March 5, 2023
Last week, our UK Country Manager, Andy Yeandle and Marketing Manager, Rafael Molina Harno attended the Leaders Sports Business Summit in Abu Dhabi. Three days spent in an amazing venue overlooking the iconic Yas Marina Circuit. It was incredible to connect with so many people and be able to hear from some of the biggest sports brands in the world, and iconic ex-athletes like Tony Bellew, Sol Campbell, Roy Hodgson, Carlo Cudicini, Luol Deng, and Ronny Turiaf. The conference had speakers from Arsenal FC, Big Bash Leagues, Roc Nation, SailGP, Matchroom Boxing, Serie A, Abu Dhabi T10, Saudi Pro League, UAE Team ADQ and Newcastle United amongst others. Here are our key takeaways and learnings from the summit.
Athletes’ status has risen alongside the rise of influencer marketing, from just sports stars on the pitch, track, field or court, to brands themselves. Athletes are increasingly promoting their own personal storytelling on social media, alongside wider club or team narratives. Furthermore, this means that rights-holders use athlete-led content more and more as they search for new ways of engaging their fans. The younger generation follow their favourite athletes even as they change teams, a trend that started in the US with frequent transfers and drafts, but has taken Europe by storm with superstars like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo drawing huge fanbases. Something ScorePlay can help with - automated distribution to athletes so they’re free to grow their brand.
Additionally, we’ve also seen how influencers themselves, like YouTube creator Jake Paul, have jumped into sports, with his fight vs Fury one of the most talked about of the year so far. These blending roles offer athletes opportunities not only to create their own brand and thrive during and after their career, but also the chance to become more than just athletes. Current and ex-athletes have a role to play in showing younger generations proper role models, and ‘influence’ them as leaders.
Sponsorships are more than just a transactional monetary exchange. Hearing from Juliet Slot, Commercial Director for Arsenal FC, Olivia Nichols of Mubadala, Bénédicte Carrière of ALTRAD, it was interesting to see how large sports organisations and brands approach each partnership opportunity. Firstly, every relationship is different and therefore each party looks for different items and KPIs, whether activations, brand visibility or exchange of value. Secondly, partnerships have changed which means today they are looking to what can they can bring to the client and what can they learn from clients. They are really looking to to be associated to a team as a brand, and that means they need to share similar values in order for the partnership to be successful. Therefore, the all important ROI, should be measured in terms of the value brought to the other party, in more than monetary terms.
Luigi De Siervo, CEO of the Serie A, spoke on stage having just opened the league’s first office in Abu Dhabi. It was incredibly insightful hearing from someone at the head of the Serie A in such a crucial moment in its history, as it vies for the title of most exciting league in the world. They’ve officially become a media company and an entertainment conglomerate. Moreover, the impending change of laws which will allow Serie A to negotiate rights for longer than 3 years has opened up a sea of possibilities and lucrative long-term partnerships. But you still need an entertaining league. Currently, the Italian league is the only one in Europe with such diversity of winners, viewership and sponsorship value has soared over the last couple years because of it. Alongside the internationalisation and digitalisation of the league, the league is also looking to work with their clubs as they build the brand together. Read more on how the CRO of AC Milan is building their brand here. Finally, the Serie A is using legends of their game like Alessandro Del Piero, Christian Vieri and Kaka to reeducate newer generations on the previous Italian golden age of the 90s and early 00s, and foster new lines of storytelling.
One of the key aspects of the entire summit was the focus from the Abu Dhabi Sports Council to use sports as a catalyst for change. The Middle East has worked hard to establish grassroots systems, whether for football, rugby or sailing and believes they can become a powerhouse in the sports world if they do it properly, with patience. More than just the ability to compete at the highest level of sports, this movement can do so much more, in terms of helping both adults and children to be fitter and healthier, in an increasingly young society. We all love watching sports on our favourite device, but we must not forget the initial reason as to why we fell in love with it: participation itself, with the added benefits that accompany that.
Great opportunity to build relationships and get a much-needed workout after a day of networking. Enough said.
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