The 2015 Sports Business Conference took place at the Allen Center on April 18. This year’s theme revolved around Redefining Growth in Sports through the lens of fan innovation.
How are leagues, teams, networks and other sports organizations keeping fans and sponsors engaged within and outside of the stadium?
How do these companies scale effectively, efficiently and creatively?
These were some of the key questions surrounding the half-day conference.
Eric Nyquist, senior vice president of strategic development at NASCAR, engaged the audience with his morning keynote about how far NASCAR has come in the past six years thanks to some truly remarkable innovation. From securing new broadcast agreements to investing in the multiple screen experience, NASCAR has found impactful ways to engage with its audience.
NASCAR is aiming to build closer relationships with fans while rewarding them for their loyalty, in-stadium presence and mobile engagement. Future goals for the organization include enhancing the event experience, further developing environmentally-focused initiatives, and providing the at-home fan with relevant and thought-provoking data and video content.
The two panels of the day focused on growth and scale from different perspectives.
The “More Than Just a Stadium” panel featured marketing and innovation experts from the Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers and Levy Restaurant. Each panelist brought a unique take to the in-stadium experience. Atlanta Falcons CMO Jim Smith displayed some of his out-of-the-box ideas for the new Falcons stadium, including the latest structural technology combined and enhancing the tailgating experience to a whole new level. Colin Faulkner of the Chicago Cubs and Alison Weber of Levy Restaurants focused on the renovation challenges at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Teams are innovating beyond just new stadiums with localized food and beverage, digital menus, and most importantly, an experience that cannot be mimicked at home.
The Dodgers’ Janet Marie Smith emphasized how the history of the Dodgers organization was inherent in every level of the stadium experience.
The second panel of the day took a look at how emerging organizations are scaling their businesses through a variety of strategies. Amy Lupo of the X Games and Dan Lyle of USA Rugby pointed out similarities in the rapid growth of their sports through media distribution, modified games and mobile content consumption. These organizations have leveraged the richness of data in social media and sponsorship activation with the help of companies such as rEvolution. Which was also represented on the panel.
The day concluded with a joint session from Kellogg and Northwestern Athletics. Professor Sandeep Baliga and Assistant Athletic Director Ryan Chenault joined forces to discuss the development and impact of Purple Pricing, a truly innovative way to price tickets. With more value created and captured, this auction-system of pricing caught the attention of many attendees, leading to a rich discussion during the Q&A portion of the discussion.
Overall, it was made clear throughout the day that innovation and marketing strategy are the next frontiers in sports business. And where better to groom these future leaders than from Kellogg?
Sandeep Satish is a second-year student in Kellogg’s Full-Time Two-Year Program. Prior to moving to Evanston, he worked in investment banking at Citigroup in New York City. This summer, he interned with Major League Baseball at the Commissioner’s Office and will to stay in sports business after graduation.