With the desire of making the business of basketball as vibrant as the games themselves, executives from the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague and the 7DAYS EuroCup descended upon the annual Euroleague Basketball Business Summit in Barcelona on Wednesday to incubate ideas for engaging loyal and new fans with unique experiences in order to enhance club revenues in the season ahead.
To reach those goals, more than 90 business professionals from clubs in both competitions, among 160 guests total, welcomed a cross-section of speakers on subjects ranging from partnership strategies and tech injections to arena design and attracting new, more diverse customers and fans. The attendees were welcomed by Jordi Bertomeu, President and CEO of Euroleague Basketball, who said that the leagues and the clubs must align strategies under a strong brand umbrella that shares consistent principles, values and experiences with fans.
"We have huge potential to grow, and that's why we are here today," he said. "If we want to continue being a disruptive entity, different from all the other European organizations, we should invest in the people and embrace the technology that will help us develop our business, will help us to talk more and better to our fans, will help us to improve their experience, to improve our product, and as a consequence, to grow our business."
Summit emcee Marshall Glickman, CEO of G2 Strategic Global Sports Business Solutions, congratulated the assembled clubs for the progress he has seen as an outside Euroleague Basketball Business Advisor working with them on through the organization's two-year-old Business Operations & Club Services (BOCS).
"This is a league that's on the move," Glickman said. "Change is happening here at a faster pace than I expected. Keep up the good work. The purpose of this summit is to inspire all of you to continue to move forward."
There was inspiration in the story of a two-year old Major League Soccer franchise, Minnesota United FC, whose Chief Revenue Officer, Bryant Pfeiffer, told attendees how millennials and in-arena attractions are at the heart of the club's quick success in a small market saturated with long-established sports entertainment alternatives.
"Our focus was to create something magical and rich...We needed a fan experience that was different to anything else on offer in our market," Pfeiffer said. "And to do that, we had to listen to our fans."
Mounir Zok, Managing Director at N3XT Sports, spoke of new opportunities in the sports industry through technology. He pointed out how the industry's revenue sources are fragmenting; how star athletes offer branding synergy opportunities to leagues, clubs and sponsors; and how, when everyone in an arena has a smart phone in their pockets, digital is part of the fan experience.
"When you think about in-venue and digital engagement with fans, it's a hand-in-hand relationship," Zok said. "The better your venue experience, the better digital experience you have. And the better digital experience, the more people will want to come to the venue. Think of it from a holistic perspective."
Zaheer Benjamin, the new Head of Global Partnerships Strategy at Real Madrid, focused on the fact that data underlies commercial strategies to a greater and greater extent, allowing clubs to make the best-informed business decisions possible.
"How reliable is your data? I can't overstate how important it is, as a first step, to have consistent and reliable data," he said. "Basic access and reporting is a prerequisite to more detailed analytics."
A success story from within the Euroleague Basketball family was told by Une Jurkstaite, the Chief Business Officer of Zalgiris Kaunas, whose club raised its average EuroLeague attendance above 14,800 last season, in part by using loyal fans to attract others who had not witnessed the electric atmosphere at Zalgirio Arena before.
"We are very lucky. We are in the business of passion," she said. "Fans care about what we do, and if you just ask them, they have tons of ideas. You just have to be there to listen to them."
Ron Turner, Principal at Gensler, a world leader in arena design and construction, gave an overview of the newest trends in venue structures meant to serve the emerging fans of the future. Those trends include, among others, well-equipped gathering places inside arenas for fans who want to walk around more; a game experience that extends outdoors before and after games; and premium spaces where fans can be in touching distance of the athletes as they go to and from the playing floor.
"There's a new fan out there now," Turner said. "People say millennials, but that doesn't mean anything. Every year they are different. If you don't change, you die. You can't keep doing the same thing all the time."