79 episodes

The Sports Entrepreneurs Podcast is an “audio biography” series with the leading Entrepreneurs and Movers & Shakers in the business of Sports & Esports of the past 40 years. Marcus drills deep into the career of his guests, what worked and what didn’t, the learning from the good, bad and ugly. Through his wide network, Marcus is able to host top guests from across the industry and from around the world. As a western Sports Entrepreneur operating in Asia for the past 25 years, it has a certain East-West flavour.

The Sports Entrepreneurs Podcast by Marcus Luer Marcus Luer

    • Business
    • 5.0 • 3 Ratings

The Sports Entrepreneurs Podcast is an “audio biography” series with the leading Entrepreneurs and Movers & Shakers in the business of Sports & Esports of the past 40 years. Marcus drills deep into the career of his guests, what worked and what didn’t, the learning from the good, bad and ugly. Through his wide network, Marcus is able to host top guests from across the industry and from around the world. As a western Sports Entrepreneur operating in Asia for the past 25 years, it has a certain East-West flavour.

    Gagan Palrecha, ”Sports NFT’s & More”

    Gagan Palrecha, ”Sports NFT’s & More”

    Today, I am talking to Gagan Palrecha, the CEO of NFTSTAR, a new Bay Area startup in the NFT sports space. Palrecha is an engineer by training and has been fascinated by sports & music since his youth. We cover some of the stops across his career, the build-up to his current role, including time at Dapper Labs as VP of Operations. We go deep into the blockchain, crypto, NFTs, Web 2.5 to 3.0, the metaverse, digital stadium, play-to-earn, and many more current buzzwords and of course, his vision for NFTSTAR. 

     

    Key Highlights

    Palrecha grew up playing sports & had a passion for music. After studying computer engineering and science, he was attracted to the startup scene in San Francisco in the early 2000s.
    Palrecha joined Loudcloud, a startup backed by VC company Andreessen Horowitz, before moving to a few other startups.
    As his first entrepreneurial exploits, Palrecha started First Time Records.
    Palrecha helped develop a space for artists and creators at the following businesses:
    Zattoo -- live streaming, the first virtual cable operator
    Peekok -- a platform to help artists and labels create a direct retail relationship with fans, via social and interactive marketing (early days of NFTs)
    Chirply -- fundraising for design marketplace

    2013: Blockchain and Bitcoin 
    The concept of a distributed ledger that governs ownership without government interference fascinated him.

    Palrecha’s experience at Dapper Labs:
    Crypto Kitty was the first big project for Dapper, before it was called Dapper Labs.
    The NBA took a risk and jointly created NBA Top Shot in 2020. By the end of 2020 and early 2021, NFTs took off and NBA Top Shot lead the way.
    Over 1 billion worth of trading volume with NBA Top Shot.

    What worked and didn’t work at the height of NBA Top Shot:
    Dealing with backlogs and regulatory issues.
    Blockchain challenges and issues with bots.
    Challenges of the virtual trading card model. 

    NFTSTAR: Palrecha’s vision as CEO (website: https://m.nftstar.com/) 
    NFTSTAR is building the biggest sports stadium in the Web3 metaverse.
    The company is working with athletes to build a direct relationship with fans. 
    Current projects with:
    Neymar Jr, Luis Figo, Son Heung-Min (Soccer)
    Giannis Antetokounmpo (Basketball)
    Christian McCaffrey (American Football)


    NFTSTAR is currently in its startup stage, with its first collection coming out in the fall of 2022
    Beyond the usual NFT headshots, NFTSTAR will include mobile gaming elements, as well an interactive and immersive fantasy world around its athlete partners.
    Prioritizing a meta stadium and virtual stadium vision, NFTSTAR rewards the fans and viewers with avatars and more.
    NFTSTAR is funded through private investors, not through a token raise.

    Play-to-Earn discussion:
    There are many current challenges early play-to-earn games are facing—taking a look at Axie Infinity for example.
    NFTSTAR is looking at the game and user experience first before focusing on play-to-earn business strategies. 
    NFTSTAR is not building a speculative platform. Instead, members are rewarded for participation with special privileges or items.

    NFTSTAR athlete engagement:
    Upcoming Neymar NFT drop, where Neymar and his team are heavily involved.
    NFTSTAR is all about the athlete and how they grew up, where they come from, and what shaped them. 
    The company helps build a community around the athletes by prioritizing experiences.

    If you’d like to reach Palrecha, contact him at nftstar@vsc.co.
     

