The world has changed, the impact of COVID-19 has been devastating on many industries including sports.

On this podcast Sean Callanan discusses:

  • Why the sports industry needs to be agile, flexible & united
  • Why digital has become more important than ever
  • Demands on your commercial and digital teams over the next 6 months
  • Resources you can leverage to help your team right now
  • Why I am still upbeat and positive for the future of the sports industry
  • How Sports Geek can help you and how we can help each other
  • How B2B sports businesses can help teams & leagues through this crisis
  • How you can help talented people displaced by COVID-19 layoffs
How I think sports can bounce back from COVID-19

Learn why I'm upbeat for sports industry

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How sports will bounce back from COVID-19

Full transcription of podcast as transcribed using Descript. 

Please excuse grammatical errors, listening if the best way to consume this content.

Welcome to episode 273 of Sports Geek on this week's episode I discuss how the sports industry can adapt, survive & respond to COVID-19

DJ Joel – And now here's your host who looks forward to attending a game in your stadium Sean Callanan

Thanks. DJ Joel. Yes. My name is Sean Callanan and I'm, I am looking forward to attending a game in your stadium. I write all these intros for DJ Joel at various times throughout the year. when I wrote that one. I was sort of putting it out there to say, I'd love to be traveling and going to different stadiums.

I never thought when I wrote that intro, it would be something that we're all facing, looking forward to attending a game in our own stadiums. So, as always, I'm going to discuss the thing that is affecting the whole world, not just the sports industry. We're going to discuss that on today's podcast.

If you're listening to this for the first time and looking for advice around COVID-19 and coronavirus  this is not that podcast. I'm not a doctor but I will be talking about how the sports industry could can respond. You can always get me, via email. [email protected]. On socials @SeanCallanan and @sportsgeek on most social platforms. If you do have a question, I'm still gonna continue answering your questions. You can ask them at

Before I jump in today, I'm going to do a quick, short read about our Patreon campaign, it helps support the sports business content that we do produce. You can contribute and show your support by going to  I do really appreciate the people who have subscribed. I know they're doing is just as tough as I am. If he could support in any way, I really would. I appreciate it. You can go to So I guess let's get stuck into it.

I sort of ummed and ahhed about what this podcast might be and what I might discuss and, or the options, but I guess I'll just give you my point of view on what it's been like in my world. It may be similar and maybe different. Literally last Friday, we were at the opening of a Fortress Melbourne at Emporium here and esports and gaming bar that we'd been working with the guys at Emporium to open.

That opening happened at 10 o'clock last Friday, and then I was headed, I was going to be headed to a day at the Grand Prix with the team at Motor Sport Australia.  The evening previous, we held Sports Business Melbourne meetup  at the Corner Hotel, I think it was about 15 of us  talking a little bit about coronavirus and where it might land. It was a effectively a day after, the NBA had decided to postpone. and yeah, he'd 11 o'clock after opening Fortress and letting people in the doors, and. And then the Grand Prix was canceled. and over the last seven to 10 days, we've seen pretty much, the world, starting to grind into a halt due to coronavirus.

Unfortunately for the guys at Fortress, they have to close the doors five days after opening, which is really disappointing. But that's pretty much the reality for every business in that a nonessential, so I'm recording this on, on Sunday. the, Victorian government here is just, ordered a shut down of all non-essential businesses.

The AFL's Gillon McLachlan, just reported the cancellation of the AFLW seasons, and then the suspension of the AFL season. And so it hurts. it's going to hurt a lot of people. There's a lot of industries that are affected, obviously. Those of you are listening that in the sports industry it's terribly affected.

It's affecting tourism, events, conferences and those kinds of things. have all been postponed, charities the same. they might've had gatherings and those kinds of things, and be key fundraisers planned in the next four to six months. they are at jeopardy. The arts community, I have a lot of friends that are in the arts community the Melbourne international comedy festival that was recently canceled. That's where a lot of comedians get there. They big bump the year. so they've been, have been affected. Recruitment., people aren't going to be hiring, and they're going to put a freeze on, on jobs and not hiring people despite the, you know, the government trying to put in support for people and as I said before, hospitality, anyone who runs a coffee shop or a bar and those kinds of things, everyone is affected.

