The 2017 edition of the Sportel media convention is underway this week at Monaco’s Grimaldi Forum, where as many as 3,000 delegates will be in attendance to buy and sell rights, exhibit their wares, make new connections and discuss the state of the industry.
As the event began getting into gear, SportsPro met with Sportel chief executive Laurent Puons and exclusive marketing agent David Jones to discuss the growth of the conferences, and what the make-up of attendees and exhibitors tells us about the future of sports broadcasting.
SportsPro: What are your reflections on how this year’s edition of Sportel has come together?
David Jones: So far it’s been extremely interesting. Looking back at last year, we had quite a lot of interest from new companies and new exhibitors, so we’ve added new stands. Over the last five years we’ve been developing our new venue. All the companies that were here last year, they came, they registered and they’re exhibiting now this year.
How the industry reacts to the developments and how they receive the developments of Sportel is actually quite great to see. Of course, you can tell by the industry itself. There’s new technology, new social media, new broadcasting and streaming opportunities, that we have here.
We’re doing our part in bringing all these businesses here, as visitors or as exhibitors, so all the participants can do business together and the content and marketing industry can do better business. As long as we’re trying to do our part to secure this platform and stay ahead of the game, all these participants are going to do business for the future to come.
Laurent Puons: As David mentioned, we have here 20 new exhibitors - ten new companies and ten were participants in the past. It’s very interesting for the development of Sportel and I’m sure that we’re on the right way and the market will be better next year again.
Sportel chief executive Laurent Puons
What’s the process for setting up a Sportel convention? How far ahead are you looking at who will be here in a given year, both from a participant and exhibitor perspective?
DJ: We’re already working on 2018 and 2019, basically. One would think that the show is working now so my part as the marketing guy is done, my part as the sales guy is done - it’s not. Right now, we’re already in negotiations for Sportel Monaco 2018 already, plus we have Sportel Asia, which is in March, coming up and we’re selling as well.
Most of the stands are already booked out on that, and in May we have the Sportel Summit, which we’re already working on. Registrations on that event are ongoing as well. So we are always working a year or two years ahead, and attending to other conferences as well to, as I said, stay ahead of the game and to plan ahead.
The last two years, for example, we had VR and AR, which are big things in the industry. Esports has a return to the industry. OTT, since last year and this year, has been a big thing. We’ve always been prepared ahead and we already have been communicating with exhibitors and participants to come to the show. We’re trying to stay ahead of that, trying to give directions and help the industry in their developments.
It’s visible on the floor, the number of OTT providers there are here and those who are creating products and solutions that rights holders can use. Where is it going next? If we come in 12 or 24 months’ time, who are the kind of people we are going to be seeing?
DJ: We can only assume but what the industry tells us - out of the grapevine, so to speak - you never know 100 per cent. Sportel has been around almost 30 years. It’s been a long history already, so we hear and see a lot that’s been happening. I think, personally, based on developments around the esports industry, I do believe that we will see a comeback on the VR because esports is going to influence sports - and specifically sports branding and marketing - more.
Along with that, the technological progression is going to evolve with that as well. VR and AR is going to have a comeback, mainly VR is going to have a comeback, and OTT is definitely going to be something that is going to progress over the next two years as well. More and more platforms are coming - Amazon is already here, you know, and it’s all those platforms that are building more and more opportunities.
There are more providers out there that are going in that direction as well. It’s open. I’ve just had discussions this morning - where is it going to lead us? You have smart TVs, you can pre-programme, it’s nearly endless at the moment, so it’s going to go home entertainment, on a broad perspective, on all devices and more.
LP: We could say the market is under the influence of digital, so it’s very important and very interesting for the future for us, of course. This year, we have Facebook as an exhibitor and I’m sure in a couple of years we’ll have Amazon and Netflix because it is the place for them.
The Sportel market follows the sport business, so the sport business needs an event like Sportel. We do our best to provide the best services for them and it’s the case.
What do you at Sportel do to try to differentiate yourselves from everything else out there in the event space?
LP: Sportel is a unique, and the most important, market for sports rights in the world. We have almost 30 years of experience, and it’s not only about being on the right way. Each year, we pass a step. It’s easy to be at the same level for one, two, three, four years, but each year we at Sportel get another level. It’s very important for us.
DJ: In comparison, to be fair, there are a lot of great conferences out there in the industry but when it comes down to marketing and content and real streaming, and the combination of all that when it comes to brand communication and technology, there is only Sportel and there will always be Sportel.
It is hard to compete with an event like Sportel because it has been around for so long. I don’t want to sound snobby but it really is. There is only so much space in the industry for events like this and that’s why Sportel is unique and is going to stay unique, that’s for sure.
David Jones, Sportel exclusive marketing agent
Because it’s reached a critical mass, where people set aside time in their diary to come?
DJ: Exactly. And the people that take time in their diary, those are decision-makers, those are people that come here not only to gain knowledge, not only to network, but actually also to do business. A lot of people, or the majority of people, that leave Sportel, leave with signed contracts, done deals. That is major.
LP: For us, it’s important that at the end of a show a lot of exhibitors sign a deal. It’s the most important and it’s the case in Sportel.
Where do your other events, like Sportel Asia, fit into the bigger picture for you now?
DJ: It always was part of the Sportel brand and it’s going to stay like that because it’s natural that not everybody can travel to Monaco. It’s a geographical problem. When you look at Latin America, for instance, it’s a financial difficulty, but what we do with those spring markets is we bring the industry closer to those territories so they can interact, do more international business and build in their country as well.
There are lots of brands that work internationally that want to get into Latin America or more into specific Asian territories, which is why we’ve done that for so many years and offered these platforms.
Next year, looking at Sportel Asia right now, we are already thinking about what’s happening. The next Olympics are happening in Asia - we’ve got Russia, we’ve got Japan - so it’s happening over there. Of course we have to bring people over there and I’m sure that Sportel Asia 2018 is going to be a massive success because of that, because of developments that are happening in Asia and around the events that are to come in the four, five, six years.
It’s important that people go there. Now is your opportunity to build your business there or widen your business in the Asian territories.
What are some of the things that you want to strengthen about Sportel as a business?
LP: Sportel is a business market, a B2B market, with buyer and seller. When I took the decision to launch a new event, which is called the Sportel Summit, it was for two simple reasons. The first one: Sportel is a very strong brand. We have almost 30 years’ experience. The second reason is simple as well: I’m convinced 100 per cent that the sport business needs an event like the Summit.
In Sportel, as I said, you sign a deal, you do business, but it’s important for the sector to have a new event with a conference programme that provides the response to the concern and interrogation from the C-levels involved in the sport business. It’s very important for us to organise this new event in order to provide a very high-level conference programme to the 300 most important decision-makers in the world.