Muhammad Ali, Usain Bolt, Pele, Billie Jean King, Michael Jordan, Nadia Comaneci, Diego Maradona, Serena Williams, Tiger Woods, and Brian Lara—all capture the power of the sports industry and their abilities to entertain and excite us. But behind the super stardom is a business and a tremendous opportunity for entrepreneurs to create a name for themselves, whether they are sports figures or not.

Could the sports industry offer hope in our pursuit of a diversified economy and improve our export capability? Brian Lewis, president of the T&T Olympic Committee (TTOC), took the initiative to host a conference on the March 5, “Sports is Big Business-Towards a Viable Commercial Model for T&T Sports Industry” explored the new trends and opportunities in what Lewis describes as a US$600 billion global business.

Sport uniqueness

We engage in sport because we as humans we love to play, and it is a fundamental part of being human. We love to compete.

We also admire heroes, and sports fill those needs. We like to win even though it is not us playing but our team.
Like tourism, sport is an intangible product or service. It is perishable as it must be consumed immediately; however, technology today allows it to be recorded and enjoyed at another time. Sports is unique as it is personal; persons must deliver it.

However, technology again can disrupt this through animation and virtual reality.

Sport is variable as players cannot fully control the outcomes. Who is going to win, yet some uncertainties could take away from the enjoyment of the game?

Of course, this unknown can be an opportunity for gambling, another big sports opportunity.

No other sport in the US—not even basketball, baseball, or soccer—draws so much attention like NFL football. America’s largest legal monopoly, the NFL brand is estimated to be worth more than US$25 billion.

This analysis was done by Consor Intellectual Asset Management, which claims that despite the numerous scandals, the sports fans seen to like the “messy spectacle” as this adds to the entertainment.

Wealth in sports

Some of the highest-paid sports personalities rank with some of the best-paid business executives.

According to Forbes magazine ranking of the 2019 best-compensated sports persons, Lionel Messi (soccer) total pay was US$127m, of which US$35m was endorsements.

Not surprisingly, the top three are all soccer players, indicating the global appeal of the sport. Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar are paid US$109m and US105m, respectively.

Despite the popularity of American football, only Russell Wilson makes the top ten with US$90m and a paltry US$9m for endorsements.

Oddly, someone who has fallen from grace, Tiger Woods, still earns US$64m and pulls down US$54m in endorsements.

But the sports industry has not been kind to women, Serena Williams shows up at #63 on the Forbes list (the highest-ranking female) with an income of US$29m and US$25m in endorsements. This last figure probably indicates the scarcity of females in the industry.

Trends in sports Deloitte’s sports industry outlook for 2020 points to some trends in an Olympic year. Women’s sports segments should continue to build momentum, and this will open opportunities for professional leagues, corporate sponsorships, franchises, and ticket sales. The female segment, however, will suffer from less attractive prizes, lower audiences, and sponsorships.

The annual report highlights the impact of technology in the industry. E-sport is expected to generate US$1.5b in revenues from global sponsorships and advertising from a projected world audience of 600 million. Gaming will explode with the coming of 5G and be a significant driver of the segment. But technology shows itself not only in creating new games and sports but also can enhance the game, as we have seen with cameras in cricket and umpiring.

At the TTOC conference, Agota Skrapics, continental development manager for Teqball, spoke about how football can be played on a curved table the company invented.

The Swiss start-up firm boasts that the ball always bounces towards players because of the shape of the table, and this makes the game more unique and enjoyable.

Sports entrepreneurship

The feature conference speaker was Trinidad born ex-pro basketball player and philanthropist Kibwe Trim . He offered valuable insights into how sport professionals can transition to entrepreneurship.

Kibwe first outlined what it takes to be a successful sports-person. He says athletes must have a mindset of being highly competitive but, at the same time, be able to collaborate (as for team sports), develop a game plan and be passionate about the game.

Secondly, players must prepare in an extreme sense, often practising eight hours per day and must pay attention to nutrition to power their bodies.

Thirdly, they must build a strong brand as this can earn millions in endorsements. As Colonel Sanders gives the KFC brand a personality, similarly, Messi adds brand equity to the Adidas brand. Kibwe says that your brand must communicate with investors and the community.

The financial life of a successful athlete it seems to go through a rags-to-richesrags cycle. “When the ball stops bouncing, what do you do?” asks Kibwe.

The basketball player says that six out of ten players in his profession went broke in less than five years. But he points to post-career opportunities.

Coaching is natural for most athletes, and the sports broadcast industry loves commentators who have expertise in the field and a loyal following. Some have gone into acting as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris and Bubba Smith.

How does an athlete transition from a sports-person to an entrepreneurial mindset individual? Some professionals can transition easier than some. A marketer, for example, can move into starting their venture as they have
opportunity identification and selling skills. However, an accountant may have a more challenging time as they spend less time on the field and assessing market trends might be a new required skill.

Athletes have some carry-over traits that will assist in becoming an entrepreneur.

One is the competitive nature and collaboration skills; two seemingly conflicting characteristics could be precious. This personality will mean they can both deal with the challenging market dynamics and work as part of a capable team.

Also, players game-plan attribute will mean as an entrepreneur they will think of strategy as a winning roadmap and be continually looking for an edge. The love for what they do is another ingredient as start-ups need passionate leaders who can motivate.

However, sportsmen and women need some extra qualities for the transition.

The ability to take a calculated risk and assess opportunities, understand financial implications, and be able to lead people into the unknown. A basketball game has defined rules and space.

Start-ups are not only about thinking outside of the box, there might be no box.

Emerging entrepreneurs also need to have a business head and understand personal branding and what makes investors tick.

Source: Digital Guardian