This isn't a woe is me podcast, because everyone is in the shit! Everyone! We all need to pull together to help each other to get out to the other side of this whenever and whenever that is.

So I'm hearing politicians using the phrase, a bridge to see us to the other side. yes, I understand. There's probably spinmasters and PR folk that have given them that phrase, building a bridge, getting a bridge to the other side. But really we do need to build a bridge. We do need to do that together and get together to do that.

As I mentioned, the AFL season has just been put on hold.  Gil McLachlan, the, the AFL CEO mentioned that we need to be agile, flexible, and united, which I completely agree with. I think it's something that we have to do as an industry, and support each other. knowing that.

 Yes, everyone is affected. You're affected. people you work with are affected. Their families are affected.  Everyone is affected by these. So what I want to do is highlight how I can help, and how I can play a part in being that builder of the bridge. So in my case. Digital to Dollars has never been more important.

Usually when we're doing it,  it's a slow, considered practical approach to build upon what your digital teams are already doing and already delivering, to deliver more results and more commercial value to your partners. Normally it's working with your digital teams, working with your commercial teams to get them to work together to ensure that the great digital content that is being created is partnered and attributed back to sponsors and make sure that the sponsors are seeing that value.

I can't do it that way. Now we're in a different time. we're in a different timeframe. We're in a different world. So we have to fast track that process. Normally that process takes six weeks to two months to, in some cases, years to start getting it right.

But we have to fast track it.

And so why do we have to fast track it? Well, like I just said, we are in a new world and we've got to figure out how to work in that new world.

Right now we have sponsorship dollars in sports and in all industries, arts is facing the same problems.

Sponsorship dollars overall are under severe threat!

This year very much so, because no games makes it hard to deliver on all of the required deliverables in your current sponsorship contracts.

The second point is the businesses that are the sponsors, the brands that are sponsoring, a lot of them are now looking to save costs, and I will cut sponsorship dollars where they can.

Sponsorship dollars are under SEVERE threat!

So we need to figure out how we can best deliver for those sponsors and retain as much of that sponsorship dollar, that we have already acquired and how much we can retain this year. That's a real strong focus and it should be a strong focus for every chief commercial officer.

 It'll be the question that the CEO will be asking, how do we keep those sponsorship dollars? You've already secured they are hard earned.

How do we keep them?

The second reason we have to fast track Digital to Dollars.

Digital teams will be put under more stress and pressure to deliver.

Now more than ever.

There's going to be more fans screaming for content and connection now than when are games playing, especially now that there are no games being played. They want to feel that connection with their team, with their club. Now more than ever, and on top of that, the digital teams, which we know are already stretched like I've done the content reviews, I've reviewed what content teams and digital teams are producing. I know how stretched they are now!

They are going to be asked to deliver more. They're going to be asked to engage with fans more, and they're going to be asked by the commercial teams to produce more content that then can go back to the sponsors to deliver some more value to the sponsors because they're missing out on their match day and hospitality options.

So your digital teams are going to be under more stress and more strain and resources will be really stretched.

Now, while I've joked in the past and on this podcast and in workshops. That for a long time I've been a digital divorce counsellor.  Getting teams working together, getting digital and commercial and, and your data teams working together now, that's never been more important.

It's actually never been harder to do because now everyone is working from home, so it's harder to do. I'm not saying that people aren't doing a good job, like I'm seeing some terrific innovation from digital teams that are scrambling to innovate, to connect with sports starved fans on social media, and they're trying new things and they're doing different initiatives on different content platforms to give the fans access and to feel connected with the fans and engage the fans, which is great. I love that.