    About

    Gagan Palrecha joined NFTSTAR as COO in September 2021, and is responsible for business development and operations, strategic partnerships, and product strategy. As the former Vice President of Dapper Labs, creators of NBA Top Shot and the Flow blockchain, Palrecha brings extensive experience and expertise in the NFT startup space. He has held several leadership positions in business development, product and operations and has done extensive work in Europe and Asia. He is also an active angel investor throu

    • 1 hr
    Damian Willoughby, ”Talking Football & Esports”

    Damian Willoughby, ”Talking Football & Esports”

    Damian Willoughby, turned his passion for football, playing in his youth in the UK, then NCAA football to spending his career across Rangers FC, Chelsea FC, Manchester City and the City Football Group till his current and most recent role at EA (Electronic Arts) in Esports.  Listen and learn from his experiences at some of the biggest Football brands and now at EA.

     

    Key Highlights

    From playing youth Football in the UK, to NCAA “soccer” and getting his MBA at University of Liverpool in Football
    Leading to his first first role in Rangers FC, leading sponsorship programs
    Despite the huge rivalry between Rangers and Celtic (collectively called “The Old Firm”) on the pitch, both clubs cooperated on sponsorship deals to avoid brands having to split across the fan base.  Very clever
    Talking numbers, front of shirt and other revenue streams for Rangers.  Very competitive with the big UK clubs at the time due to passionate fan base, 50k fans in stadium, etc.  The big Premier League Media income started to make the difference and swing power to English Clubs.
    Next stop Chelsea, Abramovich’s early era and success started to make a difference. Talking Samsung and leveraging the power of the Premier League globally.  Discussing the “not invented here syndrome” of global brand sponsorships and how to deal with it.  Singha Beer deal discussion.
    Moving into Player Management side with James Grant Sports Group for a couple of years to learn that part of the business, wasn’t his thing
    Manchester City, new Arab owners already in place and club on major trajectory – joining in global sponsorship sales role
    City Football Group (New York, Melbourne, Mumbai, Yokohama, etc) – 12 clubs now globally – (and Ferran Soriano’s role in it)
    How it works from a commercial point of view and creating synergies across the different clubs, leveraging the global power of Manchester City combined with the local strength of the various partner clubs
    Moving to Singapore running global business from there for six years, last few years also CEO of City Football India (Mumbai City FC), last few years during Covid
    How players move around the City Football Group ecosystem
    In the Middle of Covid, mid 2021, Gaming/Esports is booming, next move, VP Partnerships for EA Sports – huge company, US$ 7 billion in revenue, 13,000 people worldwide
    Talking Esports & EA properties, much more than FIFA, leader of sports simulation games (Madden NFL, F1, UFC, NHL, PGA Tour, etc) and other successful non-sports games (Apex Legend, Battlefield, The Sims) – difference between sports and non-sports games
    Huge player base and time spend in the game by Gamers, massive audiences and engagement levels – still lots of education to be done with brands on how to leverage it
    FIFA split, what he could share – big plans for EA Sports FC , nothing changes in the game, the teams and general feel of the game
    Stevenage FC and Burger King,  how it went viral, creative thinking on how to leverage a game
     

    About 

    A highly accomplished and respected global football executive with 20+ years experience in generating and managing over £1.3bn in revenues, motivating large (+65 staff) and globally diverse (13 offices) teams to achieve sporting and financial goals around performance, brand, revenue and fan growth for leading sports properties including City Football Group, Chelsea & Rangers FC.

    Most recently CEO of City Football India following the strategic acquisition of a majority stake in Mumbai City FC, worked with CFG and Reliance as shareholders to develop the Club, Indian Super League and Indian football.

    Currently VP, Partnerships at Electronic Arts, originally head hunted to develop the commercial strategy for Esports across key global EA franchises (FIFA, Madden & Apex) and now working in a small core executive team to shape the future of the company’s marquee football franchise.

     

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    • 1 hr 25 min
    Sandy Brown, ”American Sports Broadcasting Nomad”

    Sandy Brown, ”American Sports Broadcasting Nomad”

    Sandy Brown, another true American Sports Nomad, especially in the Media and Broadcasting space.  Listen to amazing stories of Sandy’s globe trotting career around the world from ProServ, NBA, ESPN/Star Sports, Univision, ONE World Sports and more.

