In Conversation With... Eddie Gordon

ONE thing that drives us in business is other people. Which is why we've launched our 'In Conversation With..." series. With a view to inspiring, encouraging and educating people through sports business we believe celebrating those who have already walked that path is a great way to do it. Introducing...

Eddie Gordon is an MMA fighter, Author and Founder of the ETG Foundation.
Eddie “Truck” Gordon is a sportsman turned businessman.

A Celebrity NY Emmy Award winning fighter, UFC Ultimate Fighter Champion, a motivational speaker and life coach. He regularly empowers corporations, fortune 500 companies and thought-leaders in the areas of leadership & personal development.

Eddie is also the founder of the Eddie Truck Gordon Foundation whose mission is to help under privileged kids live a life of success and help to put an end to drug abuse.

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1. How do you start your day?

A. I start my day with a two to three mile run after I make my bed. I try to accomplish two tasks first thing in the morning.

2. How do you end your day?

A. I end my day with reflection and preparation. I write down my goals for the next day.

3. Where did you your idea for the Eddie Truck Foundation Come from?

A.  I came up with the foundation to help underprivileged kids see that people care and they can accomplish anything.

4. How did you set about writing your book and implementing the Foundation? Was it an easy decision?

A. I just sat down and poured out my heart and soul on paper. I simply want people to know they can do anything they set their mind to. It wasn't easy but I had help from my two-time best selling co-author.

5. What major challenges have you faced?

A. I faced so many challenges in life. Emotionally, mentally, legally everything you can think of. It makes me who I am. Going through my divorce was the hardest emotionally.

6. How do you juggle life as a professional athlete and your work with the foundation etc?

A. Life balance is very hard. I just put my head down and get it done. Having family who cares and helps make it doable.

7. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A. When I was a kid I wanted to be a pro football player.

8. What have you learned from the worst experience you’ve ever had?

A. I learned that no matter how many times you fall or fail get back up and push through.

9. What are the main transferrable skills you can take from being a professional athlete into business?

A. Mindset. Mindset matters. It’s everything. Being a professional athlete gives you discipline and drive and these are the core essence of a successful business.  

10. Which sporting incident has had a profound impact on you either as a player or a fan? 

A. UFC101. I watched it from the stands as a fat overweight spectator. It was at that moment I knew I wanted to give that sport shot.

11. What or who inspires you?

A. My family, my kids and the fear of being average inspires me every single day.

12. Tell us the best advice you’ve ever taken?

A. Embrace failure it’s a part of the process and overcome fear. Even if you don’t succeed, you will learn something. You may not acknowledge it immediately but down the line it will become apparent.  

13. How do you utilise digital marketing and social media within your business?

A. Social media and digital marketing are the cutting edge in business. I have my own marketing/media team and company and we are always learning and growing. It’s the best way to tap into people these days. After all, we spend a lot of time online, it’s way more effective that past more traditional marketing avenues.

14. What does work-life balance mean to you?

A.  Work life balance is tough but I learned to try to have fun it can always be worst.

15. What’s the biggest business challenge working within the sporting sector? 

A. Dealing with public failure in the eyes of the media but now I have mastered the art of not getting too high or too low with the ups and downs.

For more on Eddie, visit his website: CLICK HERE

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‘The Tiger Effect’ – The ‘GOAT’ is BACK!

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Arguably the greatest ever sportsman, undoubtedly the greatest ever golfer, Eldrick Tont ‘Tiger’ Woods is a living legend and it’s fair to say he’s had his share of ups and downs, all whilst changing the face of golf and doing wonders for African-American sportsmen and women. Titles, records and undeniable talent, Tiger has achieved the unthinkable in his career and it’s amazing to have him back. Regardless of his infamous scandals, we can’t help but smile at his recent successes.

Infidelity, injuries and break-ups have shadowed Tiger in recent years with 2009 being a year I’m sure he will want to forget. A careless driving fine sparked what seemed to be the beginning of the end for Woods’ career as his personal life began to surface. Oh, how wrong we were…

Okay it’s well known that Tiger didn’t just lose some dignity through his trials and tribulations, his huge portfolio of lucrative endorsements took an even bigger hit. With the likes of Gatorade, AT&T and Accenture dropping him and lost revenue accumulating to a staggering $22 million (endorsement deals dropped from $92 million to $70 million), brands just couldn’t afford to take the risks. But not all brands are the same, and not all brands are Nike… (Business Insider 2010)

Nike stick with their athletes through thick and thin, they’ve done it before and I’m sure they’ll ‘Just Do It’ again. We couldn’t help but feel a sort of security when Nike stood by Tiger, like they knew he’d be back and their backing never really was in doubt. Phil Knight, former chairman and CEO of Nike put the whole thing into perspective and quoted “When his career is over, you’ll look back on these indiscretions as a minor blip” (The Guardian 2009).

