February 11, 2022
By Bloomberg Live
The Bloomberg Power Players Summit brought together power brokers, senior executives, and world-class athletes to discuss the game-changing shifts of the $600 billion-dollar global sports business.
The most influential industry leaders in sports convened at the iconic Sheats-Goldstein Residence for candid conversations on the intersection between business, technology and culture, with exclusive insights on the innovations, deal flow and social trends that will disrupt and dominate the games.
Among the topics explored: How technology is reshaping sports for fans, athletes and leagues; the evolution of the modern athlete as a business person; the teamwork that goes into developing an athlete as a brand, the effect of cryptocurrencies on sports and athletes; and much more.
Click here to view video of today’s event.
- Emmanuel Acho, Former NFL Linebacker, Author & Co-host, FS1 SPEAK FOR YOURSELF, Fox Sports
- Erin Andrews, Sports Broadcaster, Founder & CEO, WEAR by Erin Andrews
- Arthur M. Blank, Owner, Atlanta Falcons & Atlanta United
- Monique Brown, President, The Amer-I-Can Foundation for Social Change
- Baron Davis, Two-Time NBA All-Star, Founder & CEO, Baron Davis Enterprises
- Eric Dickerson, NFL Hall of Fame Running Back, Author, Watch My Smoke
- Marie Donoghue, Vice President, Global Sports Video, Amazon
- Andrew Hawkins, Former NFL Wide Receiver, Co-founder & President, Status Pro
- Amy Howe, CEO, FanDuel Group
- Charlotte Jones, Executive Vice President & Chief Brand Officer, Dallas Cowboys
- Carli Lloyd, Two-Time FIFA World Cup Champion, Two-Time Olympic Gold Medalist
- Kris Marszalek, CEO, Crypto.com
- Kevin Mayer, Chairman of the Board of Directors, DAZN Group
- Stephanie McMahon. Chief Brand Officer, WWE
- Rich Paul, Founder & CEO, KLUTCH Sports Group
- James Pitaro, Chairman, ESPN & Sports Content, The Walt Disney Company
- George Pyne, Founder & CEO, Bruin Capital
- Jason Robins, Co-founder & CEO, DraftKings
- Constance Schwartz-Morini, CEO & Co-Founder, SMAC Entertainment
- Jason Wright, President, Washington Commanders
- Jeremy Zimmer. CEO, United Talent Agency (UTA)
- Jason Kelly, Chief Correspondent, Bloomberg QuickTake
- Carol Massar, Co-anchor, Bloomberg Businessweek TV & Radio
- Vanessa Perdomo, Reporter, Bloomberg QuickTake
- Brian Strong, Global Head of Communications, Bloomberg Media
- Jennifer Zabasajja, Anchor & Reporter, Bloomberg QuickTake
After buying Atlanta United five years ago, Arthur M. Blank, Atlanta Falcons & Atlanta United got a close look at how different soccer fans are, with their sense of ownership. Their “you work for us” attitude is how other sports are trending as the user experience evolves.
Football is “incredibly popular,” Blank said, because the game is well-run, and rules are continuously refined toward “real parity among teams that are built differently.”
Behind the scenes, he is troubled by the lack of diversity. Blank serves on the NFL’s social justice committee and was ready with disturbing data. “We have to recognize how far we’ve come. Let’s take two minutes to celebrate that,” Blank said, before offering stats such as only three of 32 head coaches being Black, compared to 72-percent of players. From a game perspective, eight new head coaches this past season were mostly coming from defense. He talked about deconstructing the puzzle, using inside experience and outside perspective to reassemble the pieces in a better way.
The Modern Athlete
Be authentic, but don’t try to deny the relevance of social media and the power of being a brand, advised Andrew Hawkins, Former NFL Wide Receiver, Co-founder & President, Status Pro and Carli Lloyd, Two-Time FIFA World Cup Champion, Two-Time Olympic Gold Medalist. In her 17-year career, Lloyd said, social media went from non-existent to a driving force, with athletes directly connecting with fans. But there’s a balance to aim for; between taking advantage of the opportunity to build a base for a post-career brand and losing sight of everything else. “I’ve seen players busy building their brand fall through the cracks on the field.”