     

    Key Highlights

    Growing up playing tennis, made connections through his Tennis Club in Delaware
    How he got started at ProServ, first meeting with Donald Dell, driving his limo around the airport
    Dennis Spencer one of his early mentors (shout out to one of the nicest guys in the industry)
    Pro-Serve, top roster of Tennis and NBA players, tennis tournaments – peak of company


    Before Sportel Monaco days, MIP TV and MIP Com , flogging sports TV rights in Cannes  
    Next stop NBA, international TV rights – David Stern his next mentor, early days as Commissioner (know your business better than anyone else was his mantra)
    CCTV story.  Happened to me before as well


    ESPN Asia,  move to Hong Kong  -  at the age of 28 (1992)
    Birth of Cable industry in Asia, Satellite distribution just started – DTH business across the region
    US content as a start and Monday night Premier League matches
    Creative deal making in China


    Merger of ESPN Asia and Star Sports in Asia (Murdoch) (new set up in Singapore) – Managing Director of new JV
    Big change in broadcast landscape and shock for Rights holders and agencies
    Two different corporate cultures working together, very focused on turning a loss making entity to break even
    ESPN had carriage fees,  Star Sports was free for platform owners (Advertising driven)
    Exploits in India, cable operators in India are another level (try to visualize it) – Chris McDonald/Manu Sawhney (wild west of India, machine guns, etc)
    ARPU blend discussion – penny a sub in China, 5 cent in India to 1 dollar in SEA and Taiwan – retail rate of partners
    Disney/ESPN recently shut the entire network structure down after acquiring FOX Sports globally a few years before, about 30 years later  


    Next stop CNBC Asia (NBC Universal) – learning the GE culture, Jack Welsh as CEO
    Business News different thing


    After 15 years, time to come back to the US – biggest take away, working with great people makes the difference
    Univision – President of Sports – launching a domestic US cable sports channel focused on Hispanic population – bringing in new ideas and concepts, pushing Rights holders to new grounds
    ONE World Sports – new platform targeting Asian diaspora in the US (Seamus O’Brien behind the venture)
    From two affiliate deals, pushed up to 70
    Lots of live content, Chinese Super League, KHL (Russian Ice-hockey), ECB (English Cricket), European Football Club Channels, Table Tennis, etc
    Alternative to ESPN, heavy promotions and support to rights holders to market their product in the US
    Eventually shareholders decided to sell the business – to ELEVEN


    Commissioner of Major League Lacrosse – turn around situation, difficult set up with owners and commercial structure
    League had been around for 20 years, lots of cleaning up to do
    Competitive League shows up (PLL), plus Covid gets in the way
    Merging with PLL now, handing it over, winding up MLL


    Poshando Inc – starting his own consulting business just recently (back in Baltimore)
    Final thoughts on Broadcasting/Streaming industry currently,  subscription models (Netflix), investor expectations vs industry realities  (ARPU blend vs Sub growth) –
    quality of subscribers
    cost of acquisition of subs (cost of broadcast rights


     

    About

    Alexander P. Brown joined Major League Lacrosse in February 2018. Since taking the helm, Brown has drastically improved the experience and opportunity for players, teams and fans. During his tenure, he has restructured the ownership group, rebranded the league marks and reacquired the league’s media rights, leading to exponential growth in nationally televised reach. In 2019, Brown welcomed ten new partners to the league, introduced a creative and sophisticated d

    • 1 hr 21 min
    Scott Levy, ”NBA Globetrotter”

    Scott Levy, ”NBA Globetrotter”

    Scott Levy, a globetrotting senior US sports executive with a stellar resume and decades of achievements in the NBA.  Get an inside scoop into the growth of the NBA internationally, and Scott’s role and journey over more than two decades with the organization.

     

    Key Highlights

    Passion for traveling inspired early after University, starting in the advertising world with Y&R and McCann-Erickson in New York City with a goal to combine his passion with work
    Joining the NBA in 1996 working in marketing and moving in Media and international television distribution
    His first decade at the NBA unpacked (1996-2006)
    Massive growth of global distribution, especially country by country deals – media a big focus of then Commissioner David Stern
    Over 20 deals in China alone, Shanghai Media story 
    Clear strategy to keep everything in house, not using agencies – Scott explains the reason behind it 
    David Stern, always pushing his team to get better, be the most educated guy in the room 
    The impact of players on growth,  Yao Ming, Dirk Nowitzki and the US superstars from MJ to Kobe Bryant
    The different impacts of Yao and Dirk in their respective territories, Kobe and LeBron, social media exploits and travelling the globe 
    Teams travelling globally to promote the League (pre-season games), comparing to European/UK Football Clubs.  Decisions are centralized and coordinated by the League
    Initially teams often didn’t want to travel (Coaches preferred to train at home for pre-season) and now it’s a part of their global brand and team building


