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Podcast

Fobi Insider - Episode 4: Digital Transformation in the Sports Industry

Catch this exclusive deep dive with Danny Spataro into how data is changing the sports industry forever - and why Fobi is positioned to lead digital transformation in this $388 Billion industry.


Catch this exclusive deep dive with Danny Spataro into how data is changing the sports industry forever - and why Fobi is positioned to lead digital transformation in this $388 Billion industry.

Listen to Fobi Insider - Episode 4: Digital Transformation in the Sports Industry

The following is a transcript of the conversation between Fobi Marketing Director Devon Seidel and Senior Director of Sales for Sports&Entertainment Danny Spataro.

Fobi Senior Director of Sales for Sports&Entertainment Danny Spataro: Teams right now are doing what they can with the resources they have to retain sponsors. If you have $75,000 that's tied to a specific asset in venue, you essentially are having to take the value of that and then convert that into something else. You're speaking with a fortune 100 company CTO... Those conversations and how data is managed is dramatically different than... Really there's no CTO in sports but a VP of IT, it's dramatically different.

Fobi Marketing Director Devon Seidel: So, are we looking at a time where it's beneficial to have CTOs on sports teams now because we're moving in such a direction of engagement and this data first world?

Hey! You're listening to the Loop Experience podcast. Join us for exclusive interviews, behind the scenes updates and all things Loop. Coming at you from the head office storage room, I'm your host, Dev.

I'd like to welcome back our listeners for episode four of the Loop Experience podcast. Our guest today is Danny Spataro. Danny has recently joined our team as our Senior Director of Sales for Sports and Entertainment. Welcome to the show, Danny.

Danny: Thank you. Excited to be here.

Devon: Perfect. Before we dive into all the great things you'll be doing here at Loop, let's talk a little bit about your background. So, you have over 15 years of experience in collegian athletics, professional sports and SAS sales. Tell me a little bit more about that.

Danny: Yeah. So, I've been in the sports and entertainment industry dating back to 2004, when I began as a graduate assistant for Central Michigan University. Go Chippewas. And I should say, "Fire up chips," and I entered the field, if you will, both academically and practically, not really knowing what I was wanting to do in the sports field. I felt like my passion was sports and I knew I was having a real interest in the field but really, no direction whatsoever on what I was wanting to do within the field.

And then I wound up taking on a role in which I was selling sponsorship advertising for a track championship that the Mid-American Conference hosted in Mount Pleasant. From there, my career path really began and I've had the opportunity to work with many different schools through the Learfield IMG College network. And within that network, actually, this was Learfield before the merger. And I had the opportunity to work at multiple different universities from the University of Memphis, to Texas A and M, to Arizona, to Penn State, to Northwestern and to Harvard, primarily serving and they sponsorship sales capacity. And then working in professional sports, taking a diversion into big data, working for Oracle and most recently, SSB and I joined the Loop Insights team here about a month ago.

Devon: So, it feels like you've always been involved in sports. Did you grow up playing a lot of sports? Was that kind of your driver to get involved in the sports field?

Danny: I did. I always had a passion for sports. I played every single sport that you can think of from individual to team sport growing up. And then once in high school, I was a three sport athlete. I played football. I wrestled and I played baseball. And in college for my undergrad, I was a collegiate rugby player. And so, I just always loved the team aspect and all the different challenges that came out of sport and just always had a passion for that and knew at some point that I would work in the field. And at that point in time, there was not really an academic awareness from sports management like it is today, that you see at an undergrad and master's level. And then really to get into the field, I was able to wind up being lucky, doing something that I absolutely love and have a passion for. And certainly playing sports and being a fan of sport is definitely a strong passion point.

Devon: That's interesting that you say that you got to experience this field grow as you were probably in college and university, getting to that point of where this actually becomes a profession. Where we're looking at data, insights, analytics and not just for a general sense but we're looking at it specifically in the sports sense and how much those key pieces pay in the overall plan of where sports is going. And is that involved in sponsorship, athletes, just fan engagement? All those insights tie together. Must have been something that kind of was what everyone eventually wanted. And then as soon as you started entering into the field, it was actually something tangible that you could see it for a job as you're saying.