How do we then connect those great initiatives and be agile and nimble enough to connect those great initiatives to sponsors? Can we provide that flexibility? Can we get everyone in the room? Can we get that loop closed? Because on the other side of the business, the commercial teams are reviewing contracts and trying to find ways to deliver some of the value that COVID-19 has ripped away a normal sponsorship would have match day, TV exposure, hospitality, fan events and digital

Digital is the only one left. It's the only one still available.

So digital is the option that needs to be pushed harder, and we really do need the process for, “Hey, we've got this cool idea we want to do. It'll engage our fans. We reckon they'll love it”.  How do we get a sponsor involved in that?

What is the process? How do we fast track that sponsor process? How do we say we're going to do this? It's timely. The fans want it. We're going to do it now. Which sponsor is going to be associated with this piece of content so we can add that to the deliverables, we are in make good territory right now.

So how do we improve that process to be able to go back to our sponsors and say these are the things we delivered.

So some resources that are available for you now, the first three pillars of Digital to Dollars, explaining  what that process is,  is available  in podcast form.

Right. So I've already done a Digital to Dollars – Know your audience. I did that back in January. So you can learn more about who you, who you currently engage with,  who should you be engaging with. How could you learn more about them? You might now find an audience that you haven't engaged with. That's key. You want to be finding and engaging with all of your audiences and doing it in a segmented manner.

You can check out the, Know your Content podcast from February, where we're also the dive into how we do a content review, which is vital now. Like what content were are you going to produce that can't be produced now? You can't have a highlight dunk or a goal of the week if there are no games that is now off the list of content you're producing. So what are the new content pieces? How are they going to be developed with or without games, with or without players? How are you going to do that? One of the other things we also do in the content piece is how do we make sure we extend the life of every piece of content that we do?

If your resources are stretched. You don't want to have these little one shot wonders. You want to figure out a way to get multiple plays, multiple interactions off the same piece of content, making it stretch, make it last a little bit longer.

And then just last month, Feb 24 I did a Know your Distribution. How are you now going to change the way you interact on your social media channels? What digital channels can you leverage now and grow and integrate with your partners that you probably weren't going to do? What does Instagram Live look like? What does Facebook Live look like?

How are you going to tackle TikTok? How can you use those platforms, which primarily might be completely new, new assets that are coming online for you and your brand and your team? If they are new assets, then you can be talking back to your partners to say, this is what we're doing. We want you to be part of that.

So there's some resources. If you haven't listened to those episodes, they will give you some tips on how we go about the Digital To Dollars process, how it works and, and why it works.

I don't want this whole podcast to be a dark cloud.

Which it does feel like in the world right now there is a dark cloud of this  coronavirus.

But I'm still upbeat and are remaining upbeat.

I'm a remaining glass half full. even though it has been a really tough week.

I think it's probably been the toughest week at Sports Geek in 11 years

I think it's been a tough week for the industry.

Tough to find another time, that I think the industry has really been hit overall and globally.

But why am I upbeat?

I'm upbeat because the fans will return in droves in to stadiums.

The cheeks on the seats will happen again.

We will see a definite uptick in ticketing memberships, show rates, people turning up to watch live sport.

I have no doubt . Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Especially coming out of three, six may even be 12 months of isolation, hibernation, whatever we end up calling it.

Fans will want to be in, in a stadium and see sport live.

So we need to prepare for that!

The other reason I'm upbeat is broadcasters will truly now know the value of life sport.

No theories, no posturing, no Mexican standoff between broadcasters and rights holders. With no live sport TV will KNOW what live sport means. Which should see an unexpected bump, or at least the values of current TV rights to hold when most would have probably expected them to drop. I think this will force sports to look at their broadcast model and start looking at how they can better leverage and better carve off their own rights and how I can produce those rights and how they can present those rights to fans, whether it be better leveraging the archives, those kinds of things. I think the broadcast picture will be for the better coming out of this crisis.

