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Volume 27 No. 35
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Organizations Shifting Business Priorites During Pandemic

The pandemic has rippled through sports organizations, forcing them to not only consider implications to their own business but to that of their partners. Aramark President for Sports & Entertainment Alison Birdwell, speaking during Day 2 of the AXS Sports Facilities & Franchises and Ticketing Symposium yesterday, said, “We are in such unchartered territory here about how long this is going to go on for, we’ve got contracts. Well how long? This is just undefined. This is really when the relationship comes into being that you can sit down and have a meaningful conversation about trust. ... We trust and know the place that we do pick up is going to work for all of us.” Texans President Jamey Rootes echoed Birdwell’s sentiment. He said, “I hear so often: trust, grace, compassion, collaboration. All these wonderful concepts have been absolutely critical for us just to get to where we are right now.”

Here are some more thoughts from the rest of the conversation:

*Birdwell, on recalibrating the business: “You’ve got to control what you can control and finding the areas you can make an impact. The silver lining is having the time to do that with my team and really assemble ourselves in such a way that we can really be ready for action and come out fighting.”

*Rootes, on the difference in the Texans’ approach over the last six months: “Broadly, we’ve always been about driving the machine. … This year has been about protecting the machine. The No. 1 priority as we entered this COVID window was to take care of our employees. We spent a lot more time making sure them and their families (were OK). Then, when we are with our commercial partners, the first call wasn’t about make goods for sponsorship. It was, ‘How’s your family? How’s your organization? What can we do to be helpful to you?'"

*WNBA Sparks President & COO Danita Johnson, on leading during the pandemic: “What we really focused on is everybody’s area of development. How do we take this time to develop skills for them for the long-term. One, we invested by keeping them on board. Two, we re-investing in their knowledge and ability to do their jobs better for the long term, which helped to push forward innovation and growth for the company as a whole.”

*Johnson, on the unique dynamics of the WNBA: “We work in a league where 80% are African-American women, we work in a league that is very diverse from all different backgrounds and all different walks of life. With that, we have to remember to service those people from a business perspective internally and our consumers externally.”

*Rootes, on potential pushback from fans for the Texans organization supporting players and staff speaking out abut social issues: “We are so engaged with our fanbase, so of course we have heard from them. Everybody has a right to be heard, but you don’t have a right to get what you want. We’ll process all of that and we’ll do what we think is right.”