where we’re going to ambush anybody or ambush any property. However, when my competition can come in, spend a lot less money and draw an association that is blurring the lines that I’m paying for and can actually get an advantage, it starts to get challenging. And that’s where you start to look at it.” A relaxation by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of its ‘Rule 40’, which governs athletes’ independent marketing activities during the Games, means athletes will be able to feature in advertisements for non-official Olympic sponsors during the Games so long as these have been established prior to the start of the event. For Lewicki, such relaxations cast a shadow over McDonald’s’ position as an official sponsor. “So you start to see a denigration of what you have and you have to work harder in order to find that space that makes you relevant and unique and those are the challenges that will continue to come,” he says. “So there is certainly opportunity for us and others to go away because of things like that.” The ongoing Fifa corruption scandal which has so far resulted in 14 people having official charges brought against them and recently saw departing Fifa president Sepp Blatter implicated, as Swiss authorities opened legal proceedings against the 79-year-old, has also drawn questions about the nature of McDonald’s involvement. As a top-level World Cup sponsor and second-tier Fifa sponsor, Lewicki admits McDonald’s has a responsibility to consider its position amid the crisis afflicting world soccer’s

McDonald’s supported ‘player escorts’ at the Fifa World Cup as part of its sponsorship of the tournament

governing body. “As the sophistication and the blending of sponsored property becomes more intrusive and intrinsic you become attached to that property; you become attached to the pros and the cons of that property,” he suggests. “So we have to manage that appropriately. We do not get into the properties to control that property. We get into it to add a partnership to us to help for the general consumer application of it. “When something goes on in a property and there’s some kind of scrutiny, as a sponsor there is a responsibility that we have because we are supporting and funding it. Because what’s happening with Fifa and what the conversation is directly affects us, directly affects our consumers who are concerned about it, and we have to be reactive to that. So we are working on that and that has become more prevalent in more recent years than it was ten or 15 years ago. “Ten or 15 years ago you were just a sponsor, but now there is an expectation by our consumers, as well as general fans and everyone in the public, that if we are investing our money we should have some kind of culpability with it,” continues Lewicki. “And so it’s a dichotomy that we have to dance with but we are managing it and we are looking, and I think you’ll see, going forward, a much more aggressive approach on sponsorship. You will start to see sponsorship contracts with

properties evolved to that kind of relationship, where it is going to look at different types of morals or out-clauses based on the actions of the property.” Just 48 hours after Lewicki’s speaking appearance at The Brand Conference, where he intimated that McDonald’s has a “coalition of sponsors of Fifa that we are in direct conversation with, talking about the issues that we are having with them and seeing how we can influence what those outcomes are,” McDonald’s joined with top Fifa partners Coca-Cola and Visa and fellow World Cup sponsor Budweiser in calling for president Sepp Blatter to stand down immediately. While Blatter announced his decision to quit his role in June, just four days after he was re-elected for another fouryear term in the wake of the corruption scandal – which erupted in the week before the presidential vote – he intends to remain in office until a new election is held to find his replacement in February 2016. This coalition of sponsors has now united in pushing for Blatter to resign immediately, with a McDonald’s statement declaring that ‘it would be in the best interest of the game for Fifa president Sepp Blatter to step down immediately so that the reform process can proceed with the credibility that is needed’. Blatter’s fate has since been sealed, it would seem, by his suspension, but the challenge has now been issued to other sponsors to take a more active role in enforcing ethics and integrity. SportsPro Magazine | 9

The final panel of the day addressed how sponsorship can help amplify a brand’s message

Executives from across sport attended

Deltatre’s commercial manager, Yana Lapitskaya, and creative director Anders Plyhm

Virgin Group’s head of brand for the UK, Europe and the America’s, Patrick Alo

José Maria Sanz-Magallón, global director of instiutional relations and sponsorships at Telefónica

Jackie Fast, MD at Slingshot Sponsorship

John Lewicki, senior director and head of global alliance marketing at McDonald’s (right) in discussion with the BBC’s Ore Oduba

SportsPro Gallery

Delegates mingle at the drinks reception

The Brand Conference SportsPro’s The Brand Conference returned bigger and better for its 2015 edition, which took place at London’s Kia Oval cricket ground on the 29th and 30th September. A series of round-tables, workshops and discussion panels dug deep into the relationships between brands and sport.

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Annamarie Phelps, chairman of British Rowing

The Brand Conference’s commercial partners

300 delegates attended the conference over the two days

Hugh Chambers, commercial director of Team Sky

Sports broadcaster Ore Oduba offers his closing remarks

Repucom’s global head of research, Mike Wragg, discusses how to convert data into revenue

Izabela Taseski, senior sponsorship marketing manager at Barclays

The Brooklyn Nets’ CEO Brett Yormark

Jene Elzie, vice president of international marketing at the NBA, on the rights holders panel

Day one of The Brand Conference offered attendees a series of round table discussions and technical workshops

