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    Isabella JiaoWritter Apr 18, 2020 18 min read
    Isabella Jiao
    Isabella JiaoWritter
    Apr 18, 2020 18 min

    Ep. 38: Evolution of Sports, Content & Fan Engagement with Gabby Roe

    In each episode of The GameDay Playbook presented by FanFood, Rob Cressy discusses how leaders are transforming the sports and live entertainment industry by leveraging technology to enhance the fan experience and operate gameday more efficiently.

    podcast title card


    Gabby Roe, President at Maestroe Sports & Entertainment, joins Rob Cressy to talk about the evolution of sports & content in the digital age. How can teams, leagues, and brands bring the fans closer to the action and let their personality shine? What are the best ways to interact with fans digitally? How is technology making the fan experience better and why is that such an opportunity right now? Why should you be paying attention to high growth sports and the way they are building their communities? To see how your restaurant, establishment, or venue can benefit from FanFood’s platform please go to: www.fanfoodapp.com/request-demo


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    Rob Cressy: (00:04)
    Welcome to the GameDay Playbook presented by FanFood, a discussion around how leaders are transforming the sports and live entertainment industry by leveraging technology to enhance the fan experience and operate game day more efficiently. I'm your host Rob Cressy and joining me today is Gabby Roe, President at Maestroe Sports and Entertainment. Gabby, great to have you on the show.
    Gabby Roe: (00:29)
    Well thanks for having me. It's great to be your guest today.
    Rob Cressy: (00:31)
    Can you give a quick overview of who you are and what you do?
    Gabby Roe: (00:35)
    Sure, yeah. I am a 30 year veteran of the sports and entertainment industry and throughout my career, not by design but I've always been involved with high growth and emerging sports properties starting in this sport of beach soccer, which my partner and I actually more or less invented and then built that company, cut a deal with FIFA. It's now a globally recognized sport with a fetal world cup and governed by FIFA on a national international basis, which is great. So started with beach soccer, then went on and helped the found major league lacrosse, the outdoor professional lacrosse league, then move back to the beach and was general manager of the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball tour for nine years. Then I worked with an action sports agency. So I've been in that high growth emerging sports business my entire career and then seven years ago founded Maestroe really as a service provider to multiple high growth sports and entertainment properties. We now have 13 different properties that we work with, but our area of expertise is these high growth and emerging sports properties and everything that goes along with them, including all the topics of this podcast.
    Rob Cressy: (01:49)
    So I think there are a few different ways that I want to chop this up. Both looking at the fan engagement side of things, looking at what's going on right now in the current climate of the world as well as being forward-thinking. Because as business leaders it is important that despite the circumstances, we are always looking towards growth. I think I want to start with the evolution of high growth sports in this digital and content era. So with them there's a lot of different opportunities, but they're smaller in terms of foundationally they're not the NFL, they're not the NBA. So talk about how they've evolved with the times.
    Gabby Roe: (02:31)
    Yeah, it's been a great opportunity for these high growth sports because of the mature sports properties, and by the way, they are bigger and they have more eyeballs, but your NFL and Major League Baseball's of the world just operate from a different playbook. Then these emerging high growth sports properties. Back when there were only four networks, really three networks, and then became four broadcasting sports before ESPN, the internet was not a thing and probably was, well actually it was definitely much more difficult for these smaller emerging sports properties to gain an audience. Now the the media that are available today, these high gross sports properties have a media platform, whether it's their own website or Facebook live, all the way up to many of these sports properties are on ESPN and network television. So the proliferance of the media options has really allowed these high grow sports properties to thrive and to be able to deliver value in eyeballs and exposure to the sponsors who is their primary source of revenue, generally speaking. The evolution there has really been paramount to the growth of the quantity of these sports as well as how each of them can thrive among each other.
    Rob Cressy: (03:51)
