Celebrating the women transforming the sports industry

In late October, the iconic MetLife Stadium – home to the New York Giants and New York Jets – played host to the 10th annual SBJ Game Changers Conference. A much-anticipated event in the calendar, the conference brings together the brightest minds in sport from across North America, with each attendee contributing to a day of networking, knowledge-sharing, learning and shaping the future of the industry.

As a long-term sponsors of the event, we were proud to play a part in the successful running of its 10th anniversary.

On the eve of the conference, we kicked off in style with a welcome drinks reception co-hosted with SBJ at the Arlo Midtown in downtown New York; the perfect chance for the mentors and mentees partaking in the CSM Mentoring Challenge to meet one another in a relaxed setting, as well as Game Changers and fellow conference guests.

Event day soon arrived, with an agenda featuring several industry-leading speakers representing the full spectrum of stakeholders across sport. One of those speakers was CSM’s Stephanie Smilowitz, who chaired a panel discussion ‘Buying In: Brands Investing in Women’s Sports.’

Joined on stage by Kerry Scalora – Brand Director, Michelob Ultra – Anheuser-Busch InBev, and Dan  Fleetwood – Global Vice President, Sponsorships – SAP, the trio discussed the role that brands can play in moulding this bold new era of women’s sports.

Proceedings began with a simple question: why invest in women’s sport? And for Kerry and Michelob Ultra, it elicited a simple answer: this is about doing the right thing, by both women and her business. By “investing in areas that the Michelob’s female audience is interested in, we can drive change and in turn, brand loyalty.”

For SAP, meanwhile, the reason they are in a long-term partnership with the WNBA and WTA is because “it’s just a great platform for showcasing our technology and how it can materially impact the game.”

In arguing that, Dan Fleetwood raised a wider point; women’s sport is a valuable proposition in its own right, with its own USP’s that help brands tell new stories: “We don’t look at our partnerships in terms of men’s or women’s sports… the story is the same across our portfolio of partners. The athletes we work with we’re just trying to celebrate and appreciate regardless of gender.”

It highlighted an important theme that frequently emerged during the session – the need to move on from binary comparisons between the merits of investing in women’s vs men’s sport. The former is at a different stage on its growth trajectory, which brings its own unique opportunities for investors.

The conversation then turned to how rights holders operating in women’s sport can continue to attract partners. “Less red tape and more white space” was Kelly’s succinct note of advice. Granting sponsors greater access to assets, such as athletes, and empowering them to tell powerful stories will achieve greater cut-through with fans. By doing that, brands can “show up in an organic way… integrate, innovate and offer content that is unique.”

In keeping with the nature of the conference, Stephanie rounded things up by asking each panelist to share one piece of guidance for those breaking into the industry. For Kerry, it’s about ‘Not being afraid to have conversations with your network. Because having those conversations will result in you constantly broadening your scope.”

It was a sentiment shared by Dan, who offered his own sage advice to wrap things up: “learn from every opportunity you get.” Safe to say it was heeded by those in attendance.

Each year, the event draws to a close with the Game Changers Honoree Ceremony, where the latest group of women shaking up the sports industry are presented with their hard-earned accolade.

This year, we were incredibly proud to witness Natalie Epperly – Senior Vice President in our Production team – being welcomed into the prestigious Class of 2022; recognition for her unwavering drive and passion to deliver exceptional experiences at the nation’s biggest events. A moment of crowning glory to cap off an extraordinary day amongst both the current and next generation of game changing women in sport.