Here are my notes (largely unedited & unfiltered as I took them down in Google Docs) from the Sports Business NZ conference held in Auckland, I missed some sessions with work & radio commitments but it was an enjoyable conference with a great mix of speakers & topics.  I was very privileged to be one of the international keynote speakers & ran a successful sports digital day workshop prior to the conference.

Thanks to Shane Worthington from AC Events & his team putting on the event & to Matthew Cooper who did a stellar job as MC keeping the event moving smoothly over the 2 days.

Leadership – What’s working to develop & grow sporting organisations?

“Leading Change – taking advantage of the fast changing world of sport”

Across every spectrum of sport the world is changing at an incredible pace. How best, in this complex changing market, do you understand the shifts, take advantage and stay ahead?

  • Leading from the top – the importance of good governance and management
  • Understanding what business you are in – sport or entertainment, profit or not for profit
  • Technology changes – understanding the trends, implications and opportunities
  • Commercial/marketing challenges – your customers, your properties, your plan

Peter Miskimmin CEO Sport NZ

Sports Geek notes

Peter discussed the market forces on sports business including the growing professionalism of sport, how sports is funded & changes to the media industry.  These changes are presenting marketing opportunities like major events as evidenced with RWC 2011.  Sport participation is challenging the status quo especially with new forms of sport like 20/20 cricket growing in popularity.  Like Australia there is a battle balancing the demands for high performance with grassroots sports.  Sport continues to rely heavily volunteers and finding new volunteers is a constant issue.  Lastly there is changes in organising bodies that keeps sports administrators busy ensuring their sports organising are running at optimum efficiency.

Sports are in a combination of sports, business & entertainment.

We need more marketing expertise in our organisations & on our boards.

Passion overriding board decision when chasing titles or medals clouding judgements of sound business minded board members.

The challenges facing sport are:

  • balancing the “game” side & the “business” side
  • internal resistance to change
  • a new corporate capability
  • more effective leadership
  • a deliberate focus on marketing
  • change of mindsets as leaders

Do all this, without losing sight of, or connection to, the intrinsic values of sport.

Key snippets:

  • 36% of 18-35 are watching online in Europe there is a big shift in TV viewing habits.
  • 33% adults in New Zealand are now consuming sports online.
  • Sports & Rec sector – $5.2B per annum employs 50,000
  • Top 30 NSOs average over $1M in revenue
  • NZRU 2011 revenue was $105M
  • Gemba analyzed NZ sports market breaking them down into Disinterested, Fans & Fanatics (devotion & eternal optimism).
  • According to Gemba only Rugby Union & Rugby League are in top 10 sports & entertainment options.
  • Fanatics represent 90% of members & 80% of merchandise & 70% of your attendance

Growing Brumbies Rugby in the face of stiff competition and tough economic times

“Andrew will present on the challenges in leading a modern sports business, with particular focus on the strategies being used to grow the Brumbies organisation in face of significant competition, a tight economic climate and unique local market conditions. Andrew will focus on the importance of positive product differentiation and the value in developing effective partnerships that provide the scale and leverage necessary to support growth and sustainable success”.
Andrew Fagan
CEO Brumbies Rugby (AUS)

Sports Geek notes

“First with the Head and then with the Heart” was the title of Andrew’s presentation.  “Small can beat big” is Bryce Courteney quote that is at the heart of the Brumbies growth strategy.   Australia is one of the most competitive sports markets in the world & expansion continues in most leagues.  Canberra a government town with 360,000 people & 45% working for the government presents a challenge for Canberra sports teams.

The Brumbies vision is to set the standard of impact through sport:

  1. Outstanding business as usual performance
  2. Establish point of difference
  3. Achieve scale through partnership

Brumbies have developed a strong partnership with University of Canberra.

  • Facilities
    • New stadiums
    • Shared facilities & offices
  • Marketing & communications
    • Content Marketing
    • Brand Development
    • Brumbies TV
  • Business Development
    • Brumbies IP Business Unit
    • Back Office support
  • Fan Development
    • Demographic enhancement
    • UC Brumbies Social Club
  • Rugby Development
    • UC Brumbies Rugby Academy
    • Provision of scholarships
    • Development Officer Program

Reflections & lessons

  • Spend time identifying points of difference
  • Identifying partners who are regionally unique
  • Partners that present scaled that provides ROI
  • Shared values & goals are critical.
  • Identify & connect with internal champions
  • Communicate benefits to internal stakeholders
  • Both parties must see benefit

Key snippets:

  • Most avoid suicide by imitation – won’t win a head to head battle with market leaders.
  • Key partnership with University of Canberra starting with naming rights but that is just a starting point – facilities, marketing & communications & business development.
  • Government & Defence partnerships a strong focus connecting sponsors via Brumbies events.
  • Defense provide entertainment augmentation or better said flyovers, helicopters & tanks.

