BIMA’s Future of Sport event started with the brilliant line from William Gibson: “The future is already here – it's just not evenly distributed.” So many of the themes discussed today are really for today, not the future... so read on....

Moderator Richard Simpson from Tayburn shared some excellent examples of the digital transformation of global sport from the last 12 months. Fortunately, he included one for cycling which many readers will know is one of my sporting passions.

The six panellists shared the background to their organisations and the Scottish context. They shared some really interesting points before moving on to a really intriguing panel discussion. So, what can we learn from the key themes that emerged:

Focus on digital marketing for growth

When you aren’t in a cash-rich sport (be that a minority sport, or a growing women’s sport), digital marketing is not just the only real option, it is the most cost-effective way to reach the right audience. The “this girl can” campaign was brilliant for growing women’s sport and many organisations are continuing to work on how they can keep leveraging this and keep growing using digital channels. 

Authentic storytelling, not “corporate” content

The stories behind sports, are what can connect future fans with sports rather than the standard press conference “corporate” interview. Nobody wants to listen to sport stars cautious five-word interviews after the game, they want to experience the real life stories and join the “tribe” of a sport so they aren’t just a “consumer” for sponsors. 

Sponsors and governing bodies aren’t gathering content and telling stories as well as some of the social media savvy players. Some of the younger talented stars are already understanding how they should build a personal brand, tell stories, build a community of followers and are attracting sponsors direct. The challenge is that governing bodies have too much governance and “corporate” mentality that is holding them back from telling the authentic stories and connecting with fans.

Prepare for negative feedback

As more authentic content and social media channels are used, you’ll be building a community. The more this grows, the more negative feedback you’ll attract. Everyone is an expert after a game, particularly a loss. This requires excellent support and training, especially for younger players to ensure they maintain good mental health and morale when they can be already struggling after a poor performance.

All in all, the session provoked some great conversations around brand, purpose, values and storytelling. All the things we do a lot of here at Whitespace!

Big thanks to the panellists for giving their time and for sharing their knowledge and challenges:

  • Lianne Campbell, Communications Manager at sportscotland
  • Jack McGill, CEO and Editor in Chief at QTV
  • Lee McLaughlin, Head of Product at Find a Player
  • Claire Nelson, CEO at Netball Scotland
  • Jim Hamilton, Former Rugby International and UK Director of Rugby Pass
  • Scott Hollinshead, Operations and Governance Manager at Street Soccer Scotland

Phillip Lockwood-Holmes, Managing Partner