By Dennis Culloton

When you work at the 2019 speed of business, how do you stay creative and competitive? How do we reach Millenials and Generation Z? How do we get our message out for our clients when legacy news media brands are in the financial red or shutting down altogether? How can we build better, more inclusive and diverse organizations?

Those were a few of the issues we pondered at the Sports Business Journal’s 2019 Thought Leader Conference. It was a gathering of some giants of the sports business world. Notwithstanding the fact that I slipped under the wire, the other great minds in the room covered these deep, important topics and more over a couple of days. What’s clear is that sports business leaders are facing the same challenges as all of our clients.

Author Josh Linkner coached us to reimagine challenges, and to illustrate showed us the video of the judo flip by an American Ninja star Kevin Bull who excelled past his competitors (It is worth Googling!). Flipping the script is a strategy that is sometimes in order.

UNICEF CEO Caryl Stern appealed for help from influencers to save the children dying across the globe and told a moving story of a young rural African mother who walked four hours in labor to deliver her first child to survive childbirth.

Doug Harris of the Kaleidoscope Group sensitized us in an amusing way to the privilege and biases all of us feel, even unconsciously, and invited us to widen our circle of friends to truly break through cultural differences.

Olympic legend Sebastian Coe, who once set record as the fastest miler in the world and went on to chair the London 2012 Olympic games said the Golden Rule for Global Sports leaders is to communicate. He held weekly Town Hall meetings during the planning for the London Games to inform, educate and learn. Sport he says, is the most powerful soft power.

That same communication is key for leading and inspiring Millenials, according to Stacy Green, chief global people officer of Sony Pictures Entertainment and Daisy Auger-Dominguez, former Google executive both agreed empathy, and being able to communicate it, is one of the most important traits of successful leaders today. Chris Grove of E&K Gaming said newly legalized sports gaming will be dominated by online, mobile first options over low-margin brick and mortar sites. Geoff Reiss of Yahoo Sports and Marissa Daly VP/GM of media for the Los Angeles Rams talked about the “Attention Economy” and the fight for eyeballs for major franchises.

While we’re all facing similar challenges, the consensus of these speakers assembled by the ultimate thought leader, Abe Madkour of SBJ, and our conference cohorts is that smart, proactive communications strategies that employ all of the tools we have available to us today is key to meeting and prevailing over those challenges.