You are now in the main content area

Episode 16: How COVID-19 has impacted the sport business world

Basketball player dunking

The sports world was one of the earliest industries to be impacted by COVID-19. Within days, major sporting events were postponed, leagues had to suspend seasons and those working in sport business had to make rapid decisions in a way never seen before. 

On this episode of Like Nobody's Business, we feature a panel discussion between sport business executives and Cheri Bradish, professor of marketing management at the Ted Rogers School of Management. 

The panelists discuss how they had to change their strategies for fan engagement, how their brands had to pivot to a digital focus and the lessons they’re taking away from this experience. 

Panelists:

Brian Cooper - Chairman, MKTG Canada
Stewart Smith - Vice-President (Brand), Adidas
Alyson Walker - Senior Vice-President, OverActive Media Group
Jordan Vader - Vice-President, (Global Retail and Partnerships), MLSE
Bart Yabsley - President, Sportsnet
Cheri Bradish (Moderator) - Founder/Managing Director, Future of Sport Lab (FSL), Director (Sport Business Initiatives), Ted Rogers School of Management

How COVID-19 has impacted the sport business world

Nadine Habib:

From the corner of Bay and Dundas in downtown Toronto, this is Like Nobody's Business, a podcast of thought leadership and business innovation. I'm your host, Nadine Habib. The sports world was one of the earliest industries to be impacted by COVID-19. Within days, major sporting events were postponed, leagues had to suspend seasons, and those working in sport business had to make rapid decisions in a way never seen before. On today's episode, we feature a panel discussion between sport business executives and Cheri Bradish, professor of marketing management at the Ted Rogers School of Management. The panelists discuss how they had to change their strategies for fan engagement, how their brands had to pivot to a digital focus, and the lessons they're taking away from this experience. Brian Cooper of MKTG Canada, Stewart Smith of Adidas, and Alyson Walker of OverActive Media Group talk about how COVID-19 has impacted the marketing, retail, and e-sports space. Jordan Vader of MLSE and Bart Yabsley of Sportsnet discuss brand management, broadcasting sports, and the transition to working from home. Take a listen.

Cheri Bradish:

So just really if you can give us a personal check in with how you're doing and how your business looks and feels different right now. So, Brian, can we start with you?

Brian Cooper:

Sure. The business is mainly based on team play and mass gatherings. And as a result of this pandemic, there is no team play; there is no mass gatherings. Yet at the same time, there are longterm contracts that involve IP rights, and athlete's endorsements, as well as a promotional contesting, and all the other elements that are related to an overall sponsorship. Yet in many cases, they really can't do anything related to the brand exposure around team performance. What they can do is utilize their association both from the past and the present to put up different content and messaging, a lot of it digital. So Scotiabank this past weekend came out with 24/7, which was how hockey had impacted different families and different communities across the country, and it was produced by Canada as they said.

So the messaging was, "Scotiabank's still your community minded bank," and using footage from something that they had in the can previously. And Stew will talk about Adidas doing the Terry Fox Run without having a run, but raising funds to do stuff like that. So I think a lot of our clients are asking us, "Where do we go here? What's the status of our existing contracts with properties like MLSE and Jordan Vader?" We can talk about it later on. "Are we going to get the rest of our regular season, brand exposure, and the rights that we paid for? How do we go forward from here? What does the next season look like?" There is a lot of uncertainty, and I think everyone has taken the attitude of, "Okay, let's wait and see."

Not everybody jumped on this and said, "We need to get out there." Because you have to be very sensitive to the times; you have to be very sensitive to the main point of this, that everyone's healthy and we're getting through this together. So I think while we may have pivoted, I think we've all pivoted slowly because of the sensitivity of the issue itself.

Cheri Bradish:

Perfect. Thank you, Brian. Stewart, I'll go to you. And Brian just indicated some of the things you're doing, but from a sporting goods perspective and as a large retailer in this country, if you can speak to some of the challenges and new normal for you over the last couple of months.

Stewart Smith:

Sure. Well, I can start with, I can honestly say that I feel like I'm getting an MBA over the last eight weeks. Being a global organization and dealing with different challenges, and making really fast decisions has been actually invigorating, because being such a large corporation, we traditionally move really, really slow. And we say we want to be fast, and this has forced us to be fast. So it's been kind of cool, actually. I feel even more connected to my team and my North American counterparts than I ever have, because it's forced us to make decisions really quickly. In my world, we are really cognizant of not making any short term decisions based on what we assume will be consumer behavior. Digital is by far number one. So anybody out there, my advice would be anything digital is absolutely a place to be.

