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Volume 23 No. 17
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Forum: What’s next — for SBJ and the future of women’s sports

It should come as no surprise that the in-person event business for Sports Business Journal faces too many risks, so we have shifted to a series of virtual conferences and events through mid-October. This is an important part of our mission to bring the industry together, and as you plan the next quarter of the year, here is what you can expect:

SBJ: The Road Ahead — This three-part virtual series will inform and inspire industry professionals as the sports business navigates its return and is complimentary to subscribers. The series will run on June 30, July 22 and Aug. 19 from 1-3:30 p.m. Topics will include reimagining fan experiences and facilities of the future, league and team insights about the return to play, corporate sponsorship investment and activation modifications, safety considerations and more. Subscribers can register by visiting sbjtheroadahead.com.

Thought Leaders Retreat — This invitation-only event goes entirely virtual on the afternoon of Aug. 13, and we’re focused on creating a unique experience that continues to provide professional and business development. It’s one of our favorite events, and we are building an afternoon centered around information sharing, dynamic speakers, activities and relationship development. Confirmed speakers are Pandit Dasa on “Mindful Leadership” and longtime agent Leigh Steinberg on “Reinventing Yourself.” There will be a whiskey tasting led by an ambassador of Jack Daniel’s and a private concert by Blues Traveler. To find out more, reach out to Donna Johnson at dojohnson@bizjournals.com.

AXS Sports Facilities & Franchises and Ticketing Symposium — We will transition these mainstay events on ticketing, teams and facilities issues to a two-day virtual series on Sept. 22-23. We will examine the successful efforts different leagues and organizations have taken to reimagine the fan experience. We also will look at the latest trends in ticketing and relationships with ticket holders, as well as how sports facilities are adapting to new safety guidelines. Two webinars leading up to this virtual experience will focus on specific topics around these important issues. Please send your content ideas to Laura Case at lcase@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

Sports Business Awards — One of the industry’s most popular events of the year will become a virtual production celebrating the sports industry on the evening of Sept. 30. We will honor the 86 nominees across the 17 categories, as well as our Celebration of Service Award winner, Team IMPACT, and our Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Larry Tanenbaum. Our goal is to make this an evening that celebrates the great people and organizations that make up the sports industry. 

Intersport Brand Innovation Summit — One of our most popular events, it was scheduled to be held in Chicago in June. We have worked with our partners at Intersport to move it back to Oct. 13, where we will explore how brand marketers are pivoting in this new environment and are forced to think unconventionally in changing the game of sports marketing. This event also will feature two, invitation-only webinars from the leaders in sports sponsorship. Please send your thoughts and ideas to dojohnson@bizjournals.com.

We welcome your input as we continue to inform and celebrate the industry and bring people together. It’s  more important than ever.

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One of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked since mid-March is how the global pandemic could stunt the momentum, growth and subsequent future of women’s sports. We know the basis for the question: a tightening sports economy; a pullback on corporate spending; less discretionary income; wealthy supporters of women’s sports less financially capitalized. It leaves women’s sports vulnerable. If you read this week’s In-Depth, you will see the issues at play here. It was disheartening to read that 51% of respondents in the MarketCast Sports Poll said they would not financially invest in women’s sports right now. 

But I was buoyed by the words of LPGA Commissioner Michael Whan, who has done so much right in leading that tour, outlining the LPGA’s resiliency, determination and value proposition, while not shying away from calling out corporate America for its values when it comes to its support of women’s sports. He writes, “Why would anyone think viewership and fan numbers are the only criteria for how you spend billions of marketing dollars? That logic simply doesn’t fly when you promote equality as a core tenet of your business.” 

I also was encouraged by the efforts of a number of academics who are working with day-to-day practitioners and Wasserman’s The Collective to present new ways to market and promote women’s sports. Sustaining women’s sports won’t come easily or without some harm. But let’s all do what we can to prevent the great progress that has been made from swiftly, yet seemingly casually, ending.

First Look podcast, with Abe's take on our top stories this week, at the 23:10 mark:

Abraham Madkour can be reached at amadkour@sportsbusinessjournal.com.