2012 IMG World Congress of Sports Recap: Part 1

Last week, I had the chance to attend the 2012 IMG World Congress of Sports, one of the top Sports Business Journal conferences of the year. I tried to take as many notes as I could from each panel, so here are some of the key questions and insights that were discussed.

Rapid-Fire Roundtable: Unscripted Opinions on the Headlines of the Day

  • Team Ownership:  Fans care more about the owners ability to put a competitive team on the field, regardless of what the owner’s name is (re: Mets/Dodgers). However, some owners seem to lose their business instincts that led to their financial success when they start running a team. The owner needs to remember that they are the “steward of the brand” and focus on building a long-term relationship with fans while creating a value proposition that makes sense.
  • Ticketing:  Things continue to evolve, with changes being driven by the secondary market. Teams know who they sell a ticket to, but still cannot identify who ends up using it. Being able to identify the actual end user will let teams deliver a better service experience, and this process will come from a transition to electronic ticketing. Additional, season ticket sales continued to be threatened by the price and availability of individual games through ticket resellers.
  • Industry Threats:   A common thread through the entire event was the need to improve the in-venue experience in order to drive attendance. It’s not necessarily that the live experience has gotten worse, but the at-home experience has gotten so much better. This panel also had concerns about how college athletics operates. Is there enough benefit for the athletes when the schools are receiving all the revenue, especially with growing media deals, and how can “non-revenue” generating sports survive with so much focus on football and men’s basketball. Finally, the panelists all want to see an increase in player safety research in an effort to reduce the risk of concussions.

Redefining Consumer Engagement: The Role of Social Media and Emerging Marketing Platforms

  • Spend vs. Consumption:  Approximately 25-30% of media consumption time is on the Internet, but the digital media spend hasn’t made that shift yet.
  • Viral Impact:  Everyone wants to identify that next big social campaign, but you need a message or event that is truly remarkable in order for the message to spread. The message needs to go through the process of consumer discovery to community sharing and then to viral distribution. Additionally, the combination of mass media with social media can generate the widest impact.
  • Sharing Value:  You need to think about the potential sharing value when creating digital content. What audience would want to share it? How would they share it? How consumable is the message? How easy and natural is it to share?
  • Identifying Talent:  Before you find an agency, identify your reason(s) for engagement and overarching goals. Do the goals and expertise of the vendor match your focus? One of the simplest and best approaches is to find previous social campaigns that you liked, and find out who was behind them.
  • My Favorite Quotes:  “You can’t tweet with a disclaimer.” (Bill Webster from Sun Life Financial) and “You have control of the message…until  it leaves the door.” (I can’t remember who said this – sorry!)

The Balancing Act: How Teams are Staying Competitive On and Off the Field

  • Jersey Sponsorships:  It seems like this is the next logical move that can have a significant revenue impact, but teams still need to identify not just the deal value, but the negative impact of removing the city/brand from the jersey. It’s not a simple decision.
  • Generating Revenue:  You can only grow your physical and digital inventory so much, so everything seems to come back to small incremental opportunities. For example, the San Francisco Giants saw a 7-10% revenue bump by implementing dynamic ticket pricing and it let’s them better compete with the secondary market. Teams are still trying to find the best ways to monetize around social media. Another option is “vertical integration” with properties taking back control of their own media rights. Finally, one of the biggest opportunities is “buying the property across the street” in an effort to develop an on-site dining, shopping and entertainment experience (e.g. L.A. Live, Patriot Place, etc.).
  • What We Can Do Better:  Again, it came back to the live experience. We need to make sure fans can afford to attend live events and have an experience that encourages them to return. We also need to do a better job identifying what the fans are looking for in the live experience vs. the television experience, and find ways to serve both audiences together.

I will post Part 2 with more highlights next week.