Sports – Insights from the SpoBis conference

Europe’s largest sports business event, SpoBis, took place last week in Düsseldorf. We were delighted to attend this exciting event. We have summarised for you some of the biggest themes coming from the two days.

Know your market

Sports and their sponsors are trying to maintain the interest of and further monetise their existing audiences. At the same time, they are reaching out to other younger generations and international markets.

Sponsors and broadcasters are looking at how to attract Generation Z and utilise their prevalent use of social media to generate revenue. One marketing agency recommended forgetting millennials and turning attention to Generation Z. Yet the European Club Association recognises that the average age of fans of the major sports in the U.S. (and probably Europe too) have been rising over the past 15 years.

Sports and clubs will cater for the growing desire of their fans to purchase experiences rather than goods. The live experience will become more personalised. Those on the other side of the world will feel connected by their programme of live events and tailored media content.

Online and mobile content is now a non-negotiable element of that package. Broadcast TV producers will be increasingly judged by the quality of their product as viewed on the small screen. In this data-centric digital environment, questions of data protection and protecting intellectual property will continue to steer the way business develops.

Esports is an established part of sports business

There is a tension between the dynamic, online-centric platform upon which esports is founded and the desire to monetise esports in partnership with the traditional players of broadcast TV and sponsorship. The goal will remain exciting content and providing entertainment to viewers.

Traditional sports leagues and clubs are increasing their presence in the esports realm. This is particularly noticeable in football. But esports is dominated by its network of independent teams and leagues. They are developing a sports infrastructure of coaches and training bases, accompanied by a business infrastructure focused on corporate development and content production. The regulatory aspects of esports are still being explored. Esports will eventually encounter some of the same legal hurdles to which traditional sports are already accustomed.

Speakers from TV2 (Denmark) and eSports1 (Germany) illustrated how the esports market is more mature in these two countries compared to much of Europe. Yet there is no single model to success. Both free-to-air-TV and pay-TV have proven successful. Local audiences and local regulation will dictate the best course of action in each market.

Germany is distinct from its European peers

While the major European football leagues have seen a consolidation in the number of sportswear manufacturers sponsoring clubs, Germany has seen the opposite happen – and this is expected to continue. In such a competitive marketplace, antitrust considerations will remain paramount.

Bundesliga clubs are behind their foreign counterparts, particularly in the English Premier League, in terms of sponsorship and advertising revenue from sports betting companies. It is hoped that the third amendment to the State Treaty on Gambling (Glücksspielstaatsvertrag, GlüStV) will provide long-awaited legal certainty to participants in this market. But legal questions persist.

Germany is the largest European market in esports. Leagues, clubs, athletes, game developers and media operators have all taken to the supportive ecosystem in place, particularly in Berlin.

Stephan Mayer from the Federal Ministry of the Interior (Bundesminister des Innern, für Bau und Heimat) outlined their intention to have in place a national strategy for major sporting events (Nationale Strategie für Sportgroßveranstaltungen) before the end of 2020. It could be the first step towards a bid for hosting the Olympic Games (which may come from the Rhein-Ruhr region) or the Ryder Cup in the 2030s. It may also lead to Germany being recognised as one of the premier nations for hosting international sports competitions.