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.

October Digital Directors Community Zoom Call Summary

As with all areas of sport, Covid-19 has affected the digital strategy for all involved in sport. Digital transformation is the buzz phrase and this has been accelerated along with understanding the importance of data. Leading to more pressure to plan ahead in this ever changing environment for fans. And to add one more challenge into the equation each region has its own variation and difference.




Valencia CF

World Rugby

The struggle to make plans with all this uncertainty

  • When looking at current Brand campaigns and brand strategy, there is a struggle around how brave we should be with any message that makes any kind of customer promise given how tough the climate is and the situation keeps changing
  • All fans are now in the same situation with very few allowed in the stadium. Now you need to connect with your hard-core season ticket fans in a different way as their normal engagement isn’t possible. How to replicate this while they are at home
  • With uncertain times and unpredictable changes, how long can we keep these fans engaged? We worry they may get fed up. We need to keep relevant with the fans who can’t come back to the stadium for the time being. We struggle with this as we don’t know how long this will be and how much resource to allocate.
  • The NGB’s and International Federations have a different relationship with fans compared to clubs and leagues, they do not have the same emotional value and passion point.
  • We are now having to use our platforms differently: both as an amplifier and informer rather than for pure direct engagement. For example, working with charities and organisations that have direct links to Covid-19 to highlight key messages. We have to get smarter.
  • One example of what someone did was by taking a poll of 800 fans on behalf of the rights holder . As a piece of market research this allowed us to create some bespoke content for that rights holder to share – creating relatable content to the fans by fans.
  • It is finding a balance of hope – while having a bit of fun around the situation. We used what was happening in Germany with the cardboard fans to highlight what could be done, which in turn helps other clubs and leagues. We try to be an aggregator and share information
  • When you are looking to announce an offering for future World Cup events, the connection message should be considered. Fans may not be able to get excited about the tournaments being so far away, so when trying to sell any packages the messaging is more about “Certain days to go” or other milestones rather than a pure sales message. There is also much sensitivity in trying to sell anything at such tricky times and how we balance the need for us to sell and produce revenue vs creating a softer messaging that keeps people engaged

Everything has been accelerated

  • Covid has created a positive acceleration although it comes with issues as not everyone was ready to make such a speedy change and we don’t all understand the options that are available and where we should be placing our resource. This then causes people to make no decision as multiple new methods make decision making hader
  • This period during Covid-19 has created a real test of values (the brand’s dream). When you take fans away from the stadium and strip down the product, what is the bare bones and value of the brand? It is making us all think

Better understanding of bundling our rights

  • We can’t change how society consumes content – they get used to platforms and once exposed they want to keep access content through platforms like Facebook. People stick to what they know so we have to work around that and adjust our models
  • You will now get fans who will buy the whole package, but that is a small percentage of hard core fans. We need to learn how to bundle highlights to attract the other percentage of fans, otherwise we could lose market share.
  • It is looking at the whole customer value chain, as these are incredibly flexible. To protect our rights we want something simple to manage. We need to adapt and bundle better rather than giving away highlights and then being unable to sell other rights

Sport is a business and digital is moving faster than the business of sport

  • It is evaluating the cost of acquisition of new fans and their value of entry.
  • A little bit has begun to happen with Major league baseball and their commercial function.
  • Sometimes we are forgetting the customer journey. This tailoring and repackaging shows the difference between an innovative and old school way of thinking.. Now as a club, we spend more time working together to build something for each other instead of separate departments.
  • The club needs to have the data, if it is owned by the platforms the rights holders will lose their value and put whatever advertising they want.
  • They might not pay, but it will cost them not having control of their data!

Digital transformation is here, and will stay

  • Digital transformation is a big piece of program management – Is this a set of projects to be digitised or is the digital value having the information of every touch point?
  • Start with content – data allows you to know where your fans are, leading to targeting your fans based on what they want to consume.
  • Sports are going from a sellers biased market and now turning this on its head. It’s now very hard to sell rights. In terms of NGB’s and International Federations, are we a consumer facing brand? Where should we sit in this new world?
  • Create something fan centric and when the broadcast does switch off you can go direct to the consumer through your own commercial/digital funnel.

October Broadcast Directors Community Zoom Call Summary

Social Media and FAANG are impacting how rights holders use their content, which in turn influences Broadcasters. This discussion was around how to work with this trend, and also highlights the recent explosion in the US sport betting market now that regulations have been relaxed.




