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Host Master: Organiser Jasper Donat on the success and future of Sports Matters

Jasper Donat, CEO of Branded, which co-produced Sports Matters with Haymarket Media. Photo: SportAsia.

Jasper Donat, CEO of Branded, which co-produced Sports Matters with Haymarket Media. Photo: SportAsia / Action Images.

SportAsia talks to Sports Matters organiser JASPER DONAT about the inaugural staging of the two-day conference and his early thoughts on possible changes for next year, when it will again gather the industry’s major players in Singapore.


By SportAsia


According to most of the delegates we’ve spoken to, you hit the nail on the head with Sports Matters. Is that how you feel?

It was interesting because I hadn’t worked in sport for 15 years, so for the first time ever going into an event, I couldn’t tell how many people were going to be there, what the atmosphere was going to be like, what the feedback was going to be. So watching everyone’s faces on the first morning when they walked into the room and said ‘Wow’ was just great. When I went up on the stage to welcome the delegates and saw that the whole room was packed all the way to the back, I did have a little bit of ‘a moment’!


I have to say, I’m very proud of the team and the world they’ve done. Sports is a new market for Branded and the sports industry in this part of the world is quite small in terms of numbers of people. I’m pretty proud.


You started with a very strong Advisory Board and an excellent line-up of speakers, and judging by the attendance, it appears Sports Matters was needed, that people wanted this.

We looked at this two years ago and we decided that it wasn’t right, that the market was either too small or too dominated by English football so the rest of the industry was feeding off scraps.


However, in the last year, with the advent of online video and the allowance of sports associations and companies to take control of their destiny – which is very much what the music industry has been doing for the last 10-15 years – we saw that opportunity. It was ready. I think this time next year you’ll see a lot more companies producing their own content online, selling their own content.


Did the delegates feel that the right range of topics and issues were covered this year?

Yes. Personally, I would have liked to have done a little bit more on social, but again, the sports industry seems to be at a very early stage of social media. While sports celebrities have harnessed their popularity and are driving social media, the sports industry behind them hasn’t really picked up on it. I wanted to do more on social, but it just wasn’t ready, so I hope we’ll do a lot more next year.


I don’t think we had enough sports associations on stage, not through want of trying. There were a couple of big world championships on at the time, so next year it would be nice to hear a lot more from them.


Finally, I think the hardest part of all will be to get some athletes, some sports stars, on stage. I think that will take a lot of persuading.


You also launched the Asian Sports Association, which involved a lively brainstorming session and a lot of feedback from attending delegates. What’s the next step?

It was great to have unanimous support from people saying ‘let’s do it’. The problem now, of course, is that we have to do it. We’re going to collate and compress all the information and suggestions we received, distil it down into key points and produce an initial charter for the association.


We’re going to look at where it should be based, how it should be set up, the legal framework, what memberships means, what you get, what it costs, the possibility of tiered memberships, who should be on the board, who should run it, where the secretariat is based and so on. To have something like this come out of the conference is pretty exciting.


You had over 350 people this year and everyone we’ve spoken to has said they will be coming back next year. With word of mouth alone set to draw in many newcomers, what are your thoughts on expanding next year?

Firstly, we’ve had an updated number because of the amount of people that walked in on the day on Thursday. Final numbers show we had over 400 attendees made up of 320 delegates, 60 speakers and 30 members of the media.
I always said that I thought it would be about 300, I would be really happy with 400, and disappointed with 200, so I’m very happy with the numbers.


The location will definitely be Singapore, as we have a three-year contract. I thought The St Regis worked really well, but it was bursting at the seams. Right now, I also don’t know if it’s even worth growing it because you want delegates to have that networking experience, you want them to meet everyone. It may be the case that we keep it at this level to maximise the user experience.


This year’s event was held ahead of the F1 Grand Prix. Are you looking at a similar timing for the next couple of years?

I think the timing has worked. The fact we nestled Sports Matters between the Spikes Asia creative festival, produced by our show partners Haymarket Media, and the Grand Prix, which means that many of the sports industry are here anyway, seems to have worked. Whether that works next year, I don’t know. The Asian Games are happening at this time next year, so if we want to engage more associations, we have to be mindful of that.


Sports Matters featured on Channel NewsAsia, Today newspaper and Campaign magazine.


To watch the Sports Matters opening video produced by Siren Films, click here

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