But as far as consumers coming back to bricks and mortar stores, the next couple of months is going to be phase one. We're not sure what they're going to do. Then back to school, traditionally, a retail milestone for us. How are they going to act there? And then going into holiday. So we're really seeing what consumers are going to do. From a tactical standpoint in the brand world, we have product launches all year long. We've had to completely re-phase our product launches, because we have a massive back load of inventory, both in our stores and also our partners like Foot Locker, and Sport Check, and places like that. We're also dealing with cashflow. If you don't have any cash coming in, you got to manage your cash out. So we've been really proactive in managing our MWB. And then as Brian mentioned earlier, when you have little to no MWB to spend at this current time, you need to be really creative on how you launch things like Terry Fox, where we really want to donate a lot of money back. At the same time, you can't lose your brand heat.

So how do you get brand heat out there when you can't use your traditional vehicles? We have really put our sponsorships with our ambassadors and athletes. They've never worked harder for us really helping us get the word out there. And at the same time in the background, the brand is working on plays to keep us top of mind. We launched Hometeam. We're going to be launching Ready for Sport coming down the pipe. And I presented a brand calendar today around our hype drops, which would include Yeezy, and Pharrell, and all those, and our hype calendar is unbelievable through the balance of the year. So lots of stuff going on in the background. I've been in the business for 25 years, and I have learned a ton in the last eight weeks. It's pretty cool.

Cheri Bradish:

Well, thank you, Stewart. I have a 12 year old, and I had purchased a few of those shoes. So I'm feeling that pinpoint on the other side. We'll talk offline. Alyson, can you talk a little bit about your perspective and how things are with OverActive and the e-sports industry in general?

Alyson Walker:

Absolutely. Well, building on what Brian and Stew started to say, because I think there are a lot of themes that we all share, for us at OverActive, we're in the franchise team business. Dare I compare us to Jordan Vader's company that has franchise teams? We are of course in e-sports native to digital. So on the one hand, we've been very lucky because we've been able to continue competition match play, engaging, of course, our fans and our partners in all of that. So for that, it's certainly fortuitous and allows us to keep going.

On the other hand, the model for us is building audiences, building communities, and bringing teams to regional locations. And part of that, of course, is to do that in person. So to host significant live events, live events that most folks in our region, Toronto, Ontario, Canada wouldn't have had an opportunity to experience before at major, live e-sports event. We had three events planned for this year, one at Mattamy, of course, Ryerson's facility. So we've had to pivot in many ways, both from a business model standpoint and to ensure that we're continuing to engage those fans and build those communities. When we came together, I joined a little bit after those that started this organization. We talk all the time about our responsibility and position as leaders to create not only an industry and team brands, but an audience. The audience is obviously there. Everybody knows gamers are certainly at the forefront these days, but it's our job to engage those, and bring them together, and drive value back to our partners.

So luckily, we've been able to pivot. to Brian's point. We already were in the content production business, the influencer business. We've been able to pivot our partner assets to digital. Our leads have been very cooperative in that way. So in that sense, there's been a pivot, but we've also been fortuitous. I'll just add that what's interesting, you hear a lot about professional sports players not being able to play sports or even practice in many cases. Our e-sports pros are playing right now, and they're playing currently, our two teams in Toronto. We have five teams globally. Our two teams in Toronto are in their own condos, playing competitive e-sports with all of the pressure that comes with competitive play. And that comes with a whole host of other challenges that certainly our team is very focused on ensuring we can support them, that the coaches, the support staff, and for all the reasons you just mentioned, Cheri, we all have our personal challenges.

They're having to play through it. So, there's that. And I'll end by saying from a business model standpoint, one of the things that I think we did well as a newer company is make some tough decisions early on. To Stew's point, one of the things that has been, I'll call a silver lining, is we've all learned to make really fast decisions under a lot of pressure. And we made really quick, difficult decisions to ensure that we're set up for success in the long-term. And I'm happy about that. And there's a lot of innovation happening with our team in terms of how we keep going and come out of this on top, frankly. We don't want this all to sort of end and then start to get to work. So, we're busy doing all of that so that we smoothly transition out of this, whatever that looks like.