Turner Studios

The competition with FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google)

  • When using any of the FAANG platforms, be aware of who has access to the data. Who actually gets the brand visibility, the right holder, or the social media platform?
  • FAANG is here to stay they are serious players that are connected directly with the new generations of content users. Now is the time to embrace them and learn – but ensure you do not lose brand presence and data, it is too valuable. They have access that no other brands have
  • If broadcasters do not work effectively with leagues and how they work with FAANG, as another broadcaster will be behind who will. The rights might not make sense on their own, but they offer access to a larger bundle and everyone is keen to grab the space and potentially create a loss leader changing the way people value of what they pay for rights

The future is highlights

  • There is an emergence of short-form content as the way fans consume, such as Red Zone has become the way many people watch NFL.
  • Because of this trend, leagues are going to have to be more careful on how they package and sell their highlights and understand the value with the current consumers who have less disposable time or have shorter attention spaces.

Covid-19 impact on ratings

  • Ratings have generally increased over the year as COVID restrictions have given people an opportunity to fill this newfound space and a lot of them have filled it with sport
  • The current way of calculating ratings is archaic and unpredictable with some sports ratings are down – which is likely due to the excessive amounts of top level content vying for attention, such as the NFL who are putting out a lot of content with low viewership.

Betting coming into the framework of US Sports

  • There is the feeling the dam is going to break. It is inevitable and betting will enter sport in a huge rush – For stadiums betting is probably going to be what changes everything for attending live events
  • There are sports that did not want to consider aligning with betting that are now changing their minds. Or they are realising that they must change their minds In a few years everybody will embrace it…
  •  The idea will be to create an experience at live events that involves betting and is better than anything you can have at home, which will help to attract fans back to stadiums.
  • The question is how does a stadium catch up and create a better experience than the one you can have at home.

October Sponsorship Brands Community Zoom Call Summary

October Sponsorship Brands Community Zoom Call Summary

With the recent PWC Sports Survey release in September, our members reviewed the key findings relevant to the Sponsorship Brand industry. There was great conversation reviewing real examples on the partnership field.


Aston MartinRed Bull
General MillsUmbro SA

Collaboration has become key

  • Some brands said this was now a priority. Finding creative ways to work with other brands as a way of communicating with their target clients.
  • Additionally, there is a need to find other partners/brands that right holders can work with to build value for both. Collaboration is replacing one dimensional partnership.
  • One brand said that specifically finding complementary collaboration within the CSR space and with athletes can brought all their supporters together and has shown to be successful
  • Several brands spoke about working with rights holders to connect them to other new partners, leading to successful campaigns.

Education around the value of rights is still unclear

  • With the loss of traditional tangible assets, education internally around the value of new assets, such as digital, has proved to be hard to communicate. This has been frustrating.
  • You may need to lean heavily on the rights holder for valuation, therefore everyone needs to remain flexible and proactive.
  • Several also felt that rights holders need to work better with the brands by adding value to the existing partnership in new ways and by creating new assets
  • This test the trust of the partnership to make sure brands stay relevant and meaningful. Particularly when trying new and different assets that they haven’t previously used

Changing the traditional model

  • If you see an opportunity, work with your rights holder – they are also rethinking their traditional model and having genuine relationships can create new areas to explore. You must be able to have the conversation to see what is possible. If you don’t ask you won’t find out what else is available
  • One particular brand has taken the opportunity to manage their rights holder’s esports, creating its own assets and brand awareness through the gaming space.
  • It is about creativity and the talent to think beyond what was previously agreed. This allows both in the partnerships to achieve and deliver a mutual benefit. Proactivity is vital.

You don’t always need to reinvent the wheel, be creative and look to innovate

  • The view is not all about pivoting, but in creating and leveraging the value of the sponsorship/consumer brands that also relates with the rights holders.
  • Several spoke about how rights were repackaged and distributed in different formats to target the relevant consumer – content has been a great source for invention here.
  • There was a feeling that there wasn’t a clear vision of how you extract value. This is still the main objective regardless of the asset.
  • Finding the new “money can’t buy” opportunities is important. Creativity is key – One brand created their own private Zoom Calls with athletes, giving 1-to-1 intimate experiences.

September Digital Directors Community Zoom Call Summary

With leagues starting back up and some playing all their games in one location, how can you integrate digital rights and find ways to engage with fans unable to be in the stadium for live games.

Covid-19 – causing revenue to take a hit, so new outlook on digital is needed

  • Salvaging revenue has been the No. 1 priority with some pressure. Working with corporate partnerships team and keeping communication fluid is crucial in reviewing digital assets.
  • With the current climate, strategy planning is more of a start-up mentality in digital. It used to be all about dreaming big. But now the focus is on what fans actually want and what customers need. The strategic vision is on hold.
  • One of the biggest challenges for the wider team in sports has been season ticket refunds and how to manage the return to live matches with limited attendance.

