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Bloomberg Sports Summit Looks at the Business Behind the Field

September 12, 2012

Often times, we don’t think about sports as a business.  Sports is what we watch on TV with a cold drink after a hard day at the office.  Sports is what we take our families to see on a gorgeous summer Saturday afternoon — complete with hot dogs, peanuts and a soda.
So when Bloomberg decided to put on it’s FIRST EVER summit about the business behind the game, I was intrigued to say the least.  After all, as a guy who covers financial news for a living, I’m used to big numbers and big deals.

But, numbers are just numbers unless you can weave them into something more — a story about how to succeed, and what lies ahead for an industry — and that’s what the day was going to be about.

So how do you do it?  You bring together the best & brightest in the game.  You give them a forum to share their stories with each other, and of course, the audience.

The speaker list had me star struck!  Never had I seen as comprehensive a list of heavy hitters in the sports world as this!  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, NBA Commissioner David Stern, NASCAR CEO Brian France, MLS Commissioner Don Garber, NBC Sports Chairman Mark Lazarus, LA Dodgers CEO Stan Kasten, NY Yankees President Randy Levine, Miami Dolphins Chairman Stephen Ross and San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York, just to name a few!

I was handed a headset and microphone and given the best seat in the house…behind our own Sports Desk to “call” the game, or in this case, the summit.  For the day, I could pretend to be Bob Costas, Jim Nantz or Joe Buck.

The men and women in attendance control billions of dollars of sports assets, and we learned about things like:

– the intersection between Wall Street and pro sports
– putting together an investor group to buy a team
– looking beyond traditional sports revenue streams
– financing and building a major league stadium
– the importance of managing your brand
– prepping the next generation of loyal fans
– the sometimes tense relationship between leagues and labor unions

I brought 49ers CEO Jed York up to our Sports Desk between sessions to ask him about what his impressions of the day were.  He said it was great to see so many big decision makers in the industry together under one roof, and that he learned  more about what other sports and leagues were doing to improve their business.

Another comment I received from many audience members and panelists was the more intimate atmosphere at New York City’s Bryant Park Grill, and the ease of being able to meet people and share ideas.  I saw a lot of effective networking happening and lots of reporters from all over typing away on their laptops and tablet computers.  After all, with that many big names in attendance, you end up breaking news and getting headlines!

A key takeaway for me from the summit was how important tv/media rights are now, and how much more important they will be in the future.  Media rights were brought up in numerous sessions throughout the day.

After the day was done, I had a chance to step away from my game-calling duties and mingle with the panelists and attendees.  The feedback we got was tremendously positive, and many were already looking forward to next year’s festivities.  I thought to myself “How exactly do you top an event like this?”

I smiled because I can’t wait to find out.

Dominic Chu is  a New York-based markets reporter for Bloomberg Television. Follow him on Twitter at @The_Domino.