Sir Martin Sorrell, boss of advertising giant WPP, today wowed the International Olympic Committee (IOC) with the message that the need to engage with young people has “never been more urgent”.
In a virtuoso keynote speech to start the day’s proceedings, Sir Martin complimented his audience on the “very bold step” of setting up an Olympic TV Channel, while urging them to be “brave”, “determined” and “proud of delivering the future of the Olympic Movement through this new medium”.
His long, pithy, almost academic masterclass on the state of global media and its implications for stakeholders in the sporting movement, triggered a spate of questions that carried the event far beyond its allotted time-span.
Afterwards, the 70-year-old Englishman was accorded the rock star treatment by his usually worldly-wise spectators, being asked to pose for a photograph that was then beamed across the Twitter-sphere.
Much of Sir Martin’s message was about the need for the sports movement to take to new media applications like Snapchat, Periscope and, of course, Facebook – “effectively the biggest country in the world” – in addition to more traditional media, to communicate with young people and set out the Olympic proposition on the platforms where they felt comfortable and which they were actually using.
“You have the ultimate story platform,” he told IOC members.
However, “it is not enough for the IOC to concentrate on TV.
“If you do, you miss the young generation…
“For many young people in fast-growing areas, the only way they will experience a sporting event is via mobile.”
He also urged IOC members to look on video games “as being a competitor”.
The man whose company is responsible for investing something like $80 billion (£51 billion/€73 billion) a year around the world in media of all sorts, had reassuring words for IOC media strategists, whose efforts enable the body to generate more than $4 billion (£2.6 billion/€3.6 billion) per Olympic quadrennium from the sale of broadcasting rights to Olympic events, the Movement’s biggest revenue stream.
For now, he suggested, in response to a question from Juan Antonio Samaranch, the strategy whereby rights to all major media platforms, new and old, tend to be sold in a bundle to a single media partner for a given geographic region was the right one.
What is more, the IOC possessed “an understanding of how to engage with traditional TV partners that is truly unparalleled”.
However, with the likes of Google and Facebook set in all likelihood to emerge as large media content companies who will want live sporting rights to feed into their mix, “there will be a point in time where the question of unbundling will arise”.
Sir Martin also advised the IOC, given the difficulty of achieving guaranteed confidentiality in digital communications, that “you have to run your operation totally on a transparent basis”.
He went on: “I think basically sunlight is good.
“It is the best disinfectant there is.”
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Inside the Games.