2021 Annual Conference: 10 Key Takeaways

Ben Wells

Last week PTI hosted its Annual Conference at Edgbaston, the first industry get together since lockdown restrictions were eased and boy was it good to be able to get people together in person once again!

Thank you to our guests speakers and panellists – Charlie Boss of The Jockey Club; Stephanie Bax of CAA Icon; Yanni Andreopoulos of E1 Series; Oliver Weingarten of LDN UTD; Adam Pearson of AEG Europe; and Scott McCubbin of Premiership Rugby.

There was a common thread throughout the day: the world has moved on rapidly during the pandemic, the crisis accelerating trends that were already gathering pace. Whilst there is likely to be a lot of uncertainty for a good period of time to come one thing is absolutely clear: investing in the customer experience is absolutely critical and it is impossible to know what it is your customers want without properly placing data-led insight at the heart of your strategy.

Here are ten other key takeouts from the day:
  1. We don’t know what the future holds, all we do know is that things won’t be the same as it was pre-COVID and we cannot revert to type when fans return. Those that do not reflect on their commercial model face an uncertain future.
  2. Consumer behaviour has changed in myriad ways during lockdown. In accepting necessary innovations like digital ticketing and cashless venues, it has advanced commercial opportunity but many will have got out of their sporting habit and reduced demand will find many rightsholders needing to make a decision on whether to compete on price or quality.
  3. That changing behaviour is even more marked amongst 16-24 year olds – the very audiences sport needs to properly engage to have any chance of long-term success – there is ever greater competition for the time and money of every demographic, especially Generation Z.
  4. The consumer is now in control – that shift has already happened and if you’re smart, like Yanni Andreopoulos and E1 Series you can harness that dynamic to help shape your product into one you know your customers want.
  5. Competing on price only leads one way: taking the path of greater resistance and building a customer-centric business is the only way to build a sustainable long-term business
  6. Therefore, get to know your existing audience – go beyond the transactional (F&B, retail etc.) into contextual (what they do, like when they aren’t with you). Expand into new audiences – digital is your window to the world and critically stop selling what you want to sell, and sell what the consumer wants to buy.
  7. Data is key to unlocking growth – Charlie Boss highlighted this by comparing Disney and Disney+ EBITDA multiples, respectively 11x and 55x – even successful established businesses are leaving value on the table by failing to harness the power of data-driven exponential growth.
  8. It’s not called digital iteration for a reason, but transformation can be scary. You don’t need to be an expert to start, but you do need to start to become an expert – small steps, quick wins can start the momentum of the wider programme.
  9. The risk/reward balance has shifted – almost no-one can be guaranteed commercial success. It needs a far more progressive, rounded and collaborative approach where the creation of genuine value exchange creates scalable revenue opportunities.
  10. Taking the time to embark on this journey allows us to move away from topline “vanity” metrics and to start talking about profitability.

PTI can envisage a hugely exciting, dynamic future for those that understand all of the above and put it into action. For those that don’t, there are so many other opportunities for customers’ time and money that what was already a precarious and naturally atrophying commercial model, risks becoming wholly unfit for purpose.

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