Key Learnings from Sport Industry Spotlight: International Campaign

28 May 2020

By: Sport Industry Group

The below is an abridged version of the full executive summary that Sport Industry Spotlight attendees receive as part of their package. To find out more about the session and to sign up for future panels, click here.


The latest edition of Sport Industry Spotlight took a close look at international campaigns, focusing on the brands, teams, and rights holders who are engaging with audiences in multiple territories.

Each Sport Industry Spotlight session is based on a category at the Sport Industry Awards 2020, this time focussing on the International Campaign of the Year Award in association with YouGov Sport. 

The panel was made of up of Kate Johnson, Head of Sports & Entertainment Marketing, Content and Media, Google; Yath Gangakumaran, Director of Strategy and Business Development, Formula 1; and James Murray, Chief of Staff, AC Milan.

As with all Sport Industry Spotlight sessions, the subject matter was led by attendees, through a series of interactive polls and questions from the floor, and hosted by Alex Coulson, Managing Director, Sport Industry Group.

International Expansion 

With a truly global panel joining the online session from London, Milan and San Francisco, the chat inevitably turned to strategies for maximising international expansion - especially from the point of view of the rights holders present on the panel.

Murray spoke of identifying what makes a club unique, and how to show that off to potential new market partners, while F1’s Gangakumaran, spoke of a virtuous cycle where engaging with more fans and for longer allows a rights holder to do better commercially, attracting partners and relationships. 

From a brand point of view, too, Johnson spoke about the importance of that same relationship when looking at sponsorship. While underlining the importance of working with agency partners - who understand the local markets and who also have experience with other brand clients to call upon - she also spoke about looking at the other brands that rights holders have in their portfolio, and at the ‘family that those teams and leagues keep’ when assessing whether to enter into a relationship.

Purpose Beyond Profit 

The partnerships between brands and rights holders - as well as with agency partners - can have a positive influence in the success of an international campaign, but it can also have an impact on society at large.

Gangakumaran pointed to the negative coverage Premier League players received during lockdown when they negotiated pay cuts with their clubs - an incident that highlights the fact that sport is on a pedestal and needs to set examples for the rest of the world.

Murray spoke of the power of sport to transcend languages and cultures, and gave the example of Dove Men+Care’s Rugby World Cup 2019 campaign, a Sport Industry Awards 2020 Shortlisted entry

While Johnson was in agreement that sport is the great equaliser and a way to bring people together, she also cautioned that purposeful marketing must indeed have a purpose - it must be useful and solve a genuine problem, otherwise it looks (and perhaps is) opportunistic.

Experiential Is Not Dead 

In the short term the pandemic has caused a great deal of disruption, especially for those with international or global operations, but in the longer term, however, the panel don’t think the experiential side is going away,

For Formula 1, Gangakumaran highlighted the fact that fans of his sport - and especially casual and new fans - don’t know what it’s like to drive an F1 car, while they do know what it’s like to play football or go for a run. The ‘visceral feeling’ of a track on race day will still be part of the activation going forward. Murray, meanwhile, spoke about Milan’s collaboration with RocNation - which was echoed by Michael Yormark on a previous edition of Sport Industry Spotlight - and the club’s quest to create ‘I Was There’ moments on digital platforms.

The Next Big Thing

Johnson spoke about allowing the fan at home to be in driving seat, to watch in different camera angles and in different ways from their own sofas, something that Murray echoed, commenting that organisations need to work out how best to serve live experiences online. 

Reducing the reliance on live events might be crucial and the memory of a pandemic might change how we look at global events, but Gangakumaran painted a more optimistic picture. 

“Ultimately,” he said, “humanity is all about sharing experiences and there’ll still be a lot of demand for attending major sporting events.”


Sport Industry Spotlight is driven by genuine insider insight, and with interactivity built in throughout, the sessions make learning about the industry’s finest work both easy and accessible.

Join us next week for Sport Industry Spotlight: UK Campaign, to talk all things domestic audiences, engaging a UK market and what it takes to mobilise the nation.