How to reboot your sport

Those of us that have worked to deliver global sports events, are incredulous at the difficulty of arranging meetings with professional sports organisations who aren’t available because they “have a match on”. Equally people working for sports with seasons that never end, dream of having weeks (and months) to do nothing more than plan. 

Everyone has a planning season now.

I’ve had the great good fortune to have spent much of the last 25 years creating digital sports properties from scratch or reinventing existing ones through digital.

What I’ve learnt is that to doing digital well is about three things:

  • embracing the challenge of constant change
  • hiring high quality people
  • lots of hard work


You should note that technical skills and experience didn’t make the list. When everything is changing the ability to learn and adapt is more important than relying on what you know. When I started working at London 2012 in 2006 the iPhone, Twitter and Instagram didn’t exist, nobody had a 3G connection and more people in the UK used dial up connections than broadband.

A solid three years of planning and building for those Games was enough to fill 84 slides of hurried post Games report.

We haven’t been granted quite that long (here’s hoping) but even a few weeks are enough to properly rethink, not only your digital approach but apply digital ways of thinking to everything you do.

Starting with what we know, here’s a simple model for digital:


  • Revisit and reshape your business objectives, and your ROI, around that purpose.


  • Focus on growing your existing fan community and contactable audience by properly analysing every data point you have. Then segmenting your audiences according not just to how they behave, but what they are worth to you based on your purpose. This can mean both direct or indirect monetary value AND strategic value.

    Be brave and give that strategic value a cash equivalent and see how that alters your reporting (Google Analytics allows you to assign a monetary value to every user action, try it).

    Investment in a customer data platform (CDP) is money well spent. You can learn a lot by asking the right questions of Google Analytics and pulling the results into Google Data Studio.


  • Build up the visibility and share of voice of your brand by creating relevant content aligned with your purpose and objectives on every available digital platform your audience or potential audience uses. Use regular data analysis and content performance scoring to pay close attention to what type and tone of content works on each platform but make sure it works for you too.

    The simple rule for content is to divide your output between 1. hygiene content (the stuff your fans come looking for, boring but necessary), 2. hub content (the more interesting stuff that keeps them engaged) and 3. hero content (the stuff that reaches new audiences and takes your brand to new places).


  • Focus on increasing high quality engagements and drive repeat visits – but only among the audiences that matter and deliver value. Vanity metrics are junk.


  • Turn your unknown fans into known fans by properly managing search and using ad tools to understand who is engaging with your content on social networks and ad networks.

  • Commercialise digital audiences properly:
    • Value the digital inventory you have or could deliver through your presence on third party networks.
    • Create digital packages that include all the value sponsors and partners will expect: own channel ads; exclusive sponsored content; solus emails and newsletter inclusions; and social posts. 
    • and others that they may not:
    • mini campaigns such as polls and quizzes (and there are plenty of cheap marketing engines out there that can support this) that can also masquerade as opportunities for data collection; digital master campaigns which incorporate all sponsors; giving sponsors the right to buy inventory across your social channels or/and all your channels at once; creating partner specific digital propositions that can live offline and online; offering ideas that span the marketing funnel from brand awareness through transaction.
    • Super serve your partners with campaign planning, creative services, data and performance dashboards.
    • Go direct and be creative in finding ways to transact with your fans. Offers, bespoke merchandise, even donations (there’s the value of having clear purpose again).


  • Streaming is receiving a massive boost from stay at home workers. Now is the time to think about what an OTT or cheaply produced version of your sport might really look like as a serious business proposition. Make sure in any arrangement you make, you own the customer and have access to first party data or you have a bad TV deal in all but name.


Doing this right is hard but not impossible. It’s important that we also take the time we have been gifted to get this right. Digital will become systemically more important there will be more, not less regulation and oversight, and higher expectations from fans.

Reinventing your sport for a changed world will be harder. There aren’t any experienced guides because no-one’s done this before.

You need smart people who love change and hard work.

People who like building stuff, who can think in multi-disciplinary ways and who are used to inventing the future.

We’re all going to be digital people now.

Some of the brightest and best are at home now (and so am I) with a bit more time on their hands and an array of video conferencing tools at their fingertips and I’d be delighted to connect you. It won’t cost you anything to have a conversation. Get in touch

%d bloggers like this: