Sport Industry Spotlight: Key Learnings on Communications

16 Apr 2020

By: Sport Industry Group

The third Sport Industry Spotlight session - a new series of interactive, insight-driven, online panel sessions to aid those wanting to upskill in sport business - saw some of the sector’s most accomplished media professionals join together to explore the topic of communications from the point of view of brands, NGBs, rights holders and the media.

Each Sport Industry Spotlight session is based on a category at the Sport Industry Awards 2020 and the third panel cast a spotlight on 'Communications', with input from Kate Bosomworth, Former CMO, M&C Saatchi; Ali Donnelly, Executive Director of Digital, Marketing and Communications, Sport England; Ben Clissitt, Group Sports Director, Racing Post; and Jill Maxwell, Global Head of Brand Activation, Aberdeen Standard Investments.

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 directed the panellists to discuss a range of issues such as the most effective communications tools, the importance of traditional media, and importance of clear messaging and tone when speaking to the public.

Insights and Research

The need for a insight approach to communications was a new sentiment echoed by all of the panelists, with the need for extensive research, buy-in from the whole team, and timing key to success.

Sport England’s Donnelly said: “Everything has to be insight and data driven. At Sport England we have a huge insight team and we know everything about our audience. As a communications professional you have to know everything about your messaging and about your own campaign.

“You have to have insight on what your campaign’s about and what’s the audience you’re targeting. Tone is also key: If you get the tone wrong - as many have done in recent weeks - you’ll have to repair the trust over a much longer period of time.”

Jill Maxwell added from a brand perspective: “Timing is also really key: making sure there are no other corporate business announcements on the same day. There’s no point running creative campaigns if it conflicts with business messaging. 

“It all comes back to messaging if you get too crazy with it, people don’t realise what you’re talking about, and then you’re not meeting your objective. It’s about getting back to basics: just keeping those objectives in mind otherwise you can run off on a tangent.”

Messaging Always Comes First

The panel discussed the most important aspects of any communications campaign, agreeing that the fundamental cornerstone begins with clear messaging.

From a journalistic background Ben Clissitt, who led the sport departments at both The Guardian and The Telegraph before joining the Racing Post, said: “The ‘who, what, where, when, why’ are the key elements of the story but the ‘what’ is always the key thing.

Everything has a part to play and all the tools are the ingredients that go into the recipe to make a successful campaign.”

Former CMO, M&C Saatchi, Bosomworth added: “There’s no point in looking at the option of an extensive social media campaign if the messaging isn’t clear. Simplicity and clarity of messaging is absolutely crucial. Simple messaging stays in the brain longer and can drive greater impact with it. 

It has to be crystal clear and has to have been road tested before you go live with it.”

Donnelly was equally emphatic about the importance of honing the message: “First of all you’ve got to know exactly what you want to say to your audience, and that comes from extensive testing,” she said. “This Girl Can went through a year of testing. Clear messaging to me is the most important thing.”


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 next week for Sport Industry Spotlight: Fan Engagement, to talk all things digital experiences, in-person activations, and building engaged, loyal and active fan bases across any sport.​