Leading NZ's largest national sporting organisation – a rugby view of key strategies for leadership success

  • Managing the challenges and opportunities that come with being New Zealander's sport of choice
  • Developing the game in a tough economic climate
  • Strategies for achieving a high performance culture
  • Managing effective relationships – government / sponsors / clubs / players
  • How Rugby World Cup 2011 was won – off the field

Neil Sorenson General Manager – Professional Rugby New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU)

Sports Geek notes

“I’m a bloody good leader” is how Neil opened his presentation.  Are you born to be a leader?  Probably according to Neil always found himself in leadership positions in life from school to school to business.

Looking for a leader?  Look to people who people who are following & especially someone who is a people’s person who instinctively cares for others.  New Zealand Rugby Union is committed to caring about people with is embodied by All-Blacks coach Steve Hansen.

Good point by Neil on handling “problem players” if you think the pressure of being a rugby player is too much & wouldn’t want grief from getting in trouble then walk away & get a normal job.  But what they need to realise they are also giving up a salary of up to $400,000 & business class flights and all the perks that comes with becoming an All-Black.

Review of RWC 2007

  • Leadership
  • Player Management
  • Culture


  • Pressure
  • Off-field commitments
  • Injury

Key snippets:

  • Stadium of Four Million was a big driver for All Blacks at RWC 2011.
  • “Football more popular than rugby for Kiwi kids”
  • Individual performance plans important development across teams using common language & easy to understand by all partners – players, parents & coaches
  • Examples show with a 17 year old junior & current All Black with easy colour coding & helps players be aware of personal goals & coach needs
  • Leaders working with leaders – clubs working with All Blacks a key part of success
  • If you can’t recite your priorities then they aren’t your priorities.
  • Leadership doesn’t have to come from a text book

Achieving commercial sustainability at club level – what needs to happen?

  • Getting the right balance between developing sports codes and achieving commercial growth
  • Creating better long term partnerships with key stakeholders – sponsors / media / government
  • Successfully managing reputation on and off the field
  • Corporate governance and club management – how are models changing?
  • What challenges and opportunities lie ahead for 2013 and beyond?

Sheryl Dawson, CEO, Waikato Bay of Plenty Magic Franchise / Netball Bay of Plenty
Mark Cameron,
CEO, Auckland Cricket Association
Hamish Riach,
CEO, Canterbury Crusaders / Canterbury Rugby Football Union
Peter Burley, Director, Sport Guidance Ltd

Sports Geek notes

Talking about all clubs – professional to grass-roots community clubs.
Must call clubs be sustainable?
Every organisation no matter what size they all must be commercially sustainable & viable – Sheryl Dawson.
How do you best help clubs grow?
People best able to make clubs thrive are the people who care about them the most – Hamish Riach
“Clubs the Hub” program has been important to fund management of cricket clubs – Mark Cameron
What is the most important structure & processes for club sustainability?
Important to remove the requirement of volunteers to grow the club – Mark Cameron
Opposing view from Hamish who believes volunteers are vital to lifeblood of clubs.
What about super clubs? Can they work & how do you do it?
History hard to ignore when combing clubs, getting everyone on the same page is vital – Hamish Riach

The business of major events

  • From Rugby World Cup to Cricket World Cup
  • The role of the host country
  • Commercial/business imperatives
  • The key stakeholders
  • What does success look like
  • Keeping legacy in mind

Therese Walsh – Head of NZ, ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, Director NZ Cricket (Previously Chief Operating Officer Rugby NZ 2011 Ltd)

Sports Geek notes

Checklist for a to know if you’re running a Global Sporting Event

  • Many countries involved
  • Significant international broadcasting audience
  • Lots of fans/spectators
  • Significant economic returns direct and indirect
  • VIPs come into the country

Why host Global Sporting Events?
Key Benefits:

  • International reputation
  • NZ feesl good
  • $$ Economic returns
  • More Players
  • More Fans

Role of Host Country

  • Deliver the Event well
  • Welcome Teams & Fans
  • Participate & Enjoy
  • Activate Business

Difficult part of running a global sporting event is managing the key stakeholders between International, National & Regional partners.  Getting them all to pull in the same direction is a big driver when running an event.

