For 3 days, Sport Business Chain became the capital of sport business in Eastern Europe. Just days after the World Football Summit in Madrid, some of Europe’s most appreciated academics and practitioners got together to celebrate the passion for sustainability and effective management in sport.

All the speakers, including former athletes, policymakers, consultants, planners and high level decision-makers came ready to share invaluable insights with the audience and below are those that stood out the most for me…

George Ogararu – Key Learning Points from Ajax Academy: A sustainable performance & education model in modern football

  • A big scouting department means excellent selection… A lot of Ajax’s scouters are volunteers and are happy to work for the club just for the chance to find the next big player.
  • Coaches try to make children feel welcome to Ajax and part of the club… However this comes with a great deal of pressure which is heavily addressed, players being taught how to respond to it.
  • Street, turf, grass and hard… Players from the Academy train in all kind of surfaces.
  • The ‘Ajax Magic’ is possible because of the results, history, philosophy, but also because of the heavy involvement of the club into the community.
  • 86.2% of Ajax’s players become professionals.
George Ogararu

Wim Mathues – European Sponsorship Strategy: From Traditional to Digital

  • Marketers have to deal with tiny budgets for activations, with only 1% of sponsorship budget being normally allocated for this.
  • When working with bwin on the European strategy, the team decided to build it on 3 pillars:
    – Chose to sponsor top clubs in top leagues
    – Focused on digital, regulated markets
    – Demanded access to players, IP, back-end and mailing lists.
  • bwin negotiated performance based payments with clubs in case the sponsorships went well.
  • Shirts work well for awareness, while LED and press conference panels work for maintaining the image.
  • ‘Glocal approach’… globally strategy applied to the needs of the market. While strategy and approach were common, meetings and content was regulated to fit local needs.

Panel Discussion – Capitalising on Personalisation to Maximise Fan Engagement

  • Identify passion points for players… Then build their profiles around them.
  • Brands have KPIs targeted at their own industries even if they work with football players or other athletes.
  • Working in partnership should be done more in sport industry.
  • Personality is what matters on social media now… Talent isn’t enough, football isn’t enough.

Alex Trickett – Sports Organisations and the Art of Digital Storytelling

  • Publisher must adapt to stand out… The trends are changing quickly and they need to be followed.
  • Portrait/subtitles should be added to respond to the changes in consumption – video content watched on mobile phones, without sound.
  • Brand appropriately – be bold, creative, of high-impact and consistent.
  • Don’t forget the tone – inject personality into the communications.
  • Why GIFs are still cool? Easy to use, global, fun, emotive, can be branded, now popular on Instagram stories as well as twitter…

Ehsen Shah – Engaging Athletes and Brands Globally

  • Athletes are influencers… How influential they are is down to them and the team around them. It’s not a switch that you can just click on.
  • Great brands have great stories… Storytelling needs to be consistent. Consistency and frequency generate brand recall.
  • Building a visual identity is key… Brands need to be distinctive and continue to instigate.
  • Athlete identification is done through various variables – talent on field, personality and attitude, brand value, characteristics and style, their stories and commercial potential.
  • Great content is done through a consistent brand strategy, telling a story, professionally production and distribution to a wide network.
Ehsen Shah

Andreea Ogararu – The ROI and ROO of Building Long-Term Partnerships

  • Return on Operations tells an organisation how to improve, proving impact when it’s not possible to link results directly to sales/financials.
  • A sports venue needs to be something really well connected to a city, with a strategy really well defined.
  • The business management philosophy needs to have a global vision.
  • At Johan Cruyff Arena, the most sustainable stadium in the world, representatives from the stadium meet once a week with the companies based in the area such as Phillips, Coca Cola. The relationships with partners are seen as ‘marriages’.
  • Johan Cruyff Arena is the only stadium specialised as a consultancy. As they’ve tested things, they can show clients what they did well and what they did wrong…

Nick Speakman – 10 Ways to Engage with Millennial Sport Fans

  • Millennials are internet dependent, more diverse (so it’s harder to brands to market to them), grew up with new media, do anythings they can to avoid advertisements and have an attention span of only 8 seconds…
  • In order to engage with them, Nick and SPORF recommend these 10 steps:
  1. Have a unique tone of voice that stands out, is relatable, creates familiarity and builds trust.
  2. Timing is everything… Be reliable, join conversation and capture the moment.
  3. Interact with your audience – allow involvement, share their voice, rewards where possible and build a relationship with them.
  4. Capture attention quickly – use the 2 second rule, engaging thumbnails, cut through the noise.
  5. Encourage user generated content – to provide exposure, host exclusive content, use incentives and ultimately develop brand advocates.
  6. Avoid the use of traditional advertising… Things such as creative execution, seamless integrating, high authenticity or relevancy of ads are what matter these days.
  7. The fear of missing out… also known as FOMO… create urgency. Use it to utilise exclusivity, use social proofing and increase desirability.
  8. Use all social platforms differently. Understand each platform, use a multi-platform approach, use social analytics and understand your audience.
  9. Showcase your values – be responsible, use your platform, create initiatives, show you care.
  10. Be willing to innovate – be the first, be fearless, be adaptive, be ever-changing.

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