ISC 2023 – key themes shaping the future of sport business

On 22–23 March 2023, Story10 attended the International Sports Convention to gain further insight and knowledge around key topics including, brands and sponsorship, digital and fan engagement and sports events and tourism.

Below we’ve summarised some of the key takeaways from the 2-day event.

1) Putting the why before the what

There has been a lot written about purposeful sponsorship in the last few years, a topic that was again at the centre of the discussion at ISC London 2023. However, there is now a real shift of sponsors putting the why before the what. Studies have shown that 64% of consumers prefer to buy from brands that have a reputation for purpose [1] – which is why it’s so important for companies to make clear the reasoning behind a particular action before they put it into motion.

Whether it’s a regional energy supplier operating in one market or a global motor brand activating at the most watched event in sport, undertaking and encouraging action is becoming the priority for sports partnerships and having an impact is non-negotiable.

2) Shared values are at the core of effective partnerships

One of the most insightful and valuable sessions over the two days was from Carlsberg. The company's Global Sponsorship Director focussed on its partnership with Liverpool FC, now in its 30th year, and how shared values are at its core. The two are working together to create content inspired by their shared values – loyalty, passion, enhancement – and have delivered innovative and effective campaigns since changing strategy in 2017. Their content is resonating and building a strong affinity with fans, a strategy that the longest-standing partnership in the Premier League is now hugely benefiting from.

Establishing and communicating shared values with sponsorship partners and host destinations has become top priority for rightholders. New Zealand Major Events provided a recent example with the country's co-hosting of three major international events in women's sport – ICC Women's Cricket World Cup 2022, Women's Rugby World Cup 2021 and 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup – and how they want event partners to align with four Māori values: Manaaki, Tiaki, Pono and Potikitanga.

3) Facts can spark creativity

Fact and creativity do not always go hand in hand, and sports professionals and marketeers can naturally lean towards one side. However, what became more evident at ISC London 2023 is how marketers and strategists can turn to facts, science, and research to spark new creative ideas and provide a basis for sports partnerships. For example, scientists at Carlsberg had a central role in inspiring recent brand campaigns with Liverpool FC; they cultivated hops using the pictures and sounds of Anfield and experimented with Barley to brew a dedicated red beer, both loved by fans. While Carlsberg looked to science, research into the climate crisis and how it differs significantly with fans globally helped strategists working on Hyundai's Qatar 2022 campaign. The brand's 'Goal of the Century' campaign was born, striving to drive football fans into making sustainability pledges specific to them, their priorities, and their environment.

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[1] Brandoff, E. (2022) How brands can turn to Community Sports sponsorships, MarTech Series. Available at: (Accessed: March 30, 2023).