Leaders in Sport week has wrapped up for another year, and it didn't disappoint. Read on for our reflections from a great week of networking and talks with leaders in the field.
That’s a wrap for another Leaders in Sport week – and once again it didn’t disappoint. I always come away feeling inspired, having exchanged ideas and heard from rooms full of extremely talented and knowledgeable people.
The event felt twice as busy as last year and attendance numbers certainly supported that feeling. It was awesome to catch up with old friends, make new connections, and listen to what some of the best people in sports have to offer.
At a time when tech is at the forefront of everyone’s minds the biggest takeaway for me was people. It’s the people that make this brilliant industry tick. From the talent on the pitch to executives doing deals, it all comes back to human interactions.
There were many big brands in attendance, from big tech – Google, Amazon, Meta – to consumer goods giants – Unilever, Pepsi, Coca Cola – and the list of sports franchises was unrivalled.
It was also a very proud moment for our growing sports team at Battenhall, as we soft-launched our first Sports Social Review and we were very thankful to everyone who gave feedback. More to come in future months.
It was reassuring to see many of the topics covered in our review at the heart of so many Leaders debates and panel sessions. We’ll be doing a full unpack of the event at a later date, but we wanted to share some timely takeaways.
The overarching learning for me was that people will always be at the centre of sport – even more so with technology. It was a timely reminder that if you forget about people and the human element of sport, then it’s just pointless data, results and a set of empty KPIs.
Our five key takeaways
1. Diversity, equity & inclusion
Sports people are very aware of their responsibility to drive diversity, equity and inclusion forward, and so many great initiatives are being pioneered to ensure sports businesses and partners are fully represented by all communities. The event brought together people from all backgrounds, who all contributed to a hugely collaborative event. The overarching message was that we'll continue to break down barriers and open doors to talented people of any race, sexual orientation, and educational background.
I've always been a huge advocate for sporting talent – without it, fans would be sitting in round bowls looking at grass. But what was so great to see this year was the amount of talent that's present off the field too. The event saw so many inspiring, intelligent specialists come to the table, who know their area of expertise so well. For example, Coca-Cola’s Global Head of Generative AI, Pratik Thakar, shone a light on the benefits of the emerging technology, while Piers McDermott, Head of Digital at Brighton FC, articulated how Brighton engages with its fans at home and abroad.
It’s very clear that fans will continue to play a huge role in the success of sport, and everyone from rights holders to clubs are fully aware of their importance. For revenue and future ambitions, fans have never had it so good. Clubs are now incredibly conscious of delivering what fans want, when they want it, how they want it and at a price that is right for them. Clubs at all levels are developing innovative ways to engage with fans to ensure they choose them over their local - or even international - rivals. A good example of this came from Steve Pagliuca, Senior Advisor at Bain Capital, who caused quite a stir when he explained that every baby born within a certain radius of the stadium is given a full Atalanta BC replica kit.
4. Technology and AI
Sport has always embraced technology and will continue to do so – but only when it makes sense to enhance the game or fan experience. We'll be sharing an in-depth blog on technology in the coming weeks, but suffice to say that the crossover between sports and digital is going to become an increasingly sweet spot for innovators. User-generated kit design, AI-infused content creation, and advanced social content measurement are all in the works.
5. Social connection
Whether it’s IRL meet-ups at Leaders, or analysing fan behaviour, we know for certain that using sport as a means of social connection is at an all-time high. Whether it's teenagers playing EA Sports FC24 together online, or old friends meeting at a game, sport continues to drive connections between humans. Being part of a ‘tribe’ and having a feeling of belonging is more important today than ever, and sports communities are doing all they can to continue that long-held tradition.
I'm so grateful for the chance to meet so many new people at Leaders in Sport, and had a blast catching up with old friends too. I hope everyone got home safely to all corners of Europe, and look forward to seeing everyone again next year when we'll no doubt all still be obsessed with the business of sport, still talking about AI and technology and how it's made life easier, discussing how we continue to engage these wonderful fans, collaborating on inspiring campaigns... and, not forgetting, checking each other's sneakers out and dishing the banter out accordingly.
Find out more about ways Battenhall is working with brands in sports, or how we could help your brand, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.