David Owen ©ITG

Some three decades after the idea that turned into Sportel was conceived at a meeting of the General Association of International Sports Federations in Colorado Springs, the brand is adding a new gathering of the sports marketing and media sector's very heaviest hitters to its events portfolio.

The inaugural Sportel Summit has been scheduled to take place on May 15 and 16 next year in Miami Beach, a particularly sun-kissed spot on the US east coast.

This timing means that the new event should slot neatly into the calendar around two months after Sportel Asia and five months before the 2018 Sportel Monaco convention. It also means that Sportel will next year be organising a major event in each of the three biggest business regions on the planet: Asia, North America and Europe.

It is an indication of the scale of Sportel’s ambitions for its new event that David Jones, the organisation’s exclusive marketing agent, likens it to a sort of “Davos of sports”.

The highly prestigious World Economic Forum brings business and political leaders, economists and others to the snowy Swiss mountain resort of Davos in January each year to discuss the most pressing issues facing the world.

According to Jones, “the Sportel Summit is a global gathering of international decision-makers of the sports marketing and sports media industry.

“We will unite these decision-makers who represent marketing agencies, sponsorships, federations, broadcasters, production technology – anything related to sports events, sports productions, sponsorship management that make sports come alive for the fans.”

Launching the new event last March, Sportel said it had decided to establish the Summit in response to the fast-moving international sports media industry. “In respect to these fast developments and the need to deal with the business essentials, the industry is once again in need of a platform to concentrate all aspects, take a step back to actually deal with industry issues,” it went on.

Sportel is set to expand with an inaugural Summit next year ©Sportel
Sportel is set to expand with an inaugural Summit next year ©Sportel

Jones elaborates, saying there is currently “no real platform” for dialogue and communication between industry decision-makers where they can openly discuss problems and issues that may be confronting them.

“There is no true platform for Presidents, decision-makers, company leaders or business leaders that can network, build more business, build more solutions for future broadcasts, for future events of this industry,” Jones says.

“The Sportel Summit essentially is the global summit, the unification of the absolute power people in the world who decide on sports, who decide on events, who decide on technologies, who decide what is broadcast and how and how it is communicated to the fans.”

Plans are to limit attendance at the event, which will be held at the ocean-front W South Beach hotel, to around 250. The fee for attendance is expected provisionally to be pitched at around the €1,500 (£1,300/$1,700) mark. A number of platinum, gold and silver sponsorship packages are also being made available.

“At the moment we have requests for invitations coming in daily,” Jones says, adding: “We might have hit a nerve there.”

Sportel is promising panels that address “relevant issues” on the sports marketing and media industry, with speakers very likely to include celebrities and politicians, as well as highly influential business insiders.

Participants might include, for example, sports people who have been so successful that they have become brands in their own right. “We are inviting people who can share the business side of their world,” Jones says. “What are the business models behind that?”

The marketing agent also acknowledges that “we need to be able to deliver a high quality meeting; if we cannot do that, the whole thing doesn’t make any sense.”

He adds: “Everyone has to understand what everyone else does in the industry.”

Part of the recipe for the new Summit is that it will be held behind closed doors.

“We feel people tend to open up more” behind closed doors, Jones explains.

I put it to him that some invited speakers might actually want their contributions to be publicised, upon which he makes clear, “we are not going to keep people from speaking to the media about what is happening”.

He goes on: “We will communicate on what conclusions have been made. It is just during the conference we want to keep it as concentrated as possible.”

The Summit could be sport's version of the World Economic Forum ©Getty Images
The Summit could be sport's version of the World Economic Forum ©Getty Images

Asked about the location, Jones indicates that US west-coast cities, such as current Olympic candidate city Los Angeles, were felt to be a bit too far away from a European perspective, while New York hosts so many other events.

“The Miami location has been tied to Sportel for so many years,” he says. “And Miami Beach is an attractive location to hang out for a few days.” Not unlike Monaco, I add.

It is probably also worth pointing out that there currently seems to be an extremely strong chance that by 2028, the already vast US market will once again have played host to both of the world’s two transcendent sports mega-events: the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games and the FIFA World Cup. So the eyes of the world look set to be focused on US media and sports marketing trends even more keenly than usual over the next few years.

The Summit, then, looks set further to raise Sportel’s profile in North America. The brand this year celebrated the 20th anniversary of Sportel America, one of its so-called spring conventions, along with Sportel Asia.

The organisation, though, retains European roots, being part of Monaco Mediax, a Monégasque event organiser whose honorary President is His Serene Highness Prince Albert, the principality’s reigning monarch and now the sixth-most senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) member.

It is fitting then that the Sportel Monaco convention – which dates back to 1990, when 64 participants, including Juan Antonio Samaranch, the then IOC President, and 82 companies from 19 countries assembled in Monaco – remains the biggest single Sportel event.

Last year’s convention attracted just over 3,000 attendees from more than 1,000 companies. While 80 countries were represented, the European focus is quite strong at 65 per cent of global involvement.

What can we expect from this year’s event, scheduled for October 23 to 26 at the Grimaldi Forum with its spellbinding views out over the azure Mediterranean sea-scape?

Jones discloses that the event has added around 10 per cent more stands, as Sportel seeks to expand it “step by step”. Currently, he tells me, they are around 86 per cent booked. “We are in incredibly good shape at the moment,” he adds.

One change that attendees may notice this year is an absence of panel discussions.

“People who attend Sportel Monaco are there to do business,” Jones explains. “They do not have time to dedicate an hour to attend a panel.”

By 2028 the United States may have hosted the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup, meaning the eyes of the world will be on the country ©Getty Images
By 2028 the United States may have hosted the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup, meaning the eyes of the world will be on the country ©Getty Images

Organisers are therefore planning a series of shorter 20-minute slots, featuring one lone, or possibly two speakers, spread through the day. “That will be the major change of the conference programme,” Jones concludes. This “tighter and quicker” format, he says, “will be easier on attendees”.

Jones, whose early experience of Sportel was as a client who exhibited there for 15 years, expects big talking points at this year’s Monaco convention to include both virtual and augmented reality and OTT, or “over the top”, industry jargon for the delivery of content via the internet without the requirement of a pay-TV subscription.

“Virtual reality gives the audience a tool to be inside whatever is happening,” he explains. “More and more technologies are coming up to make it more interesting.”

I myself will be looking to the event to provide fresh insight into fundamental questions such as, ‘Will sport end up mattering as much to millennials as it has to the last couple of generations?’ and ‘If so, how will they consume it?’

My inquiries, no doubt, will be conducted amid the usual maze of exhibition stands, for which prices start at upwards of €5,000 (£4,400/$5,700), against a backdrop of the persistent buzz of people doing business.