Talking trends at the Telegraph Business of Sport

 
The 2017 edition of the Telegraph Business of Sport (BOS) once again brought together some of the brightest and biggest names in the industry to provoke thought and facilitate business over a couple of sun-filled days in May.
 
Simon Lamb, our Group Marketing Manager, has picked out a few of our highlights from the conference.
 

What is the world of sport’s response to eSports?

Value for money, an untapped gold mine and a hotline to the most elusive audience in the industry or unproven, high-risk and a hindrance on our health?
 
There was no doubt which camp the panel featuring Chester King, CEO of the British eSports Association, Chris Mead, Director of Partnerships at Twitch and Christian Weighlin Thorn, Head of Marketing for Audi Denmark, were in.
 



Helping the laymen understand a landscape which remains somewhat dystopian to many of us, King explained that there are 35 different eSports games and like athletics you’ll be a fan of one or two. The javelin and the sprint or in this case, Quake and Madden. ‘It is this fragmentation of the industry which is a challenge for brands’ commented King.
 
Mead highlighted that on average a Twitch user will spend ‘106 minutes a day consuming eSports content’. Undivided engagement for this passion point. So much for the theory of this being an ‘Age of Distraction’, a trend we analysed recently.
 
We also heard how Charlton Athletic Football Club’s stadium, the Valley, will host a YouTubers FIFA ’17 match next month and all 27,000 tickets have been snapped up. King already tried ‘real’ football with his son but he quipped, while sat at Tottenham Hotspurs’ White Hart Lane stadium, ‘where is the commentary, Dad’? Perhaps ‘reality’ football with its live commentary, real-time replays and booming music, is the answer. King junior and 27,000 Londoners seem to think so.
 

Reinventing a traditional sport

‘Too much razzmatazz for golf’. That was the conclusion of one of golf’s traditionalists after watching the European Tour’s debut of its new ‘Sixes’, six instead of 18 holes. This was ‘music to my ears’ according to Nick Pink, the CEO of England Golf, ‘can you imagine golf ever being described as ‘too razzmatazz’?’ The sport is evolving, not to tear up its history and heritage and with it its existing loyalists but instead to open its doors to a new audience, just as cricket has with Twenty20 (T20).
 
This diversity of audience is exactly what brands are seeking when they invest in sport according to Martyn Wilson, Head of Sponsorship for RBS. The Scottish bank invested in cricket because through the Test Match format they hit their corporate audience and thanks to the T20 revolution they’ve found a sweet-spot for their high-street banks among families.
 



You could see the pain, and the knowing smile, etched in Michael Vaughan’s face as the former England Cricket captain heaped praise on Cricket Australia for its Big Bash League. It is a league that has learnt from the North American sports model, flying in a Chicago-based consultancy firm to rejuvenate the product in 2013, putting entertainment front and centre of the experience. Yes, it is a bonus if Aaron Finch scores a youth-inspiring century however the powers-that-be aren’t solely reliant on the cricket to enthuse the masses. The quick-fire three-hour spectacle is packed with enough glitz, glamour and pyrotechnics to distract, delight and possibly even win-over even the most ardent of Aussie Rules or Rugby League fans.
 

Understanding the spirit of the Lions

It was no surprise to see the BT Centre’s auditorium over-flowing for the British & Irish Lions panel. For fans, players and rivals alike, the Lions captures the imagination like little else in the sporting world. One man who knows this better than most is Sir Ian McGeechan who highlighted the importance of the players ‘relishing the weight that the Lions jersey carries’.




Nuala Walsh, the Global Head of Marketing for Standard Life Investment, the first-time Principal Partner of the Lions, explained that ‘the power of the Lions jersey is even bigger than we expected it to be’. She chuckled as she recalled the players diving into their kit bags like children let loose in a sweetshop, when they met at the squad’s first get-together on Monday.
 
For Charlie McEwen, the Lions’ Chief Operating Officer, of equal importance even to winning is that the whole tour party are ‘outstanding ambassadors for their nation and the brand’, something he felt they didn’t get right on their last fateful visit to New Zealand in 2005. The emphasis is on the players to lead this, starting with social media where a committee made-up solely of players will dictate what goes out into the stratosphere. Start tweeting about dissatisfaction at selection or training ground bust-ups and cracks soon appear in a ship filled by rivals dressed as teammates. The slightest hint of disharmony and it will be like Christmas has come early for the mischievous local media.




Dinners, drinks receptions, school visits, community coaching; it is all part of the duty of a Lion. However, it is ‘the rugby on the field which defines the size of the badge for that Lions tour’ emphasised McGeechan.
 
If the class of 2017 emulate Carwyn James’ legendary side of 1971, the last and only Lions team to win a series against the All Blacks, then you can expect the badge for this tour to be larger than its ever been before.
 
Simon Lamb
Group Marketing Manager
simon.lamb@csm.com