The 18th edition of the SPORTO Conference, organized as in-person event after more than 2 years, is successfully concluded! The Stadium Experience was even more intense compared to previous pre-covid editions, despite being a one-day event only. Ten sessions that covered topics from the future of sports, digital audience growth trends, purpose-led partnerships, metaverse & Web3, sustainability to globalization of sport offered a deep dive into sports marketing, digital and sponsorship world with renowned experts from the industry. We were even more excited as we hosted the event at a sportive and a unique venue, placed on the VIP stands at the Stožice Stadium in Ljubljana, that provided an inspiring backdrop for attendees and guest speakers. Engaged audience – more than 300 delegates coming from 20 countries – co-created a positive vibe at the open space edition of the conference where speakers’ announcement to the stage had parallels with boxing ring walk-ins.
Our keynote speaker, Matt Rogan, the Co-Founder of Two Circles and author of the book “All We Play For”, opened the conference with a presentation about 10 predictions for the future of sports. Matt predicts that sport is entering a golden phase despite facing several difficult challenges in the past years. His first thesis was that some are involved in sports, and all are playing. Specifically, for Matt, the game is essential. The question “Are darts, billiards, and video games sports?” is no longer relevant to him. “I watched three sports during the week, my son today can watch 40 of them until breakfast. Who gives someone the legitimacy that some are considered as sport and others are not? Even in the digital world, things are changing. Competitive gaming is becoming important, whether we like it or not.” Matt elaborated on further predictions that covered different areas from digital and physical fuse, importance of trust “Those we trust will change our nation” to professionalization of sport and the local touch “Local successes will drive global change.”
Katie Matthews, the Partnerships Director at Little Dot Sport, shared recommendations on how rights holders and their brand partners can make the most of their digital content. To make the most of the opportunities of digital channels, Katie has a few suggestions. The first is to use vertical video in the style of TikTok, YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels. The second suggestion challenges the warnings that our level of attention is shortening, and the third is a focus on athlete’s personalities in creating content. Another suggestion refers to important moments or turning points, such as celebrations. “Whether you have them often or rarely doesn’t matter. It is important to take advantage of them. Plan well for a timeline of posts, which can range from background shots from first ‘battle lines’ to ‘memories’ a few weeks after the event,” she advises.
Ellie Moss, the Strategy Director at Cake, centred her lecture around the process of building meaningful brands in culture. “Create an environment for the audience to be a creator not a spectator!” How can you, as a brand, better fit into the culture? “Create new elements of culture. For example, you can work with local food companies and fashion brands to move culture forward. You don’t have to be limited to those who are already outside.” So why not push the boundaries? “The most relevant ones win the battle for attention,” added Ellie.
Casper Svanemose, the Marketing Manager at Continental Denmark, provided strategic and emotional insight into their purpose-driven campaign, aiming at building empathy between cyclist and other drivers. “When we drive and ride with care and empathy, we create a space of safety. When we drive and ride with the opposite – we have potentially dangerous situations. Which is why we started “Share the Road” – a journey toward more care – respect and love on the roads,” explained Casper. He shared the development of the campaign that started with a series of films focusing on safe overtaking, continued with conflict movie that created a public debate and evolved into movement with #ShareTheRoad manifest, that will be in an engaging way activated at this year’s Tour de France (with the Grand Départ in Copenhagen).
Mohammad Ali Abbaspour, Founder & CEO of award-winning start-up Sponix Tech, was guest of SPORTO Tech moments and offered a behind-the-scenes look into immersive replay technology and virtual advertisement technology. Both innovations are based on AI and computer vision. Immersive replays allow fans to see the game as athlete’s do on the field, while virtual advertisement technology could change the TV marketing landscape. With this technology virtual advertisement can be done from any stadium or arena in the world in real time without any additional equipment or personnel onsite uniquely for unlimited number of broadcasters.
Patrick Haslett, the Managing Partner at Impact 3 Zero, stressed the importance of sustainability in sports. He offered a deeper look at different approaches to how companies can commit to sustainability and encourage fans to do the same. “Sustainability is good business,” was one of his red threads of the lecture. Patrick further elaborated some of the key business opportunities connected to sustainability such us efficient operations, deeper fan engagement, purposeful sponsorships, cutting edge innovation and risk management.
Richard Petrich, the Managing Director at Value of We, provided an insight into the metaverse, what it can potentially become in the next decades, and why Web3 plays such an important role in the life of a typical global internet user who spends almost 7 hours online every day. Richard took us on the education journey from understanding the Web3 economy and crypto world to understanding the metaverse structure, while sharing brand use cases from sports and recommendations for entering the new digital frontier that already has impact in the world of sports. His view: “The Metaverse is not a new virtual world that is going to replace our current one. It is a vision for how we will use Web3 infrastructure and new technologies to evolve and enhance our ‘real’ experiences in new ways.”
Craig Howe (Rebel Ventures) and Peter Scott (Warner Bros. Discovery) and discussed ways for rights holders and brands to justify their investment in sports media rights and partnerships while maximizing the impact of globalization of sport. Craig emphasized that sports brands must go global to justify their valuations. He discussed the golden standard case study connected to building character based global fandom – F1’s Drive for Survive and Rebel’s work with Milwaukee Bucks and Kansas City Chiefs to drive global fan growth, engagement and conversion. His conclusion thoughts: “Target globally. Activate locally. Serve custom audiences.” Peter Scott emphasized the importance of creating content for sport fans that works on multiple platforms.
Exclusive SPORTO Talk brought together two leading figures in the world of football on stage – Aleksander Čeferin, UEFA President and Nasser Al-Khelaïfi, European Club Association Chairman & PSG President & CEO. Discussion touched the future of European club football, marketing, leadership and more. Aleksander Čeferin discussed about a rather challenging year, successful implementation of the Europa Conference League competition and the huge strides Women’s Champions League is making. Nasser Al-Khelaïfi impressed the audience with his respectful words and humble stance on the importance of European football tradition, structure and legacy.
The evening part of the SPORTO Conference started with revealing of 2021 SPORTO Brands (most marketable athletes according to the Mediana Research Institute research) for the territories of Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia. Among them were Luka Dončić, Novak Đoković and Luka Modrić. You can find more about the research here.
The last panel (SPORTO Extra-time) was dedicated to women’s sport. JJ Rowland (European Handball Federation), Christina Höllerl (Infront Sports & Media) and Bor Rozman (Handball Federation of Slovenia) discussed the upcoming Women’s EHF EURO 2022, which will be held in November this year, about the importance of women’s empowerment and sustainable development. They were followed by the special guest/artist Senidah, the championship ambassador with the premiere of the official anthem video of Women’s EHF EURO 2022 “Play with Heart” that concluded the programme of the event.
The final whistle for the Stadium Experience came late in the night after the SPORTO Party.
We would like to thank all of our partners, participants, and everybody that collaborated with the event in any way. We would also like to invite you to have a look at the after-movie of the event, FB photo-gallery, Instagram and short interviews with speakers on our YouTube channel.
Thank you for being part of SPORTO and see you next year!