    So with all of this, there are a few things that popped into my head. One, what I love about these high growth sports is the ability for these leagues to be able to speak directly to the audience that loves them. For example, corn hole, you love corn hole, boom. People are going to watch that and be like, I dig this. So that certainly a built-in advantage, but I believe even with that advantage, there has to be something on the league's end to say, let's engage those fans. Because just because you're on ESPN doesn't mean that you're going to capture the attention. You may just be attention as a whole. Remember, there's tons of noise out there. There are tons of leagues out there that you've never heard of that you see for one second and don't think about twice. So now it's really about almost converting that attention to a more core user and that's where you're going to engage them. So what do they do to transfer the media to the engagement?
    Gabby Roe: (04:49)
    Yeah, that's a great point. Back to the evolution of these high growth sports properties as compared to the more mature sports properties. NASCAR and actually when Brett Yormark was at NASCAR, he was one of the first executives to really get the NASCAR drivers to interact with fans. Before that, there was a bit of a holier than a valid mentality. These are untouchable superheroes and you're gonna get no closer to them as you would a comic superhero cause they don't exist. There was a distance between the athletes and the fans. There has been a massive push to get to bridge that gap and bring the fans closer to the athletes started with NASCAR and kind of one of the more major sports. That's been the backbone of these high gross sports properties is the ability for the athletes who are participating in the sport to directly engage and interact with the fans and really like in almost any industry when you have smaller up and coming kind of start-up companies that kind of break the mold and then some of the bigger brands and companies start to react to that. You see a much bigger push nowadays for major league baseball players and NFL players to take off their helmet and be more approachable to the fan base. I think that the high gross sports properties that started to do that and started to let their personalities come out more really kind of broke the mold and now it's the norm. Now it is the norm that it happens, but there are a lot of things that being a smaller sports property allows you to do, including in the Coronavirus world too where there's a lot of things that our clients are doing and we're advising our clients to do to utilize their athletes to engage with the audience even when the events aren't going on anymore. There's other ways to do that and once again, the smaller more entrepreneurial companies I think are setting the pace and then the more mature sports properties catch up by that time. Hopefully, we're onto new innovations after that.
    Click me
    Rob Cressy: (06:44)
    So I actually have a great story, let's call it six years ago, it was time for my bachelor party and I'd been to bachelor parties everywhere, Las Vegas, all the stuff that you would traditionally see from a guy who loves sports and it just so happens at the time I had a contact with NASCAR's agency, they were building out a microsite and I was, I was creating tons of sports content. I was a sports publisher at the time, creating articles, videos, and podcasts, and I came up with the idea that I wanted NASCAR to sponsor my bachelor party and here is exactly how I pitched this and it's going to go right in line with everything that you just said. So they were looking for more content, but I didn't create any NASCAR content. I was not, I was just a creator, but they came to me because I was a creator, didn't think anything of it.
    Rob Cressy: (07:33)
    So then I was like, well, wait a second. I've been to a race before and I know it's a ton of fun. So there's a disconnect right now in the marketplace between the live experience of NASCAR and what the average sports fan thinks NASCAR is. Everybody assumes it's just, I love Jeff Gordon. I'm an SEC football fan, but now it's NASCAR. That's the perception we got. But I knew from being there, that was not the case, that my friends would have a blast. So what I ended up pitching to the agency was I want you guys to essentially sponsor my bachelor party and we're going to document the experience and show how fun and accessible NASCAR is to the everyday fan amazingly they said yes. So we went down to the Coca-Cola 600 in Charlotte and NASCAR was amazing to us. We got down there before the race, we're on pit road. We got to go and see the drivers, their cars, everything they're working on there. Then they gave all of us, I think I had 15 guys in the bachelor party ride in the pace car before the race and I documented all of this and it's one of those life resume things for all of us now. But it was an amazing example of NASCAR because what did they did do? They brought the fans closer to the athletes because we're taking pictures with Dale Jr's car and then we're getting in this Toyota Camry that can go 150 miles an hour and we're an inch from the wall. And it completely changed my mind of the sport and made me love NASCAR. And I think that's exactly what you're looking for is you want to find a way to get the fans to feel some sort of way about what you do. And with these high growth sports opportunities, we know people love volleyball, they love cornhole, they love these things. So allow that love to be manifesting in your brand.