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Beyond the bubble On the afternoon of day two at The Brand Conference, delegates cast their gazes away from a glorious Kia Oval square soaked in unseasonable sunshine and contemplated life outside the sports industry. A panel of outsiders had gathered to discuss the sport industry’s strengths, its shortcomings, and where it can look for inspiration and guidance from music, business and the arts. By Mike Kennedy


hile there is much that is praiseworthy about the sports industry, now and again it’s necessary to look outside the confines of the model at hand and ask what sport can learn from other sectors. The first panel of the afternoon at The Brand Conference brought together Virgin Group’s head of brand for the UK, Europe and the Americas, Patrick Alo; Universal Music Group & Brands, Sport managing director Nouredine Elhaoussine; and Daley Strategic Advisory founder and chief executive Lee Daley to consider life beyond the bubble. Moderating the proceedings was SportsPro’s Eoin Connolly. Before the central discussion got underway, the panellists first had the chance to outline the characteristics they believe define the sports industry. For Daley, a global business strategic consultant who previously held roles as chairman and chief executive of Saatchi & Saatchi UK and worldwide commercial director of Manchester United FC, sport “trades on, outside of family and loved ones, probably the most singular form of identity that we have as human beings, which is our affiliation to our local – hopefully, whatever local means in this global world – sports heroes, sports clubs and national teams”. He continued: “The sports industry trades upon essentially the most socially dynamic thing in the world, which is the game, whatever that might be: cricket, rugby, football. Increasingly the sports industry is a global unifier. To me the sports industry is an industry that trades on passion. It’s an industry that cultivates relationships between human beings in a very interesting way. It’s an industry that has vast economic potential untapped, due to a number of things that I will come on to. But to me it’s probably the 12 |

most interesting and exciting industry in the world right now.” Alo suggested the fundamental thing about sport is that it has “the ability to connect communities and cross boundaries and borders and people in a way that no other medium, not even entertainment, can do”. “It’s this common language that is spoken around the world,” he said. “If you’re a sports fan – be it a team or a sector or a game or an event, you’re a fan of that no matter where you live. It crosses religious boundaries, state boundaries; it really is an amazing connector of people who all have views and a passion for it. And also sport bringing countries together for other events is so impactful to the world. That is the difference of sport.” Sport has this ability to invoke deep emotions and affiliations. But, it was asked, is this unique to sport or is it that sports lovers are closed off to the idea that other forms of entertainment or cultures can achieve similar results? Daley suggested sport does what other things cannot. “I think our affiliations to various forms of entertainment, particularly to music, to film, etc, they change as we change as human beings,” he argued. “But I think normal sense and identity kindled by the relationships of your sporting heroes and your clubs are totally unique. “I mean, from a brand marketer’s point of view the ultimate dream for us as a brand is we want customers who are loyal for life – the ultimate measure of brand equity. We want customers who are passionate about our brand, we want customers who outside of social networks create social dynamics for our brand, ie that people talk to each other about them. “So whether it’s the man nowadays, I

guess, in his Porsche 911 at Chelsea or a man in his white van still going out and watching Barnsley, between their peer groups they will talk about sport almost non-stop. And I think with the democratisation of sport as well, with women coming into sport in a more meaningful way – that Fifa Women’s World Cup was just as good as the men’s Fifa World Cup last year; I watched it just as avidly – I think that the same is true across races and genders: sport dominates conversation and fosters loyalty and fosters social conversations outside of technology like nothing else. And I think people stay true, most of the time, to their brands.” Alo joined Virgin Group following previous roles working for The Walt Disney Company as director of marketing in the Asia Pacific region and leading marketing campaigns for brands at Electronic Arts Inc. For him, sport’s ability to deliver a narrative is what makes it so special and so powerful. “Sport is entertainment,” he said. “Right? It’s competitive entertainment, but when you actually boil it down, it’s storytelling. And that is very historic. That goes back to the early days. We watch sport, there’s a story that evolves in front of us, we participate in that as a spectator; sometimes we participate in that as an athlete. But then, after you spectate it, you turn around and you become it and you tell the story again of what you’ve just experienced. And that is a fundamental human trait – that’s storytelling. “We talk about how you build a brand: you build great brands through great story telling of what that experience is and I think that the beauty of watching sport is ten per cent watching it, 90 per cent the ability to share it with somebody else

Virgin Group’s Parick Alo and Nouredine Elhaoussine from Universal Music discuss the lessons sport can learn from business, culture and the arts

who wasn’t there or maybe was there and you’re recounting it.” Daley took up the theme. “I think the interesting thing with sport is we have an identity to icons, people on the field etc. but the narrative unfolds in the most dramatic, real way,” added Daley, offering the recent Rugby World Cup 2015 game which saw Japan shock giants South Africa with an inspired and inspiring performance that had the rugby world enraptured, as evidence of this. “What unfolded was so spectacularly unbelievable,” he said. “Shocking! And in the best possible way. Only sport could deliver that. That is the truly and utterly enchanting nature of sport – the fact that that drama unfolds before your very eyes.” The panel went on to discuss whether, with all of that capacity to energise and astound, the sports industry was realising the opportunities it had, or whether

