SPORTO panellists talk women’s football, The Ocean Race technology & Champions League branding

Digital Sport are official media partners for SPORTO’s conference in Slovenia, Portoroz on the 21st November.

SPORTO is welcoming a whole host of guests & panellists as everyone comes together to connect brands, rights holders, agencies, media, athletes and students. The purpose of the event is to deliver valuable information, to present brands to people and to share know-how from within the industry.

A few of the panellists spoke to SPORTO Magazine about their respected industries ahead of their appearances at the SPORTO Conference in Slovenia. Marzena Bogdanowicz (Head of Marketing & Commercial for Women’s Football), Jonathan Turner (Head of Digital at the Ocean Race) & Guy Laurent-Epstein (Marketing Director of UEFA Events S.A) all gave insight into their roles. 

First up to speak to SPORTO was Marzena, who’s had a tremendously successful year watching the Women’s Football World Cup grow vastly in popularity and viewership. The game is now more marketed than ever before, led by stars like Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, and Lucy Bronze. Players are appearing in promotional content for huge advertising campaigns like FIFA’s & Budweiser’s, the Women’s Super League is growing in following, and the BBC have reported that Football Association figures show a rise in participation in the game thanks to England’s run to the semi-finals.

Marzena was asked what learnings from the 2019 World Cup in France could be beneficial for the FA and Lionesses, to which she replied: “Our ambition was to create heat around the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, increasing the profile of the Lionesses both as a collective and as individuals, and inspiring the next generation.”

She continued: “Our biggest learning has been working with all our partners and stakeholders together – we engaged with our commercial partners, the host broadcaster BBC, clubs, schools, media channels and the media – each and every one played a role. There is also much more we can do in the future and we are already planning for 2021 and the UEFA Women’s EURO.”

Marzena then went into detail about why marketing for women’s football and men’s should be different: “A young boy will walk out of his front door and fall over a football.

“He and his parents will know where to take him to play and where to watch. For a young girl, it is still very different – we have to help with signposting, but also in changing perceptions. Tackling the old stereotypes and communicating that football is not a game just for boys but a game for anyone irrespective of gender, background or belief. This is one of the biggest differences and that we have to work much harder to get the message across.”

Essentially, Marzena is explaining that a young boy can very easily be brought into the sport, whereas for young girls there are more invisible barriers to overcome, and so changing perception is crucial.

Jonathan was the next to speak ahead of the event, as he went into detail about the technology that has helped The Ocean Race over the years: “We are always on the lookout for new ways to tell our stories, and because we race every three years, we often see steep tech evolutions between editions – so we need to stay very agile and open-minded,” he said.

He went on to say: “One of the biggest steps forward has been the evolution of drones, which have given us never-before-seen angles on offshore racing. Combined with the dedication and skill of our Onboard Reporters, who have spent hours perfecting the art of flying offshore – even in 35-40 knots – they have changed the game in sailing. Our work in drones has made an impact outside of the sport – last Race, we even collaborated with the Drone Racing League to share insights and tips with our Onboard Reporters (OBRs) and two of their pro pilots.”

Luka Maselj, conducting the interview, then asked: You have been pushing the limits of technology in extreme environments, but at the same time you have been very clear about your sustainability mission: the award-winning campaign #turnthetideonplastic is telling us that we need to reduce the amount of plastic in our oceans. Could we say that The Ocean Race became a ‘sustainability influencer through the platform of sport’?

To which Jonathan stated: “Absolutely. A passion for ocean health has always been at the heart of The Ocean Race – and we have a really authentic platform to raise awareness around the issues we are facing today. I think brands today are looking for partnerships with purpose – and we are widely seen as one of the leading sustainability platforms in sport. After all, the ocean is our racetrack, and we are powered by the wind – it does not get much more pure than that.”

Guy-Laurent Epstein was asked about the refreshed brand identity unveiled in June 2018 and how sophisticated the work on the details were for adding value to everyone involved.

“The UCL’s brand identity has gone through an evolution, rather than a revolution, during its 25 years of existence with regular refreshment of the brand,” replied Guy.

“Consistent branding has been applied from the first match day, including the TV opening/closing sequences, the interview backdrops, its iconic music, the use of the star-ball, the patch on the jerseys … All those elements were present from the beginning. The brand has become so strong that it would be wrong to affect its recognised value by undertaking a revolution. We are mostly evolving and refreshing it, trying to bring more innovation and in the last years we have focused on the digital usage.

“The idea behind the latest refreshed identity – with flexible colour scheme – was to bring more warmth to the premium status of the brand that is expressed through the silver and night blue. The original concept was namely about the night of the champions with dark-blue style. We are evolving this brand identity to involve more warmth in order to convey the passion for football. It is about the combination of the quality of the teams, the premium value of the competitions and the global passion for the game.”

You can hear all three interviewees speak at the SPORTO Conference in Slovenia between the 21st and 22nd November.

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