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Mentally prepare yourself for the equivalent of an Ironman in networking. There’s 2,400 execs in town from more sports and countries than ever before and we’ve put together four days (from 4-7 Oct) of cutting-edge content, leadership forums, business and social activities. I asked one of the old hands in the office what they were most looking forward to and they replied, “6pm on Friday evening.” Fair point. I’ve been telling everyone to get in training for this one. Oh, by the way, wear comfy shoes; you’ll be doing a lot of walking (although Paul Danforth from CAA told me one year he picked up his badge and ended up standing at the registration desk for two days because he kept bumping into people he knew on the way in and out).
Sport is changing and so are we
You told us to shake it up this year and we have shaken it to the core. Well, round the edges for sure. We’ve added a day before the main two days of Leaders with two high-level Summits running side by side on Tuesday, 4 October. One on Future Stadium and the other on Fan Marketing. They are subjects close to my heart. I remember 20 years ago visiting 15 US franchises over a four-month period as part of my MBA studies. All had spectacular, vibrant, commercially driven stadia. Fans were customers and treated as such. No queuing up in the rain for their match tickets. In fact, all had sales floors full of hungry young execs on the phone talking to their fans. They knew birthdays, partners’ names, places of work, where they shopped. Ever been called by the club you love? It was really cool. So both Summits are predominantly US-focussed. We make no apologies for that. Oh, and they’re only for rights-holders. And they are full to capacity. Sorry about that.
Content is King at the Business Summit
So day one is clear, right? Well let’s talk day two and three (Wed 5 and Thurs 6 Oct). Or “the beast” as we call it here in the office. The speaker line-up is immense. It just is. I’m particularly looking forward to new CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani, one of the new wave of execs aiming to clean up football. He’s got a job on his hands, and he knows it. Then there’s Falcons CEO Stephen Cannon, LeBron’s manager-cum-business guru Maverick Carter, new Villa owner Tony Xia, Napoli Chairman Aurelio De Laurentis, La Liga President Javier Tebas, Baroness Karren Brady MBE, Al Guido, Lars-Christer Olsson, Len Komoroski…the list goes on. The most entertaining session will surely be brothers Scott and Matt O’Neil. Expect 45 minutes of put-downs and one-liners. I’m told they are being whisked off to the famous London Comedy Store to do a turn afterwards.
Also, look out for one of the best presenters I have ever seen: EA Chief Competition Officer Peter Moore, who is overseeing the company’s drive into eSports. Peter was born above a pub in Garston, Liverpool, just down the road from where I spent my entire childhood. I know the pub as my dad used to frequent it. As a teenager, I once popped in for a Coca-Cola (Thierry Borra, another speaker, would be happy about that), and a play on the Pac Man arcade game in there. As Peter scans the giant real-time graphics screen showing EA gamers around the world from the spectacular studios in Redwood Shores, CA, he might smile about that. The boy’s done good.
In fact, if eSports is pricking your curiosity, it should. We’ve been researching it ourselves for 18 months and, in fact, have hosted some of the biggest names in the rapidly developing industry at past Leaders events. This time we’ve gone one better by creating a full programme on eSports with top execs from Blizzard, Riot, Splyce, Fnatic, Dignitas and…er….Schalke 04. Yes, Schalke 04. They are one of the first football teams to own an eSports team. Now that’s interesting, eh? Oh, and if you want to sound like an expert on eSports, you can download our Leaders special report by clicking here.
Away from the main sessions, we’ll also be providing a platform for the biggest names in sport to meet the biggest outlets in the media, with a dedicated room set up for speakers and attendees to have their say on some of the hottest topics in sport, delivered directly to the 160 members of the press in attendance. Expect headline grabbing news sent all over the world.
“But what about Friday?”
Well we’ve reserved the fourth day of Leaders Week (Fri, 7 Oct) for our Leaders Meet: The Game Changers summit, exploring the burgeoning area of women’s sport. More participation, more consumers, more sponsorship, more profile. And, yes, hopefully more women working in sport. I must say it depresses me how few senior women there are in the industry. I must give a nod to Chelsea Chairman Bruce Buck who called me up last year to ask if we’d make it happen. Not only did he throw in Stamford Bridge for free (that must be the first time anyone’s got in for free, right?) but, to reciprocate the goodwill, we agreed to stage it and make every invitation complimentary. It’s such an important agenda, we did not want there to be any financial barrier to attracting the right people and I hope in some small way we can make a difference. Actually, come to think of it, that means 300 people will get in to Stamford Bridge for free. I might call the Guinness Book of Records on that one
What else am I looking forward to?
The sizzle video: It opens the event and is always hotly anticipated. Everyone loves a good sport montage and we’re not short of material with Olympics, European Championships, Tennis Grand Slams, Premier League, F1, NBA, NFL and more to get you in the mood.
Another record: I’m trying to beat my own record for the number of handshakes in one day. Mind you, with our second biggest group coming from the US, it might be a record for the number of ‘high fives’ or ‘fist bumps’.
Chicken tikka masala: You don’t need to bring a packed lunch with you. Once again, we’re lucky enough to count on a culinary extravaganza from Levy, who’ll be putting on another world buffet to accommodate every taste. Also, a message for all you corporate athletes out there: there’ll be an all-you-can-eat sweet stall in the networking area.
The biggest round of drinks ever: The free bar is open on the exhibition floor at 5pm on Wednesday and we’ve hired out Frankie’s from 7pm for the night. Some delegates get their money’s worth in drink alone. I’ll try to stick to water for the duration of our London event week, but I might be tempted for this one.
Remembering names: We work hard to keep a good balance of rights-holders and suppliers in the room, and this year is no different. Our audience insights team tell me we’re up 20% on the number of nationalities represented. That’s a lot of new names to remember. Watch out for Ignacio Mestre, Edwin van der Sar, and Barney Francis pounding the corridors and pressing the flesh this year!
Dinosaurs: The second edition of the Leaders Under 40 awards ceremony – probably the glitziest thing we’ve ever done – will take place in the stunning surrounds of London’s Natural History Museum on the opening evening. What better place to celebrate the achievements of the young in a room full of dinosaurs!
Oh yes: I’m also looking forward to Friday at 6pm.
So there you have it, Tuesday, 4 Oct to Friday, 7 Oct, or ‘Leaders Week’. Does it make sense? It’s a radical and ambitious move, and one the market has told us it’s ready for. Are you? I hope so.
We are all raring to go here at Leaders, and look forward to seeing you there! And if you haven’t done so already secure your pass here.