dragan perendija sporto online conference
Photo credit: www.marketingmagazin.si

Dragan Perendija, Sport Media Focus / project director and programme manager of the SPORTO conference

Cankarjev dom – CD Cultural and Congress Centre Ljubljana, organised SPORTO Online Experience via OnAir platform between 20 and 22 January 2021. The conference, one of the Europe’s leading events within the sports marketing and sponsorship industry, opened Cankarjev dom’s 2021 season. Organised since 2004, the SPORTO conference this year switched to digital – and it was successful, as its programme manager, Dragan Perendija, says in the interview below.

In the organisation of the conference, that hosted special guests like Mark Cuban, owner of Dallas Mavericks, Àrsene Wenger, Chief of Global Football Development at FIFA, and speakers like Ricardo Fort from Coca-Cola, and Florian Lamblin from Tour de France, Cankarjev dom acted as a professional congress organiser, offering the OnAir platform instead of its venues. The team of Cankarjev dom (10 people) took care of the execution of the event, one among many in a series of web conferences organised by Cankarjev dom in the time of pandemic.

Q: Why did you decide to organise the SPORTO Online Experience conference during the pandemic?

Like other annual events, SPORTO also faced a dilemma regarding the delay or even cancellation or adjustments in the form of an online izvedbe. In Autumn, together with Cankarjev dom – CD Cultural and Congress Centre Ljubljana, where the conference was supposed to take place, we conducted two short web events which also served as a technical test for the execution of a more demanding two-day online conference. We did not want to break the 16-year tradition. At the same time the exchange of knowledge and experience during the pandemic, which also severely affected the world of sports, was even more important than usual.

Prior to the event, you would probably say that online organization seems less demanding, but this is not the case, especially when it comes to the first online execution of the event.

Q: What is your experience with the OnAir platform which enables online events?

The experience was positive, especially with the main video part of the platform. We tried to take advantage of all the benefits that the platform offers and to prepare as much as possible, together with our colleagues and the team of Cankarjev dom, for unpredictable events “live”. The interaction by giving questions to lecturers through “Q&A” that get voted for by other participants, showed to be more effective and in-depth than is usually the case at conferences. Providing on-demand viewing of the recorded sessions after the event is an important added value for participants.

Q: Is it easier to organize events live or online?

Prior to the event, you would probably say that online organization seems less demanding, but this is not the case, especially when it comes to the first online execution of the event. Similar formats such as SPORTO (with eight consecutive contents per day and guests from different continents) require a lot of coordination, excellent moderators and appropriate technical preparation for the highest possible quality and experience. At the same time, it is true that online events offer advantages such as greater international reach and access to guests that would be much more difficult to host on the scene due to full occupancy.

tapestries cankarjev dom
Photo credit: Kristina Bursać, Cankarjev dom - CD Cultural and Congress Centre Ljubljana

Q: What are the conclusions of the conference and trends in the world of sports marketing?

The conference covers various segments; from brand building in sports, sponsorship strategies, digital communication and new technologies, fan involvement, branding, including leadership and sports law. The pandemic has further accelerated digitization and thus a more direct and personalized relationship between rights holders (clubs, federations, event organizers) and their audiences. In 2021, it will be even more important to invest in building the audience and interacting with it. The key is the quality of content distribution, understanding the changed habits of “consumption” of sports and the broader mission for brands in the sports ecosystem.

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