Another reason I am still upbeat for the sports business industry.  There are a lot of service providers to sports that are hurting right now and will hurt that can help. I'm amongst them admittedly. I've seen the social media posts from people working on the team side or the league side, getting annoyed that they're working from home and trying to figure out what this crisis looks like, and they'd been getting emails and calls from potential vendors saying, “Hey, I've got this tool.  I've got this fan engagement solution. This is how we can. Talk to fans that you're not talking to right now”

As I stated earlier, everyone is hurting. and I do believe a new normal will develop out of this crisis.  And the old way of “we always do it this way”, potentially might be a casualty, which I think is good.

So I think a little bit of balance is required on, on both sides, in reaching out to teams. I know it's something that I've, especially this week, knowing how tough it is to be either running a team or running a league that he's trying to get games going or he's still struggling and coming to terms with games not operating, which remember, this is a seven day old problem to a certain degree for the world of sport.

So I deliberately haven't done that, reach out to people who've been talking to clients and working with them on what they can do in this space, but I haven't pushed really hard to reach out to people. but if you are a business or a technology that wants to be part of the solution and you think you're part of the solution, if not now.

If not, Hey, I can help you now in this break, and, and help you in a certain way in this break with no games and those kinds of things. Yes, I'd love to hear from you, but if you think you're part of the solution when we get back on track, I'd love to hear from you. I'm going to work on a project that's going to help more of the sports business industry know what options are out there.

So if you, if you're in a B2B solution, if you've got a tool or a technology in a way to help sport going forward, I'd love to hear from you and I'd love to work in a way that we can help offer that solution.

The other reason that I'm really upbeat is there's so many talented people in the industry.

The unfortunate thing is some of these people have already lost their jobs or will lose their jobs or won't get any shifts. So we've heard all the conversation about the people who work on game day and they work in concession, or they work at stadiums and games aren't being played but there's people in production, there's people in game day, there's people in media.

So if you have skills in content production, whether you're a journalist, you're a video editor, you're an On Air talent, you're a podcast editor, you're an interviewer, you're a graphic artist. There will be work for you.

The demand for sports content hasn't gone away. That's one of the things that COVID-19 hasn't taken away.

Fans still want that content!

I was speaking to my brother who works in the infrastructure space, trying to get my head around this whole crisis, which is facing everybody and because he's an infrastructure, he works with a lot of hospitals. And he was pretty much saying that the hospitals are building for the crisis ahead.

They know they're going to need people to handle the demand. They are recruiting people because then are those resources and those people won't be available at some point in time.

My thinking is digital teams will need help. They might not be hiring full time people, but they will be needing assistance. They will need assistance to fulfil the increased demand.

If a digital team is currently, a capacity is going to be asked to do twice as much, that's not physically possible.

So again, I have a lot of faith and I am upbeat about the people that are available, both in the world of sport. But then also, as I talked, spoke about before, there's lots of talented people in the world of arts, and content producers out of that space that don't have anything, don't have any work because events centres and arts festivals and co and comedy festivals that, had been shut down. So if you're one of these talented people that's going to struggle, it's going to struggle over the next six months. cause you don't have a job and you don't have a permanent job or the freelance work that you work in and it's going to stop.

Please reach out. I'm going to work on a way to better connect you as people to the opportunities that might be. And hopefully, like I'm always of the belief that if you hang around with smart, creative people, cool things happen. So if we get enough of these people who knows what we can help build, develop, and, and, help the, as I said before, help the sports industry build that bridge.

Okay. So that's a little bit of where I think things are at. Why I'm still upbeat.

So he's the pitch.

You know how the sports industry is worried for its very future is no games are being played.

What we do is help teams increase digital output with a focus on partner outcomes.

In fact, we're proud to be here since the beginning of the sports digital age. We don't plan on stopping now when sports needs Sports Geeks.

Now more than ever.

I remember a time when no one had a digital department and teams were starting to use social media, and I'm really proud to see so many people working in this industry and producing content and engaging fans and selling tickets and selling memberships and getting people into the stands.

We have build a really terrific platform, and so now let's really leverage it.

So what does Digital To Dollars Fast Track look like?