Cheri Bradish:

Perfect. Well, we can come back to that. And I see one of your colleagues, Mr. Chris Overholt is on the phone as well. So welcome Chris, and-

Alyson Walker:

Indeed, our colleague. Welcome.

Cheri Bradish:

... Alyson. There's many colleagues on the phone. So thank you. You're on the call. Jordan, many questions I'm sure, and lots happening at a complicated, large complex organization like MLSE. If you're able to give us a little bit of a snapshot into perhaps your world and your role, and then maybe what you can share, some of the things perhaps that are slipping out that we hear they're working on at MLSE. That's an open ended question, I-

Jordan Vader:

Thanks Cheri. Fair enough, I like a lot of the sentiments shared already, but I'll share a bit more about my personal experience first and how we got it out to where we are today. And I'd say our immediate focus was on three particular areas. First was making sense of what working from home meant and the impact that would have on our people. Second phase was connecting with our partners and checking on their personal situations, and health, and their overall wellness. And the third was we pointed to community.

And I'd say first from an employee perspective, nobody's ever experienced anything like this before. We've got a really young team. We've got a big team. We've got people that are living in different countries. We have people that are living thousands of miles away from home. We have some people that are living on their own. How are people managing given the new impending pressure and the unknown of this situation. From a partnership perspective, we have the unique opportunity of working with some many of our partner brands that live in this city, that we have the opportunity to meet with at their offices, or at ours, or over lunch, or at games. And that opportunity obviously changed. And to Coop's point before is, while our games stopped, we inflected and realized that our facilities had an opportunity to continue to take on meaning and still just serve as Canada's town hall or the city town hall. And one of the first things that we did was we started a community food program.

And I imagine a number of you have heard a little bit about what we've done. And I think as we started to figure out the role that we were going to play, not only for our partners, but for the city, it was figuring out, "How do we work with provincial government? How do we work the city of Toronto? And how do we assess the biggest need within the city at this point? And what role can we play?" And working with Scotiabank, and BMO, and Rogers, and a handful of other partners that have supported the program. I think we were really able to step up and demonstrate the role that our facilities could play in the community.

And then the next phase was really, in addition to the various pivots and scenarios that many of you have talked about, was engagement remains high on our digital and social channels. Passion for teams ultimately is unchanged. We don't have the live games as that source of connectivity, but what else do we have? And our digital and social channels took on and even heightened sense of importance in the days and weeks since this thing originated. And we've really tried to accelerate what are planning's going to be, not only for the short term, but the long term.

So what is it hospitality that we counted on to be at the arena? What does that look like virtually and at home? What do activations look like when they come to your door? Uber Eats with your stadium popcorn and hot dog that comes to your house. Digital coupons or premium items that are delivered to your door. Driving experiences maybe. So these are the kinds of things that we've been thinking about over the last several weeks and months. And to answer the second part of your question is, we're unsure of what the next a few weeks bring. Obviously, we're enthused by the NHL's announcement yesterday and proposal of what it would look like when we come back. We're hopeful that all of our teams are on the ice, court, pitch and football field at some point that summer, but we don't know. So we're planning for a whole bunch of different scenarios, trying to get as creative as we possibly can to anticipate a whole of different potential plans. And excited to get a little clarity that we can share with all the fans of our teams and ultimately with our partners.

Cheri Bradish:

Perfect. And I think we have some questions, as you know, coming up related to digital and the digital platform. So we'll come back to you, because I'm sure the fan experiences is another important, top of mind experience for you folks. So I think we'll now transition to Bart. I went alphabetically this go around. And I don't know if we can lead, or ask you, or pry too much about the announcement yesterday with the NHL, but I'm sure it's on other folks' minds. So maybe just, again, same to you, a little bit about life in your world. And I know everyone's asking about hockey, so at some point we are going to have to ask you about it. So however you want to tackle that question.

