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SPORTO 2017: How to avoid the danger of doing things the way they have always been done*


Infographic with the SPORTO 2017 facts and figures

* 'The most dangerous phrase in marketing and sponsorship is ‘we will just do it the way it has always been done’. (Jon Burkhart, TBC Global)

SPORTO 2017 key learnings: Authenticity can be learned on social, identifying the why before starting a creative process in sponsorships, utilising on the body of (digital) conversation from the community or on technology, and never underestimate fans' eagerness for consuming interesting and innovative content.
SPORTO is celebrating this year with the 15th edition of SPORTO Conference and has therefore already been offering a platform for brands, sports properties, agencies and the media since 2004 to share experience, insights and know-how of the industry. While we are already focusing on following (and contributing to) the latest trends in the industry, we would like to take some of your time to take a quick look back at the 360-degree insights of SPORTO 2017. There has never been such an international line-up of speakers in (S)Portorož. Experts from 10 different countries presented trends and challenges in their fields, while more than 400 participants from record-breaking 16 countries attended the conference. SPORTO Conference, the leading event of its kind in Southeastern Europe, remains a great opportunity for networking.
Speakers of SPORTO 2017 were representatives from some of the leading international sports organisations, agencies and brands, and sponsorship and marketing strategists, taking on solo projects at the peak of their careers. Attendees were offered an insight into the work of the global sports organisations and events such as NBA, UEFA or Super Bowl, and could also listen to the inspirational story of Primož Roglič, a former ski jumper who broke traditional rules in sports and made a transition into professional cycling. A two-day conference began with Michael Cole’s (TrueGold Communications, now PGA European Tour) insight from sponsorship world around the world and learnings from the Olympic sponsorship of the brand British Telecommunications, Guilherme Guimarães (Ativa Esporte) demonstrated Brazilian fan engagement activities on Twitter and Facebook during recent sport mega events in Brazil, while the attendees could also learn about the American viewpoint on the latest trends in social media. Olympic games connect two other global brands represented at SPORTO 2017; Toyota started their cooperation with the IOC and IPC with the campaign “Start your impossible”, which was presented at SPORTO before the official launch, while Coca-Cola Slovenia took on a close partnership with the Olympic Committee of Slovenia with the integral project #SupportAlways (#vednopodpiraj).
Guests of the conference were also offered insight into communication of EHF Men’s EURO Croatia 2018 (Anita Šikić, Croatian Handball Association) and UEFA (Laurent Morel, Pierre Lienhard) strategy behind developing and growing their younger disciplines and how does UEFA position events, such as UEFA Futsal EURO 2018 that successfully presented itself in Slovenia between 30 January and 10 February.
Esports topic visited SPORTO for the first time and the regional strategists from Gorenje (Edita Gabrič), Coca-Cola Slovenia (Anja Vačun) and Toyota Serbia (Aleksandra Graovac) were joined on stage by the strategists from the software company SAP (Achim Ittner presented some of the cooperation models for sports and software technologies), Irish bank AIB and individuals with leading experience from Havas Sports & Entertainment, Interbrand (Creative Director Paolo Insinga revealed how the bold ambition led to the new brand identity of the legendary football club F.C. Juventus) and Strive Sponsorship
SPORTO remains at the crossroad of all aforementioned topics with one touch point – harnessing the power of sport. Here are some of the videos and quotes from our distinguished SPORTO 2017 guests.
A 20-year veteran of the sports digital space (Phoenix Suns, Super Bowl Host Committees), award-winning digital consultant and a former colleague of Goran Dragić, Jeramie McPeek, believes that authenticity can be learned and that “no matter who you are, you have to be careful about what you are posting on social media”. Social media is also about “listening what your fans are saying and reminding them, why they became your fans in the first place,” says Jeramie who also advises everyone involved that just sharing the right content can sometimes come a long way and get attention and response from the fans. When asked how entertaining can sports properties be on social, Jeramie responds “sports is serious and fans are serious about their team, but sports is also entertainment and it is supposed to be fun,” and elaborates: “I think there are ways to have fun in social media. You can put your team in a different light than you see them everywhere else, but at the same time your fans want to see you win and that is really what is about. It is not something you want to be doing every day and all the time but you can pepper it in here and there.”

