Quality, insight, and delivery of discussion made SportsPro’s inaugural Fan Conference one to remember

SportsPro launched their first ever Fan Conference on Tuesday at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium, where guests were invited to enjoy the venue’s finest features as they listened and debated the most talked about topics in the world of sport, business and media.

It’s fair to say that if you’re going to commit to a day-long event, you want to have a good start to your day, and SportsPro absolutely delivered on that front. The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, lauded by many of the English sporting media, is truly a sight to behold. It’s majestic, clean, spacious and luxury in every sense of the word, and upon arrival you knew you were being welcomed into a premium event as the SportsPro branding circled various screens.

An hour of morning networking led into the first discussion of the day on the main stage with Rebecca Smith, Stephen Day and Amar Singh discussing the growth of women’s football after a hugely successful World Cup in France. It was a truly fascinating discussion, with Rebecca, or Bex as she prefers to be called, who’s won a World Cup herself, really delivering a wonderful take from the tournament having been on the ground following it from every angle.

Bex was in the company of Budweiser’s Amar and VISA’s Stephen, who discussed the long-term plans for sponsorship involvements in the women’s game, showing some of their summer advertising and leaving many, myself included, with goosebumps and a sense of real inspiration for the work they’d all done throughout the summer.

That talk certainly would have motivated many, but what followed was fascinating itself. Katy Leeson, Managing Director of Social Chain UK, unleashed some astonishing statistics when explaining the importance of the internet and social media in the current world, not just in sport. She advised how social media can be used in more effective ways, and certainly taught the less social-savvy in the audience about how to make a noise in a very loud marketplace.

After that a break split the morning talks from the midday talks, where decisions would have to be made, as several talks were to run at once. Choosing which talk to go to might have been a struggle for some, but luckily all talks are uploaded online for everyone to enjoy post-event, so while you may miss out on insight and expertise throughout the day, there’s always the opportunity to catch up.

In the End-zone, a conference area named after the zones of an NFL American Football pitch (which Tottenham’s grandiose new stadium possesses), Jeff Nathenson of the Whistle moderated a panel of Kelhem Salter of the MLB, Jamie King of the NFL and Bart Wiley of Seattle Sounders FC, who discussed the movement of American sports into the European market. Contrary to what many might believe, the various sporting bodies are not at war with each other for market share, and simply learn from one another as they look to make their great sports and events more globally accessible and followed throughout the world.

It was fascinating to hear true experts give their views on the movement as this is a pattern that could pick up a lot of pace in the coming years. With Tottenham Hotspur building a rising NFL pitch underneath their football ground, the signs suggest a movement towards Americanised sporting culture is rapidly approaching.

The next talk to grace attendees was delivered by Maximilian Portatius of Sponsor Online, Sean Jarvis of Huddersfield Town FC and Fran Jones of Tottenham Hotspur, moderated by SportsPro’s very own Eoin Connolly. The group discussed sponsorship and how it’s changing in the football world, with Fran going into particularly fascinating detail about the new stadium, the club’s financing plans compared to those of Arsenal with the Emirates Stadium, as well as revealing the criteria for future sponsors who might want their name adopted by the new stadium. The more light-hearted discussion came from Sean, who opened up about the story that led to Paddy Power’s brilliant kit stunt this summer, one that threw many people, but led to one of the most memorable kit-launches of all time.

More fascinating talks occurred with details on Everton’s unique Angry Birds activation, plus more on the commercial strategies of the 2019 Rugby World Cup and La Liga. All this preceded lunch, which after a quick tour of the new stadium, was later followed by even more great insight from other panellists. Vitality discussed sponsorship as James Ralley spoke about Wimbledon and AELTC’s role in building the famous tennis event, explaining a bit about their branding and how they operate throughout the rest of the year.

Robbie Lyle’s appearance on enemy territory will have been a brief comedy relief before the man famous for building Arsenal Fan TV (which has since been renamed to AFTV) gave some brilliant but serious views on where sports clubs are missing opportunities to engage with their fans. Everton fan Andy Castell, a famous YouTube blogger, reiterated this point with Hashtag United’s Seb Carmichael-Brown, joined by Richard Davies of Charles Russell Speechlys who argued why sports clubs also have to consider different priorities when it comes to revenue building.

A coffee break then followed before a final, and truly engaging talk and debate on the main stage before an evening of networking. It’s fair to say SportsPro put on an event that delivered truly unique networking opportunities, insight into many different facets of the sports industry, and a great day-out for people to enjoy while enriching their knowledge.

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