By TERRY LYONS, Editor-in-Chief, Digital Sports Desk
BOSTON – This weekend, the annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference is being staged here in Boston once again. It tips-off a spring season of sports business seminars that focus on the latest trends in the sporting, sports business, sports technology and eSports industry. The agenda is packed with a sports media and business “Dream Team” panels and the topics of conversation, combined with the networking opportunities create one of the best labs in the industry.
Digital Sports Desk is proud to attend many of the conferences and report (+ Tweet) on the news generated from many of the panel discussions and presentations. All-in-all, there are no “bad” conferences or presentations, as you can certainly learn from everyone. That said, some are better than others, of course, and we’re going to list the sports business and marketing conferences that stand-out the most.
Our recommendations, forever to be known as “The DIGGIES” (De-Jeez):
The Gran-Daddy of ’em all? The annual MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston is the largest and most amazing of the many sports conferences held each year. Dubbed “Dork-A-Palooza” by some combination of Boston Sports Guy/gone ESPN gone/The Ringer Bill Simmons and/or Dallas Mavericks team owner Mark Cuban, the SSAC attracts “A-List” speakers and panelists, such as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver – doing a popular “One-on-One,” dubbed “Silver on Silver with pundit Nate Silver. It will surely be compared to a memorable panel chaired by moderator of two years past (Malcolm Gladwell).
Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey and Jessica Gelman, formerly of the New England Patriots, now running the Kraft Analytics Group (KAGR) as CEO, are the original organizers and hosts. They do a great job and attract team GMs, former players (Shane Battier on the roster this year and last) and a ton of others (see Nate Silver – but don’t ask him to handicap a horse race or an election.
ESPN has a considerable influence and its writers and talent are frequently on stage for the seminar, and that is almost always a good thing.
The location, here in Boston (at the Boston Hynes Convention Hall (Hynes is near Copley, as it’s not at the Seaport this year because of a golfing exhibit) is a tremendous site and easily accessible via Logan Airport or the Amtrak service to Back Bay). Note: It sells out quickly, so don’t wait.
A listing of our other faves:
Sports Business Journal: The talented and dedicated folks from the SBJ/SBD run a half-dozen or so of the best conferences on the planet, including the World Congress of Sports (April 19-20, 2017 in Dana Point, Calif) which coincides with the annual 40-Under-40 awards.
The two conferences where we learn and certainly always enjoy the most are these:
The Neulion Sports Media & Technology Conference (usually in NYC, but was held in Manhattan Beach, Calif in fall of 2016)
The Momentum Sports Marketing Symposium, held in NYC this past November 9-10.
We were unable to attend out in sunny Manhattan Beach but did make the trip to New York and covered one particularly great panel with retiring Boston Red Sox slugger David “Big Papi” Ortiz and his agent, Alex Radetsky who were both wonderful, insightful and entertaining as they mapped out the past year (after Ortiz decided to retire) but paved the way many years ago, as Radetsky helped his client prepare for the future. Very refreshing.
SBJ also does conferences on the world of motorsports, the annual college fest, as noted above, a terrific “Game Changers” conference focusing the massive and growing impact of women in the sports industry, an AXS sports facilities and ticketing forum and their own “Grand Daddy” of ‘em all in the annual Sports Business Awards ceremony – the OSCARs of the sports world. (May 24, 2017).
SXSW: This event is all the rage and the SXSW Sports track is an agenda for everyone seeking insight from everything from the ancient and beautiful game to virtual reality trends. MLS Commissioner Don Garber and NBA Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson are on the proposed agenda for the March 2017 gathering amidst the coolness of SXSW in Austin, Texas.
Leaders in Sport – This conference is also known as, just LEADERS, is European based but puts on a terrific conference in NYC, this year dubbed The Sports Business Summit and scheduled for the Times Center in Times Square, March 21-22, 2017. Prior to the big seminar, the group will stage an event in London on January 12, coinciding with the NBA London Games, They’ll also do a version in June 2017 in Beijing.
One of the new kids on the block is HASHTAG SPORTS, a conference that began last year at Brooklyn’s Expo Center with a special networking event at nearby Barclay’s Center. It will re-locate to Times Square in Manhattan from June 26-29th of 2017. The organizers are expecting some 1,500+ attendees. It’s worth a look. Visit: https://hashtagsports.com/#
Cynopsis Sports does a small but impactful sports business summit yearly in New York. From panel discussions on the future of sports, to content distribution, to keynotes by industry leaders, Cynopsis always does a great job on an interesting, forward-looking agenda in a small and congenial atmosphere.
Lastly, a rather impromptu sports panel crept up on us this past year, and it was scheduled perfectly adjacent to the SBJs Sports Marketing symposium last November, that being the National Sports Marketing’s “Reaching Millennials Through Sports” panel which included a presentation by Simon Wardle of Octagon. The event was held at the Paley Center in NYC and was incredibly succinct and informative. I noted to its organizers that it was the best panel of the year. Visit: http://sportsmarketingnetwork.com/chapters/nyc.shtml