An exploration of sports content, storytelling, digital and social media. Speaking to players, executives, coaches, creators, journalist and specialist about their sporting passions.
Ricardo Fort: Sports Sponsorship 101
Ricardo Fort has led the sponsorship strategy for brands at World Cups and Olympics.
After a long, successful career with the likes of Coca-Cola and Visa, he has set up his own consulting firm. In this podcast, Ricardo gives straight answers to key questions in sports sponsorship and outlines how content fits in. This is a sophisticated 101 for anyone interested in working in the commercial department at a major sports organisation.
Is sponsorship just about "hanging out with the cool kids"
Does there always have to be a positive financial return?
"The brands want to be relevant, most brands are irrelevant in the lives of people"
Are brand sponsorship decisions emotional?
The best sports sponsorship deal he did at Coca-Cola - The case study of the FIFA World Cup trophy tour
Measurable and immeasurable benefits
What are the Key KPIs and the less important metrics for sponsors?
How can brands be sure about the impact of a sponsorship?
Sponsoring a tournament or event as opposed to a team. What are the differences?
Moving from badging and advertisement to 'clever content'
The value of creating a content strategy that stands out
The comparison between NFL and European football in accommodating sponsors
In NFL, the owner gets the trophy before the players - what does that tell us?
Why the fans police any over-commercialisation in Europe
"All sponsors say they want data, but very few know what to do it."
How can you make a partnership scandal-proof?
How to do your due diligence and protect against future problems
The fans' voice in sponsorship
Sponsorship in gaming and the Alex Hunter deal
Alex Phillips - The most influential football administrator you have never heard of
Alex Phillips does not look or sound like a revolutionary but his ideas could shake up football.
He spent 15 years at Uefa, including a couple as Head of Compliance and Governance. He was seconded to the Asian Football Confederation for three years and now leads the World Football Remission Fund, a FIFA body administrating how money "stolen from the game" should be returned for its overall benefit.
Phillips has been described as "the most influential football administrator you have never heard of". Certainly, he has an analytical eye and passion for reform.
In this podcast, we discuss good governance, the ramifications of the failed Super League project, educating owners and fans, setting examples and, of course, content
His views on the Super League between its collapse and now - "a great fragmentation"
Uefa's mistake of not making co-efficient qualification 'a red line'
Having the same people governing conflicting tasks
Why regulatory bodies are "not up to the job"
Linking financial control to regulation and its inherent problems
Not restricting finances but restricting player numbers instead
Changing payers and coach's behaviour
Using broadcasters to educate players and fans
"Leadership time is often spent chasing money rather than on sporting issues"
How to change a football reputation - the example of German refereeing
The differing concepts of "cheating"
The values of football's myths and stories. And why owners need to be educated
How television does football's marketing job
The challenge to retain younger audiences whose frame of reference is different
The concept of scarcity in creating sporting interest - 'hats off to the Champions League?"
Working properly with partners and sponsors to grow a sport
Alex's three recommendations to grow football
Claire Nelson: Scottish netball and creating the ultimate female spectator sport
The challenges facing netball are different to other sports. While we have seen growth in women's football, tennis and boxing in recent years, it has always occurred through the lens (or perhaps in the shadow) of established male forebears. Netball does not have this baggage. Its story, product and message can be tailored specifically toward women and girls.
Claire Nelson is CEO of Netball Scotland and the Strathclyde Sirens, the only pro team north of the border. Her focus is to capitalise on this advantage and carve out a unique niche for the sport north of the border. In this podcast, we discuss the key areas in which she is concentrating - sponsors, player development, marketing, messaging, media deals and, of course, content.
The overall landscape of netball
Adapting netball's story and building a sport and lifestyle brand
Working against established cultural habits
Why women's sport is "not a nice-to-have but makes economic sense"
How the storytelling focus changes for a 'female sport'
The untapped audience of women
The differences in the female fan - different message, spending patterns and the 'guilt factor'
Not limiting their vision to competition and 'bums on seats'. "There's sportainment and lifestyle"
The Fast Fives concept
Creating player pathways
Comparisons with women's football. "The men's game has decided to invest more into the women's game"
Moving to the Women's Super League from the 'amateurish' of environment leisure centres and into arenas
The influence of the Commonwealth Games this summer
The one thing netball most needs
Tom Dunmore: Launching Major League Cricket
For the past two decades, cricket has been trying to cross new boundaries. Previously, its global footprint mirrored its past as the game of the British Empire but, in recent years, countries like the Netherlands, Namibia and Afghanistan have risen to prominence
In the next 10 years, the game will try to cross its biggest and most important new frontier - the USA. They have been awarded co-hosting rights for the 2024 T20 World Cup and a buzz is building around the chances of inclusion in the Olympics in Los Angeles four years later.
Minor League Cricket started last season and its Major League big brother begins in 2023. Tom Dunmore is VP of Marketing for both tournaments. In this podcast, we discuss the story so far, the challenges they face and the vision for success.
Where is the landscape of cricket in the US right now?