Bart Yabsley:

Well, thanks Cheri. Maybe I'll start with what happened back around March 11th. A sports network without live sports, there's industries that have been hit harder I know airlines come to mind, and some others, but not too many had the impact that sports networks has. So it was an interesting challenge. And I'll pick up a little bit on what the Dean said. We could have chosen just basically hunker down and just weather the storm, but we chose actually to use the period to experiment, is probably the word I'd choose you. You may have noticed some of our digital experimentation. We're a fairly traditional media company, and we talk a big game, and we're trying hard. But when you're trying to manage the live events and there's a lot going on during the day, the chance to do some really innovative and intellectually challenging things and challenge your people to do things differently, it's hard. It's really hard.

This has been a period where we have had a lot of freedom to say to people, "You can actually dedicate a resource to that. You can dedicate mind share. You can dedicate some money." And so, we've used it to experiment and seen some things, but I also have been happy to be able to identify gaps in our business. So, the things that we've done well, you can see it, but sometimes may or may not see the things that we don't do well. And it's caused us to be honest with ourselves, what we're good at, what we're not good at, and where we need to invest. So that's been a real positive, I would say. Second one is the impact on the competitive environment. For us, one of the big impacts over the last couple of years has been the launch of some global platforms that compete for rights with us.

And it's had a real impact. We lost premier league soccer to an international group, but this whole pandemic has caused everybody to pause and go, "What's our ability to pay. What's the world going to look like? What is the digital world, what does the traditional world look like?" So, it's been an interesting transition there. Then the third one I'd probably highlight would be our people, a bit like Jordan. It was a shock to the system for us to work from home. When you're talking about control rooms, and trucks, and salespeople, it's a very social environment. It's a very tight environment. Working from home was a shock. And beyond the shock to the system, mental health is a big focus for us. It's one of those things we're starting to talk about more as a society, but I have seen it personally in our group.

The days are long. They're stressful with family commitments and work commitments, and just getting a break from zoom calls and email is very tough. So, we've tried to work on our employment brand a lot during this. You may have noticed that Rogers took a leadership position in saying, "We're going to protect incomes through first through April, then through May." And now we've said we're not having layoffs through the summer in the media division. So, it's been incredibly positive that way. And that's what we're trying to do in terms of focusing on how do we come out of this strong, and a big part of that is taking care of our people.

Cheri Bradish:

Good. Will we come back to the broadcasting NHL, or what do you want to do?

Bart Yabsley:

I do want to monopolize the time. I'm happy to talk about hockey anytime you want. Normally you don't ask for it.

Cheri Bradish:

Yes, I think it's a question on folks' mind. Go ahead, Brian.

Brian Cooper:

No, I'm saying, Bart, please tell us all the confidential details. No one on this call was going to spill anything.

Bart Yabsley:

Well, everybody thinks we have this inside track on everything. I think Jordan could probably back it up. There's a lot going on at the leagues, and I think my view is they're being pretty honest with the public in that they really don't know. They're like the rest of us. They've never been through this. They've been through the lockouts and strikes where there's a defined period of time and there's an objective. This is out of everybody's control. So, as Stewart said, we're learning a lot in this short period, and it's giving us an opportunity to reflect, but there is no master plan at the NBA right now. They are in a position where the leagues often have quite a bit of power, but every league has to work out a deal with players.

And those deals are really complicated before you even get to a discussion of, "How are we going to produce games if our crews can't travel across the border, if our insurance doesn't cover the health care for our people down there? And if we send somebody down to produce the game for two days in Dunedin, if they come back to Canada, they got quarantine for 14 days?" So, there are layers upon layers, and I can honestly say we don't have it figured out. We spend a lot of time on calls with the leagues. They do a great job of sharing information with us to the extent they know it. But yesterday's announcement was a good example. They announced some things, but there was a lot more that they didn't announce than they did announce, and it's not because they're hiding it. It's because they just don't know. And it has to be negotiated in a lot of cases, either with players, governments, local authorities, broadcasters. It's a fun time to be involved. Unfortunately, there's a lot of money involved. So, it's high stakes poker.

Cheri Bradish:

Yeah. Well, we can come back to some of those themes as well too. Did you have a take onto that, Brian, or are you good?

Brian Cooper:

Well, I'm shocked for $12 billion, that's your insider information.

Bart Yabsley:

If they had it, I hope they give it to me. But I don't think they have it.

Cheri Bradish:

You knew that was coming.

Bart Yabsley:

Oh yeah.