With credit to Nike, they haven’t changed their approach on the latest stories to come from Woods’ personal life. They announced they would continue to endorse him after a ‘Driving under the Influence’ arrest in 2017, something which may have gone punished with by other brands. From a PR and marketing point of view, it may seem that they have invested too much to turn back on him or saw success coming his way. It begs the question, how long will it be before he bags one of Nike’s prestigious ‘Lifetime’ sponsorship deals, joining Michael Jordan, Le Bron James and Cristiano Ronaldo to the elite club?

Fast forward to now, 2018… a year that made every sport fan feel like the Greatest of all Time is back. His first win in 5 years and what a win it was! The crowds came out in force to cheer him on as “U-S-A… U-S-A” rang around the 18th hole in Atlanta. His fans left with a smile their faces and pretty sure the sponsors did too. Through Tiger’s tough times he dropped down to 1,199th rank in the world (not forgetting he had an extensive break from the game) before hitting 656th in 2017. His latest win takes him to 13th and going into the next tournament in fine form (The Metro 2018). Forbes (2018) reported Woods to have earned $43.3 million in this year alone, even before his latest victory in September 2018. It is brilliant to see the legend dominate once more and prove that ‘form is only temporary and class is permanent.’ 

eSports - the future or a sad reality?

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Can you imagine a world where virtual prowess earns more than physical talent? An artificial reality whereby an operator can amass more financially than the real life subject ones controlling. Welcome to the world of eSports, a booming, soon to become billion-dollar industry, which is hitting the mainstream media. 

Never heard of it? The British E-Sports Association define it as “…competitive video gaming consisting of amateur and professional gamers” (British eSports Association 2018). Yes, technically its a ‘game’ and not a sport but its impact and effect on the sports marketing industry simply cannot go unnoticed.

The growth of eSports is substantial and surprising to say the least. Many look to Amazon’s acquisition of Twitch (a leader in live streaming for gaming) as a catalyst for change in 2014 as well as YouTube’s launch of ‘YouTube Gaming’.

The graph below (Business Insider 2018) shows the last three years of growth and the investment in the industry.

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Newszoo estimates the industry will grow to $1.5 billion by 2020 as audiences continue to rise and revenue streams start to become established. With branding investment set to double by 2020, and with club franchises and partnerships proving profitable, it’s no real surprise.

The graphic below shows the year on year growth as well as the split of revenue streams.

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As mentioned, audience members are on the rise rapidly with a reach of 380 million globally, consisting of both eSport enthusiasts and occasional viewers. This isn’t surprising as it becomes ever more accessible for all to view. With Ginx Sports TV, a 24-hour TV channel dedicated to eSports as well as the more mainstream Sky Sports and ESPN, eSports is only ever a few clicks away.

Mainstream media brings the big bucks when it comes to prize money, and eSports certainly have that. It shouldn’t be overlooked and again, only technically a ‘game’, the prize money certainly isn’t playing around and is actually comparable to winnings in many traditional sports.

With a total prize pool of $27.4 million, this surpasses The NBA Championship ($13,000,000) and The Confederations Cup ($20,000,000). This particular eSports prize fund even beats the Tour de France, The ICC Champions Trophy, The Melbourne Cup and The Masters… COMBINED!

Media partnerships are becoming ever more regular and lucrative for the industry. Take Sky Sports for example, teaming up with FACEIT “the most prestigious eSports tournament to take place in the UK.” The UK TV broadcaster is streaming every second live through their website.

Not only will they broadcast the event but surrounding content, including build up features and interviews with the gamers. It really is unbelievable the exposure this industry is receiving but with popularity brings marketing opportunities.

Top flight football clubs have recognised this and have even recruited eSport players to represent them at FIFA tournaments, identifying ways for business growth and revenue. Clubs want to become established as soon as possible, evidently it seems sponsorship is rocketing and clubs see this as a potential revenue stream.

So, is this just the beginning of what is yet to come in the world of entertainment or is it just a fad that will plateau and decline? Personally, I feel it’s difficult to be passionate about somebody playing a virtual game where results are determined through pressing buttons on a controller… but who knows, that may just be me?   

In Conversation With… Sree Varma

ONE thing that drives us in business is other people. Which is why we've launched our 'In Conversation With..." series. With a view to inspiring, encouraging and educating people through sports business we believe celebrating those who have already walked that path is a great way to do it. Introducing...

Sree Varma, founder and CEO of iSportconnect.
iSportconnect was launched in June 2010 and has turned into the largest global private network of sports business executives. With 19 years of marketing and sales experience ranging from pharmaceutical, retail and the sports industry, Sree is at the sharp end of the sports business. 

