What Happened at the 2023 National Sports Forum?

What Happened at the 2023 National Sports Forum?

Posted on March 7, 2023 by National Sports Forum | Selling It | SUBSCRIBE


By: Camryn Henry


That’s a wrap! The 2023 National Sports Forum was a huge success. Hosted by the City of Los Angeles, the Forum Family gathered together for three extraordinary days of networking, idea-sharing, and behind-the-scenes tours at our hosts — LAFC/BMO Stadium and SoFi Stadium, Hollywood Park, & YouTube Theater. The Forum kicked off on Sunday, February 26th with a full day of workshops. This year, the NSF introduced a variety of new workshops, including Soccer (MLS/USL/NWSL), Banking/Credit Union Sponsorship, Business Intelligence & Data Analytics, and Sports Gambling.

In addition to the workshops, the NSF Case Cup Competition was taking place with LEARFIELD as our host! The case was built around a hot topic in collegiate sports, Name, Image, & Likeness and students were asked to create a branding/marketing strategy for the LEARFIELD team. After the students worked long and hard for 24 hours, presentations started in the morning then we ended with selecting 3 finalists: the University of South Carolina, the Unversity of South Flordia, and Ohio University. After long deliberation with our 11 esteemed judges, who were topical experts and leaders in the industry, the winner of the 2023 NSF Case Cup Competition was the University of South Florida!

On the Saturday and Sunday leading up to the National Sports Forum, the BDSE Cohort, thanks to Legends support, had a great time learning more about the Legends Way and getting the chance to get a behind-the-scenes tour of SoFi Stadium to kick off this year’s programming, followed by an amazing BDSE Reception.

As the day came to a close, attendees had the opportunity to take a look behind the scenes at BMO Stadium and enjoy food and drinks in the Field Club at the 2023 Welcome Reception.

Opening Fireside Chat – “The Tip-Off”

Leading us into day two, Monday, February 27th, the NSF welcomed to the stage Abe Madkour, Publisher and Executive Editor for the Sports Business Journal/Sports Business Daily, along with panelist Will Ferrell, Actor, Producer, Writer, Comedian, and Co-Owner of LAFC, and Larry Freedman, Co-President  and Chief Business Officer of LAFC, for the Opening Fireside Chat — “The Tip-Off.” They sat down to discuss the trend in celebrity ownership across sports and their vision for growing the LAFC brand. Larry elaborated on Will’s involvement with the team and his efforts to make a lasting impact on the surrounding community, he said, “Will participates beyond just showing up on match day or at an event. He pushes us to do different things in the community that he shows up for and brings his family for.” Will followed up, expressing his gratitude for the support that LAFC has received from both the fans and the community. “The Fan engagement is off the charts,” Will said, “It’s not a team, it’s a club.”

They later discussed LAFC’s goals and how their fan base has shaped the environment of each match. “One of the key goals we have is to be authentic to the global game of Football, and part of that is supporter-driven culture,” Larry explained. They shared stories and their own personal experiences from different matches and described how the loyalty of their fans translates into energy in the stadium on game day. Larry also touched on the importance of having a strong team of owners and how LAFC has benefitted from owners with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and successes. “When done correctly, it can be a really powerful tool. We did not put together a group with the intention could take a good class picture…It was more along the lines of ‘Let’s get together a diverse group of folks that have achieved various levels of success in a wide variety of industries,’” Larry said. As the discussion wrapped up, Will was asked about the advice he would give the sports industry, he said, “Continue to find ways to appeal to your specific area. Make it a mutual kind of engagement back and forth between the fan and the team.” At the end of the amazing discussion, we welcomed Larry Freedman and Will Ferrell to the Forum Family with personalized NSF jerseys as a big thank you for their time and participation.

Monday Afternoon Super Panel – “From Where We Sit: Sponsors on Sponsorship”

Later that day on February 27th, the NSF introduced the Monday afternoon Super Panel  — “From Where We Sit: Sponsors on Sponsorship.” Dionna Widder, Former CRO of the Houston Dynamo FC/Houston Dash, sat down with four expert panelists Joe Turoff, CMO of Chervon; Sonya Kunkel, Head, Loyalty & Sponsorship Marketing at the Bank of Montreal; Kevin Weeks, VP, Sports, Business Operations & Data Science at SoFi; and Michael Jeter, Director of Sales, Southern California for Google Cloud to discuss their perspectives, as a sponsor, on sports sponsorship. The panelists discussed what their brand looks for when finding the perfect partner. Each of them emphasized the importance of having a partner whose values and goals align with their brand. 