Alyson Walker:

I was just going to add onto that, that what's so interesting, and we're finding it more and more across all sports, any sports we're making decisions we're launching an industry and launching a new business model around regional franchise teams. And nobody has the answers, to Bart's points, not the commissioners, not the leaders of a massive publicly traded company like Activision Blizzard, nor the owners of the teams. And so, we're working closely together, and it's a hard process, because not every team, like in every league, agrees on the right way to move forward, but we all need to be leaders in order to keep growing, in our case, a nation industry. And what it requires is exactly what Bart's talking about. We need live events to grow audiences regionally, and everybody knows where Vader owns his facility.

The fight for facilities next year for venues, everything's getting pushed back, and nobody really wants to commit big money to put down a massive deposit that they don't know if we'll get back. And so, the implications are large. And equally as important, our audiences and the e-sports side, it starts with the grassroots. They are very vocal audiences across all matter of social channels, Discord, Twitch. I've also received an MBA in how to be a little bit more astute on different platforms, because you need to know what's going on everywhere. But our fans and our audiences and our players are contributing to our decisions, as is the case for everybody on the call. But it definitely adds a very interesting dynamic, because certainly in the world I live in, we need to listen, and we need to do things that make sense to the fans and the players.

Cheri Bradish:

Yeah. Thank you.

Brian Cooper:

You know what I noticed? I realized the role that sport plays in our lives, and I've always been in the sports industry. And to me personally, it is important, but when there is this void and even see some leaders in North America that are saying, "Sport will lead the way. It'll show that we're back to normal," and conversations, and just watching, people are starved to see competitive sports again. And I think sponsors look at that, the broadcast is that are living on it. It's a significant integrated part of our everyday lives. And I think this really brought it to the forefront for me.

Stewart Smith:

I agree with that. In our world, it's about people actually getting back to sport physically. So that's why the campaign that we're launching is called Ready for Sport, ready for getting back to sport. I went out and played golf last weekend for the first time in, well, a long time, but it was the first time in quite a long time. I actually felt normal. Aside from protocols getting on the first tee, once I was on the first tee, I felt normal for four hours. So, I totally agree. And in our world, we're really thinking about kids getting back to sport, people, getting back to sport and participation, on top of loving sport and consuming it.

Brian Cooper:

I just think that sport and music will lead the way, right or wrong, to mass gatherings. I think once someone puts on a really big concert, and the exuberance and invincibility of youth will go and gather, similar to what we saw a little bit on this past weekend at Memorial Day gatherings in the States. I think that may be the point of ripping the Band-Aid off. Then we may have ended up living with the consequences. I don't know where it's going. I don't think anybody knows where it's going, but once that happens, I think sport will follow as well.

Cheri Bradish:

Right. And I think if we see some of the polls in the statistics, particularly the IMI numbers are quite favorable about sport and individuals coming back and fans coming back. It will be interesting to see when the doors are open what those numbers look like. I think I'll go on to a couple of more of the themes if that works with each of you. I think just to transition from that first question. We had a conversation in our MBA class about what's going to happen in sport. And it's interesting if you looked at the DNA, and I'm what I want to get to is, everyone around the panel, everyone I've talked to has had such optimism in, "We're going to beat this, and we're going to be more innovative." That really is the spirit and the history of sport business and sport marketing if you look back through the ages.

So it gives me and the student's hope. And the employment figures, while we're still concerned about them in this country, and this is where I want to go specifically, everyone is working really hard to keep the output high through a pivot. So, I wanted to ask you each of you could comment just a little bit, and we talked about this in the pre-Zoom call. Can you talk a little bit about how you see and feel the Canadian sport industry responding? And we always like to ask that question from a student perspective, because that's to where they're looking for their next career position and wanting to know, "Really, what's the landscape here strategically?" So, it can be an anecdote. It can just be a comment, but I just want to get your perspective on, do we have any specific nuances to be aware of in this conversation to our industry here in Canada? So, Alison, you can start.

Alyson Walker:

I have two different perspectives, one from the e-sports world a bit more generally, and then one from some of my extracurriculars. I would say that we talk all the time in our shop, and those of you that know Chris Overholt would find this familiar, about being leaders in our industry. I alluded to it last time, but we're on numerous owners’ calls, and we are developing an industry. We're developing an industry. We're developing process protocols around players. You can imagine these young kids, in some cases, who are coming into huge contracts, and different than say hockey, soccer, basketball, where they're with their grassroots programs; they're etiquette set, and the expectations are, they build on you. These kids jump into it pretty quickly. And so, the pressure is immense.