Danny: Most definitely. And one of the really neat things about my experience is that I was a part of, in the sponsorship and revenue generating era of sports sponsorships, where you would be efficient enough to just sell a sign with some tickets and maybe an onsite activation and that was good enough. And I was a part of that evolution where data became such a critical component to how brands would then perform an analysis on an ROI. For every dollar spent, what is the return? And started to really look at a little bit more data centric type of decision-making. So, on the property side, on the team sports side, there was a need and there was a requirement for there to be an understanding and not only third-party data of what the market is saying, but most importantly, first party data. What are your fans? And more specifically, fans that are choosing to engage with these partners, what are they doing? And then as the ecosystem and as things have become more sophisticated and evolved, brands and teams, leagues, et cetera, are looking to have that one-to-one relationship with their fans.

Devon: So, from your past experience, you've worked in companies like Learfield and Oracle. You've obviously seen that progression of data being just kind of out there. People are like, "Yeah. I need to be collecting data. It's something important for the business," right up to kind of an exponential growth of nowadays, where everyone's working on a data first approach and data drives everything. It drives fan engagement, it drives revenue and it drives your marketing, where everyone is looking for an educated approach and not just what we've been doing in the past and be like, "Does that look good? Is that going to sell my hot dog?"

So, what is your past experience moving from that kind of data is good to data is needed approach from all these teams and specifically in sports?

Danny: With my background, I really had a unique experience because I went from selling subjective data, as it relates to fans being 80% more likely to purchase a product or service if they sponsor a team. And then we would use that combined with some other data points that were pretty light that would help us move a deal forward or help us close the deal. And then we would rely upon third party data to then measure the success in tandem with the partner. So, from that transitioning to working at Oracle where data was king, data was gold. Now you're talking about enterprise level warehousing on premise versus cloud, all the different services associated with that, right? What is the impact of how the data's managed? How is that data structured, so that we can bring that forward with the different departments and then be able to accomplish the KPIs? Whether it is operational efficiency, whether you're talking about revenue outcomes, whether it's being able to forecast ahead.

And so, if you're speaking with a fortune 100 company CTO... Those conversations and how data is managed is dramatically different than... Really there's no CTO in sports but a VP of IT, it's dramatically different in the fact that sports is behind, I feel like. As there may be limitations from team to team based on the organization themselves and what type of emphasis they're putting into building out, not only robust data warehouses, but what actions and what outcomes are they driving from being able to have all that data brought together. First and foremost, the different data sources that you have available. All the different partners and vendors that are in your ecosystem that fans engage with. From your ticket vendor, to your parking vendor, to your WiFi vendor and so on and so forth, of being able to bring that into a warehouse, clean it most importantly, not just stream it but clean it and then reposition that to the business so that you have essentially a record, a composite record, in which you're able to then make outcome-based decision-making from what you're able to visualize from the warehouse.

Devon: I want to touch on something that you said there too, which is the actual expense and the roles that are required to actually make something out of that data and make it useful. You said before that not every sports team has an official CTO to run their operations, their technical advancements and their data integrations. So, are we looking at a time where it's beneficial to have CTOs on sports teams now because we're moving in such a direction of engagement and this data first world?

Danny: I think it has to be an all encompassing, yes, to start and have strong leadership or strong emphasis, whether your a CTO or VP of IT, of not only at the starting point of having strong leadership but having the vision of what that looks like longterm and resources to support that. So, in my experience at Oracle, I may be talking to a VP of IT or a CTO, but working in tandem with the team, there's a director, there may be two director of Its. There may be five or 6 DVAs. So, hands-on keys. People are able to contribute to that and be able to have a plan, a vision of what that looks like both short and longterm. So, I think of rather than looking at it and saying, "A CTO is necessary," there needs to be, "Okay, from a resourcing and staffing standpoint, what does my team look like?" But most importantly, "What are my desired outcomes?"

What am I looking to do in business? Am I looking to grow revenue? Yes. Am I looking to do that by selling more sponsorships and also selling more tickets? I would assume the answer is, yes. Am I looking to have a better connection with my fans? And am I looking to be better at mobilizing and engaging the community? And so, I think all of these things play a role into what those desired outcomes are for a specific team and leap.

Devon: Okay. And there's a few things in there that I want to come back and touch on of how Loop actually integrates and helps with those things. But first, just kind of wrapping up your background. I want to touch on SSB a little bit.

So, ultimately, SSB enables their clients, sports and entertainment, nonprofits, higher education to make educated, actionable and profitable decisions to take business to a new level. That sounds a lot like what Loop is doing. How is Loop different than what SSB is doing? And what's your experience now knowing behind the scenes of both the services in both the companies?

