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5 things we learned | Day one, Leaders Sport Business Summit, New York

Anheuser Busch thinks the legalisation of gambling in the US might influence where it places its advertising and Visa reveals how the failure of the US team to qualify for the Fifa World Cup made it increase its digital spend. Bob Williams reports back from day one of Leaders Week in New York.

1. Pitaro explains the target audience for ESPN+ 
Who exactly is OTT streaming service ESPN+ aimed at? Primarily two types of subscriber, new ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro revealed. Firstly, passionate sports fans who always want to consume more content. Secondly, fans who have felt under-served by what they are getting from ESPN and other broadcasters and are interested in sports like cricket and rugby. Pitaro said he was pleased with the amount of subscribers – "people are signing up, the conversion rate is strong" – and also with the quality of streaming itself. Later in the day, Lawrence Epstein, the COO of UFC, revealed the level of detail that went into the recent ESPN+ deal with the MMA organization. "The questions we had from ESPN were very strategic – it got down to, 'how many female fights will there be as it appeals to our demographic?'" he said. "They are very strategic and not just looking for content."

2. Anheuser-Busch's sponsorship model embraced all-round
Anheuser-Busch's innovative incentive-based sponsorship model has not only been welcomed by the sports industry as a whole but by the company's partners, who have all been forced to renegotiate their contracts. So claimed Joao Chueiri, A-B's vice-president of consumer connections. "It was about time. The entire industry is saying, 'finally'," said Chueiri. A-B has kept 95% of the partners it has renegotiated with in this new model. "They have embraced the challenge," he added. Chueiri also revealed that new US sports betting legislation could change when exactly A-B advertises on TV during sports matches. "If you are putting money on a game you will want to watch it. Will viewership go up? Maybe not the entire game but maybe the final five seconds of the last minute so you know if you will win your money or not," he said. "We are wondering if we should buy ads more to the end of the game rather than the middle of the game."

3. Opportunities – and challenges – for NHL in overseas markets
NHL executive Lynn White indicated the extent of the challenge for the league to promote itself in China with a telling anecdote. She revealed that during a pre-season game in Beijing last year, the stadium was virtually empty during the third and final period. Why? "They thought we played two halves, not three periods." This explains why in certain markets, like in Eastern Europe, the aim of NHL is to grow the brand but in others, like the Far East – where the league is at "ground zero" – the aim for now is to grow the sport. One bonus that came from these pre-season games in China, White noted, was a testing of expanded in-ice advertising which was rolled out to the NHL All-Star Game and will soon be seen in regular-season games.

4. Ligue 1 gossips to engage with Chinese fans
Didier Quillot, the Ligue 1 president, meanwhile, revealed other ways overseas leagues have to cater towards the Chinese market. "We are producing Ligue 1 content, made by local people for people where they are in China – but they like stars and gossip around the stories so you have to produce the gossip around these stars," he said. Quillot hopes a broadcast deal with Chinese state TV, a new office in Beijing and the Trophée des Champions in 2018 and 2019 in the country will help the league's push in its No1 target overseas. Quillot added that Ligue 1 will launch its own OTT channel that "will be free for international people outside of France" and "allow us to increase the exposure of our brand".

5. Visa goes digital after USA's failure to reach World Cup
The United States' failure to qualify for this summer's World Cup in Russia had a direct impact on Visa's advertising campaign during the tournament. Visa executive Chris Curtin revealed: "The upcoming World Cup will be predominantly digital for us in terms of advertising. The USA did not qualify and that shaped the shift to digital." On Visa's partnership with LA Galaxy's Sweden forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic, which has gained huge awareness, Curtin said: "We decided to jump on the bandwagon of whether he would go to the World Cup." Curtin added that during the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang early this year, Visa deliberately aired its TV commercials on NBC around the time skiier Mikaela Shiffrin was competing. "We wanted there to be seamless content," he added.

To read SportBusiness International's report from day two of Leaders New York, click here

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