Posted on December 16, 2020 by National Sports Forum | Selling It | SUBSCRIBE


Breaking down some of the top plays of the NSF Virtual Holiday Summit!

By: Ryan Luong


Dear Faithful Readers,

Last week the NSF team wrapped up our second Summit Series event, the Virtual Holiday Summit. It was an amazing opportunity to connect and learn from the best and brightest in the industry!

On this edition of the Selling It feature, we take you through (just some of!) the highlights of the Virtual Holiday Summit. If you want to join us for a future Summit Series event, register HERE to attend the Virtual Winter Summit coming up on February 17-18, 2021!


Carlie Dawson

Marketing and Communications Manager




Round Two! After a successful (virtual) Fall Summit in September, the NSF returned this past week for its second edition of the NSF Summit Series – the NSF Holiday Summit.

For two days (Dec. 9-10th), representatives from over 125 different pro teams, colleges, sporting events and association joined together with executives from 128 different brands, agencies and product/service suppliers for a wide-ranging series of business panels, workshops and breakout sessions…all capped off with two evenings of networking at the Budweiser Networking Lounge. Join us here as we take you through some of the many highlights from this past week’s event.


Kicking things off that first morning was the Opening Super Panel:  Shining up the Crystal Ball: What’s in Our Future for 2021?”. Moderator Bill Guertin, Chief Learning Officer for IBSI 360 Virtual Training Network led a top-notch group of senior sports execs in a candid discussion of what they expected to see in the world of sports business this coming year.

Jeff Kearney, the Head of Global Sports Marketing at Gatorade, looking at the short-term future of our industry set the tone when he commented: “Five-year plans? I’m not sure that they make sense anymore. The world is changing too fast… we’re redefining generations every couple of years.”

When asked about bold predictions, Jamie Morningstar, SVP, Ticket Sales & Service for the Milwaukee Bucks, believes that, “Biometrics is going to be the baseline for everything.” (Biometrics encompasses new technology such as facial recognition for tickets or pre-programmed electronic wallets and payments that will change live experiences moving forward.) Lauren Fritts, VP, Marketing, for the Chicago Cubs, discussed how art has become, (… and will continue to be), more entwined with sports, especially artists in the communities of each respective team/sports property.  We’ll have to see what comes to fruition next year!

Later that same afternoon was the NSF’s first-ever Diversity & Inclusion super panel entitled: The Change is Now: Diversity, Inclusion and The Business of Sports.” This excellent panel provided a candid conversation about diversity, inclusion, and equality — not only, in the sports industry, but in industries across America today.  Each panelist brought to the conversation relevant and important pieces of information pertaining to D&I. Gil Beverly, SVP, Chief Marketing & Revenue Officer, of the Tennessee Titans, explained that D&I needs to be consistent when asking, “Is it apart of your culture and DNA. Are you bringing that value day in and day out? 24/7, 365?”

Martin Jarmond, Alice & Nahum Lainer Family Director of Athletics, of UCLA, discussed the importance of keeping a balance of “comfortable” with “uncomfortable.” Jarmond explained that although people may find comfort in being with like-minded individuals, there also needs to be differences to get the best results.

David Gould, Chief Diversity & Impact Officer of Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, added that diverse hirings shouldn’t focus on meeting quotas, but should focus instead on being equitable and exposing opportunities to the diverse talent that is out there.

Kevin Clayton, VP, Diversity, Inclusion & Community Engagement for the Cleveland Cavaliers brought up the strength of diversity by stating, “To the extent that you can think of diversity as an asset, as part of the business – diversity will really play a key role when we’re able to leverage the unique challenges and unique experiences that people bring to the table”.

Gina Scott, VP, Partner Services, of the NFLPA spoke about how we need a mentality of empowerment and “bringing others along” since you cannot enjoy the party if you aren’t invited. Although the sports world is nowhere near perfect, the continued effort and growth to create diversity and inclusion will play a big and crucial role for generations to come.

Day Two of programming presented the opportunity for attendees to tune in to their choice of 12 different breakout sessions. Each session covered a different sports business topic.

Included in there was an excellent esports session led by Dan Bravato and Chris Yortsos of SeventySix Capital Sports Advisory. The first topic the duo tackled was a broad-based discussion of Gaming vs. Esports.  Bravado explained that, “Gaming is as broad as can be. You have a 60-year-old woman playing Candy Crush. You have a politician who’s trying to grow her following and her mission.” Gaming is the majority. Esports, however, is the competitive side of gaming. Bravato likened it to how with sports, anyone can play a pickup basketball game, but there is a massive difference between a pickup game… and making it to the pros. They also discussed connections to Gen Z, a focal point that many look towards as the future of fan bases. As Bravato explained, Esports can provide an accessible and easy-to-use avenue to tap into this next generation of fans. To this, Dan added, “This presents a really fun way to get your teams involved, and get your players involved in doing something they really enjoy and will genuinely like –which, at the end of the day, creates genuine content that people engage with.”

The last Super Panel of the Holiday Summit was The Winds of Change: From Ticket Sales to Sponsorship, How the World of Sports is Going to Change Moving Forward.” Panelists discussed how their organizations have been operating and the changes they hope and expect to see. Bryan Blair, COO & Deputy Athletic Director, of Washington State University, brought up a virtual fundraising event that found success with a blend of pre-recorded and live sessions. WSU took full advantage of social media to pull their campaign together and deliver a great experience to their passionate fan base.

When asked about sponsorship aspects, post-covid, Molly Wurdack-Folt, VP, Partnership Activation, Olympia Entertainment, predicted that, “Branding on the first and third baseline, whether that be permanent or virtual, mound branding, batter’s eye, and behind home plate… I think these will hopefully stay as we move into 2021 and beyond.”

Scott Hagel, SVP, Marketing & Communications, of the Chicago Bears discussed the opportunities that virtual allowed them to engage with fans outside of the Chicago market — such as things like virtual 5k runs.

Joni Comstock, SVP, Championships, of the NCAA, expressed optimism for NIL (name, image, likeness) by saying, “It is a good thing for our culture, our society because I also think our student athletes are leaders. There will be a few rocky moments, but this is a good thing.”

Wrapping up each day of the Holiday Summit was the Budweiser Networking Lounge, where the Forum Family was able to connect one last time in 2020. Although we are virtual, we cannot wait for the day when we can toast one another “live” with ice-cold Budweisers once again!

Next up in the NSF’s Virtual Summit Series will be the NSF Winter Summit – February 17-18, 2021.   We encourage all of you to take advantage of our “Early Bird” pricing by purchasing your badges before January 15th.   (Click HERE to register!)   Companies interested in getting out in front of our audience of teams/events are urged to reach out to Mitch Heimbach (Mitch@Sports-forum.com) to learn about sponsorship and exhibitor opportunities.

As this will be our final issue of “Selling It…” for 2020 – we want to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy Holidays and best wishes for a MUCH better year in 2021!


The National Sports Forum is the largest annual cross-gathering of the top team sports marketing, sales, promotions, and event entertainment executives from throughout the broad spectrum of teams and leagues in North America. Visit www.sports-forum.com for more information.



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