Broadcast, Digital & Media, Future Trends, Governance & Commercial Growth, Partnerships, Sport Business | Jan 6, 2021 | 8 min read

Charting the money, the moves, and the media across the global business of sport.

By David Cushnan


Happy New Year from us to you, and thanks for clicking through to the first Leaders Digest of 2021. This is David Cushnan in for James Emmett – good to have you along and here’s to a better and brighter 12 months ahead.

You may well have new colleagues joining you this week, looking for the company Zoom logins and keen for ways to keep bang up to date with what’s happening across the global business of sport. Can’t help with the passwords, but for knowledge do send them here to subscribe and receive the Digest each fortnight. They’ll thank you later.


3  Questions, Answered

1.)    What’s the plan?
Short term, it’s a glut of major events (let’s hope) over the next 12 months: the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, a pan-European Euros, the Ryder Cup, a Lions tour of South Africa, the Ashes, the America’s Cup, Women’s Rugby World Cup, simultaneous Rugby League World Cups, the longest F1 season yet plus all the usual staples of the sports calendar. But keep at least one eye on final preparations for the Beijing 2022 winter Olympics (13 months away), the next Commonwealth Games, in Birmingham (19 months way), and Asian Games, in Hangzhou (20 months away) and Qatar 2022 (now less than 24 months away), plus the ongoing planning for the next three Olympics in Paris, Milan-Cortina and Los Angeles, 2022 women’s Euros, to be hosted by England, and the next men’s Rugby World Cup, France 2023.


2.)    Are you sure?
Not at all. Best to consider everything provisional, especially anything to do with international sport as the pandemic continues to rage, travel restrictions chop and change, and vaccination programmes roll out at different speeds around the world. Already there are a few worrying indicators: the British & Irish Lions Tour to South Africa is under review, Formula E has cancelled its season-opener in Santiago, the Australian Open has been delayed and reports suggest the start of the Formula 1 season may be pushed back.


3.)    Anything else?
Plenty. Expect further progress over the next 12 months on the next tranche of mega-event hosts, the 2030 and 2032 Olympics and the 2030 men’s World Cup. All this plus the creep of technology, rapidly changing consumer habits, the ongoing need for the industry to diversify, a deeply uncertain financial outlook, sport’s role as a platform for change, shifts in the way we all work and travel, and the dizzying unpredictability and impact of a global pandemic. If you’re currently looking at a blissfully empty diary, it won’t be that way for long.


The Digest, Digested

NHL helmet ads for 2020-21 (1 min)

MotoGP shifts Instagram video strategy to succeed with Reels (2 mins)

BBC: Tech trends in 2021 (3 mins)

The Economist: Ten trends to watch in the coming year (3 mins)

Nieman Lab: Predictions for journalism in 2021 (60 mins)

Variety: 10 predictions for media and entertainment in 2021 (3 mins)

Investors’ appetite for professional sports is increasing (10 mins)

Velocity Sports Partners acquires majority shareholding in Burnley FC (1 min)

AS Nancy sold to consortium (1 min)

Shanghai breaks ground on new esports centre (1 min)

Reliance to buy out IMG Worldwide from JV (1 min)

Lord Sebastian Coe in conversation with Casey Wasserman (50 mins)​​​​


What’s new

–    Fresh sponsorship inventory – The NHL has permitted teams to sell space on player helmets for the upcoming season, an opportunity several teams have turned into a makegood for existing partners, and its also sold naming rights to its four newly-created divisions.

–    Wheels on Reels – Instagram’s Reels has been around for a few months, but now there’s a proof of concept for sport, courtesy of MotoGP.


What’s trending?

–    2021 predictions – You’ll bump into all sorts of industry trends reports, predictions and crystal ball-gazing over the next few days, but here are a few on the periphery of sport to have a click through: major tech trends; big global trends; journalism and media trends; and entertainment trends. And ICYMI, here’s our own contribution as to how to make the sports industry a more sustainable place.



Global consulting firm Altman Solon have been following the numbers for their latest report on investor perspectives in sport, and here they’ve examined the share price change over time of publicly traded sports companies.



New owners at Burnley 
Velocity Sports Partners has completed its takeover of Premier League club Burnley. The sports investment arm of US management firm ALK Capital now holds an 84% share in the club, with managing partner Alan Pace – once CEO of MLS club Real Salt Lake installed as the new club chairman.

Pacific Media Group adds to portfolio
French Ligue 2 club AS Nancy has been sold to a consortium which includes Pacific Media Group. It’s the fourth club in Pacific’s European football stable, following investments in Switzerland’s FC Thun, Belgian side KV Oostende and English club Barnsley.

Shanghai building esports centre
Construction is underway on the world’s biggest esports project. Cost? US$898 million.

IMG and Reliance end JV
One you may have missed just before Christmas: Reliance is buying out IMG’s stake in the Indian joint venture created back in 2010.




–    Jost Capito is the new CEO of the Williams F1 Team.

–    Former Los Angeles Sparks President Danita Johnson has been named DC United’s new President of Business Operations.

–    The International Olympic Committee has hired former Lego executive Lara Silberbauer as Global Head of Brand, Marketing and Digital.

–    The Detroit Pistons have named rapper Big Sean as Creative Director of Innovation.

–    SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos has been appointed as Rugby Australia’s new CEO.

–    Twitter has hired former Activision Blizzard executive Beverly Jackson as its new VP of Global Brand and Consumer Marketing.

–    Churchill Downs Racetrack has appointed Mike Anderson as its news President.

–    Former NRL and Repucom executive Shane Mattiske is the new Executive Chairman of A-League club Newcastle Jets.

–    Simon Banoub has joined StatsBomb as its new CMO.



–    Are you Nielsen Sport’s new Shanghai-based Director of Brands?
–    Are you Qatar Airways’ new Lead Sponsorships and CSR Officer?
–    Are you Rugby World Cup 2021’s new Sponsorship and Sales Manager?
–    Are you the right fit for a number of new roles at the WTA?


Longer listen

–    An illuminating conversation between Lord Sebastian Coe and Casey Wasserman on running agencies, running Olympics and running meetings in the Covid era. Well worth your time.


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