BIMA Scotland Future of Sport – second leg results

By Anna Doyle
29 Mar 2019

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It was a stellar line up for the BIMA’s second outing of The Future of Sport, first held in Glasgow in September. Our booked-out room of digital and sports professionals (and everything in between) got to hear unique insights from:

Lianne Campbell, Communications Manager at sportscotland – who shared her insights on how digital developed snowboard coaching (a personal passion for Lianne). She talked with passion about how online competition can so brilliantly bring a sports community together seamlessly to share stories and progress.

Jack McGill, CEO and Editor in Chief at QTV – a trail blazer in live streaming. With a BBC background Jack led the way with audio and then cameras, building the business to where it is today with a footprint in over 20 countries. A great champion of minority sports.

Lee McLaughlin, Head of Product at Find a Player – the answer to many ruined evenings trying to find the missing person for your five a side. Lee’s app cleverly harnesses data to bring strangers together to create sports teams. The focus is currently on casual sports but there is room for expanding the scope and the uptake has been tremendous.

Claire Nelson, CEO at Netball Scotland – shared many eloquent, passionate and erudite insights and opinions on how to support the growth of minority sports covering engagement from spectator to participator. She also led the conversation on the gender inequality in professional sports. Her early adoption of digital innovations has paid huge dividends in reaching new audiences, driving brand awareness and delivering on sponsorship deals. Everything is in a tight budget. Data is key.

Scott Hollinshead, Operations and Governance Manager at Street Soccer Scotland – celebrating their 10th birthday Street Soccer Scotland is a team of 12 people with 30 volunteers. Like Claire they work on a tight budget and cleverly utilise data to understand their players experiences and improve it. Through their data mapping they have been able to create great stories to drive others to achieve new horizons and show the value in what they do.

Jim Hamilton, Former Rugby International and UK Director of Rugby Pass – keen to ensure that the wonder of rugby and the great human stories behind every team and every game does not get swallowed up in corporate deals and big money, Jim is using digital technologies and social media channels to bring new audiences and players to the game – something he is incredibly passionate about.

Refereeing our panel of sporting heavy weights was Richard Simpson, Co-owner and Joint Managing Director at Tayburn and member of the BIMA Scotland Council.

There were some clear themes running throughout the session which resonated across the panel and the audience, and many that followed on from the conversations in Glasgow back in 2018.

STORY TELLING – while there was much discussion around the clever use of technologies in the majority of cases it fed back to the need to tell a story. Sport is about human contact so the stories are crucial to engage new fans and inspire new people to take up a sport. As Claire pointed out you will not attract new people to playing netball by putting some data in the sports pages. The angle is human interest that leads through to the sports. Of course, this is central to what Jim is doing and crucial for Scott’s community to flourish. Through nimble use of technologies Jack is casting the net as wide as he can.

For sports teams and sporting organisations with small budgets the challenge is where to invest. How do you prioritise digital spend over paying for a new coach? You can only win that argument through strong data supporting ROI to then be able to buy two coaches – the elves and the shoemaker effect.

THE HUMAN IMPACT – hand in hand with story telling is the human aspect over corporate identity. The difference between Man Utd and Man City was referenced. Don’t be precious about your brand and organisation, delivering experiences is key. Don’t mention your product, promote your positioning.

Lee spoke about his concern as to whether strangers would meet over an app to play a sport together. The answer was yes they would as long as they were sure they were aligned with people of the same ability – nothing else mattered.

How does this feed back to the sport itself?

Social media – there was agreement that there is evidence that positive social media around a sports person or team will support improved performance in the sport. Negativity will have the opposite effect.

Data – the panel talked at length about using data for community engagement but of course it is also harnessed through sports performance too and this was investigated in more detail at the first Future of Sport in Glasgow.

Digital – efficiencies and innovation delivered through digital systems and products can help ensure the financial growth of a club to support the players but of course, like the use of data it is prevalent throughout the training process and delivery of sport now.

Back to the community and Park Run was mooted as a brilliant example of data, social media and digital coming together to grow a community, grow a sport and improve individual performance.

And finally questions and challenges remain:

– How do we reach the human stories when often key sports professionals are ring fenced by their agent and sponsor contracts?

– At what point is the sports personality taking over sports performance? You need to get the balance right. We can’t lose sight of the sport. Reference the fashion industry where models are selected on their social media following over other qualities.

– Similarly attracting money to support sports is crucial and there is a balance to be struck with finding the right sponsors and getting the right deals

– Finally, how do we create legacy?

A huge thank you to our brilliant panel for an insightful session and to Whitespace for hosting in their awesome event space. We look forward to following up their stories in more detail.

Read more Future of Sport part one 

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