The new location outside of Central London created more consistent attendance through the week; the conference room was filled all day and the presentation rooms were just an escalator ride up one floor which it made the whole event easy to navigate, plus the entrance walk via the hallowed turf of Twickenham was a big hit. Added to that the introduction of multiple networking events, my decision to stay in Twickenham for the 3 nights was a good one, as it helped me enjoy all aspects of the conference.
So, what did I learn at Leaders London 2019?
LEADERS LEADS IN THE NETWORKING STAKES
As professionals in the sports and entertainment sector, there is certainly no shortage of conferences available to us in any given month. What I really like about the Leaders Events (London and New York), is that along with attracting senior talent from rights holders and other players within the industry, they have found a perfectly balanced mix between education and networking throughout the week.
The main conference hall had many more areas to sit and network this year and the after-dark sessions were just as well attended, with some fantastic banter and relaxed business conversation. It made for some solid business, solid education, and solid socializing all in one!
DATA CONTINUES TO DOMINATE, BUT IT’S NOWHERE NEAR FINISHED
Data was a common theme throughout the conference. It’s clear that our industry is continuously improving technology, processes, and human understanding surrounding data and yet, our greatest challenges remain how to:
- Use our data
- Commercialise our data
- Analyse our data
- Improve our business because of our data
Several sessions presented data utilization case studies, and while most were well ahead of the overwhelming majority out there (particularly the Non-North American organisations in attendance), the presenters still accepted they have a long way to go in the data transformation of their businesses.
The future of data capture, analysis, commercialisation, and business improvement is exciting and we’re starting to see progressive clubs truly taking it to the next level – more on that later!
FAN DATA IS THE NEW FRONTIER
While “Big Data” and “Measurement” remained buzz-words, no matter which room or topical stream you followed it all came back to using that data to drive fan engagement and understanding of the customer.
Even Nielsen Sports who have led the way around commercial data and measurement, took this conference as the stage to launch a new Fan Data platform, further proving what we’ve already known - that any commercial model for a sports and entertainment property needs to focus on the fans, and in particular:
- How to engage with them
- How to understand them
- How to track their behaviors
- How to use that information for commercial growth
It made me happy to see this, as we also saw that those who can get in front of this trend through technology, systems, procedures, and storytelling are the ones excelling in our industry.
PROGRESSING TECHNOLOGY ADOPTION
It seems just a year ago, most organisations were walking around these conferences still trying to undertake a “digital transformation project” or “assessment of their needs” when it came to technology.
This year, most people I spoke to had already embarked on CRM projects, had engaged with specialised platforms focusing on specific business needs or, in the best cases, started to build their own environments to bring together multiple technology solutions in a single hub to enable business intelligence efforts.
GETTING UNDER THE SKIN OF LAFC
Many great sessions piqued my interest throughout the week. However, it was the ones that highlighted how clubs built their data and fan engagement programs that really stood out to me, particularly the KORE Software sponsored session presented by the Los Angeles Football Club’s VP of Business & Data Strategy, Ryan Bishara. Here were my favourite parts of the presentation:
- Ryan highlighted that being a new club, LAFC had the opportunity to get their business intelligence and technology stack right from the start without any legacy programs or practices holding them back;
- The solutions LAFC have build are not reliant on one single provider or platform selling them a “one-stop-shop” for all their technical needs as this doesn’t exist in their eyes, but rather finding specialists in multiple areas to create a sports-specific tech stack to give them the operational and insights functionality needed to drive their business;
- Ryan’s presentation was not only top-line about what their platform does for them, he dove into real insights and stories which drove home the successes. Ryan walked the audience through why they chose the vendors they did, how they all fit together to create their ecosystem, how they use the information, and finally pulled it all together into a real-life example of how they used this to sign the MLS’ first ever sleeve deal (which was announced the next day).
For me, this is the type of thing that I go to these conferences for - to get under the skin of an organisation, not to hear someone push a product. Yes, everyone in the room was well aware that KORE is LAFC’s overlaying CRM platform and data warehouse provider, but that’s not what makes their story so compelling - it’s the systems and data they are pulling in and how they are understanding it to make commercial gains that were the real takeaways from the session.
For anyone interested in learning more, check out this on-demand recording of Setting the Foundation: Developing the Partnership Process with LAFC.
Next year, I’m coming back to Leaders for two things:
- Continued amazing networking
- More deep dives into business practices which tell a real story and provide real insights
See you all at Leaders 2020!!
Mark Thompson // Head of International Business
Mark specialises in sponsorship and diversified income strategies and has used this expertise across the Community, Semi-Professional and Professional Sports sectors. He combines hands-on experience in managing the expectations and obligations of sponsors with marketing and stakeholder engagement to deliver outstanding results.