Also from the highest possible level of basketball, represented by NBA, comes Maik Matischak, Senior Director of Communication NBA EMEA. Maik believes there can never be too much content. “Fans really appreciate the way that we provide them with content. I think NBA is leading in providing content to the fans; game content and off-court content.” The fans in his opinion will always appreciate localised content and innovative approach. And Jon Burkhart (TBC Global), American content strategist who created a strategic framework built around the notion of constant curiosity, agrees with him. “Fans are ready for our content if we make it interesting at any time,” Burkhart discusses content that can ‘get and keep fans’ attention’. Another one of his memorable remarks is that specialists need to show those responsible a possibility what can be done. If not, you will have them “doing the way it has always been done. And that is the most dangerous phrase in marketing.”
Fredda Hurwitz (Gingernut Thinking) is a renowned brand and sponsorship strategist who left a big mark in Havas Sports & Entertainment and has worked on a diverse group of brands, brand experiences, international sponsorship and integrated marketing programmes throughout her career. When asked if social media helped in spreading the message ‘doing good is good business’, she answers: Social media is putting much more pressure on brands, on rights holder, on fans to do something and not just sit back, pay your money for your ticket, eat your hot-dog and walk out at the end of the day.” But Fredda thinks that is a good thing and gives an example. “For years there has been a mantra that sport can do good around the world ... It can, but not if it is done in isolation and if it is done in a fragmented way. ‘Common Goal’ project is bringing people together that genuinely believe that sport can be a tool for good. People involved are investing their own money, which is unheard of. And they are bringing more people into that ‘community’. It is also not a one-off thing and the community can grow. It is brilliant.”

The tricky part after you can comfortably explain to your CEO that the reason why go into sponsorship is, because it is going to help us achieve x, y, and z, is about identifying the ‘what’. “You really need to determine (and most brands need to do it with an agency, integrated or research) what are the criteria that are important to us and that we need to match up with whatever that property is,” gives advice one of the keynote speakers at SPORTO 2017.
We asked Malph Minns, founder of Strive Sponsorship, which specializes in sport, music, esports and film partnerships, what sports can learn from esports. “Fundamentally, in esports they have ‘the community or the gamer first’ approach. Whatever they do, always at the heart of it is will this make the experience for the gamer or the community better. I know that is a basic principle of marketing, but I thing in sports it is often lost,” explains Malph and points out another esports’ advantage: “As a relatively new industry compared to sports they are doing a lot more innovative things. And because it is technology-lead they are more open to trying different things.” What sports and sponsorship industry have in common is also that “it is hard to win that first gold medal, but it is even harder to get the second one or to have a continued success,” reminds Malph, who was the first global expert in Slovenia to present esports opportunities for sponsor brands and traditional sports teams.

From industry disruptors as a relatively new branch of the business to the representatives of the Irish bank AIB, which re-established brand trust and increased positive sentiment of the public through #TheToughest, sponsorship of the Gaelic football Club Championship. Mark Doyle, Brands Group Director, and Mark Brennan, Head of Digital and Innovation, captivated the SPORTO audience with their multi-awarded case study. “We did a due diligence on how deep that sponsorship went at the community level, and that was key for us. So, from the marketing perspective, we saw it very much as a vehicle to rehabilitate our brand, particularly at the community level. The sponsorship was a way for us to get back into those communities and really talk about our brand in a positive way,” explained Mark Brennan for SPORTO Magazine No. 10. Due to the restricted marketing budget AIB was ‘forced’ into digital. “That was actually a huge opportunity,” admits Mark Brennan retrospectively. “That is where the people are and we needed to work an awful lot harder to get cut through and impact.”

The explosion in digital followed when the people involved in the grassroots level felt that the status of the competition they were playing in have been elevated. “Momentum is the greatest thing. As soon as you have a body of conversation, you have momentum. That means you are not starting from scratch every time. That is the benefit of having such a big community around the #TheToughest.” One of the examples of innovative use of branded content that showcases moving the banking boundaries is AIB’s TV documentary series titled ‘The Toughest Trade’, starring professional athletes, trading places with the amateur GAA players. “What came through in every single trade that we did,” continues Mark Doyle: “All of the professional players said when they came to Ireland and played with the local club that it reminded them of why they started playing sport in the first place. That it was a real purity about it.”
You can find more interviews with the SPORTO 2017 guests on our YouTube Channel. More insights from SPORTO 2017 action-packed programme will be available in the publication SPORTO Summaries (lectures and debates) – together with the new issue of SPORTO Magazine – in May.

Thank you for being part of SPORTO and you are welcome to follow our channels on the road to #sporto2018. Dates of the jubilee 15th SPORTO Conference will be revealed soon.


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