Sport Business | Oct 4, 2017
Leaders Sport Business Summit, Day One.

As a buzzing day at Stamford Bridge becomes a bustling evening in its environs, welcome to your on-the-button round-up of the tenth annual Leaders Sport Business Summit – the seventh event of Leaders Week 2017. We can’t promise this will be comprehensive, but it should at least provide a few nuggets from what was an action-packed programme once again.

A shout out to our man on the ground, Andrew Serio, for providing the majority of the gobbets in this communiqué, and to our main partners SAP and Nielsen, and indeed a hefty pat on the back to all the winners of this year’s Leaders Under 40 Awards. A whale of time was had last night at the Natural History Museum, but most were out in force, sore heads and all, on the conference floor bright and early this morning.

We’re off to Bar LaLiga at Frankie’s for some Hotelplanner drinks. Hope, naturally, to see you there. Meanwhile, catch up on a business card-busting day below:


  • Boston Celtics’ President Rich Gotham and 76ers CEO Scott O’Neil exchanging a traditional ‘East Coast hand gesture’ over a plate
  • Sky Sports’ chief Barney Francis, World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper, football doyen David Dein and Deloitte’s Dan Jones in close proximity on the front row for Sir Martin Sorrell. They must have got in early to bag those seats. The first session in the ‘bouncy castle’ was heaving.
  • Fabrizio from Errea, pounding the floor as an exhibitor for the tenth straight year. A hat tip to you, sir, and thanks for your support.
  • The speaker room at Leaders is something of a sacred cavern. You see things in there you probably shouldn’t see. Including….. a glimpse inside Sir Dave Brailsford’s Team Sky-branded suitcase. As you might imagine, it’s immaculately packed.


  • You heard it right, Leaders CEO James Worrall did make a pledge in his opening address in the morning: we won’t be putting on all-male panels again. And we’ll hold him to that!
  • The Yormark twins – Brett and Michael – were all smiles and support for one another on stage, but behind the scenes it was a different story as the pair – genuinely – negotiated with each other over a joint deal of some sort right up to the point that they went on stage.
  • Kevin Brilliant, the Chicago Bulls’ aptly named behavioural scientist, made an impact with his presentation at The Ultimate Fan Experience conference yesterday. Within a few hours, so the speaker room chit chat goes, the head of hospitality at a top Premier League club had been on the blower to his team to tell them to change the way they give out gifts to their VIPs: following Brilliant’s ‘peak-end effect’ advice, the team in question will now be sending their guests on their way with a goodbye gift.
  • Kidnapping insurance: definitively not worth it. At least that was the view of one high profile speaker who refused to accept it at a previous role, figuring, quite reasonably, that any potential kidnapper would probably be encouraged by the possibility of an insurance payout.

Did someone say hashtag?

@MacRob85: Great insight from Dave Brailsford & Billy Beane @LeadersBiz: “A lack of knowledge isn’t the issue, it’s in its application” #LeadersWeek

@robinsclarke: Music making the sports world listen. Top session from @pughy @Spotify on personalised consumer interaction #LeadersWeek

@EmiliaHi: At Leaders. Was going to tweet about @sebcoe but actually, here’s a bag of seaweed I think I stole off the lunch display. #LeadersWeek #Asia

@ABevington11: Former Walt Disney boss and now @officialpompey owner @Michael_Eisner speaking to a capacity audience @LeadersBiz #LeadersWeek

@David_T112: Truly inspirational: “Create milestone moments” could’ve listened all day @LeadersBiz with @MichaelYormark @brettyormark #LEADERSWEEK

The onstage skinny

  • Sir Martin Sorrell gives a good business crystal ball reading. The WPP CEO was on effusive form, foreseeing the ‘content war’ between the ‘Big Seven’ – Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Tencent and Alibaba. He’s got a way with words too; his ‘acquisition’ of a new baby daughter since his last Leaders outing in 2014 was a particular highlight. And is this a fresh dollop of sports industry news? Amazon, Sorrell said, were actively pursuing the Barcelona shirt sponsorship deal. What held the deal back was Nike’s reluctance to have the Barcelona shirts sold through Amazon. Rakuten swooped in, sealed the deal, then Nike went and did a distribution deal with Amazon three months later anyway. “It’s a fast-moving world and sports entities won’t be immune,” said Sorrell. No they won’t, Sir Martin, no they won’t.
  • Speaking on UEFA’s Diversity & Inclusion panel at the end of the day, Alex Scott almost managed to convince Kolo Toure to break out into the ‘Toure jig’. He held back though, instead giving the following eminently sensible soundbite: “Only in sport would you come from a completely different continent and be welcomed into a new culture and have people sing mine and my brother’s name. We did not expect it.”
  • Michael Eisner, ex-CEO of Disney and current owner of Portsmouth FC, likes a good story. Not one to create them himself, he instead spent his career identifying amazing stories, from his vision for ESPN at Disney to the company’s ownership of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks (NHL) and Angels (MLB). A learned man – his referencing of Roman history, Hemingway, and A Sunday on La Grande attests to that – his interest in Portsmouth is an honest effort to enhance authentic entertainment into the sports world. Steps taken include a Heritage and Advisory Board, architectural improvements for “Fratton Park, a treasure,” and a commitment to the club’s manager, Kenny Jackett. From a man who spent time as Goofy at Disney, “it’s more fun going up than coming down, especially when the upside is Manchester United.” Lofty goals, and ones that make the ‘from one Mickey Mouse organisation to another’ gag a redundant one.
  • Brad Pitt from Moneyball and the man who could be played by Bruce Willis (that’s Billy Beane, EVP of the Oakland Athletics, and Sir Dave Brailsford, Team Principal of Team Sky, respectively) held a sparky conversation about the importance of data, teamwork, and how to approach a crazy idea (“Try it!” says Beane). Speaking candidly, Beane described the importance of treating players as business investments to maximise ROI and how “creating proprietary information and managing a database is part of any business.” To do so, convert the sports world into a mash-up of Wall Street and Silicon Valley “by hiring the most intelligent people you can find.” Admittedly, there’s a time for science and for art in sport; finding the balance is why they pay guys like this the big bucks.

We’re into the final stretch of Leaders Week now, and, like most normal weeks, it began on a Monday. That’s right; we’ve been hard at work already, and here’s a little taster:

The numbers swamp, the pope, commercial partner match-making and more – 5 things we learned from Social Fanalytics

Bespoke it and stoke it, I see IP, the reality of VR and more – 5 things we learned from Broadcast Disruptors

Endowed progress, Bucks bathroom testers, regrets and counter-factuals and more – 5 things we learned from The Ultimate Fan Experience

Trolls, outsiders, diversification and more – 4 things we learned from Esports Live

See you all back here – same time, same place – for day two of the Leaders Sport Business Summit.

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