Both had a strategic plan in place, beginning in their playing days. While Lloyd focused on building relationships with those who support the things she believes in, Hawkins went to business school. He stressed the importance of truth and momentum in a brand. “You put your life into a sport. It becomes your identity. When it’s gone, it’s really, really hard to replace that, unless, while in the midst of it, you found out who you were and built that brand.”
Washington Commanders Rebrand Story
Changing a name and logo that has become offensive brings with it the threat of losing the value of a team’s long history and generational fan base. Jason Wright, President, Washington Commanders (formerly Redskins), offered a revealing look behind the scenes. He came on board about a month after the name change, as part of a complete turnover of upper management, the business model and user experience. That diversity – now one-third of management female and half people of color – is at the core of what he called an anthropological and spiritual rebrand that includes giving fans a chance to share the journey. “We are engaging with diverse groups of people to hear stories about their families and what the old team name and logo meant to them. The enduring power of sports is the heart of social dialog, and will help us move forward with a unified perspective.”
From “nerdy” approaches, like stadium traffic flow studies, to leveraging alumni and guiding player hiring practices, Wright said they are taking control of every aspect to maintain optimism and forward momentum.
Evaluating the Fan Experience
Where does the most valuable franchise go from the top? It turns itself into a lifestyle. Charlotte Jones, Executive Vice President & Chief Brand Officer, Dallas Cowboys was a walking expression of that, striding on stage in a striking white, wide legged pantsuit, with cheerleader-inspired boots. Jones has been doing this since well before social media and welcomes the new visibility and scrutiny, along with the chance to become a meaningful example in society. She always remembers her dad’s advice. “When he bought the team, it was losing $75,000 a day. He told me, ‘Find a way to make money, but whatever you do, don’t tarnish the star’.” In other words, always protect the brand.
She also recalled Roy Disney saying brands are something you do to cattle. Her goal is to create a culture that connects with people on all the varied levels they do sports now, while hanging onto the value of tradition.
NFTs: The New Era in Sports Memorabilia
Putting collectibles into the digital space seems to defy the whole idea. A panel with diverse perspectives explained how it can, and is, working for fans and athletes.
“Players have the right to own something that’s valuable and based on their identity,” said
Baron Davis, Two-Time NBA All-Star, Founder & CEO, Baron Davis Enterprises. “The utility behind the NFTs is where the value proposition is. It’s the way superfans want to interact with us.”
Athletes were early adopters of non-fungible tokens, according to Jason Robins, Co-founder & CEO, DraftKings, because royalties can be coded in, assuring a revenue stream they’ve not had before. Traditionally, they may get an initial royalty from a sale of a trading card, for instance, but were out of the equation on subsequent transactions. That’s not how royalties work elsewhere. “Now, they’re not continually giving it away for free.”
Monique Brown, President, The Amer-I-Can Foundation for Social Change has been in the sports memorabilia business for years, with her husband, football legend Jim Brown. They have moved into the NFT space. “It’s providing opportunities, such as video clips, to bring history to a new generation,” Brown said. “It’s a souvenir of an experience and the natural, next way to be a fan.”
Brown noted her husband [who played 1957-65] was one of the first athletes to use a lawyer for contract negotiations. “It was unheard of then, but he owns the rights to his brand.”
Eric Dickerson, NFL Hall of Fame Running Back, Author, Watch My Smoke, advocates for college athletes to use NFTs to start earning money, at a time when they are working the hardest and need it most. He told his own story of embracing digital collections that can be easily accessed and viewed, and don’t take up display or storage space.
Crypto.com Premier Sponsor Spotlight: Cryptocurrency: The intersection of Business and Sport
More than 300 million cryptocurrency owners add up to more than a trend. Kris Marszalek, CEO, Crypto.com, Premier Sponsor of Power Players, pointed out how digital currency is following the same innovation cycle as any industry, this one with a “massive brain drain” of engineers leaving major companies to move into the space, and startups finding extraordinary finding without venture capital. “Cryptocurrency is the ultimate leveled playing field.”.
