How the 10 Next awards fit for the Ivy Sports Symposium, and other thoughts from the MD

27 November 2014 | Posted in Notes & Insights | By Nick Meacham | Contact the author

How the 10 Next awards fit for the Ivy Sports Symposium, and other thoughts from the MD

Nick Meacham, managing director of SportsPro, presented the fourth annual 10 Next award to a batch of outstanding young recipients at the Ivy Sports Symposium at Princeton earlier this month. Here he shares his thoughts on the award, and the conference as a whole.

I was off to Princeton, New Jersey last week to attend the ninth instalment of the Ivy Sports Symposium (ISS). SportsPro has been involved with the one-day conference for the past four years, and created the 10 Next awards, an initiative that recognises outstanding global sports executives under the age of 30, in partnership with the ISS.

The awards remain a good fit for the event, largely due to its focus on the next generation of sports executives. The ISS has a mix of students, graduates, executives and industry leaders coming together in a diverse range of attendees looking to learn from some of the industry’s top thought leaders.

As part of my occasional travels to events across the UK, Europe and further afield, I thought it would be worthwhile sharing some quick thoughts about my experience from a whirlwind trip across the Atlantic.

- Security - In vs Out
o I’m not alone in having to undergo what many would consider heavy security checks to get on the plane and off the plane when heading to New York from London. Three bag checks, pat downs, multiple passport checks, etc. On the way out, it was the opposite. They almost pushed me on the plane.

- US about the biz, Europe about the politics
o Whilst attending numerous conferences in Europe, you continue to hear great political huff and puff without a lot of substance in many circumstances. Not in the US, where speakers were happy to explain and elaborate in almost every detail: it’s about revenue, making money and being the best at doing that. Refreshingly honest in my view.

- US hospitality overrated
o Maybe I was just unlucky but you always hear about great service in the US, but all I got – from airport workers to hotel staff - was people displaying their overt disinterest in their jobs. Nothing better than a bit of good old London service, it appears.

- Top execs support students
o It was great to hear and see so many top executives who had travelled from across the US to come to this one-day event to share and present insight not only on how their business works, but also specifics on how students need to differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace. They all stuck around to speak with the students after their speaker commitments too, which was a great touch.

- Another round of impressive 10 Next recipients
o I was fortunate enough to present the 10 Next winners for the second time at the event, and yet again the winners of the award are as talented as ever. Speaking with many of them afterwards, it’s great to hear their drive, how they value the award, and the desire to give back to the next round of potential winners.

- NFL misguided on UK (or is it just me?)
o I’m quite a big NFL fan, but having listened to the league’s goals for both revenue and reach, it just doesn’t stack up for me. I personally believe there is a naivety to the way the NFL has been receiving its success for the past few years in London, a market that represents a key part of its game plan. Both the NFL and the media seem to mistake entertainment-seeking spectators for full-blown fans. London is renowned for hosting events, and due to the diversity of the city’s population, most major events, if publicised well enough, will succeed. However, a large chunk of the populous couldn’t even tell you how many downs are played, or what a touchdown is worth and I don’t see how the NFL can be unaware of the need for the population to understand (and play) the game to become fans. It is fans, not spectators, that represent potential season ticket holders, a paramount business strand to the success and stability of any sporting club. Further to that, believing that global broadcast rights will reach near the numbers of the Premier League - which they will have to do if the NFL is to get close to its US$25 billion revenue target for 2027 - is ambitious. Perhaps if the NFL can get UK schools and local sports communities playing ‘American Football’, or a hybrid version, it will give it some chance of kids becoming legitimate fans, and making some real headway in conquering the marketplace.

- European Games are being held in Baarrrku?
o US people talking non-US sports can sound rather amusing, although surprisingly well-versed on the sports scene in Europe. Turns out they do pay attention to sports on the other side of the Atlantic.

- How to get away with failure
o Many speakers discussed not being afraid to fail in projects. As long the project is well researched, it’s worth a crack. And if it does fail, you learn from that to make it a success. The Philadelphia 76ers told their fans they’re going to fail for a couple of years, and most of them accepted it. “Just hang in with us and we’ll come out the other side a better team.” Fans bought in. Apparently a multi-year team reset is ok in US sports. It’s down to the parity-creating draft systems and it’s a world apart from the UK. For fans to be content to wait patiently is impressive.

- US mentality
o It’s all about being number one. Almost every top exec at the event talked about striving to be the number one executive, number one company, number one club, number one league. It doesn’t matter, but it’s all about being number one. It strikes me as a stark contrast to the message I’ve experienced in the UK and Australia, where, in many instances organisations never talk about the desire of being on top openly, and would rather be ‘under the radar’.

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