    Teams been travelling since the 90s, first in Japan, up to 6-8 teams now regularly travelling each year, mostly teams playing each other
    Teams now using Tours to expand fan base, bring in new sponsors, etc, also driven by more diverse group of NBA Team owners   


    MJ Global Sports & Media – short 2-3 year break as consultant 
    Back into the NBA for the second round (2009-2022)
    Coming back as SVP & Managing Director for NBA Asia based in Hong Kong
    His role, everything in region excluding Greater China (separate NBA China office), firstly “learn about Asia”
    Philippines, highest basketball affinity in the world – mad about the game – Eric Spoelstra visiting the Philippines
    India, important market and development started a decade ago
    Basketball Africa League (BAL) success and model, potential for other regions?
    NBA Digital platforms (NBA League Pass) – variety of feeds (Player, Refs & Mascot cams) different languages, local influencers calling a game in local language, different packages, fourth quarter pass, etc.  Very customized to each region and country. As low as US$ 20 dollars (correction to US$ 10 dollars comment) per season
    Rakuten, important partnership in Japan (media partner) and globally
    Short form content, very important for engagement, vertical video format, finding the right mix, longer content demand growing (20-60 min)
    Local partnerships, depends on country, ie. Philippines, Australia and China has strong local partnerships
    Junior NBA program – healthy livestyle focus, more opportunities to grow with local partners


    Scott leaving the NBA, becoming a digital nomad, spending time between Asia and US – next moves
    Consulting companies in Web 3 space     
    NBA Top Shot, NBA an early adopter in NFT space – US$ 1 billion dollar worth of transaction 
    Scott sees exponential growth in the Web3 space from metaverse to Dao’s – still early days 
    NB2K – a form of a metaverse already,  NBA Fortnite – NBA All-Star Game content (16 million visiting NBA Hub in Fortnite)
    His focus is on being heavily immersed in this space in the foreseeable future on his own
    Final words on the current NBA Play-offs and teams in the Conference Finals 


     

    About

    SCOTT LEVY, Executive Vice President & Managing Director, NBA Asia

    As Executive Vice President & Managing Director of NBA Asia, Scott Levy oversees development and expansion of the NBA’s branding and basketba

    • 1 hr 20 min
    Oli Slipper, ”Streaming Pioneer”

    Oli Slipper, ”Streaming Pioneer”

    Oliver Slipper, a true British Sports Entrepreneur, best known for his role building PERFORM (now Stats Perform) and now the Executive Chairman of Pitch International.  Lots of great insights into Perform’s business model and his follow up moves as an Entrepreneur with Head Ball and PickGuru to his current role at Pitch International, a leading sports media rights agency in the UK.

     

    Key Highlights

    From playing Cricket to his first job at Accenture.  Why athletes bring unique attributes to the business world and learning on the job at Accenture.
    NTL, first project in sports at Accenture.  Premium TV – very early days of streaming services in the UK
    Lots of learning from all the mistakes being made in the business, losing money and the flawed business model at the time
    After restructuring the deals with Football Clubs, getting to break even and slowly business model is taking shape
    Winning UK horseracing deal, merging with Inform to launch Perform - Andrew Crocker’s role in setting up the new company
    Perform business model unpacked, doubled revenue every year in next four years – leading to IPO
    WTA deal, switched to buying all rights, not just betting rights anymore.
    Netflix model and distressed media rights market inspired DAZN
    Latency challenges and how to overcome it for bookmakers  
    His thoughts on DAZN and current owners end game
    His next moves as an Entrepreneur: Masomo, building a great sports game called Head Ball - www.headball2.com, with 200 mil downloads and sold the company after a few years   
    Understanding the “K Factor” – key to growing online user base, learning App economy
    PickGuru, how it started during Covid – sports prediction game (App only in the UK)

    Executive Chairman of Pitch International – role since mid 2018 – media rights agency business, leading UK Football, Cricket, Rugby agency
    Four parts to the Pitch business, from content creation to distribution, including sponsorship and Brazil National team Tours
    Some of his investments over the years,  from Play Sports Network to Cage Warriors
    Wrapping it up with his non-executive roles, including England & Wales Cricket Board (new event “The Hundred”)


    About

    Oli Slipper, is the Executive Chairman of Pitch International, the leading Sports Marketing agency. 