Commercial mode differs for each stakeholders

  • International Sports Body – Broadcasting & sponsorship
  • Host Country – Economic impact & marketing
  • Host Sports Body – Profit? & Marketing
  • Host Cities – Economic impact & marketing
  • Organising Company – Ticket Sales

Important keeping legacy in mind, not just about in business including; players, fans, volunteers, nationhood & social cohesion.

What's in the secret-sauce of world-class fan engagement?

Sharing insight from three of the biggest clubs in world soccer, Michael will discuss the thinking behind Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City's latest stadium and fan initiatives. Although your club is as unique as your fan base, Michael will show how to mix three key ingredients, so you can drive value for both your club and your supporters.
He will:

  • Discuss where your club's brand behaves in the hearts and minds of your fans, and how this affects your club's ‘offer'
  • Reveal what links an iPod to the London 2012 Olympics (and the Rugby World Cup of 2011 for that matter!)
  • Explain how three ingredients will inform the tiers of your match-day experience
  • Show how these ingredients power stadium benchmarks from New Zealand, The US and The UK.
  • Show how you can extend the match-day audience beyond the capacity of your stadium

Michael Artis Client Director – Sport and Entertainment 20.20 (UK)

Sports Geek notes

Simple premise – Truth. Change. Success.
All about designing extraordinary fan experiences… like Arsenal Diamond Club
… and evolve brand identities like Arsenal logo redesign. (Only to get death threats from fans who had the original logo tattooed on their chests)

Fan quote – “It's what we do everything else for”
This is who I am – Thick & then, “A board of millions”, This is my “home”

London 2012 was planned by the hour from the fan’s point of view according to Seb Coe.

Some of the initiatives at Arsenal – Fan Bricks, Concourse, Playing Legends, Legend Statues, etc

Secret Ingredients – Access, Exclusivity & Belonging

Examples include:

  • Exclusive insider tours at Yankee stadium
  • Pennsylvania Soccer Fan Loyalty program
  • Dallas Cowboys Miller Lite Lounge around player tunnel
  • MCFC – Redefining Premium around exclusivity – The Connell Club
    • Sold out off plan
    • Reserved 5% for match-by-match availabillity
  • Liverpool – all about belonging
    • Ramps up storytelling around Bill Shankly & Bob Paisley
    • 80% sold off plan
    • Honouring club legends
    • Sets expectation for what is to come…

Manchester City is expanding beyond the stadium with match-day destination zone with live show cross channel as well as bespoke partner areas like EA Blue Zone.

Optimising your Volunteer Potential

Managing your volunteers to ensure you give them the best possible volunteer experience and you get the best out of them can be a juggling act.
In this session we will talk about the trends in volunteering, what motivates volunteers, and how you can manage volunteers to get the best from them.
Gillian Peacock Chairperson Volunteering New Zealand

Sports Geek notes

It’s not just about saying thank you to your volunteers, is that enough?
1.2M Volunteers in NZ with over 800K in sports.
Key definition to use is Social Profit rather than Not-for-profit, there is a benefit socially to the community.
Great Volunteer Programmes need to:

  • Managers & Ambassadors are vital
  • Cost of a Volunteer program is not zero
  • Keeps Volunteers involved, makes them feel good & builds on their skills & experience

What Volunteers want?

  • Support & respect
  • Role descriptions & expectations
  • Training & resources to do job well
  • Meaningful experiences

Don’t forget that November 5 is International Volunteer Managers Day

Change – Managing change – Why change in sport is so challenging!

  • Identifying the burning platform
  • Achieving Board alignment and engagement
  • Being open, honest, early and frequent with your communication
  • Gaining buy in for the whole community
  • Balancing leadership and community involvement

Raelene Castle Chief Executive Netball NZ;
Board Member TTNL (ANZ Championship);
Board Member INF (International Netball Federation)

Sports Geek notes

Netball moving to a 5 Zone model trying to ensure it doesn’t impact the many stakeholders in netball including players & fans are not disrupted.

It is hard!

