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Volume 23 No. 13
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Forum: Takeaways from my first Leaders Week in London

Cleaning out the notebook after taking in my first Leaders Week in London, which is smartly produced and presented by our sister company, Leaders. Interestingly, the content and discussion wasn’t dominated by the NBA and China, which received scant attention. What did get a lot of buzz was the overall event experience at the inaugural NFL game at Tottenham Stadium, the $1.2 billion facility that will present two NFL games this year. Top executives raved about the new facility, its fan amenities and what it could mean for the NFL’s long-term plans and prospects in the U.K.

FROM THE MAIN STAGE: I’m always interested to hear the perspective of a new company CEO when it comes to sports — do they have a point of view and do they even understand sports sponsorship? New Gillette CEO Gary Coombe, who has been leading the brand only since July but has been at Procter & Gamble for 33 years, outlined a provocative, yet clear, point of view. He said it’s a “prerequisite” that its sports partners share its values, as it aligns further with progressive social causes. In a surprise, he acknowledged the brand had “lost its way” in its marketing a few years ago, shifting to movies, theater and entertainment. “We had to refocus on sports,” he said, and now “sports is at the heart of Gillette’s marketing in every market around the world.”

What else stood out to me: Coombe said he was “wary of assets episodic in nature,” which seemed to reference both the Olympics and World Cup. He prefers properties that are ongoing throughout a year — and specifically mentioned the NFL’s yearlong calendar as a powerful platform. He acknowledged being wary of the tribalism around teams and athletes as well. “There can be a downside to that. It’s a watch out for us,” he said. But he said the brand will support athletes who share in the same Gillette values and noted its new deal with England soccer star Raheem Sterling. “His stance on tackling racism in the sport is something that’s very congruent with our values.” Keep an eye on whether the brand will follow this strategy in regions around the world.

Coombe specifically called out properties to do a better job at retail. “Bringing our brands to life in stores is very important for us.” When he speaks to properties, he says, “How much would you pay to sponsor Gillette? One billion men start their day with Gillette. What can we do for your brand?” 

Finally, three areas of focus: Esports will grow in their portfolio. “There are a lot of young men who follow it, and we want to connect with young men around the world.” Coombe added, “I spend a lot of time wondering if the young men today will stay with esports in their 40s and 50s. I think they will.” He called the growth of women’s sports “very exciting” and predicted the “continued internationalization of sports.”

PICKED UP PIECES … :  I look at how clubs come up with new revenue-generating ideas. One that stood out to me was the Carolina Panthers’ Fifty3 Club, a new super-premium hospitality product sold to 53 Panthers fans for $30,000 each, giving them seasonlong pregame hospitality in the same place players enter the stadium on game days, and a suite of other privileges and programs (tickets are not included). It was developed before the season, sold out the first night the concept was previewed and resulted in $1.6 million in new revenue. … There is a lot of pressure on MLS to increase its national media rights and revenue. Just how much room for growth is there? Atlanta United President Darren Eales said in terms of that team’s total revenue, only 10% is from media rights, a shockingly low figure that shows how much the league needs to land a massive increase when the rights are up in 2022. In the same session, Paul Barber, CEO of EPL club Brighton & Hove Albion FC, said his figure was the opposite, with 90% of revenue coming from media, which he called an unhealthy reliance on TV revenue. … It’s noteworthy to see the high quality of video content teams are producing locally. Atul Khosla, Tampa Bay Buccaneers chief corporate development and brand officer, talked about how the team doubled down its content investment after the success of its appearance on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” last season, which resulted in its new in-house show, “In The Current.” “One common theme we hear from fans is about access to players,” he said, “but it takes a ton of cooperation with the coaching staff about the access you are and are not going to get.” 

Abraham Madkour can be reached at