SportsPro’s flagship annual conference was reimagined as a virtual summit for the first time as SportsPro Live 2020 got underway on Wednesday.
Experts, thinkers and innovators from across the sporting spectrum convened from the comfort of their own homes and offices to tackle many of the industry’s hottest topics, with an action-packed day of discussions and masterclasses spanning everything from data and digital transformation to technology, sustainability and marketing.
With day one having drawn to a close, here’s our pick of the highlights.
PDC Home Tour showed that production values “are evolving”
Not everyone will remember that darts was one of the first sports to resume during lockdown, when the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) launched the 2020 Unibet Home Tour.
The tournament, which ran for a month from 17th April, saw some of the world’s top darts players step up to the oche – albeit an oche located in their own homes.
Speaking during one of the first sessions of SportsPro Live, Matthew Porter, the PDC’s chief executive, said that while there were challenges – such as the tournament being victim to a cyberattack on the opening night – the Home Tour ultimately proved that successful events can be produced remotely.
“There was nothing particularly sophisticated about it, but it worked,” Porter said. “It delivered a product which bookmakers were happy with, which broadcasters were happy with and which fans were happy with.
“So for us it was a massive tick in the box.”
The way sports use social media has “forever shifted”
Nick Cicero, the vice president of strategy at online analytics firm Conviva, pointed out that sports properties quickly migrated to long-form video platforms as soon as it became apparent that there would not be live events for the foreseeable future.
That meant publishing more on Instagram’s IGTV, YouTube and Facebook Live in an attempt to both engage with people in real-time and also create immersive content. Now that sports are back underway, however, Cicero pointed out that sports properties have reverted back to real-time platforms like Twitter and Instagram Stories in order to amplify their content around live events.
Going forward, though, Cicero believes that the way sports properties experimented with social media during lockdown will have a lasting impact on how they use those platforms in the future.
“The balance has forever shifted,” he said. “They gave people a really unique look into their content strategies that they probably wouldn’t have had the time to otherwise.”
Wimbledon is planning for 2021 - but with no guarantees
Wimbledon was sadly cancelled for this year, of course, but the big question on every tennis fan’s lips is whether the historic Grand Slam will happen in 2021.
Sally Bolton, installed as the chief executive of the All England Club at the start of the year, said she is confident next year's edition will take place, at least "at this point" - but in reality it's "simply too early to say" for sure given the continuing uncertainty surrounding the staging of major events in the Covid-19 era.
In a wide-ranging chat with SportsPro’s own Eoin Connolly, Bolton also provided an update on Wimbledon's grand Masterplan, and explained why she was moved to take up her new role at SW19.
Every smart city needs an "intelligent" golf course
"When everything is connected, then anything is possible.” So said Michael Cole, the chief technology officer at golf’s European Tour, which is on a mission to create truly “intelligent” golf courses through the implementation of emerging technologies.
Bridging the gap between on-course spectators and armchair fans is never easy. But Cole said he is adamant that the technology exists to transform the golfing experience from the ground up.
Fans are looking to social commerce for their merchandise fix
Sport’s return behind closed doors has, in fact, opened doors, with leagues and teams finding new ecommerce opportunities on social media. New services like Instagram Shopping have enabled fans to shop for official merchandise directly through social networks, providing a welcome avenue for sports organisations to generate revenue at a time when bricks-and-mortar outlets are struggling for footfall.
As Will Yoder, who oversees sports partnerships at Instagram, put it: “People are really interested in buying merch right now. It makes them feel more connected to the game they can't be in front of."
For the pick of the coverage from day two, follow @SportsPro and @SP_Influencers on Twitter. Alternatively, sign up to watch every session for free here.
Whatever your chosen platform, don't miss the chance to hear from another stellar line-up of speakers and presenters, including:
- Gary Neville, former England soccer star turned Sky Sports pundit
- Andrea Radrizzani, Founder and Chairman, Aser Ventures
- George Pyne, Chief Executive, Bruin Sports Capital
- Moon Javaid, Chief Strategy Officer, San Francisco 49ers
- Susie Tomson, Sustainability Director, SailGP
And if that's not enough, there'll also be sessions featuring representatives from the likes of Arsenal, BeIN Media Group, Cleveland Cavaliers, Twitch, BT Sport, Dorna Sports, Visa, Toyota and more.