The reliance on the south Asian audience
Why Major League Cricket is the ‘tip of the spear’ but they are looking to grow a sport
‘It is a unique opportunity but the USA is not afraid to take a deep dive and make a big bet’
The ‘feel’ of a Minor League Cricket game and having 3,000 fans at the final
The 35 professionals brought in as mentors to raise the standard
The authenticity and integrity of the game in the wide variety of US climate conditions
Learning from the development of Major League Soccer - stadium build, fan experience, getting priority dates for fixtures, ownership models
“We’ll be able to have world-class players right away, up there with the CPL and BBL”
The different investment models
Content strategy for franchises
Using a YouTube influencer and video games as tools
Being one of many ‘Major League” sports trying to get a foothold in the US
Whose audience are they going to take?
Is the push for the 2028 Olympics realistic?
Brian Jacks: Olympian, Superstar and maybe... UFC coach
Brian Jacks was a household in the UK in the 1980s. The pinnacle of the judo player’s sporting success came when he won a bronze medal at the Munich Olympics in 1972. But a few years later he would become much more famous as the UK and European champion in Superstars, a popular television programme that saw the best athletes of the day compete in events outside their niche. The show grew throughout the world to become perhaps the first modern example of how sporting heroes could cross into mainstream media, with all its financial benefits, through light entertainment television.
Now living in Thailand, Jacks talks about his motivations, how he leveraged his Superstars fame, his rivalry with Daley Thompson and why he’d love to be a grappling coach in UFC
Podcast partner: Sports Tech Match - Simplifying Sports Tech Procurement
Was his mental strength the key to his success, not his physical strength
The importance of a challenge
Making sure you have the grit to make his career ‘gambles’ pay-off
Why Brian believes Team GB judo is ‘soft’
“You have to see what failure is to see what achievement is”
Getting on to Superstars
How he monetised his stardom
Did you he enjoy the fame?
His approach to Superstars - breaking down the problem?
How do you find his ability to rise to a challenge?
Would he have fancied turning to UFC?
Coaching Neil Adams and punching him in the face as motivation before the biggest bout of his career
The power of community in his success
Being from a Black Cabbie family
The rivalry with Daley Thompson
Brian’s life now - his fitness, his hotel and charity work
Feeding over 32,000 people who were starving as a result of the pandemic
Running his apartment block business
His ambitions now
Grant Russell: Find a unique story, stick to the story, live the story
Motherwell FC have lifted only one trophy in the past 30 years. However, off the pitch, they beat off competition from Manchester United, Everton and Leicester to win the Best Digital/Social Media category at the Football Business Awards this year.
Grant Russell is the club’s Head of Brand, Digital and Communications. In this episode, he talks about the thinking, discipline and creativity that have gone into building a stand-out story for an otherwise overlooked Scottish team.
This is a deep dive into content strategy and, like me, Russell believes in cutting through clutter with a strict, realistic yet progressive vision for storytelling.
“We exist to improve people's lives” is Motherwell's Twitter bio. What does that really means?
Addressing key societal issues in the locality like male suicide and child poverty
Asking deep questions about what defines a supporter. "We are all purpose-driven whether we realise it or not"
Identifying you purpose and supporter ‘triggers’ at your club
"Having done all this work the most important thing is never to deviate from your story"
What stories did Motherwell leave out?
Are the fans onboard?
Are Motherwell ‘a club with a cause’ or ‘a cause with a club’?
Building target audiences? And who did they decide not to target?
Creating acquisition funnels and 'knowing when to pounce’?
The advantages and disadvantages of combining the brand, communications and marketing functions
The four narratives Motherwell focus on. ‘Hit one pillar and the guiding pillars underneath’.
Handling the commercial imperatives and turning down the 'wrong' partners
Calculating value per 1,000 followers
The basis of the strategy - balancing data with feel/tone
Defining a season narrative each year. "We know what we are. There is no point lying about it."
The approach of the outside media to the club-created story
Taking players out into the community and finding a story that fits with them
The effect of Covid on the community spirit within the club
Do the hardcore Motherwell fans get it?
Using the colours to their fullest
What is next on the agenda?
The huge advantage of building trust
The effect of winning a major award for content
Informs, educates, entertains
This podcast is always an enjoyable and insightful listen, and I'd happily recommend it to anybody else who's involved in running a sports club (or indeed to anyone with an interest in how they're run). I found recent episodes with Jon Lansdown and Mads Davidsen particularly interesting.
Henry Winter Podcast
Great podcast with a diverse range of guests. Really useful for anyone looking to go into the industry of sports journalism or branding, or just further their knowledge of the importance of digital platforms within football. Look forward to hearing from more guests in future podcast.
Henry Winter: Social media and sports journalism
A brilliant podcast that gave me a lot of insight and ideas to how to develop content and forge a following through social media. As a journalist myself I’ve admired Henry’s work for a long time, and was also fascinated to hear about Richards role in directing the content at my club Arsenal.
Really looking forward to hearing more episodes in the future around the themes of sports journalism in the digital landscape and new age media.