He's steadily expanding the company’s portfolio to include iSportconnect Capital, a new investor network, and iSportconnect TV, a world-first 24/7 OTT platform for the global sports family. Previously, Sree has worked as publisher at Business F1 & Sports Pro, and as a consultant for Sport + Markt. 

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1.      Sree, how do you start your day?

Checking my phone because of the amount of things I have to do. It’s a continuation of what I plan the night before, going back to my planning and focusing on my main goals for the day.

2.      How do you end your day?

I go through all the daily reports from my team and my own daily check-up of the business to see how we are doing. Then I plan for the next day.

3.      Where did your business idea originate?

Previous experience of working in other businesses where I saw that sport is such a private network.  Everything was going online and going digital, so I thought if we combine these two there could be a business opportunity. By talking to a lot of partners, clients and people in the industry I thought there was a need for a platform and network like iSportconnect. We’re getting great feedback and we haven’t looked back.

4.      What’s your strategy to stay focused on your targets?

One of the key things for me is white boards. It may sound silly but it gives you focus. It’s so important to visualise your ideas and calls, and having a white board in front of you reinforces plans and strategies.

5.      How often do you reassess and set new goals?

Short-term goals I re-evaluate every week, the long-term goals every quarter.

6.      When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A bus driver when I was really young! But actually I always wanted to be a successful businessman. In my childhood, we didn’t have much money, so I aspired to being successful to ensure I wouldn’t have any worries about providing for my family 

7.      What did you learn from the worst experience you’ve ever had?

One thing I learnt from a previous business was that we used to charge people ridiculous amounts for advertising but there was little ROI. The marketeers became wiser… they started looking closely at ROI and gone are the days you pay £8,000 for a full page or banner ads.

People were spending a lot of money and they were not happy, they became frustrated. That’s the learning and what encouraged me to convert iSportconnect into something better. Instead of a one-way offering it needed to be a two-way partnership – creating content, helping them with their business strategy and developing their business - you need to be an extended family for them.

8.      Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?

I think it was my first ever boss, Kalpesh Solanki, at Asian Media & Marketing Group. It’s Britain’s largest Asian publishing house.  I have to say I learnt a lot from him about how to run a business.

9.      Which sporting incident has had a profound impact on you either as a fan or in business? 

It’s not a slice of sporting drama but… Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, the team I follow. Twenty-two years managing the club was an incredible feat. What a great philosophy and what persistence he had.

I looked on him as a businessman, thinking that if you believe in your dream and you are focused on your objectives you can be successful. And that’s what he did… at least in the first 18 years of his reign at Arsenal!

10.    What or who inspires you?

Go-getters: successful businessmen and women. Some of those who do TED talks. I want to hear inspirational stories, positivity and energy. I do listen to a lot of those entrepreneurs who have made it and enjoy hearing their experiences.

They don’t have to be Bill Gates or Steve Jobs… I can look at my next door neighbour, a coffee shop owner or anyone else who's delivered their objectives and think how did he or she manage to get from here to there. If I can connect myself with that person and their experience, that’s interesting and useful for me to continue evolving my own business.

11.      Tell us the best advice you’ve ever taken?

Be a keen listener and be prepared to adapt if you want to go far in business.

12.      In your opinion, which sporting social media campaign has best captured the market? 

I really liked Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign, which created a huge online buzz as it tried to get women and girls moving, regardless of shape, size and ability. It inspired a lot of women and you could also see its impact on digital and social media – everyone was talking about it.

They won some awards. It was every effective because it connected with women on every level and encouraging them to get into sport. 

13.     What does work-life balance mean to you?

It means a lot to me, absolutely. I’m still looking for the balance.  I have two kids but as iSportconnect takes off I feel sometimes I’m not getting it right. I don’t know that there’s a simple solution. But I think compared to others in the sports industry I’m doing ok as I’m home almost every night!

14.     What are you learning now?

It’s about diversification of business and also when you are at the maturity stage what else you can do. How can you change? Adaptability is so key for successful businesses. So I am still learning, to see what direction we can take the business.

15.     What’s the biggest business challenge working within the sporting sector? 

Sport is well behind a lot of other industries, which can be an issue and also offer opportunities. The sport industry is facing a lot of challenges because the millennials are not connecting to some traditional sports, look at Formula One. They are trying to do things now but for many years they haven’t acquired many new fans. With new funky sports coming through like surfing and skateboarding at the Tokyo Olympics, plus the emergence of e-sports, it’s all about extending their reach to the younger generation. 

Secondly, on the digital front, sport is way behind when it comes to music, entertainment and healthcare.