So from our perspective, from a Canadian perspective, there aren't that many professional e-sports teams, particularly in the world. I'm careful to say e-sports is quite a large community, which is truly the competitive play. Tyler Keenan, who leads our partnership group, he's out in 140 conversations educating the marketplace around business models, assets for partners, and making sure everybody understands what this e-sports thing is. So in that sense, I would say leadership and continuing to drive the importance of business and partnership value is somewhere where we take that seriously.

On the other side, and slightly more personally, I would say I sit on the board of Women in Sport and Events, a group, a chaptered organization. We're the only one in Canada. And we talk a lot about the impact of COVID on working women, certainly at senior levels. Many people are going to make decisions about how they take care of the home and family, and whether family's older family or kids. And we're really focused, and Cheri and I have had conversations about this on ensuring that, to Bart's point about mental health, we keep a network open and supportive around keeping people going through these times, keeping good people in our industry and our innovative industry. And so for me, that's a very important piece of what we need to do in Canada: keep strong people and keep strong women innovating and staying in their workplace and in their jobs in the sport and entertainment industry.

Cheri Bradish:

Thank you, Alison, anyone else want to comment about some specifics that they've seen or gleaned specific to the Canadian sport industry?

Bart Yabsley:

I'm happy to jump in, because I have a pretty strong view on this. From a student perspective, I get asked this question a lot, like, "How do I get into this industry? Seems pretty small. Seems to be tough." And it is. There's no doubting, or you can't really debate that the media industry's very tough. And being a Canadian media based global players is tough, but I strongly believe it's a fantastic industry. And no students should be dissuaded from going into it. As a matter of fact, you should be encouraged to go into it if it is something you're passionate about. There's always room for really good people. And it's an industry that welcomes people that innovate.

And those are the people that get ahead. I just look in our shop, and the people that stand out are the really good ones. It's pretty good meritocracy, because you have the opportunity to stand out because of the opportunity for innovation. So, if I was a student right now, I'd just look myself in the mirror and go, "This is what I really want to do." And I can tell you this COVID thing has convinced me I don't want a real job, because all the fun parts of my job are gone. I want the back, but when I get them back, you realize how great a job in Canadian media can be.

Cheri Bradish:

Yeah. Thank you, Bart.

Jordan Vader:

And I'll jump in.

Cheri Bradish:

Please.

Jordan Vader:

I'll jump in and share a little perspective. What I would say is, while we don't have a long list of jobs that we're posting for today, I think it's an incredible time to differentiate yourself. To Bart's point, we're looking for innovation; we're looking for new ideas. And I think we'd be the first to admit that we don't have all of them. We can't contemplate at a whole variety of different scenarios. We're all thinking on the fly and trying to come up with a whole bunch of different solutions for a problem. We're trying to find solutions for a problem we haven't fully identified yet, and I think there's a role for students and new interns to the sports and entertainment business to assist.

And I'm all ears. I don't want to speak for the rest of the panel and others here, but always open to conversations, always looking for thought leadership, always looking for those who have demonstrated an understanding of the struggles that the business is facing, and how they can lead with ideas in which to help us solve them. So what happens in 90 days from now, we don't know, but there's always going to be room for those that have great ideas and are forward thinking to address the problems and can help us anticipate where we should be going.

Cheri Bradish:

Thank you Jordan.

Stewart Smith:

Yeah. From my side, we're a massive global brand. And although 2020 will be an interesting year, we will get back to growth. So as far as getting back to growth, we need great people to continue to grow our business. We've had a fantastic trajectory and we expect that trajectory to come back. What is going to change is our channel mix, is what we call it. And channel mix essentially means we sell to our wholesalers; we have our own bricks and mortar, and we have digital. In this calendar year, we're seeing a huge focus on digital, and we don't see that going away. We don't believe our mix of digital will far outpace wholesale, because I think absolutely consumers still want to go to retail stores and have that experience, all by the experience will be different. But the digital focus is absolutely not going away.

