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4 ways the Sports Industry (or any business for that matter) can influence 2013 – Lessons from the Sports Business Summit


The Sports Business Summit in Sydney in December featured an impressive array of speakers; offering experience and insight into sports industry best practice.

As an proponent of innovation consulting services and a founder of a sports and social media technology company, my ears were hardly big enough to funnel all the wisdom.

What becomes apparent as you read this summary is how much this relates to brands of any kind, in any industry. It’s all a matter of knowing who and what influences your real market and how your brand can best leverage this.

1. Get serious with social

Social media is moving beyond a means for simple promotion and broadcasting. Brands in all industries are realising that social media offers a special connection with fans and is, in fact, a powerful database.

Merging social with more traditional CRM is one of our biggest challenges, which is why it’s time to get serious with social media.

Sean Callanan (@seancallanan) pondered on what’s most important for your brand; the millions of followers on twitter, or the 2,000 (or 20K, or 200K) “über fans” who will advocate your brand? Identifying and empowering these fans is the key. It’s time to let creativity be the real driver.

Scott Munn (CEO of Melbourne Heart, @scott_munn) spoke about Melbourne Heart’s “Headhunter” competition, which only worked because the prize was a “money can’t buy” experience. Take online as offline as possible. The insight here was to allow fans to touch and feel the essence of your brand.

The ability to get behavioural and preferential data from your fans is one of the keys to success in this field.

I was once taught that advertising is the price you pay for not being creative. We have instantaneous, engaging and iterative social platforms at our disposal. These platforms provide an opportunity to test and implement big ideas with very little cost.

2. Harness the big idea

As humans, our perception of normal is limited by what we perceive to be “abnormal” and the outcome of this is a lot of “safe” ideas.

Sport, fuelled largely by raw passion and emotion, provides a fertile ground to nurture the truly big ideas. The ideas that make even occasional sports followers say “wow, that is really freakin’ cool!”

Dan Migala was the keynote speaker at Sports Business Summit and is renowned for his creative marketing concepts. Like when he convinced the Chicago White Sox to change the start time of their evening games to 7:11 to appease new sponsor 7Eleven. Pretty freakin’ cool huh?

Here is Dan’s framework for a big idea:

  1. The idea is to enhance, not interrupt the fan experience
  2. Revenue is a result, not an objective
  3. Emotional connection is key
  4. Create “moments of truth”
  5. Be authentic

Encourage and nurture the big idea and, don’t be afraid to fail.

3. Generate new revenue streams

Where does brand love come from? We connect with sport through experiences, rivalries, emotion and stories. Storylines – how we create them, enhance them and engage with them – will generate new revenue streams.

Some examples:

– Collingwood FC partnered with a company to create and control a new line of merchandise. They are also working with my startup CheckinLine to leverage Facebook and, to create more intimate connections between their passionate supporters and sponsors.

– John Brady, GM of Media and Comms at NRL, commented that “media agencies are becoming telcos and, telcos are becoming media companies”. Is a sporting organisation just a sports team anymore?

– The signing of Del Piero by Sydney FC created a 100% increase in turnover through regular revenue streams such as higher attendances and jumper sales. Imagine what can be generated off the back of this momentum with a little forward (and sideways) thinking. If I was CEO Tony Pignata, I’d be making sure the ideas are flowing for how to capitalise on this year’s success and create a legacy for years to come.

New revenue streams are found at the intersection of passion and motivation. They are energized through storytelling.

4. Realise your brand is a story

Revenue should be an outcome, not an objective.

The main objective of the Sports Business Summit was “Maximising the value of a sports brand in a competitive landscape.”

What is a sports brand? The logo, people, players, fans, history or, loyalty?

What are we actually selling? Who is the buyer? Participants, commercial sponsors, network broadcast partners, supporters?

We need to tune into how each stakeholder perceives value and, tweak the storyline to the engaged listener. This will be different for each “brand” and therefore, must be flexible and multi-dimensional in approach. We learn through telling stories.

We must be able to let go of the brand and allow the fans to engage on a level they choose. IP laws are “under threat” by increasing social media, but not if we rework the game. Move the goalposts. Perhaps once the content is in the public domain we should sign over rights to the fans. To enhance, add, engage, improve and personalise the story and therefore the brand, through their eyes.