They also explained their personal approach to sponsorship and what they have discovered works best for their brand. “We have long thought that sports were one of the most effective ways for us to reach and compel consumers,” Sonya stated. She explained that the three key features that make sports sponsorships so effective for BMO are their reach and relevance, their ability to create unique client experiences, and the products that come out of these sponsorships that the brand can use to differentiate itself. “Trust is so core to business… We have seen in the data that when we can drive trust, then people are willing to make a big decision,” Kevin explained, as he shared SoFi’s experience in sport sponsorship. The panelists also touched on the consumer funnel and how their brands have been able to achieve greater awareness and brand consideration through sports sponsorships.

Tuesday Morning Super Panel – “Let’s pLAy!”

Bringing the 2023 NSF to a close was two more Super Panels on day three, February 28th. John Roberson, CEO of Advent, lead the Tuesday morning panel — “Let’s pLAy” presented by Advent. Lee Zeidman, President of Crypto. com Arena, Microsoft Arena, & LA Live; Lon Rosen, Executive Vice President of the Los Angeles Dodgers; Mike Bohn, Athletic Director at USC; and Kathryn Schloessman, President & CEO of the Los Angeles Sports & Entertainment Commission, joined John for an insightful conversation about the sports market in Los Angeles. They explored the history of sports in Los Angeles and how it has become one of the most successful cities in the industry.

The panelists highlighted the impact that live sports have had on both the city and the fans. Kathryn provided an example as she explained how the whole city of LA rallied together to put on the Super Bowl and how having relationships within the industry helped create this unique experience, she said, “The Super Bowl was successful in the city because of all the partners that our team was able to engage with for help…It was our whole city getting together.” The panelists integrated discussions about overall fan behavior and how it is changing. They urged that sports must adapt to these changes to continue bringing fans exciting life experiences that tell stories and generate emotion. “It has changed, but really is still the same. We are going to that live event because we want to be part of that community…now we just do it digitally with our phones,” Lee explained. They continued with a great discussion, thanks to John’s insightful moderation.

Concluding Day 2 of the NSF, the Forum Family gathered together for a fun night of laughter at the TIXR Comedy Show, presented by TIXR and Laugh Factory, featuring special guest comedians T.J. Miller and Craig Robinson!

Tuesday Afternoon Super Panel – “Our Best, (My Worst…), and the Future of Ticketing”

Tuesday evening, the NSF concluded with its third and final Super Panel — “Our Best, (My Worst…), and the Future of Ticketing” presented by TIXR. Ron Seaver, President of the National Sports Forum, joined Todd “Parney” Parnell, CEO of the Richmond Flying Squirrels; Naira Perez, Sr. Digital Marketing Manager for the Portland Trail Blazers; Ashley Hall, Director of Premium Sales and Service at LA Galaxy; and John Beaven, EVP of Ticket Sales and Service at the Golden State Warriors, for an exciting chat about some of their organizations’ best ideas in ticketing, as well as one idea that was never quite as successful.

Each panelist was assigned to tackle their best and worst ideas in either group sales, season ticket sales, digital marketing, or game day promotions. John focused on group sales and explained how his team creates unique experiences for groups by resonating with its members, he said, “It’s the relationship that they have with their group account executive…And their belief that we are trying to deliver an experience that’s authentic to who they are…We are really trying to find a fit so that it’s a win-win.” Ashley transitioned into a conversation about season ticket sales and shared her team’s approach to creating value for their season ticket holders, she said, “We have done a lot of exercises where we look at our season ticket benefits and we’re like ‘Let’s look at what’s actually driving renewal and sales behavior, and focus our energy on that’…An annual season ticket member event with the team is just absolutely critical. It’s a must-have!” They continued with a great discussion, thanks to Ron’s insightful moderation.

Conclusion – Thank You!

After hearing from our great panelists, the NSF headed over to SoFi for the 2023 Budweiser Gala. The networking continued as the Forum Family embarked on various tours around SoFi Stadium, enjoyed delicious food and drinks in the SoFi Social Club, and gathered on the field for fun activities and photo opportunities. We also announced our award winners and NSF SAMMY Winner, which was Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment! Thank you Forum Family for joining us in Los Angeles for the 27th edition of the National Sports Forum. We can’t wait to see you next year in Pittsburgh for the 2024 NSF!


Join us virtually for the 2023 Spring Summit on Wednesday, May 17th. Register today for $49! Visit HERE for more information!