    Gabby Roe: (09:29)
    Yeah, completely and the brands, the properties are brands and the sponsors who sponsor the properties are brands. And really, you know, that is why brands sponsor these sports is because they know that those sports are gonna interact with the audience and there are going to bring the sponsors messaging along with that. That story is a great example. NASCAR was on the front end of this and you gotta give him credit for that. You're seeing it in music now too. Country music stars are much more that way. Then the pop stars and the rock and roll guys who had their backstage interacting with nobody. Whereas the country music guys are out front doing pre-show meet and greets in a much greater way. Now some of the rock and roll guys and the pop music guys have started to come around. But the country music guys were the leaders in that. That's really where we see the high go sports properties, be the leaders in the industry from a fan interaction and give your, your property that much more able to shine.
    Rob Cressy: (10:24)
    What about on the digital side of things if we're going to be engaging with the audience, so when they see that, what are the things that someone listened to this right now might be able to take away and say, all right, what is it digital engagement strategy that you might say, Hey, try this out in this current landscape as a way to get your audience to know, love and trust you a little bit more.
    Gabby Roe: (10:46)
    Yeah, that's a good point. Now, one of the other benefits of the high gross sports properties as generally speaking, all of the fandom and the athletes and the television and the whole package of cornhole is contained and owned by cornhole. Another one of our clients is the USA Curling. Everything involved in curling in the United States under that one entity and football you don't have that obviously if the NCAA football, you have NFL football. Then you have the athletes and the athletes might have their own direct engagement with the fans, but they're not doing that through their team and not doing that through their league because there are different factions there. You have players associations, a team, a league, and a player and they all might have their own fan interaction activities going on. The high gross sports properties usually are owned and controlled within the entity and all of the curlers want to see curling, succeed and do their part, sort of the cornhole players, so to the beach, soccer players, et cetera. So you allow the voice to be one unified voice. What LeBron James is saying might be different than what the NBA is saying, might be different than what the Lakers are saying. The high gross sports properties, there's one voice that's the first advantage that you have. So when someone is a fan of cornhole or they're a fan of flag football or ax throwing or beach soccer or break dancing or ultimate and these other sports that are out there in the high growth space, they're usually a fan of almost all the teams and all the athletes that are there. So you can have a unified voice and on the ultimate Frisbee website a player for a team can be posting trick shots and challenging his audience to try and repeat those trick shots and you capture the whole entire ultimate world, not just the Lebron James fans, not just laker fans, not just an NBA fans, but the whole sport is able to see that and that consolidation of fandom is unique to high growth.
    Rob Cressy: (12:38)
    And you are reading my mind because the thing that I was going to say that I love that is really a principle of how I think about marketing. And fan engagement is user-generated content. What can you do as someone of status within one of these high growth leagues to say, watch me do something, I want to see you do it. Or can you challenge me or can you show me when you do it? And I find that the leagues or brands that embrace this more are the ones that succeed. And you know why? Because everybody loves to see their name in lights. It's one of the phrases that I use all the time. People love to talk about themselves and they'd love to see their name in lights because someone might love cornhole and they follow them on Facebook or Instagram and they might only have 89 followers on Instagram, but then all of a sudden they send them over a video of them nailing all four bags in a row and let's just call it, it's the bullseye, whatever you want to call it. Like boom,
    Gabby Roe: (13:41)
    The four hymns four-bagger, we actually have a name for that with one of the sponsors.

