By: Claire Lingley
In an industry where communication, networking, and knowledge of the latest trends and practices is essential to success, iSportconnect gives its members exactly that. Today, we chat to the man behind it all: Sree Varma, Founder and CEO of the largest global private network of Sports Business Executives. If there's one man that may have the inside scoop into where this industry is headed, it's him.
Q. How did you get into this industry?
A: I’ve had 19 years of marketing and sales experience ranging from pharmaceutical and retail to the sports industry. My first step into the sports world was when I worked as publisher at Business F1 & SportsPro and as a consultant for Sport + Markt. I launched iSportconnect in 2010 to bring together the movers and shakers in the sports industry. It’s gone from strength to strength and is now the largest global private network of sports business executives. Last year, iSportconnect Capital got off the ground. It’s a new investor network providing investment opportunities for its members within the sport and leisure sector.
Q: What are your goals for this platform in the coming years?
A: We’re expanding steadily. I’d like to increase the number of offerings... the portfolio of the iSportconnect ecosystem. At the moment we have an online platform, events and member services. We’re going to launch the 24/7 OTT platform and are looking to introduce more member services. Meeting the needs of the sports business professional is at the heart of our philosophy. Everything we do has that focus to deliver a good service to all of our members. We’ll also try to increase the summits and masterclasses and to expand into new territories where sport is going to play a major role. Also, we’re looking at creating a private members club... a physical venue or meeting place for the sports industry from 2020. There’s plenty in the pipeline, which is very exciting.
Q: What do you believe are the three most valuable skills to have in this industry?
A: Obviously networking, because sport is such a private network. If you’re not a good networker, I don’t think you can go far. Persistence pays off, too. And a thirst to learn from other industries means you can readily adapt and change.
Q: What is the one piece of advice you’d give to someone looking to enter this business?
A: Learn from others and don’t be afraid to change if something doesn’t work out
Q: You interact regularly with the leading business executives within the sports industry around the globe. Can you speak towards three attributes that you see most commonly shared by the top executives?
A: Again, I would emphasize networking purely because I speak to a lot of top guys in the sport industry on a daily basis – and the most successful are those who have good people skills. They have a desire to learn from others and a willingness to share their experiences. Determination and perseverance are also key if you want to go places in the sports world.
Q: How has technology transformed your ability to connect people? With the advent of social media and the ability to connect seemingly at your fingertips, has that brought any challenges?
A: It’s definitely helped our business. In fact, it’s been absolutely vital in a number of areas: to increase our membership and to get more members coming to our events as well as to expand and deliver our services for the sports industry. Social media platforms are huge for us as a way of staying connected with the industry leaders who are part of the iSportconnect family.
Q: What is the greatest piece of advice you have ever received?
A: Be prepared to listen if you want to get ahead in business
Q: Can you give us any inside scoops into where you see the sports industry headed, specifically in terms of sponsorship? What is the next ‘big thing’ that we will start seeing within sports?
A: Activated sponsorship through digital and fan engagement platforms. I think AI will play a huge role in that. Sponsors can put their logos on cars, football jerseys and in stadiums but then they need improved analysis. It’s imperative for sponsors to better understand who their customers are, what they are doing, how they are doing it, and other aspects of their behaviour. Sports have to deliver that and move towards that kind of sponsorship offering, including AI. It’s already starting but that’s the way forward. For example, localized content in stadiums with the support of different platforms is where all sports entities are heading. Sponsors have to step up and modernize the offering to keep pace with the times.
5 Quick Q’s
Morning or night person?
24/7! Probably morning
Last book you read?
What’s the one thing you can’t live without?
My mobile phone for sure
Scroll through Twitter, or browse the newspaper?
I scan Twitter for the latest breaking news and top sports business headlines
If you could switch lives with a person for one day, who would it be?
No doubt, Steve Jobs. I’m a massive fan. He’s the man of innovation... He creates wants and converts them into needs.