A look back at the SPORTO conference in Portoroz

By Simon Boynton

The resort of Portoroz on the Slovene Riviera was a eminently suitable venue for the 16th edition of the Sporto Conference. The event welcomed delegates from throughout the region and beyond and gave platforms to speakers from such prestigious rights holders as as UEFA, WWE, The English FA and high-profile sport businesses including Y Sport, Octagon, Rakuten Viber and Whistle Sports. These businesses were further complimented on the stage by representatives from the Dallas Mavericks, McLaren and the Minnesota Vikings.

The tone of the event was set on the first evening at an informal pre-event dinner for partners and speakers. Those present welcomed the opportunity to exchange thoughts ahead of the main event and ease themselves into what turned out to be busy and informative couple of days.

The first full morning had a definite theme of Women in Sport with Sally Horrox and Sally Hancock discussing the roles of women both on and off the field of play followed by the FA’s Mazena Bogdanowicz giving an insight into the challenges her organisation faced developing the women’s game in England. Sally Burtt-Jones then moved the subject matter onto Fan Engagement before Giancarlo Bernini captivated the audience with a whirlwind tour of all things WWE. Scott Kegley finished of the session with an emotion trip back in time to the ‘Miracle of Minnesota’.

During the afternoon, Jonathan Turner took us on a nautical journey around the world with his presentation on the Ocean Race before Joel Seymour-Hyde gave the audience Octagon’s view of creative sponsorship. UEFA Event’s Marketing Director, Guy-Laurent Epstein, then showed how Europe’s football confederation was tackling the ever-changing media landscape. The day was completed by the Sporto Awards ceremony before the more energetic headed to the event’s party.

Sophie Morris of the European Sponsorship Association (ESA) had the unenviable task of opening the morning after the night before, but her presentation on Integrated Marketing soon got the assembled minds back on track. John Allert of McLaren was then joined on stage by Milan Erzen of Bahrain Pro-Cycling and the audience where then given a colourful description of McLaren’s journey from Formula 1 into the world of pro cycling. Jeff Nathenson then made most of the audience feel very old with his ‘Whistle’ stop tour of the world of Generation Z and how to engage with them and more importantly how not to!

The intense discussions concluded on Friday afternoon with a homage to Luka Doncic, the current sporting hero of Slovenia and star NBA basketball player. The 20 year old Dallas Maverick point guard was a virtual presence throughout the event and the Dallas Maverick’s Connor Terry’s presentation of a signed ‘Mav’ vest proved what a huge star he is, perhaps the first Slovene World superstar.

The event was a huge success for delegates, partners and speaker alike with everyone looking forward to returning to Slovenia next year for Sporto 2020.

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