    Click me

    Rob Cressy: (13:44)
    There we go, the four hymns four-bagger. And you get that, boom. I mean we'll just evolve this to this sponsor integration. Say hello to the four hymns four-bagger. Go ahead and send us a video of you getting all four bags in and we will send you X, Y, and Z on top of re-tweeting it from our Twitter or posts on our Instagram. And really embracing the community that way. And I think the more that brands can think this way, how can I get the audience involved? Because so often what turns me off about a lot of brands or leagues is they're on this pedestal where they're bigger than you and they're not accessible. So you say are there, you look at them and you're like, I want to love you. But they're like, now we're too big. We don't care about you. But on the flip side, you see the brands that embrace the love from their community and it flourishes.
    Gabby Roe: (14:36)
    Yup. And that's affinity marketing at its best. And if I have an affinity for cornhole and Johnsonville Sausage sponsors corn hole I have an affinity for Johnsonville Sausages and the NASCAR guys, especially the drivers this out once again early on about brand integration into their messaging. But affinity marketing is really what sponsorship is all about. Supporting the brands that support your passion is becoming more and more accepted. Just like the opposite is too. You see this especially trying to create a relationship with the millennial audience where, I mean my kids loved Chipotle, Chipotle happens to really give back to the community and they happen to, you know, source their food locally. That's important to my children. It wasn’t important to me as much when I was growing up, but nowadays it is.
    Gabby Roe: (15:27)
    So they have an affinity for a brand that adopts some things that they find important. That's becoming even more important nowadays with the millennial audience becoming the spending group and really sponsorship is affinity marketing and high gross sports properties allow brands to bring that to life in a huge way to drive their awareness, to drive their sales, to drive their interaction. All of their KPIs can be delivered based on the high gross sports properties, adaptability to delivering those types of messages on behalf of their sport, but also on behalf of the brands that support their sport.
    Rob Cressy: (16:02)
    I'm often saying this as well, brands need to give their audience a reason to want to look back, look forward to hearing back from them again because everything's become commoditized. You can buy anything from anywhere whenever you want. In, traditionally marketing goes by what I'm selling, by what I'm selling. If you're jamming by what I'm selling down my throat in a feed of which has anything from cat videos to trick shots to people on vacation to family, and you're just rolling with buy what I'm selling instead of saying, Hey, let me think about this from the mindset of my audience. That's one huge fan engagement in the content creation tip that I'll give as the brand. It's actually not about you. It's about your audience and what you can do to provide value, to engage and to get them to look forward to hearing back from you again. So when you include them in your content, guess what they're going to do? They're going to tell all of their friends, they're going to share it and you're actually going to hear these words. You're now famous. It's the craziest thing. The cornhole league could just retweet someone's a four-bagger in that person and their friends are going to say, Oh my God, you are famous. And that's a real thing that you can give to your audience.
    Gabby Roe: (17:12)
    Yup. It's amazing. On the digital side, which I know is what we're talking about today. They will do your marketing for you if you give them a reason to and you respect them and you are, I like what you said, looking forward to the next engagement with you. If you can get to that vaulted status you can make one post equal millions. The creativity that we're helping our, that our clients already have and we're helping kind of bring out of them to engage with their fan base bigger and better and involve the brands and doing that is a lot of fun. And when you hit it, it's a home run and everybody's winning. Everybody, the fans are winning. The sponsors are winning, the property's winning. Everybody's winning. It's a great solution.
    Rob Cressy: (18:01)
    Let's talk about the tech side of things in how these high growth sports are leveraging technology and, or the importance of it. Because I think one of the challenges for up and coming brands can be, you know what, we don't have the resources, the time, the knowledge, the budget to do each of these things. So then it might put technology on the side as this isn't for us, but like anything, if you dig a little bit deeper, you can find, you know what, there probably is some technology out there that can help you in your brand. So can you talk about a little bit more about that on your end?
    Gabby Roe: (18:38)
    Yeah, first off, technology is a major part of sports and that conversion's been happening forever. FanFood who I know supports this program, the concept of me being able to sit in my seat and poke on my phone and have a beer and a hotdog delivered to me and charge my credit card while still watching the game. That's awesome. So that whole concept I think is great and that's making the experience as a fan much better because of technology. So I give FanFood and those brands credit for doing that in one way. The example that I'm going to give for you is probably in one of our least technology forward sports is cornhole. You're throwing a bag into a hole, really does not get much more simple than that.
    Gabby Roe: (19:24)
    However, one of the backbones behind that sports property’s success is technology. That started tailgates outside of football games, which then led to, let's say it's a Tuesday night league at a bar where guys and girls would sign up to go instead of bowling one night, let's go play corn hole. You sign up, you pay your money and you had your Tuesday night cornhole league at your local bar in order to sign up for that. You do it through the cornhole app, the American Cornhole League (ACL) has an app, you sign up and then you're keeping score of your game in there and keeping your rating and your ranking based on your wins and losses. It's all an algorithm that coral has created from a technology standpoint to keep track of all the people who are playing. And their scores in their leagues. Now, when that grew now too, there are 250 directors across the country, 6,000 cornhole leagues happening across the country, all of the athletes are signed up to the app and with a push of a button, they can be reached. So if there's a beer special that's happening or there's a new sale on Johnsonville sausages or there's a great four-bagger clip that just became available that one of the pros did or a trick shot, the technology that binds the whole corn whole world together is massive and that's really the backbone of the foundation of their, of the base of players who are playing. Then obviously you have fans as well, but really the base of players are all tied into technology and the app is really how the whole thing started.
    Rob Cressy: (20:55)
    Yeah, and I really think that that's what can help take fan engagement to the next level. Where I really like to think of fan engagement two ways online and offline and the more that you can bridge the gap between the two and so often in some of these leagues, volleyball court whole like these things that you're talking about, those are offline activities. You're playing corn hole with your friends. Boom, we're doing that offline. But what can you do to still have me part of your community on the digital side of things? And it's, it's another positive touchpoint that allows you to interact with your audience in really finding or exploring the ways to say, alright, how can we take our first step towards technology to allow us to bring together that community? Because I believe that's one of the bigger opportunities out there is actually bringing the community together in oftentimes these are communities that exist currently in disparate forums all across the world, but they just haven't been brought together and housed under one roof.
    Gabby Roe: (21:57)
    Correct. I agree with you. You're seeing that more today. We can't avoid the elephant in the room that most people are working from home now and the whole world's a different situation right now with the Coronavirus and you know, necessity is the mother of invention and lots of these concepts that are not coming across using technology to engage with fans are being that much more pushed to the forefront now that you almost need to be. It's really adapt or die in the case of a lot of these sports properties right now. So those technologies, the advancement of the technology side of their interactions are being really driven to the forefront right now. We are working with and advising and consulting with a lot of our clients and even some people that aren't our clients. Just sharing ideas as to how technology can do that, that much more important today than it was even two weeks ago. But, and these are the things that work are going to continue on. Well after the world goes back to how it was a couple of weeks ago.