So I would recommend to anybody digital experience is hugely important, whether it's digital for e-commerce or digital partner commerce, which is where we partner with Sport Check to help them sell on their e-commerce, their dossier, or of course brand marketing and brand comps. Digital far outweighs conventional media right now.

So I would recommend having digital in the back of your mind. But I absolutely have confidence in our world, in the sporting goods world, in the big brand world, we're getting back to growth, and we are absolutely focused on getting back to growth. As Alyson said, we're learning a lot. 2020 I believe will make us even better coming out the other side, and that might sound optimistic, but I'm living it day to day. We're making decisions that we've never made in the past, and we will get better, and we'll learn a time. And 2021, we're hoping to get back to 2019 type numbers, and then 2022, we're back to growth. So, we're cautiously optimistic, but we're putting plans in place. And from an employment standpoint, there will no question be opportunities, because our business model is not going to change. We make amazing product; we tell amazing stories, and we sell to consumers, and we make consumers happy. And that's not going to change. It's just where they're going to buy it and how we tell the stories.

Cheri Bradish:

Perfect.

Alyson Walker:

I just want to echo, because I didn't really address the student piece of that, Cheri. But I echo what all of my peers have said. We are absolutely focused on growth. Obviously, everybody has had to pivot, but we're in the business of producing content. We're in the business of driving value to sponsors. We're in the business of putting on live events when they come back. So, I agree with what everybody said. Keep going. Keep building those networks as students. Keep talking to all of us. There's going to be tremendous opportunity, particularly because all of our businesses have huge digital aspects to them, and most of your students are so savvy in that area.

Cheri Bradish:

Perfect. Thank you. Maybe just a couple of other things before we open it up, just sensitive to the time. We've touched upon a little bit the changing consumer and the changing fan experience, and in particular noted on digital. And there were questions earlier, and I think there are again some today, and I'm probably going to start with you, Jordan, just so you know, talking about what are sports teams thinking about arena facilities, thinking about in terms of engaging fans outside of the arena experience. And how has that accelerated some of this thinking? To Bart's point, innovation is really accepted and embraced right now. So, can you talk a little bit more about some things that you hear piloting, whether they're MLSE or not, around rethinking and really engaging the fan experience?

Jordan Vader:

Absolutely. I think what it's really done is forced us to accelerate a trend that was growing. And not to discount the 20,000 people that would pack Scotiabank arena or BMO Field on any given day, but we've spoken a lot more over the years, and everyone on the phone we all would have had a conversation with about this is, we've got 17 million Raptor fans across the country, or 15 million Maple Leafs fans across Southern Ontario in parts of the country. And the true opportunity to capture through partnership is not only those fans inside the arena, but it's a scope of all those fans that are watching on television, all the fans that are engaging through our digital and social channels. But I think it's really forcing us to accelerate those plans and the dependency of the experience that is solely for being at the live game.

We've done this analysis before. A really large percentage of our fan base will never come to a live game. And I think this is really accelerating our plans and thinking around what that means. So, what have we done over the last number of years, well we've invested heavily in our app, and adding utility to that app beyond using it as a navigation tool when you come to the game. So, we've added gamification components, and we've added the opportunity to purchase retail. We've run a lot of our sponsor, partner contests and promotions through the app. So that's kind of really been our trend over the last number of years, and we've really accelerated. And I think as we move forward, we're thinking about the idea of, "What's that digital arena?" And I talked about a few other things earlier, but some of the things that at least in the short term we might not be able to do, or might not be able to do to the same extent that we could before, we're hoping to be able to do in the digital space.

So heading into Bart's world of partnership with Sportsnet, how do we think about different angles and different views? So, the courts side seat holder can't necessarily be in a court side seat. Well, what's that view and what's that experience now that they can get from home? We're thinking about, again, gamification and other sort of communication overlays that are tied in the hours leading up to the broadcast or after the broadcast. Bart mentioned it a little earlier, virtual signage and other ways to kind of overlay forms of communication in and around the live event itself. So, we've been thinking a lot about what that experience is, but I don't think it's something or a priority that came about because of COVID, but I think it's really helped accelerate our plans and our need to find solutions. And I'll be testing faster than we may have been ready to do in the past.

Nadine Habib:

Like Nobody's Business is a presentation of Ryerson University's Ted Rogers School of Management. For more information, visit ryerson.ca/tedrogersschool. Thank you for listening.