Danny: First and foremost, my experience with SSB was absolutely fantastic and the product and services that they have available for the professional sports teams and the institutions within higher education is absolutely amazing. And the real differentiator for us here at Loop and what we're bringing to the market is taking that to the next level of having the real-time insights. That is a premium. That is something that I have seen, real-time be defined. There seems to be a variance of what real-time is and what real time is isn't.

Real-time for us to, down to the second, down to the transaction, we are able to then visualize that and put that back to the business, matching it back to the golden record, matching it back to your data ecosystem with the other business sources so that you as a marketer, right. If I'm trying to sell a sponsorship, I can push real time promotions and incentives to my fans, whether they're in venue or not. And I think the virtual venue and when things come back online and how ever normal is or whatever normal is redefined, we know one thing is the fact that there is an emphasis and a reemphasis on continued engagement with our fans, whether they're in venue or not. And Loop can provide that. Loop Insights can provide that in real time

Devon: You've been in the industry for a long time. What are some of the major pain points that you're seeing from these teams and from these sporting arenas? What's the main thing that they're coming to you? Before the pandemic, but now probably specifically with the pandemic that's caused hindrance to their engagement, what are they coming for you and really listing as their pain points?

Danny: I think from the team perspective, one of the biggest pain points is really stating the obvious, right? The uncertainty of when we're going to be able to open back up. And I think the biggest pain point that I have seen are the fact that the ticketing and that type of revenue, teams we're heavily depended upon. Heavily depended upon gate revenue. And I think that is now, obviously from a revenue perspective, has become a detrimental pain point because there are no fans in the stands. So, I think there's really two parts to that. The first part is that it has put a real emphasis on corporate partners and corporate sponsorship and driving sponsorship revenue. And driving sponsorship revenue is going to look much different. There was a trend back 10 years ago on the whole digital and social. And being able to put a banner ad on a website or doing a promotional post on Facebook, that is how we defined digital and social a decade ago.

That has dramatically evolved and changed. And there is a need and there is a want from the brand side to have continued engagement with fans. And then you parlay that into the team itself and their continued need for that engagement with their fan base. Leveraging the technology that exists today or new technologies to better have that one-to-one relationship with their fans. That is definitely a pain point that ties into, not only the marketing aspect of the teams, but also being able to drive the sponsorship revenue.

The second component of that is the engagement piece. All the different platforms that teams have heavily invested in. There's all the different ESPs and all the different systems that teams have invested heavily in. It's maximizing those investments so that they can have better engagement within the marketplace. Those are really the prominent ones that jump out to me. And the last one is having your finger on the pulse of the business. It goes right back to the real time need for the teams and for the brands themselves, whether that's at retail or whether that's in venue. Eventually when we're opening back up or slightly opening back up, in some cases, and there is a real need for that in the marketplace.

Devon: And I guess from there, where do you see Loop answering these pain points in your sales calls? What are people really perking up about the offerings that Loop is providing?

Danny: I think the main point that really jumps out to me on the conversations that I've had is really twofold. The first and foremost is looking at the current landscape from a sponsorship standpoint of how can we better engage our fans? And getting creative with that, whether it's creating a virtual venue or whatever it may be and driving that business for new line revenue for teams. So, directly tie that into a sponsorship opportunity. And that is definitely something that is an area of interest for many of the clubs that we are having active conversations with. Because if you look at it as an aggregate, teams right now are doing what they can with the resources they have to retain sponsors. And so, as a part of that, if you have $75,000 that's tied to a specific asset in venue, you essentially are having to take the value of that and then convert that into something else.

If you're unable to convert that into another asset, a digital mobile asset, then there is the potential that you would lose out on that revenue for this year and for other years. So, we know that is a significant pain point. For clubs and teams that are in a better position where they could look at this as new line revenue to drive new sponsorship sales, definitely something that is driving the is driving that need and tying that back into sponsorships.

I think the second component is really taking that, taking what you can do within the wallet pass and then being able to stitch that back into the venue experience and being able to reward them and incentivize fans real time. And then how that really circulates back into your data ecosystem from CRM to wallet pass of being able to have that one-to-one relationship with your fans and with your customers.

Devon: One thing that you touched on earlier was these stadiums and these teams being really focused on gate revenue and not being one of their key definers of success. What have we seen as we move away from less fans actually going to games and enjoying it from home, specifically now with the pandemic, of almost all fans enjoying it from home? You touched on how engagement is a key piece there. Is there any other pieces or things that you're seeing or realizing in the industry that sports teams are adapting to, to engage fans more at home?