    In a career spanning 25 years, Oli co-founded Perform Group, a pioneer in sports streaming and data and lead it’s IPO and ultimate privatisation. 

    Subsequently Oli, co-founded Masomo, a mobile studio focused on sports games which was acquired by Miniclip. More recently Oli, co-founded PickGuru, a sports prediction app. In the last 10 years Oli has been an active investor in the sports, fintech and consumer tech space including: Global Cycling Network (GCN), Grabyo, Marshmallow, Cage Warriors, Sixes amongst others.

    Oli sits on the Board of the Professional Darts Corporation and Oval Invincibles.

     

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    To get in touch, please email us at podcast@marcusluer.com

     

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    • 1 hr 10 min
    Philipp Grothe, ”Football Focus”

    Philipp Grothe, ”Football Focus”

    Philipp Grothe, best known as the co-founder and driving force behind the KENTARO agency in the UK, a true pioneer and entrepreneur in the sports business over the past 20+ years.  Great stories from Philipp’s career across UFA, IMG, KENTARO and what he is doing now.

     

    Key Highlights

    Early days, coming out of Law School in Hamburg, Germany, lots of side hustles, own Ad agency, a Band, running two clubs, etc
    First job, UFA Sports, part of Bertelsmann Group in Germany, second largest Media group in the world at the time
    Competition with Kirch Media Group in Munich – small group of young sports marketing pioneers developing industry in Europe
    Interesting time, growth of Private TV networks in Europe, downfall of the Iron Curtain, new Eastern European countries opening-up
    European Football at the height of the “decentralized” era, different agencies from across Europe/UK chasing after pieces of the cake
    Stories on how deals were done both with the clubs and broadcasters, mostly trading with 2ndand 3rd party rights
    The power of Football, closely linked to powerful people in politics, creating entire new channels with key matches
    How the money of the Champions League has skewed the balance of power in the various domestic European leagues
    Next stop, IMG London – or from Guetersloh to Cleveland – learning different cultures
    IMG – key parts at the time, IMG Talent management and TWI Media/production at the time – company not in great shape at the final days of Mark McCormack
    Looking to build the House of Football – including building a Super agency – not everything worked and why
    Being very German and contradicting Bob Kain at the first meeting in Cleveland
    Bundling of rights, the oldest agency trick in the world
    Setting up KENTARO in a hotel in London (Kentaro meaning Lion Mother), good timing, next boom years coming  
    Heavy focus on Football and some Boxing (Sauerland), stay focused on core competence important
    Key to early success, quick decision-making process compared to bigger agencies or institutional money and always hungry for the next deal (always as good as your last deal)
    Not always dealing with the person you thought you were dealing with, some painful lessons
    New concept of “two National teams playing in a third country – neutral ground”, starting with England vs Argentina in Switzerland.  Brazil World Tour is born, 120 games later and the stories behind it
    Kentaro by numbers, over 500 players under contract, over 150 employees, over E$ 200 mil in revenue at the peak, but also overheads of E$ 20 mil – feeding the beast
    Asian Football stories, Thai FA and how this leads to helping purchase Manchester City for Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra (former Prime Minister)
    Managing egos, the key skill for anyone running an agency  & what happened to Kentaro at the end
    Moving back to Germany, this time Berlin, new company Akani – focused on sports and entertainment, football, celebrities, MENA region, etc
    Final thoughts on Covid and impact on Football, industry in review over the past 20 years, agency business never stops, similarity to Investment Banking
     

    About

    Philipp started his career after his law degree at University in Hamburg at Bertelsmann’s Ufa Sports in 1994. He was responsible for the international football division of the company dealing with federations, leagues and clubs during a time, where broadcasting rights became "golden dust“ for TV-channels across Europe and the rest of the world.

    In 2000 Philipp moved to London and became the Managing Director of the football division of IMG, founded by Mark McCormack and the biggest sports rights agency in the world. In 2003 he set up together
    with his partners his own agency Kentaro, one of the leading marketing companies in the football business in the following years. Philipp relocated in 2017 back to Germany, where he is still active in the business focussing on digital activities and revenue generation for various rights holders

    • 1 hr 25 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
3 Ratings

3 Ratings

Jsj11 ,

Superb

Been in the sports industry for a long time and this is a superb podcast that I have been waiting for. Very insightful and fascinating to hear the stories and advice from industry legends. Great work, Marcus.

RobinHoward09 ,

Very good

Very inspiring! Thank you

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