  • It is harder than corporate world
  • Volunteers are the lifeblood
  • The growth of professionalism
  • Money is tight
  • There are layers you have no control over

You need to help identify a reason for change “a burning platform” creates urgency & makes the rationale more credible.

Creating the ultimate spectator experience -Turning a ‘good event' into a ‘GREAT event'

  • Identifying, researching and servicing spectator segments
  • Giving people reasons to attend by empowering the spectator
  • Developing key partnerships
  • Underlying the importance of experience
  • Yesterday’s success equals tomorrow’s failure

Steve Walters General Manager Hertz Sevens

Sports Geek notes

Important to segment your customers
Identified fans who wanted to party & those who wanted to watch rugby
Strong connection with fans with strong ticket sales next challenge is expanding tournament outside stadium to new demographics.

Case Study – Wellington Phoenix

How to be successful in an ever changing environment

  • How to stay on top when the game is constantly changing
  • Organisational management – the role of the sports manager
  • The importance of business planning – financial planning, marketing and customer segmentation
  • Building the legacy in the role of guardian

David Dome General Manager Wellington Phoenix

Sports Geek notes

How do you keep the faith (with Bon Jovi soundtrack in the background)
Need to understand & appreciate your history when in business planning mode for your team.
Important part of planning is Customer Segmentation for Phoenix:

  • Hard Working Professionals (37% of base)
  • Studious Sharers & Settlers (18% of base)

Do your research

  • Find out what your fans like & don’t like?
  • Game day is a big draw for fans – family friendly & great atmosphere

Phoenix look at their marketing mix from fan point of view as well what they are presenting.
USP – “Being the most dynamic sporting experience in Wellington, The Phoenix delivers a sporting event like no other”
Social media a very cost effective method of communicating with fans but very important to understand what content your fans want.

Central government’s strategic approach to New Zealand’s sporting future

  • The role of the central government
  • Funding grass roots development and establishing a national approach to sport development
  • Managing the nations international interests
  • Working with the private sector to deliver opportunities to participants and spectators
  • Creating a sense of responsibility and community participation

Hon Chris Tremain, Associate Minister of Tourism Also Minister of Civil Defence & Minister of Internal Affairs

Sports Geek notes

Young people still want to play sports not just xbox & computers.  Saturday morning sport is still alive and well.  Surveys show kids want to try new sports so as an industry we need to give them the opportunities early on.

There is a balance between grass roots & high performance that is a constant struggle but both areas need assistance to keep lifting the bar both from participation rates & medal hauls.

An innovative approach to commercial diversity and growth

  • NZ Golf – a brief background
  • Overcoming commercial challenges
  • Getting the proposition right
  • Creating a digital platform to create meaningful connections
  • Maximising the use of your database to build the commercial side of your organisation
  • Case study

Dean Murphy CEO New Zealand Golf

Sports Geek notes

Big focus is game development across the country.
Kids are an important target market to drive interest for future players.
Time for change – NZG & NZPGA aligning
Some of the challenges:

  • decline in charitable trust revenue
  • heavily reliant of Sport NZ support
  • small commercial sponsorship
  • traditional club membership dropping

Needed to change the proposition

  • traditional approach wasn’t working
  • commercial revenue was less than 4% of total revenue
  • trying sell the sport
  • we need to understand the value of our connections with our players

NZ Golf need to rethink digital

  • regain rights to handicapping website
  • rights to marketing to members
  • new website
  • focussed on building knowledge around members databse

New NZ Golf website

  • 90K uniques per month
  • 3.5M page views per month
  • 6.40 time on site

Importance of an integrated campaign

  • BMW didn’t want naming rights – branding awareness not that important but want to sell cars
  • Integrated marketing solution
    • Naming rights
    • TV show
    • Direct mail
    • Email
    • Microsites
    • Corporate Golf Days
    • Targeted Online advertising
    • Unique membership offers
  • BMW Online Golf Club
    • 10,000 signed up in 4 months
    • Current vehicle & repurchase date
    • Performance reports on their golf
  • Targeted banner advertising campaign

Key takeaways

  • Accept that you will need to find new ways of securing new revenue
  • Organisations want to connect with people


Riding the rough road to success

  • How focusing on culture and a ‘values based' approach to management has led to success
  • Marketing, promotion and membership strategies to achieve record crowds
  • Securing the largest sponsorship in club history
  • Building on our success – Where to from here?

