Networking with Murray Barnett, Founder 26West Sport and Director at D2C Sport
Welcome to the the Sports Pundit Networking Series. The aim is to promote Sports Pundit readers and foster a greater community across the newsletter. For the latest edition, I caught up with my Sports Pundit Explains... podcast co-host, Murray Barnett . Murray is also the proud Founder of 26West Sport and Director of D2C Sport.
When did your journey (in the sports industry) start? And how did you get to your current role?
My journey to the sports industry started off with working for an Arab TV station in Rome (A precursor to OSN). I grew up in the Middle East and thought a few years in Rome would be fun. I never expected to get the job but was accepted and thrown into the deep end of understanding TV. From a contact there I followed up on a job at the NBA in Paris. I was lucky enough to be there for the golden period of Jordan, Kobe, Iverson and Shaq.
I realised early on you must believe in yourself, make your own opportunities and grab them with both hands. From there I was able to build a reputation that took me to ISL, ESPN, World Rugby and F1.
Photo Source: Lakers Nation
My newest business is a specialist direct-to-consumer OTT business advising leagues and rightsholders on strategy and implementation of OTT which is the most important emerging trend in the sports media business.
Who inspired this journey? And who continues to inspire you today?
There have been lots of people along the way who have inspired me. Most recently I would say Sean Bratches. His favourite phrase was– “everyday is a school day”. And it's true – never stop learning, inquiring, and questioning. He is an inspiration particularly in his never-ending optimism and constant reminders that the sports industry should also be a lot of fun.
The business has a bunch of rockstars, however, I think we are all ultimately inspired by the athletes we play some part in helping to promote. I particularly admire those who are able to improve the people around them. Michael Jordan is a great example, as is Sir Steve Redgrave.
Besides Sports Pundit, where do you look for insight?
The best industry insight comes from talking to as wide a variety of people in the business as possible. We are all passionate about what we do and love to talk about it!
Richard Gillis (@RichardGillis1) and Sean Singelton (@PaulPingles) are the best sports business insights platform out there. They have a great ability to break down what is going on with unique perspectives and a journalist’s eye for the real story.
Sports Pundit (@SportsPunditHQ) is obviously one of the go to newsletters. I am also a fan of John WallStreet (@HowieLongShort). Roger Mitchell (@RPMComo) is always great value. He writes and speaks with the passion of the fan and the insight of an expert.
What trend in the industry most excites you for the future of sports? And why?
There are two which I am fascinated to see play out. Firstly, athlete activism. Sportspeople now have the power to be able to speak out about the causes that are important to them.
Just recently we’ve had Cristiano Ronaldo and Paul Pogba making their feeling felt about Coke and Heineken respectively. There has also been Marcius Rashford’s school dinners campaign. Their ability to use their profile to highlight their chosen causes is going to be very interesting especially the implications it will have for commercial partners. I believe it will push commercial partners to be more thoughtful and creative in what they do.
Photo Source: PR Week
Secondly, I think OTT is going to have a profound impact on the future shape of the sports business. It’s easy to forget the sports business is largely a B2B business – FIFA can claim to have a billion fans but has nearly not individualised information or addressable insights about any of them. Understanding the fan better is going to be a huge area of importance. OTT forces that Direct-to-Consumer relationship but is also an incredible way to understand your fans better. One of the businesses I am involved in, D2C Sport, is specifically focussed on helping rightsholders understand and unlock the value OTT can bring.
Who is an example of someone that is well positioned to take advantage of this trend?
Direct-to-consumer OTT is key for any rightsholder. We tend to think of OTT as something only for big leagues but even those that think they do not have rights will be able to unlock insights into their consumers creating a better commercial business. The sports industry has a great tradition of innovation and OTT is the game changer for the next few years. Adapting their philosophy to becoming more of a B2C business is crucial, that is what we are trying to help organisations do.
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