So, I arrived in Bangkok for SportAccord 2018 and found myself immediately ‘soaked’ (quite literally) in Thai culture. Songkran, the annual festival that sees friendly water fights and street parties that last for nearly a week, was fully underway! That was before having a look at the famous red-light districts with Bangkok’s celebrity Lady Boys and Go Go dancers, and all the other crazy nightlife that Bangkok is famous for ensued – well it is important to immerse yourself in a country’s culture!
I travelled there to participate in the DIT’s delegation of UK companies at the event. GIG had a presence on its exhibition stand, which proved to be an excellent platform to share and promote our catering and hospitality prowess at major sporting events.
SportAccord is the world’s premier and most exclusive annual event for sport and sees more than 2000 decision makers from the world of sport, representing 1000 organisations come together in one place. This included over 90 International Sports Federations and their related Associations, 135 cities and regions, sponsors, host and bid cities, architects, sports lawyers, broadcasters, Games Organising Committees, rights holders, media and many other specialists.
The event has a hugely impressive array of content and networking opportunities. I really enjoyed, not only, having the opportunity to hear from industry leaders and athletes but to also be aggressive in proactive business development. I had a lot of meetings across a whole spectrum of potential clients, from host cities and federations to corporates and sponsors.
I attended a brilliant session on ‘The Power of Influencer Marketing’ which looked at how influencer marketing focuses on specific individuals who have influence over an audience. Buzzwords were digital native and digital natural, it was really interesting to hear how marketing tactics are changing for those who’ve been born into a digital age as opposed to those who’ve grown up with it. There was a lot of focus on how good marketing is now about creating quality content that your audience engages with – not selling services, which I found fascinating.
Backing the theory up pretty well was John Tibbs, chairman of JTA, a majorly powerful influencer in the world of sport. His company builds brands and influences policy development and decision-making at the highest levels of sport worldwide and as a consultant to the DIT he was also exhibiting on the stand. His experience and network of clients is impressive and includes working with the Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) since 2013 and being involved in Sochi 2014 and Baku 2015.
I met some fantastic people along the way, including members of the team at Brand Oath (who deliver design, branding and communications for Olympic and Commonwealth Games, National Teams, Governing Bodies and Federations, events and bids); Skylab (a digital agency who work with Red Bull Racing, ITTF, England Golf and the International Boxing Association) and Foamhand (specialists in planning, designing, delivering and operating integrated crowd management solutions for global sporting and cultural events.)
Also interesting was just the sheer variety of relatively unknown sports that now have federations and are being recognised on the global stage. For example, the International Jump Rope Union (IJRU) became the 10th International Federation to gain GAISF Observer status at this year’s Sport Accord.
Other stand out moments included meeting the COO and other representatives of The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and spending an evening with Charmaine Crooks, a Canadian athlete, five-time Olympian and Olympic Silver Medalist, at the Canadian Drinks Reception.
It would be remiss of me not to mention the food, I am in catering after all. I was based in Sukhumvit and Silom, both areas are renowned for an amazing array of street food. One of my favourite dishes was from Isaan cuisine and included grilled chicken, sticky rice and grated vegetable salad, it brought together Thai flavours with some delicious fresh ingredients. The Silom and Sathorn roads, in Bangkok’s central business district, were literally full of places to eat although not all the dishes on offer are to everyone’s taste and probably won’t be making their way on to a GIG menu anytime soon.
There was no official announcement from the SportAccord organisers on next year’s host city but the talk on the floor was that it would more than likely be Budapest. As a gold partner to the event, with a monstrous size stand and heavy sponsors of F&B throughout, it certainly seems likely. So, I’m off to brush up on my Hungarian and I’ve heard those Ruin bars are pretty good, although possibly slightly less colourful than Bangkok’s!