So one of the thing is we've got to flip the model. This is not a time to follow the script as you always have. I've spoken about it before. If you listen to the podcast before you, you will have heard me go through the process, Know your audience, Know your content, Know your distribution, Know your value, Know your pitch.

But in this case, we need to flip the model because it is operation SAVE SPONSOR REVENUE.

So we start with Know your Pitch.

So it starts with a review sponsor by sponsor to assess the deliverables. And let's look for digital upside. What are the new content and new campaigns we can deliver to recover the loss deliverables?

How can we cover the lost match day sponsorship?

How can we recover the loss of hospitality tickets for games that are not being applied?

That's the first part.

Look for those opportunities to get uplift from digital.

 Then we look at Know your Value, assess how digital has been valued, ensure that all options that you've got available, and especially the new ones, most likely we're going to do things on new platforms.

They might not have values and rate cards, so we need to review your right card updated if needed. But then also look at what these new platforms might be valued at. If we're going to pitch new things to a partner and go back to them and say, this is what we're now doing.

Which dives into Know your Distribution.

What platforms just rose in attention and value?

More people are looking at Twitter. Does that mean it mean it's more valuable? Okay. Instagram, Instagram live. Are we doing more things on that? Does it now the time to start playing around with TikTok, how do we do it? How do we assign partners to that type of content?

And then one of my fave, what innovation can you SETAL WITH PRIDE? What are other teams doing? How can we lift each other up? Because we don't have to be first in doing something. We just have to be the first to be doing something to our fans. So if one team in the U S is doing something, well, it can be done here because you're talking to your fans.

 You're not talking to their fans, you're talking to your fans.

So it's really about looking at what platforms you've now got available and how you best leverage them in this time.

Then diving in, Know your Content, review the content that was to be, to produced. What content have you just straight out lost. What content strands are no longer available. We can't do dunk of the night. We can't do goal of the week cause we don't have that content. And then if we are producing content, how can we stretch every single pixel out of that content to make sure it's being seen by as many people as possible? What new content initiatives should we undertake with the restrictions that we've got?

Restrictions sometimes create creativity and innovation.

We don't have access to the game footage.

We don't have access to the players.

What do we have access to?

It's very much like currently going to the supermarkets where you go to the supermarkets to potentially get some more food. and half of the supermarkets are empty.  So you might get a protein, you might get some chicken because chickens it's the only thing that's there. You might get some potatoes because there are potatoes, but there's  no salad. You end up making the dish based on what is available. We're very much in that space,  for Know Your Content.

And then the last is what is the opportunity in Knowing your Audience, like diving in and understanding who we're talking to, how engaged they are.

Every time we do this exercise with the team, we always find audiences that they don't realise that they have. They are super valuable at this time.

If you can go back to a sponsor and say, well, actually, teenage teenagers, as an example, a super engaged with their content on this platform, we only found that out, or we would like to produce this content series for them. Here's the data that says they will really like it. Would you like us to be partnering with you to producing that content series?

We always find a couple of  audiences of opportunity is what we call them in the workshop. So what can we find from that? So that's reversing the model, starting with the problem.

The problem is how do we save the money? How do we make sure that we deliver as much as we can to claw back as much of those deliverables and promises that we, that we'd offered earlier. So. If you've been thinking of hiring me or working through the Digital To Dollars, I'd love to talk to you right now, wherever you might be in the world.

It's a global problem. I'm happy to be working with anybody, especially as I said, people who listen to this podcast, I want to help you get to the other side. the strategy will not only give you a team direction and purpose for the next three months, six months, 12 months.

It will set your team up for the eventual return of your sport.

So we might be doing work right now that actually sits up a digital content explosion once your sport hits go.

This isn't, this isn't a strategy to go, cool, we're going to churn out a stack of content because we should turn out a stack of content. This might be three to six months of preparation. To make hay while the sun shines, when the sport gets back on its feet.

So it's sitting up for that, getting that strategy in place, right? Normally, when we're doing the digital dollar strategy, it's about, Hey, how can we secure more money for partners? How can we go and get some of their campaign money? How can we come get some of the activation money? That's a down the track opportunity right now.