    Click me

    Rob Cressy: (22:57)
    So the last thing to get you out with Gabby is just getting a quick conversation about what your success mindset is like right now. As someone who is forward-thinking in this sports and business world, I believe as leaders it is our duty to share knowledge and inspiration for others out there. Knowing these times and understanding a little bit more about, Hey, what is your forward-thinking success mindset looking like right now?
    Gabby Roe: (23:24)
    Yeah, we've seen a couple of different you know, iterations of people's mindset over the last couple of days. Of course in the beginning it was not to make sure everyone's safe, safe and healthy. Let's put protocols in place to take care of that. Secondly, was, okay, we have some replanning that we need to do because the fact that our season can't continue or it can't start when we thought it was going to start or we don't have the content for our television broadcast. So they've managed through that. Now I actually am spending almost more time talking to brands now than ever prior to the Coronavirus stay at home situation. The brands are now focused on from my experience, what are we gonna do now? And that's where we've spent most of our time and we've been dividing into what we're calling a phase one and a phase two and phase two is now as in now, considering the stay at home, no live sports world, what are we going to do with technology? What are we going to do with maybe re-editing some of the old broadcasts and having live athletes come in and actually have a picture and picture where they're talking through, this is what I was thinking when I made this play. To repurpose content that also has a cherry on top, which is some sort of a new way of presenting content. Yes, you can just, you can also air old games on your website or on television. But doing that with an element of uniqueness to it to make it new and different is key. And then phase two is once the restrictions are lifted and sports, you're back on, what are we going to do? But so we're, we're coming up with a phase one and a phase two without putting a timeline on either, we don't know when phase one is going to be able to start or when that's going to finish and when phase two is going to start and then just go on into perpetuity. So we're working out of phase one and phase two playing with all of our properties and then we're presenting those ideas to the brands who are now starting to say, okay I feel comfortable that my brand should be involved with both phase one and phase two that's happening both with existing partners and sponsors, all of our clients, as well as some new ones that we've been talking to, but have yet to pull the trigger. Now they have a reason to say I can get involved and start getting my brand exposed with these phase one more digital or repurposed content concepts. Then more fed into a phase two when that time is ready, whether that's 30, 60, 90, 120 or more days from now, does it matter the phase one plan of being in existence until you flip the phase two in both ways, properties are being exposed to the fans and brands are being integrated into that.
    Rob Cressy: (26:00)
    I really like your mindset around that. For me, I'll break down my mindset very simply in two ways. One, every day is an opportunity to have a great day. Number two, I'm only focused on forward, not backward and it can be a very difficult thing right now. But forward-thinking is what is going to serve you, not looking back. Gabby really enjoyed this conversation and everything you're working on in your mindset. Where can everybody connect with you?
    Gabby Roe: (26:30)
    They, they can, you know, go to our website, maestroe.com. As well as through my email address, groe@maestroe.com. I look forward to hearing from people. Again, the more innovative thinking that we have the better. I've been having discussions with all types of people in the sports business recently just to kind of keep the positive vibes and the dialogue flowing. And I'd love to continue to do that with anyone that wants to reach out.
    Rob Cressy: (27:03)
    And as always, I would love to hear from you about this episode. I'm curious, is there a high growth sports league that you feel part of or you are a part of their community? You can hit up FanFood on Twitter at @fanfoodondemand, on Instagram at @fanfoodapp or on LinkedIn. And as always, you can hit me up on all social media platforms at @robcressy
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