Posted on: 10/18/2023

Leadership in the converging world of sport and brands


SRI continued its series of roundtable meetings with CEOs from renowned companies in Hospitality, Retail, Travel, and Sport this October, discussing the topic of leadership in the converging worlds of sport and brands. An engaged and broad discussion covered many topics, and insights were shared amongst the group.

Top 4 take-aways from the session: 

1. Strategy, Engagement, and Purpose

Sports organisations have shifted in recent years to think and operate more like consumer brands. They have expanded their capabilities into strategic fan engagement, utilising data and insights for brand and commercial planning and are expanding into other lanes such as music and entertainment hosted at their stadiums and arenas. Revenue from different sources (ticketing, sponsorship, events, hospitality, merchandise) has evolved and sports businesses have revisited their medium-term strategies for growth of their businesses and the sport itself. As part of this, the purpose of companies across all represented sectors is now paramount and arguably more important than “what” a company actually does.  

2. Growth and data

Participants from all sectors agreed that, whilst their businesses operated in a broad sector of categories and offered varying consumer experiences, they were in one way or another competing for customers and share of wallet. For example, a consumer decides between purchasing a high-ticket home improvement item or booking their next holiday, attending a sporting event or going out for dinner.

In the pursuit of winning and retaining customers, data was identified as the most important growth and value driver at the moment. Really knowing your customer (or fan) is directly linked to success or failure, and when combined with insight, data around spending patterns and engagement behaviours can significantly unlock growth opportunities and drive improved customer experiences. It was also noted that collaborations between industries could significantly enhance customer satisfaction and drive business growth. Some companies were further ahead with hundreds of specialists across data and analytics while others were earlier on in this journey with small teams, but it felt like progress was happening across all sectors.

3. Brand and ESG 

Brand and ESG were hot topics. Bridging consumer representation and business/commercial goals is recognised as a core challenge as well as an opportunity. It is imperative that companies, through a combination of brand marketing, experiential marketing, and employee engagement, clearly define and articulate their purpose. Consumers are seeking to engage with and purchase products and experiences from businesses who have a clear focus on sustainability and the broader ESG agenda where they genuinely have a positive impact. Authenticity is key here and not just using it as a tick box exercise. This links strongly back to point 1 around purpose.

4. Talent 

To be truly consumer centric, businesses need to be representative of the customer. This is both across the population of executive teams, the non-exec board, and the wider organisation. Boards and CEOs should be proactively considering talent from converging sectors, who offer diverse skills, capabilities, and behaviours to drive positive change. This includes profiles from different functions, geographies, and levels in order to drive innovation and growth. Sports organisations have in recent months become far more proactive in diverse recruitment strategies and the benefits are already being felt.

To learn more about how SRI partners with CEOs across talent and search services, or to have an expansive discussion about the topics and takeaways, please contact us. If you are a CEO who would like to participate in upcoming roundtable events, please do also connect.


David Nobbs

Managing Partner


Carola Frisch

Managing Partner, Global Head of Sporting Goods & Fashion


David James

Global Head of Sport