This is a, how do we stabilise everything right now option.

So we're going to be offering the Digital To Dollars Fast Track option for a 50% discount for the next six months. so please reach out and it's going to be held completely online via zoom meetings using Google documents, Google sheets completely online.  It will help your team adjust to working from home, helping them to deliver awesome digital campaigns to partners. I'll be available to work with your partners to deliver what you have to them and  deliver campaigns that I want.

Remember, like I said before, everyone's feeling the pain. So your partner might be an airline and no one's flying. You know, your partner might run events and there's no events happening. They might be, it might be a resort, and no one's turning up. So they're feeling the pain as well, and they have less options to market their services.

So what are the options? How can you help them.

I will have access hopefully by this too, to talent, as we recruit freelancers and content creators to be able to meet the increased demand. So again, if you're being displaced or you're looking for work, you think you can help, you want to be part of this, there'll be links on to be part of it because when the green button to go gets hit.

When everyone wants start to working on new projects, you'll need more people to do it.

So what does that look like? I want to be able to help you in that space and yes, it has been a conversation over the last seven days. If you want to push a new esports and gaming, we can help you build that as well. But again, it's a longer term thing. It's not a quick fix. I will be doing some stuff in the need gaming, esports space. At the moment, I'm really grateful tha t our esports team Gravitas is still still playing, but that could change at any moment. So I'm going to make the links for this podcast really easy.

It's going to be on the front page. If you've got a there will be options.

if you're interested in getting Digital to Dollars to help set your team up for COVID-19 and beyond.

Let's set up a time to chat.

I'm happy to talk to you through the steps that we'd go through.

Happy to talk to your chief commercial officer. I'm happy to talk to your CEO, to really set yourself up to be able to deliver in that compressed schedule that eventually, and potentially will restart. Whether that's June, July, August, September, whenever that is. There will be a real strong expectation for your team to deliver well and above what you've expected to be in delivering previously.

So go to for that.

If you have a sports business to business or a tech business, and you want to walk alongside me and help sports find a way to the other side of COVID-19, please reach out and get involved. As I said, I've got an idea in a project that I think can help yYou rise above the clutter and present, your present, your solution, and I'd love to help.  I'm in the same position.

And then lastly, if you asked someone working in sports is out of work or displaced due to COVID-19, and you'd love to still work in sports and you're ready and willing to work again, please reach out, go to, register your details. I want to be able to connect you with those work opportunities. Potentially, I want to work with you. And make it easier view to connect with your next gig.

So that's it for me. that's the pitch. now is the time to make Digital to Dollars for you and your team. you can go to for all the links to this episode and all the links, to the options that I provided there.

Please stay safe.

Please wash your hands and I wish all of you, safety, and hopefully, and  I'm still upbeat that, we are all laughing and enjoying ourselves at a sports conference, at a bar some point, and, and having a beer and saying that we survived. because I do think, the sports industry is resilient.

One of my, life mottos is definitely around resilience. I've spoken about the, Angela Duckworth's book, Grit. if you are looking for something to read, that gives you some, lifting your spirits. and  understanding grit. you can either watch Angela Duckworth's Ted talk, but I highly recommend her book on Grit.

I believe I've got a lot of grit. like I said, I've been here from the beginning. I'm not going anywhere.

I want to see us get to the other side of this. look forward to talking to you, on any of the platforms. Sean at

Please reach out, if I can help you in any way. .

It's going to be a real slog for the next 12 months.

But the thing is, people in sports business are hard workers.

They don't back away from a challenge.

I think we're all going to be inspired by what everyone is doing across multiple sports around the world to see all sports get back on its feet.

So that's it from me. appreciate you listening.

My name is Sean Callanan and you've been listening to Sports Geek.

Thanks for the review on Apple Podcasts

Awesome Podcast

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As a student studying Sports management Sean has greatly increased my knowledge of the digital side of the field and helping my kick goals. Cheers Sean

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