there were deficiencies that needed to be addressed. “I would start with the data,” said Elhaoussine. “Collecting data, treating data and then using that data for the brands. Data is key.” Alo had another suggestion. “I would probably address accessibility,” he said. “So let’s divide sport in two: you’ve got major sport – which would be big sponsors, big beautiful venues – and then you’ve got rural sport which is very community, local, it can be as easy as a football pitch that’s created in an abandoned lot with a couple of balls that have been donated. That’s equally as important, even more so than major sport. “I think the accessibility issue is that a lot of these fans, who are very rural community fans, want this experience but we’ve made this almost so inaccessible in the price of tickets to fund expensive stadiums that put strains on local

communities through raising bonds or other taxes, and we pay athletes so much, that the ticket prices have to be so much. We love encouraging the local community to play sport and they want to experience this as well but there’s that barrier that happens. And it would be great to remove that barrier and make this much more accessible.” Elhaoussine agreed that accessibility was also something that sport can work on. “Music is accessible everywhere,” he said. “If you want to hear a song or watch a video you can watch it on YouTube or anywhere. When you want to watch a game… I am from France and I love my team Marseille – if you are in the US it’s impossible. So if we can build a kind of platform and make it accessible – all the sport, all the games, all the sport events for everybody, it would be perfect.” Daley drew on the increasing SportsPro Magazine | 13


Lee Daley, CEO of Daley Strategic Advisory, argued that sport needs to capitalise on its storytelling ability

globalisation of sport and pointed to a failure of management to effectively leverage this. “We are linked together through a media,” he said, “whatever that media is, and I think that from that point of view where there is sport there is passion and where there is passion there is emotion, and if you understand your sport and you are in management you have to be able to manage the equity of your sport, the equity of your organisation and strategically maximise that. “So if you’re in management, you’re in commerce and the failure of sports organisations is a failure of effective strategic planning to optimise the return on passion for the fans; to be able to give them experiences that they enjoy and are prepared to pay for. So it’s optimising the return on that passion. I think it’s understanding how to strategic plan effectively on a daily basis and then, having done that, how to pitch that back to brands. So you maximise your sponsorship revenue, you maximise the intimacy and engagement you have with your fanbase, in that way it starts with management.” With the advent of streaming platforms such as Spotify and Netflix in the music and film industries proving immensely successful, is the sports industry missing a trick in the broad way that it continues to deliver its content? “It feels like we’re about to change,” offered Alo. “It feels like something is about to happen and it’s almost one of 14 |

the last monolithic, historic, fundamental businesses that is about to implode – not implode, maybe evolve is a better word. But we’ve seen it happen. “We’ve seen it happen with other forms of entertainment. When you look at the democratisation of all these other sectors, it’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of: where will you be placed when that happens, and will you lead that change or will you follow it? But it is going to change, its model needs to change.” Universal Music Group & Brands is a music and media agency which counts the likes of Coca-Cola, Audi and HP among its clients. Elhaoussine, who joined the agency in 2014 to build a sports roster – including the likes of soccer stars Neymar and Zlatan Ibrahimovic – to join its international music artist offering, acknowledged the music industry has demonstrated the route that sport can follow when it comes to the consumer. “We are moving from a major buying strategy to an audience where brands want to be very close to their fans,” he said. “And in the music industry in order to connect brands to their fans we become very specific communities, and with sport we can do the same thing – just connect them, create experiences, propose money can’t buy experiences and make it very clear and efficient for the brands to talk directly to their community: to the fan and customers.” Approaching commercial deals with a

greater depth of strategic understanding and planning in order to maximise the yield from that relationship, added Daley, is a further way in which the sports industry must look to improve how it functions. Teams from English soccer’s Premier League now embark on trips to all corners of the Earth for pre-season games each summer as they seek to reach out to their growing fanbases and build their brands. This is just one example of how sport is becoming increasingly globalised, but it does raise the question of whether cross-pollination improves the experience of sport, or whether it tampers with the qualities that make it so loved. “It’s all good,” argued Alo. “I think when the NBA [National Basketball Association] does their tour around the world promoting basketball it’s good. When [English soccer teams] do those friendly matches in the US, it’s great. We should be doing that. I think the ability to share it and go global, I think that’s an amazing thing. I think cross-pollination is good when it comes to this industry.” In the confines of one of the world’s oldest cricket stadiums, though, Alo, drew the comparison between how Twenty20 cricket has manifestly changed a sports product, and the way in which services like Netflix have altered the way films and TV are consumed. “So you’ve altered the product to reach a different audience; you’ve altered it not only in the way it’s played but also the experience that the spectators were having related to the story that’s unfolding in front of them,” he said. “And that you’ve altered the product. Is that good or bad? Well it is exposing cricket to a different audience but it’s not exactly cricket, it’s a different product. It’s like ‘cricket-lite’. So you can change the product, that’s one way to go. Or you can change the delivery. “Netflix is a good example: they didn’t change the product, they just changed how we received it. So through a Netflix model you are able to get things in much more chunkable ways as you wanted to digest it. So they changed the delivery and that was very smart. People were open to that and I think that people could be open to either one of those, you just need to look at what the product is before you decide. So you can either change it or you can change how it’s delivered.”

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