While the coronavirus pandemic prevented the world’s leading engagement experts in the sports and entertainment space from coming together in New York City this June, Hashtag Sports LIVE brought together more than 3,000 industry professionals to discuss the future of fan engagement. One main takeaway: the events of the last three months have taught us so much, but also shown how much change is necessary across our industry to better serve and reflect the modern fan and consumer.
After announcing earlier this month our partnership with Intel Sports to build a working committee on diversity and inclusion in the business of sports and entertainment, Hashtag Sports LIVE heard from panelists who shared how they are moving conversations about racial injustice and a lack of female representation forward in their organizations. “Something may not look as obvious to you, because of your past experience, but you bring other people into the room in order to give their perspective so that you will do better, and you will drive revenue and make it a better project overall,” BET EP Frantz Cayo said Wednesday in a panel entitled “Internal Diversity Creates External Inclusion.” Meanwhile, Yahoo Sports head of content—and member of the working group of D&I—Sarah Crennan talked Tuesday about her desire to bring athlete voices into the fray.
After the death of George Floyd reignited much-needed conversations about race and the Black Lives Matter movement, speakers from every side of the industry shared how they and their companies are moving the dialogue forward. Portland Trail Blazers star CJ McCollum had plenty to say about the movement as part of Tuesday’s Featured Interview. “I think the biggest thing I’ve tried to do is educate people. You know, have those conversations with friends, with family, with teammates, just to really share not only what I’ve gone through as a black man in this world, but what my friends have gone through, what I’ve seen, what I’ve experienced, and how that’s affected and impacted my life,” McCollum said. “It’s not a black versus white issue, it’s an issue that all of us are involved in on a day-to-day basis, and it’s more so people who believe in equality, versus people who don’t.”
“I’m glad I’m able to have those moments & really get an understanding of how we’ve evolved as a country, & how far yet we still have to go.” – @CJMcCollum
New York Giants Director of Corporate Partnerships Katie Carew spoke about what her team is doing to step up and shared that head coach Joe Judge had divided the Giants into nine working groups to find causes they were passionate about. “Each group is going to work with an organization that they’ve identified in order to actually enact change,” Carew said.
Meanwhile, Wednesday’s featured speaker Larry Scott talked about how he’s leading the way for the Pac-12 to have more conversations about race and diversity. “One of the specific things we are going to do, at the request of our schools, is provide a forum and some training for our coaches.” the Pac-12 commissioner said. “There is a wide variety of experience and maturity amongst our coaches in terms of dealing with these very sensitive issues like race in America, and we’re going to work to give our coaches some skills and tools to engage in those conversations.” He also shared about how the Pac-12 continues to lead the way in promoting women’s sports on its platforms and the commitment he has to continuing their growth.
Another key topic of conversation surrounded the growing importance of entering partnerships that align with your brand or client’s values. “As people are speaking out more about social injustice issues, it’s becoming even more important that everything is rooted within, ‘Is this partner somebody that, at the fabric of our being, we are similar and we are showing up in the same ways?’” Rakuten Sr. Director of Sports and Entertainment Kristen Gambetta said. “When you build a partnership off of that type of foundation, whenever you build content and programming it’s just going to speak to fans in that much more of an authentic way.”
On the player side, Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett discussed wanting brand partners that could help him grow off the field and give back to his community. “I’ve always wanted to be a part of people who decided to choose me,” Lockett said. “I try to see who can help me give back to Seattle, who can be a part of helping me give back to my hometown [Tulsa].”
“I can connect with people who don’t only want me to benefit them but who can also benefit me, not only in the NFL but also throughout the rest of my life.”
Hashtag Sports LIVE conversations also centered around the importance of investment in women’s sports, student-athlete empowerment through NIL, the rise of gaming and social platforms like TikTok, and how COVID-19 will shape the long-term and near-term for fan engagement. While this period in industry history will undoubtedly be remembered as unique, we hope the Hashtag Sports event platform provided a home for the dynamic, and oft uncomfortable, dialogue that will ultimately bring about reflection, recovery, and a new era for sports and entertainment.