Also the business side of sport, especially football, is not sustainable. There’s short-term planning, but lack of a longer term vision. Certainly, football and other sports can draw lots of lessons from outside the sports sector.

For more on Sree and iSportconnect, check out the website: http://www.isportconnect.com

Globalisation in football, when enough is enough

Imagine this. You’ve spent hundreds of Pounds/ Euros on a season ticket, bought the latest shirt and spent hundreds on travel, food and drink following your beloved around the country. Now take one of those games and move it over 4000 miles away, with a premium on the ticket and no guarantee of even securing one. This is the latest controversial move from La Liga as they announce plans to play one league game in the United States as part of a 15 year agreement to promote the brand across North America. La Liga President, Javier Tebas announced “We’re devoted to growing the passion for Soccer around the world” with League representatives adding that there will be a receptive market with a 47 million fan base in the US for global Soccer. (CNBC, 2018)

It’s apparent that the Premier League in England have been looking at the possibility of a ‘39th Game’ abroad for some time now but seems La Liga have taken a firm step in making something similar a real possibility.

Why is it such an issue? 

Without fans there is no football and with Clubs realising the importance of retention and loyalty in recent times, it could be a step back for what they are trying to achieve. Clubs spend tens of thousands on ‘Fan Engagement’ schemes and taking a game off loyal fans will not sit lightly, even having a detrimental effect on season ticket renewals for the following season. 

Realistically, there are only three or four teams that would actually feature in these ‘landmark’ games and with the El Clásico set to stay it would almost certainly include either Barcelona or Real Madrid. With the greatest respect to La Liga, would a match between Alves and Eibar fill stadiums in Vegas or New York and really have the desired impact of showcasing the league? Potentially not, furthermore seeing the rich get richer and the gulf between teams continuing to widen. With these top teams and players in particular, their busy schedules of domestic, European and international duties could also take a hit with fixtures having to be accounted for.   

The loss of a home game is a huge factor, not just for fans but the performance on the pitch. The identity of many clubs is their ‘12th man’ look at the Mestalla, home to Valencia and widely known for one of the best atmospheres in Spain. How will players feel playing to a neutral audience? What if the result doesn’t go their way, it will almost certainly be to blame.  

What will it bring to the game? 

Money, money, money. There is absolutely no doubt why La Liga have taken this approach and announced these plans for a staggering 15 years. Exposure, global recognition and sponsorship for the league will all come from this decision, you will see TV rights for La Liga in the States rocket and see Santander fight for their exclusive sponsorship rights of La Liga.

Although representatives from all twenty La Liga Clubs stand to oppose the decision, one would be naive to think some Presidents, Chairmen and managers of certain teams aren’t rubbing their hands together at the possibility of lucrative revenue opportunities. Shirt sponsorship and sales amongst other things will almost certainly increase and after all football is a business. What if this one match per year funded the wages of one of your clubs best players? Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad after all.

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AFE meeting held on 22/08/18. Image courtesy of AFE

The decision is of course still being disputed, with La Liga players ‘Outraged’ at the proposal. The Spanish Players Union (AFE) held a meeting earlier this week and claimed all players were against the decision. BBC Sport reported that Real Madrid boss Julen Lopetegui believes that the fixture will not go ahead. Interestingly the AFE added that unless satisfactory agreements are reached, the players will adopt appropriate levels of force. So it may seem after some negotiation and compromise this could look to go ahead. From a fans perspective, some may look at this as a game lost but as mentioned earlier, if this added revenue was to pay wages of a superstar, maybe it could all be forgotten…

It would seem that this is imminent for La Liga and if it doesn’t happen now, it will in the future. The real question is when will other leagues follow suit? 

Tom Reece

Prepare To Be Inspired...

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For those of you who know Karen and I you'll be well aware that we LOVE to talk.

We speak to each other everyday, we see each other most days and we socialise together frequently! We can basically while away days on end chatting about everything from business to beaches to the best bubbles.

We also love chatting to others and one question we often get asked is why did we start our business?

The idea came because (we felt) there was a gap in the market in our area but also because we continue to be inspired by amazing people.

Outstanding athletes, sporting achievements and those who are smashing their business goals by following their dreams.

So here we are and while we continue to expand ExposePro by growing our client base and hitting their targets, we also want to inspire others too. 

In our bid to do this - inspire, encourage and educate people through sports business - we believe celebrating those who have already walked that path is a great way to do it.

What drives us in business is other people, which is why we're launching our 'In Conversation With..." series.

We’ve got a brilliantly diverse selection of entrepreneurs lined up, offering different perspectives on experience, success and crucially failure!

If it's good to talk, it's even better to listen.

Watch this space...