Richard Clarke General Manager SKYCITY Breakers

Sports Geek notes

NZ Breakers sold out NBL Grand Final in 22 minutes faster than Lady Gaga.
It all started in 2002 with Tall Blacks success at World Championships with Pero Cameron making All-Star Five.
Building the Dream (a great start winning first game) but living the nightmare (didn’t win next 8 weeks)
New owners – Start with Vision – then Believe!
“To be a Basketball Dynasty” modelled on Broncos, Lakers & Celtics as well as Perth Wildcats
What does winning look like?
To be a Professional, Successful, Relevant and Sustainable Basketball Club.

Formula for success – One Team + Courage + Integrity = Champions

  • Culture is Everything
  • Believe – Commitment to Vision
  • Participants not Spectators
  • Support your community – they will support you
  • Be prepared for Success

3 Rules

  • Did we get better today?
  • Challenge everything
  • No Dickheads

What next?

  • Resetting the Targets
  • Managing expectations
  • Writing the next success story

Leading change and creating high quality experiences to achieve retention and growth through the NZF Whole of Football Plan

  • Leading change to create alignment and a shared vision / understanding
  • Understanding unique NZ challenges and addressing them with world's best practice
  • Implementing a new plan with new staff and new programmes
  • Key learning's to date

Bev Priestman Head of Football Development NZ Football

Sports Geek notes

Before World of Football, “patchwork quilt” approach with different regions running different agendas with little accountability nationally.
AHA moment – What did we achieve last 7 years? Tough to answer
The Club is the Hub ties in existing players & draws in new players to increase retention rates.

Sportsville – Toward sport club sustainability

  • Designing facilities that enable pay-to-play versions of the/your game
  • Moving beyond grants and bar-takings dependency
  • Communicatus as a strategy for sport management/governance
  • Finding strategic friends and leveraging community expertise
  • What sport can learn from the YMCA movement

Peter Burley Director Sport Guidance Ltd

Sports Geek notes

Communicatus – yes it is a made up word.
What does it mean – communicating with members & encouraging sharing

The Sponsor's perspective – A Managing Director's view on sport sponsorship and commercial partnerships

  • Integrating sponsorship into the overall business strategy
  • Ensuring a cultural fit between the brand and the sport
  • How we use sponsorship to target both the business and consumer markets to drive sales growth

Neale Hill Managing Director Ford New Zealand

Sports Geek notes

Important to ensure a cultural fit for brand & sponsorship delivers to target business for sales growth.

Key considerations when deciding on a sponsorship:

  • Does the sponsorship property fit Brand Strategy and objectives?
  • What elements of Brand Strategy will it deliver?
  • Do we have resources, both financial & physical to leverage the sponsorship to deliver expected outcomes?
  • What is the sustainability of sponsorship property?
  • What are the risks associated with the sponsorship which could have damaging effects on the Brand?

Sport is a currency
Sponsorship is a platform to drive brand awareness & a tool to improve favorable opinion with customers.

Successfully connecting sports, fans and sponsors using technology

This session will look into how sports teams are connecting with their fan base to drive membership, merchandise & sponsor activations using social & digital.
Love your sports & digital, want to know?

  • How Darth Vader teamed up with Bulldogs for Star Wars Blu-Ray Launch
  • How Lions & Eagles fired up digital fans on Facebook & Twitter
  • How the NBA's Timberwolves connected with fans at the NBA Draft
  • How to manage large fan bases on social platforms
  • What fan engagement strategies work well in sports & how can they be adapted
  • What social and digital metrics are important and why

Sean Callanan Founder Sports Geek

Obviously I wasn't taking notes while I was presenting… but here is a photo taken during the presentation.

‘More than just a game' – How the NZRL secured the biggest sponsorship in its history

  • Attracting sponsorship – the importance of the strategic vision
  • Collaboration through sponsorship to effect change in communities
  • Creating better long term partnerships
  • Opportunities for the game/growth/community engagement/sponsors

Tony Kemp General Manager – High Performance NZ Rugby League

Sports Geek notes

Dark Past – Bright Future
“More than just a game” is the new theme

Pirtek sponsorship includes:

  • National Premiership
  • Hearts Camps
  • Grassroots
  • Charity
  • Reward Programmes
  • Elites

Wrap Up

It was a great two days of content & networking in the New Zealand sports business scene, it was a great conference & I look forward to seeing more success from the speakers & attendees over the coming year.

If you attended I'd love to hear your feedback in the comments or on Twitter.