Q: How did Renaissance Sports come to be?
A: Renaissance is an outgrowth of Helios Partners, the global sports marketing agency headquartered in Atlanta up until this past May (2014). Various issues, including a burdensome cost structure, led to the closing of the Helios Atlanta office, but lack of business opportunities was not a contributing factor. Accordingly, Renaissance Sports was created to meet the business demand that is still there with the talent and experience that is still here in Atlanta. There is no official relationship with Helios Partners or its parent company, the Amaury Sports Organisation.
Q. What exactly does Renaissance Sports do?
A. We are a sports marketing consultancy specializing in the development of brand positioning, marketing strategy and program development for our clients. We focus on three sets of client groups: companies that are sponsors or are considering sponsorships in sports; sports property rights holders – the entities such as federations and organizing committees that are the governing bodies of international sports and major events; and cities or countries that are bidding to host major events like the Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup™ and the World University Games.
Q. With social media becoming a dominant means of communication, is brand positioning and strategy still that important?
A. It is more critical now than in the pre-internet days. The brand position and strategy are the foundation of a successful plan, whereas facebook and twitter – along with numerous other great applications that are entering the sports marketplace – are communications channels that deliver key messages. Social media, in itself, is not a strategy – it enables the tactical initiatives of our clients, and our role is to help build that foundation of well-positioned messaging that engages the stakeholder through those channels.
Q. There are lots of companies that offer cutting edge social media apps and include strategy development and brand positioning in their service offering. Isn’t it more cost effective for a company to choose a one-stop shop over Renaissance Sports?
A. Not necessarily. You don’t want a consultant who is going to build you a strategy that is really intended to sell you more stuff from that same consultant. Instead, it is in the interest of the client to have a strategy that is agnostic with regard to tactical initiatives and applications. Once that strategy is embraced by the enterprise, we can then guide them toward the best activation options available in the entire marketplace versus something else that we could sell to them. In this sense, Renaissance is a “first-stop” shop when it comes to sports rather than a “one-stop” shop. This is a logical approach that gives precedence to the interests of our clients over our own.
Q. Where do you see the greatest opportunity?
We believe there is a tremendous opportunity with emerging brands in the clean tech industry, as well as the technology industry in general, which is under-represented in sports. In the case of clean tech, we will see consolidation and the heating up of competition for market share as brands emerge into the public consciousness and begin to interact directly with consumers. In the case of powerful technology brands, revenue might be less important that expanding their network or strengthening their corporate reputation, and a well thought out sports marketing portfolio can help them on both fronts. Finally, on the corporate side, we are well positioned to help companies that are looking for a refresh of their sports marketing strategy, in line with new corporate objectives and a shift of funding away from conventional television advertising that has become a casualty of DVRs.
For sports property rights holders, there is enormous competition for attention and commercial dollars with a landscape that now includes many new emerging sports and events that we can help thrive. A revenue-generating commercial plan is essential for their success, and this goes back to the foundation that we can develop for them: a strong brand positioning and strategic plan for the sport or event.
Q. Why will Renaissance Sports be successful if Helios was not?
A. Helios was actually successful in Atlanta, but no longer able to remain at the same level of success for an acceptable rate of return to the parent company. Renaissance Sports is, in many respects, a reboot of Helios in Atlanta, free of the major cost constraints and other barriers to greater success. Our vision is to build upon the talent, experience and success of Helios, while re-orienting our strategy to better target some powerful trends in the sports marketplace, among them, the importance of social media, the emphasis upon social responsibility, and the growing strength of sports as a marketing platform.
Q. We hear a lot about “Corporate Social Responsibility” but isn’t this just a nod to charitable activities to make a sponsor or an event look good in the public eye?
A. “CSR” as a part of business terminology, is probably nearing the end of its shelf life, but this is, in part, because parts of it have evolved toward a viable business strategy. “Responsibility” has become “shared value”, and the values of a company and a sports property are increasingly contributing to consumer decision making. Standard measures of brand equity, like awareness and impressions – something that sports has always been able to deliver – are less relevant. Today, that brand equity is more a function of how that brand is contributing to a better world, and that dynamic is driving consumer choice.
This is nothing new for properties like the Olympic Games, which long ago recognized that its values (whether or not they consistently lived up to them) were the greatest driver of commercial attraction, so in that respect, our approach hasn’t changed. But our potential role has expanded now, because all sports properties and commercial brands need to define their value in a way that establishes a long term relationship with their stakeholders, and that’s where we come in.
Q. But companies and sports properties need to think about the bottom line. If Renaissance Sports is focused on something other than financial value for their clients, why should they hire you?
A. It’s always about the bottom line in the end, and that hasn’t changed. Our approach is based on the premise that social value translates to financial value over the long term. There’s no argument that a company can realize some perceived value by putting their logo on race car or signage at the FIFA World Cup™ so that millions of people can see it, but then what? How does that translate into positive long term consumer choice and preference? It doesn’t, unless the brand has the underlying messaging and strategy to engage their stakeholder at a much deeper, values-based level. So part of our offering is our ability to use sports in a way that will deepen that engagement and answer the question: why should I choose your product or service? – a question that now has social implications.
Q. What other reasons should your prospective clients consider Renaissance, because this doesn’t sound like anything groundbreaking?
