The 2015 IMG World Congress attracted big name speakers and panels to LA Live to discuss current issues in sports business. With so many great speakers and panelists, there are too many highlights to cover them all. With that said, here is a short list of my top three highlights as an attendee:
Brian Burke’s Traditionalist View: Brian Burke (President, Hockey Operations, Calgary Flames) provided an entertaining and honest traditionalist opinion on the opening panel discussing headlines of the year. Some of the topics included legalizing betting in sports, pro sports franchise expansion into Las Vegas and sponsor branding on jerseys. While Burke held his ground on the traditionalist side of all these progressive issues, he conceded that many of them are inevitable (specifically jersey sponsors). With that concession, he asserted his opinion that he sure didn’t like it. When asked what sports issue he’ll follow most closely over the next year, Burke responded, “making the playoffs”.
Rob Manfred’s Vision on the MLB: In a featured interview, Bob Manfred covered various issues the MLB currently face from the future of media, to the legalization of gambling. Manfred highlighted two major differences that separate him from formed MLB Commissioner Bud Selig. Those were his initiatives to modernize the game and provide transparency in process. Only time will tell how Manfred will be judged on his two main initiatives, but his views certainly carried some weight at the conference. The insight I found most interesting from Manfred was his opportunistic view of the aging MLB audience. As opposed to a liability, Manfred stated this as an opportunity. After all, they can now market and encourage the older audience to share their love with the next generation, just as their fathers or grandfathers shared the game with them. This view, coupled with Manfred’s vision to align youth participation will pay dividends in creating the next generation fans (and revenues).
Everything Bob Iger Said: The opportunity to hear from a top CEO who transcends sports and business was spectacular. The well spoken Bob Iger covered a variety of topics in his featured interview. He highlighted “the era of disruption”, rapid change and the shift in authority to the consumer as the main threats to ESPN. Iger explained how he has leveraged building big brands to insulate the company’s revenue from the disruption and rapid change found in various media markets. Those brands include Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and ESPN. Not a bad collection… Iger said he expected media rights fees to continue to climb since sports are the ultimate content and modern day story telling. Clearly it is hard to pick out one piece of content Iger provided as the most impactful, but I’ll try. In my view, Iger’s view of change in a rapidly changing environment stuck with me. Iger explained sometimes you have to be able to ride the wave of change and sometimes you have to make the wave of change. It seems the key is knowing which situation is which.
Those are my top three highlights. There were many great themes from the heavy hitters on stage such as: make mistakes and learn from them, media consumption is changing which presents new opportunities, data analysis will continue to play a huge role in sports business. All in all, the 2015 IMG World Congress was a spectacular opportunity and I’m extremely thankful to those that made our class’ participation and attendance possible.