Now is the time for digital collaborations

  • This year has created an opportunity to work with new partners to create platforms to bring virtual fans into the experience.
  • Some directors have brought in digital products such as a new free-to-play game to help partners with brand awareness – innovation and adapting to the current climate.
  • Working with Broadcasters to bring commentary in each countries local languages can be invariable, enhancing the international reach and engagement

Live events will return, but digital and broadcasting will never be the same

  • Servicing partners digitally requires investment in digital and need to see the investment to carry this out
  • You can prepare for fans coming back to stadiums with features such as contactless payment in the stadium for a new safety outlook.
  • Younger fans are also not engaging as they used to, this may be temporary yet needs to be considered in planning.

Changes with leagues bringing all games to one location has impacted digital outlets

  • Digital assets are impacted with teams unable to activate their physical signage, therefore using digital signage
  • Shorter highlights tap into a new market of engagement, how do you keep this going after fans come back to the stadium?

September Broadcast Directors Community Zoom Call Summary

With the current climate impacting the opportunities for broadcasting and adapting to the environment, what are the key talking points and questions coming out of this.

Covid-19 has given an opportunity to innovate

  • Compression rate and the capability of the internet speed depends on what we can do.
  • It is driven through connectivity through the internet and the flexibility of the technology.
  • Broadcasting is capable.
  • There is a strong hunger for live sports more than ever.
  • It is great using the empty stadiums to create extra angles for the camera but it’s a short-term solution before fans go back.
  • Will fans want to spend their money to go back to stadiums? The value exchange needs looking at to hold on to fans during this time.
  • Once the “real world” picks back up, will the viewership be the same? How do we keep fans exchanged when other responsibilities come back? Use data to work out how to pull viewership back!
  • How do you future-proof your production and be malleable to what is thrown our way.

The importance of Viewer and User Analytics

  • Are we wasting time and energy on opening teasers and content when we should spend money and time on cameras and live event support?
  • The taste of viewers have changed and consumption of sport has changed.
  • We are moving to a direct-to-consumer model – if you don’t know who is watching you are putting yourself at a disadvantage.
  • User data and understanding of your audience will be the catalyst to the future – to customise the experience for the fans.

Addressing habits of change and consumption

  • Sports fans are incredibly traditional – make it more about the sport and game itself.
  • Dial back and give the fans what they want in a financial responsible way.
  • One piece of material can be given out in different formats to reach different types of fans, technology has helped to do this in an inexpensive way.
  • There are different versions of fans that want to watch the game with a different experience – reversion!
  • The traditional broadcasters need to know there is a movement and work out how we can be a part of it and use the product to tap into different types of viewers.
  • As a rights holder, how can we get to grips of how we can evolve?

Working with partners

  • We don’t want to work with a channel that just sits on our platform, we want to help build their audience and our intelligence in first-party data.
  • The winning strategy is that our partners are happy working with us to build more content to reach their fans.
  • Sports betting will impact the way sports content is consumed with the amount of money involved.

September Sponsorship Brands Community Zoom Call Summary

With the current climate impacting the way brands utilise sponsorship, participants discuss ways they have adapted to make the most of their partnership and what brands need to take into consideration. 

Sponsorship and Partnerships can still be effective

  • Go into those relationships based on how you can leverage the partnership across your customer journey.
  • Drives top-of-mind awareness and consideration of your product/offering.
  • Sport products and apparel has seen an increase in sales – opportunities to work with Kit Suppliers.
  • Don’t be hesistant to do something different.

Connecting B2B and B2C through Sponsorship

  • With the potential of only a small number of people at events, chance to deliver a more personal setting for potential clients when hosting – instead of the mass reward approach.
  • With lack of live games, look at other ways to support your partners to create additional value to the fans, such as esports, social media content, competitions with signed merchandise.
  • Look to push the assets you can use alongside a digital content plan to build reach and engagement.

Remember both your brand and partner’s objectives

  • Don’t go ahead with an activation if it doesn’t attract the right audience or fan engagement, it might not be welcomed or wanted.
  • Consider both parties’ objectives when looking for new ways to leverage assets.
  • Find the story you want to tell and build your objectives around this.
  • Stick to the basic principles on what is right for your brand and target consumers.

New ways of activation

  • Digital is becoming the default, but works effectively using creativity and storytelling.
  • Look to connect with other brands partnering with your rights holders to build collaborations.
  • Athletes are becoming strong brands themselves to influence fans through home videos and using brand’s products in everyday situations – creating organic and relatable content.

How to plan in this climate

  • If you are looking for new partnerships, enter into them based on the business climate at the time.
  • Be adaptable and flexible to the way you function to fit the shift to the current climate.
  • Health and safety with due diligence needs to be the most important factor when planning an event or activation.
  • Bear in mind the government’s latest restrictions and barriers.
  • If the landscape changes, make sure your event is safe for customers.
  • Don’t stop planning, prepare what you can and be ready to be flexible to the change in climate.

Measurement of assets and activation should be the same

  • Even though planning is affected, how you measure your assets and partnership should remain the same.
  • Use your data to look at fan engagement and interactions.
  • Look at the customer journey for your brand’s objectives.