Danny: It's funny because I'm actually an adjunct professor and we teach a sports marketing class. So, we're actually talking about this generational new wave. And this new wave is into these unique experiences. They want to have something that either special access and nobody else has, or they want to be able to talk about something that nobody else is doing. So, call it being a part of a tribe or just having a sense of an intimate community. So, whether you're doing that on the digital front or whether you're doing that in stadium or whatever it may be. When I was at the Red Sox, we were talking about partnering with match.com or Bumble or some of these apps and creating these lounges that was specific for people that had Bumble on their phone.

So, they have a desire and a need for something that's unique and special and that's specific to them. So, whether that's at home or whether that's in venue, it's figuring out what that looks like. I think one thing is clear, that fans want to be engaged. Fans want to be in the know. But most importantly, what we've seen and we've seen this to scale now in a generational aspect, is that fans want that unique experience but they also want you to speak directly to them. They are wanting... They have a different need than fans did 30 years ago or 10 years ago, is they want something that is special, that is specific and that is unique to them. That gives them, whether it's a special offer, whether it is special access, whether it's a special incentive.

Something that is special, that is tailored to them and that is custom to them. That is something that is serving from a fan base in the marketplace as whether it's at home or whether it's in venue. But specifically at home, I want something that's special and unique to me. I want to know that you have taken the time to understand who I am and what my needs are and then meet those needs and satisfy those needs.

Devon: So, I hear during COVID, as we're starting to slowly reopen again, you've really started to get into boxing. How has things like that helping you balance work, the pandemic and family?

Danny: For one, we're all in this together right now and finding me time could be a bit of a challenge. And so, luckily I have a wife and a support system that's extremely supportive and very supportive of each other for the physical and the working out. And I've always been someone who always seeks new challenges and that's from playing rugby in college to doing CrossFit to running marathons, half marathons to power lifting, Olympic lifting and a century ride and so on and so forth. I actually boxed in my freshman year of college and I have not done that since. So, I'm really looking at this as a physical athletic conquest and challenge. I do 30 minute commit training and it's a fantastic way to stay in shape, take out some aggression, lose some weight and keep me healthy. And it's a pretty intense workout. So, it's been something that I've been fortunate enough to do and have that balance with being able to stay in shape and take care of myself, mind, body and it's worked out great.

Devon: That's awesome. I know here in Vancouver, we're slowly starting to open up to being able to do things like group classes. So, I'm super excited to get back into gym. Some gyms are open, some gyms are closed. So, it's all just kind of luck of the draw if you got one that stayed open.

The last question that I want to ask you here is, what's something that you've learned during this pandemic? Maybe it's a hobby that you picked up or something that you really wanted to teach yourself or something that just came out of COVID itself. What's something that you learned?

Danny: The main thing that I've learned is how precious time is and really have gone to appreciate the time that I have and was able to spend with my family. And most importantly, my kids. I have twin daughters and they're five. They will be six here in a couple months. And they were transitioning from pre-K into kindergarten. And now they're in kindergarten. And one thing that anyone that has kids, whether they're one or are fully grown and moved out of the house is, that is something that you would cherish of being able to have time to spend with them. And we were able to do that. So, we really took full advantage of our time together as a family. Sometimes it was stressful. And other times we try to have fun with it but I would like to believe that my kids and my wife and we all enjoyed the time together as much as I did.

And it really put into perspective just how valuable and precious time is and time well spent. So, I think that was definitely something that jumped out to me that was... Again, it could be extremely stressful but looking back and being able to have the daddy teacher... Or they used to call me the daddy substitute teacher and trying to whiteboard our site words and things like that. And just watching them grow and being a part of that and not having to travel because in sports and in this industry, you travel quite a bit. And so, my wife for her job, she previously had to travel quite a bit. So, with no travel, that meant there was more time for us to spend together as a family. And I greatly cherished that and it definitely put a different perspective on the value of time.

Devon: That's great to hear. Thank you, Danny, for joining us today. To our listeners, you'll hear a lot more from Danny as we move forward with all of our great sports initiatives and stay tuned for next week, when we have our next guest on the show.

Click here for all episodes of the official podcast of Fobi: ‘Fobi Insider' (Previously Loop Experience).

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