A. It’s really not groundbreaking – we certainly didn’t invent this, it is a clear trend in the industry. We have benefited greatly from our lineage from Helios, which was borne out of the Olympic Games in Atlanta and our depth of understanding of the Olympic Movement. Our primary difference: we are narrowing our focus and positioning ourselves to capitalize on these trends and on the unique value of sports. Our primary similarity: we will continue to offer a high level of very customer-centric service, supported by our talent, experience and connectedness in the sports marketplace – all hallmarks of past success for Helios.
Q. Talk to us about the unique value of sports in the marketplace. What does this mean?
A. The pure range and volume of experiences in our world has exploded. We live in a paradoxical state – one in which we surround ourselves with our preferred experiential inputs, while at the same time having the ability to share that stimuli like never before. But each individual human’s bandwidth is limited: we can only look at so many videos, listen to so much music, watch so many channels, consume so much news, and so we configure these inputs according to our preferences – an empowerment with consequences that we are only beginning to understand.
We do know this, however: there will never be another day in which millions of people gather in front of a non-interactive video screen and watch something like the final episode of M.A.S.H. In contrast, we will continue to watch the Super Bowl together, as well as the Olympics, the FIFA World Cup™ and other sports events that we can’t take our eyes off of. This is the essence of sport as a unifying cultural institution. It is the last great shared experience – something that draws us together and engages us en masse in a way that nothing else can. That unique power of sport is ascending as the other opportunities for collective real-time experience recede.
Q. Why Renaissance Sports? How did you come up with that name?
There are a couple of reasons. The first is that we see Renaissance Sports as the next iteration of what was Helios in Atlanta. Helios, in its name and its brand, honored a special age of cultural enlightenment and its indelible connection to the Olympic Games of ancient Greece. Renaissance (capital “r”), as an era of human history, was one of the next great periods of enlightenment – a progression of sorts, of personal growth that mirrors the historical evolution of human enlightenment. At the same time, the word also represents our company’s rebirth, a renaissance (small “r”) for our people.
More importantly, however, “Renaissance” represents our belief in sports as a cultural institution of great importance.
When we consider the age of the Renaissance, we think of great advances in Art and Science. Art: the unique emotional expressions that unite the world and are manifested in paintings, sculpture and architecture. Science: the unique intellectual expressions of humanity that unite the world and are manifested in technology and shared knowledge. These are the two pillars of human progress that we associate with the Renaissance, but through our name, we are affirming the existence of the third pillar – Sport: the unique physical expressions of humanity that unite the world and are manifested in games, matches, races, exercise and health. Taken together, Art, Science and Sport, are the heart, mind and body of humanity, and our goal is to elevate that third piece of human progression.
Q. You emphasize unity, but also uniqueness. How can you have both?
A. We are a social being, forever stimulated by the unique creations and actions of our fellow man, and unified in our shared experience of them. Our business is based on awareness that companies, sports properties and cities seeking host status, are all trying to achieve the same type of paradoxical brand position. They strive to be unique, while at the same time provide a unifying experience for their stakeholders. We get that, and our goal is to position Sport at a higher level of importance – a cultural pillar of our society that can deliver great social benefit and serve as an ideal platform for brand associations. That, in turn, can deliver substantial economic value to our client and create an increasingly virtuous circle.
Q. Your home page claims that your mission is “Sports in Service to Humanity.” That is a rather bold statement. Can you further explain why sports is important in today’s society and how does Renaissance Sports intend to take advantage of that?
A. The pure visibility of sports has often positioned it as a showcase for the progress of major social movements, particularly in the area of human and civil rights. This is because the arena of sports is a unifying place in both our experience and our consciousness – a place where all of the players are playing by the same rules. The sports arena is a setting of pure equal opportunity, and through our experience of that sport, it becomes harder for us to imagine the logic of inequality – that anyone should be denied the chance to “win” because of constraints beyond their control. There is beauty in fairness, justice and achievement. It is a powerful feeling and an idealized version of the human condition – one that brings us face-to-face with our fellow humans, and at its best – when the heat of competition has subsided – we are left with empathy and respect. There is a reason why “a level playing field” is so common an analogy for addressing inequality in our society.
Sports can do the same for numerous other social movements. It can continue to become a vanguard for numerous causes and movements, among them, eradication of disease, environmental sustainability, disability rights, women’s empowerment, LGBT rights and a means for reconciliation for warring factions. Sports already raise substantial funding for charitable causes and provide significant support for social movements, but the tangible marketing value of supporting those causes has not yet been fully realized. Our intent is to align the financial marketing value with the positive social impact of sports to deliver greater long term value for our clients.
Q. How is Renaissance Sports doing so far? Got any clients yet?
A. We’re happy to report that we do have a few clients, but unfortunately we are not in a position to report who they are (at least not yet). Part of the reason is the nature of our business – we work with partners who in some cases are the lead agency of a project and deserve recognition as the “owner” of that client. A bigger reason is the desire for confidentially on the part of our clients during the strategic development stage of the engagement. Obviously, we want to share our achievements with regard to the value we are delivering to our clients, but for now, we proudly point to our past client relationships on our website (www.renaissance-sports.com), all of whom were positively impacted by current Renaissance staff during our tenures with Helios.
For more information about Renaissance Sports, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us toll free at 1-877-215-6700.
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