Marco Auletta is a trained lawyer, investment specialist and sporting seer. OK, the last one may be a slight exaggeration but, while Auletta may not have supernatural visions of the future of sport, he does have significant influence in shaping it.
His resume reads like a bucket-list weekend of sport: Premier League, Formula 1, the French Open and latterly the NFL: he has brought all of them to UK audiences as CEO of MP & Silva – the foremost sports media rights specialist. Now branching out on his own with Silva International – enjoying a broader investment remit extending across sports entertainment, media and real estate – we can think of no man better to tell you what to look out for in the next decade of sport.
On the best sport to invest in
From a media rights perspective, football continues to be the key sport for several reasons. Firstly, it has a much stronger global audience than other sports, and that means there is a worldwide demand for sponsorship and media rights. More specifically, Silva International has recently invested in Miami FC because we have seen a tremendous growth in the interest of ‘soccer’ in the United States over the last few years. Young people at American universities are already playing much more football, and we believe that in five years’ time we will see a completely different prospect in terms of the quality of sport and the business interest.
We have seen already that MLS media rights have grown significantly in the last few years, and we believe this is set to continue. In terms of businesses relating to sport, we believe that everything related to sporting data is tremendously appealing. It’s an area that we are actively evaluating its potential right now. Data is a world where it is possible to do a lot more than what is being done presently – not only the point of getting the correct points and figures related to certain events, but also the correct interpretation from a commercial point of view of how we can use that data to create revenue. That last step is the one where there is still a lot of work to be done, but we believe we will play an important role in this.
On the eSports phenomenon
It’s a very interesting world that, despite being quite new, is already achieving unbelievable numbers. Previously at MP & Silva I was already in discussion about how we might be able to use it, but now eSports global market value is $900m. We expect this revenue to increase rapidly in the coming years. It’s an extremely strong proposition, especially in Asia, were some 60,000 people will gather in an arena to watch eSports live. In Germany, too, we are seeing some interesting activity in this area. For sure, it has extremely big potential – and that’s why a lot of the key players in media rights are starting to take notice. Also, being targeted at millennials and young people makes it extremely appealing for a lot of companies who are willing to invest in sponsorships. Quite interesting as well is how eSports links with social media, which is a kind of natural recall to connect a lot of people around the world.
On the dangers facing the sports industry
I spent almost six years working for the IAAF and during that time I also visited the IOC in Lausanne quite often, so I have a unique insight into the world of international sport federations. What I saw makes me believe that one of the largest risks that sport faces is in federations being so used to their current way of operation that they are not prepared to make difficult decisions. The business of sport and media is a sexy business, but there seems to me a reluctance on the part of some of the federations to grow. Playing it safe is rarely the best option – and it’s for the same reason that
I decided some months ago to strike out on my own away from MP & Silva. Sometimes you must make tough decisions to grow. Big federations like FIFA and UEFA are extremely well-organised entities but smaller federations can often do with a little more support. I think there is still a lot of steps to organise the sports business to arrive at a more professional level.
On how doping scandals are affecting sports investment
I think all federations realise now what a huge problem these kind of scandals are for their respective sports, and I believe most are doing what they can to come up with solutions. The trouble with doping, in particular, is it’s not easy to solve by nature of the fact that there are constantly new products coming to the market that would be considered as performance enhancing. Therefore, the sports federations are forced to run behind medical innovation to identify the latest products before athletes start using them.
In my opinion, there’s a point at which the federations need to look at themselves and the demands that they are putting on athletes. If they are asking these individuals to follow very tight and heavy schedules, the risk is higher of athletes feeling the need to dope. The fault is not with the federations alone, of course, but it is an important factor. Control of sporting schedules is vital in order to maintain quality but also to support clean sport. From a business point of view it is crucial, too: sports tainted by doping often see a large reduction in sponsorship and the value of their media rights.
On the demands of sport media
At the end of the day, we’re seeing higher and higher demand for coverage of sports events. The demands of the fans and federations is for higher quality sport, with a number of different options of how to view it.
At the same time, we’re also seeing an unbelievable growth in the value of media rights and sports events in general – especially, the Premier League – which continues to apply pressure. That being said, it’s an extremely exciting time to be involved in the industry, and I look forward to shaping Silva International’s continued role within it.
For more information about Marco Auletta and Silva International, see: silvainternational.com