Partnerships with the likes of IKEA and Apple provide “a canvas on which you can paint a very strong brand message” Marszalek said, adding they are poised to become one of the top 20 brands in the world.
Sports Betting Boom
Fantasy sports fans provided a bridge between digital apps and sports betting, said Amy Howe, CEO, FanDuel Group. Since the federal ban on sports betting was dropped in 2018, the industry continues to gear up, with 14 states now in the loop. Howe said states have done a good job of regulating within their boundaries.
Betting apps are changing everything; how fans interact with live sports, the attention women’s sports get, and even the narrative of the NBA. “It’s become a form of entertainment even if you don’t care who wins.”
Data show consumers are 70- to 80-percent more likely to watch if betting on a game, and with only about 15-percent of the US adult population currently involved, “We’re barely scratching the surface.”
The Evolution of Sports – New Fans, New Platforms
“We’re on every single [type of] screen in more than 240 countries,” said Marie Donoghue, Vice President, Global Sports Video, Amazon. The five years Amazon has partnered with the NFL, part of tri-casts, have demonstrated to the league that their fan base experience was not at risk. That has been the game-changer.
Stephanie McMahon, Chief Brand Officer, WWE, said they have always attracted younger people through family viewing. All of the distractions of everyone now using their own screens is both a challenge and an opportunity. Their diverse talent roster, she said, reflects the culture. “We’re relevant. People see themselves in it.” Their TV, digital and social media strategies have made them the number one sport on YouTube and TikTok. She talked about upcoming deals with Peacock and Disney.
What’s Next for Live Sports Streaming
On how fans experience sports, Kevin Mayer, Chairman of the Board of Directors, DAZN Group, said their focus is mostly outside of the US, but it indicated where demand would shift here; to a European model of paying for sports separately. Buying habits have changed as viewers become more adept at managing apps, easily able to turn them off and on.
Mayer spoke to the fitness industry’s big mistake in thinking people would not head back to the gym post-pandemic and concerns over how technology, and the snippets people have become used to, will impact attention spans for sporting event viewing.
Brand Masters Secrets
Erin Andrews, Sports Broadcaster, Founder & CEO, WEAR by Erin Andrews, told a story about Larry David at her wedding and being criticized for doing Dancing with the Stars, the latter to make a point about maintaining who you are within your brand.
While sports personalities should absolutely work on their brand, not everyone has the “it” factor, said Constance Schwartz-Morini, CEO & Co-Founder, SMAC Entertainment. They also need to be smart entrepreneurs who “kick down the door” and understand it takes a team effort.
Andrews spoke about how much unexpected work her clothing line requires, the “crazy economics of college football and the need for a commissioner.
Meeting the Fans Where They Are
How much should be invested in each social media platform is a big part of the current business model, said James Pitaro, Chairman, ESPN & Sports Content, The Walt Disney Company. It’s complicated. “We need to be everywhere, but it has to be organic to each platform.”
George Pyne, Founder & CEO, Bruin Capital agreed, and spoke also to the trend of viewers no longer wanting packages, evident to him by how his own young adult children watch. When it comes to sports betting, he said people are 19 times more likely to watch an event if they’re betting on it
Pitaro said fans are demanding betting be part of the ESPN brand, and will want to be able to place a bet on the same app they are using to watch a game, moving from a lean-back to a lean-in experience.
They agreed it’s not negatively affecting their brands. “It’s not a new thing. It just became more legal,” Pyne said.
Power Agents: Elevating the Score for Sports Success
A “cultural collision” is how Jeremy Zimmer. CEO, United Talent Agency (UTA) describes the partnership with KLUTCH Sports Group and Rich Paul, Founder & CEO. The duo discussed combining their unique approaches to the branding that revolves around player empowerment.
Paul said it’s important to educate clients to understand their authentic selves and what matters to them, to not lean on their celebrity. “People don’t always want to do what’s needed, which can mean tearing their lives down. That’s the hardest part.” he said, adding that the first question now is about the “big dynamic” in the industry; their social media engagement.
Both agree that it’s important to view clients as creative people. “It’s more and more about the power of the artist, now that they connect directly with fans,” Zimmer said.
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