January International Federations Peer Group Summary – with “Thought Leader” An Dang Duy from World Athletics

As we enter a new year, the pandemic is still impacting the way that sports businesses work. With the uncertainty of when events may happen and international restrictions, how can International Federations work with their teams to prepare and protect their athletes?

Challenges this year:

  • Balancing cancelled events such as World Championships and the Olympics in the same year.
  • Travel Restrictions not just in the Host City of each event, but the countries where the athletes are travelling from.
  • If athletes can’t attend events due to restrictions or COVID-19, how does this affect classifications/rankings/seedings.  
  • How do you grow your database without live events for spectators to attend, and how do you use it effectively?
  • Finding new  ways of working more effectively in a reactive climate – is everyone required to travel to put on the event? What is permissible around differing Covid laws in the host country for the competition? Can you use that Country’s resources rather than large groups having to travel?

Athletes care needs to be at the forefront:

  • Talking about competitions going ahead – “No-one has the answers so we have to be transparent with the athletes about what we know and be honest”  For example the way the Australian Open has attempted to communicate with athletes in such a difficult moment – they are very good but still it’s not perfect.          
  • Regular communications with the Athletes and all teams will help everyone be able to react to any changes in restrictions. All IF’s and NGB’s are in the same boat.
  • Working closely with the organisational bodies putting together the event will help communication. This is very important.
  • Athlete and NGB expectation needs to be managed carefully, with uncertainty as to when the season will start. Currently you have to act as if the season of events is still going on, therefore preparing communications and media teams in case of changes to get the word out. 

We need to get fans excited about sports again

  • Start with your community and National Governing Bodies to engage your audience – they will know the market and how best to get the audience attention.
  • The most difficult thing is how to grow our database. Live events are great to attract membership (as transactions create memberships) but currently any content driven awareness might well get attention but it is not easy to convert this attention into membership without live events.
  • There is an opportunity to create more content with the athletes while they are waiting to compete. This can be bank ready for when things start up again.
  • The popularity around the athletes tends to be more than the events themselves so this is a good opportunity for the smaller federations to use athletes.
  • One of our guests stated they have an OTT platform purely designed to be able to show live and exclusive content. Before Covid it was only meant for this live content but they have repositioned this for highlights and archive – re-purposing has been important.
  • Post Covid will see a change in the way we do live events and the Olympics has an amazing opportunity to lead the way. Even if they have no spectators they will be able to learn from everyone else’s experience last year and create something really innovative to attract an audience.

Food for thought from our “Thought Leader”:

  • How do you keep that connection with fans? How do you nourish that link when so many other sports are fighting for that attention? Our job now isn’t just around the event anymore; it’s the sport’s activation all year round.
  • How do you leverage your sport for fan consumption? Is it through travel, content, merchandise, training, e-learning – for now, we just have to activate the database, leverage through digital – this should be used as a tool for activation rather than a tool for purchase?
  • With content, try to do less and create good content that engages, you want other channels to push your content – be smarter, be real, organic – storytelling user/athlete generated content. None of this is earth-shattering but a reminder that quality beats quantity.