Sportel CEO Laurent Puons addresses the attendees during Sportel Rendez-vous 2022 opening party. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images for Sportel)

Sportel concluded its Rendez-vous 2022 conference in Miami on Tuesday. At the convention, World Soccer Talk had the exclusive opportunity to speak with Sportel’s Chief Executive Laurent Puons.

In this interview, conducted by World Soccer Talk’s Kartik Krishnaiyer, learn about the evolving mission of Sportel. Plus, see how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Sportel’s meetings and conventions over the last two years.

The international organization holds panels for different topics discussing issues on the media side. In essence, Sportel’s Rendez-vous allows sports media entities to network and explore the latest trends in the sports media and tech industry.

Interview: Sportel CEO talks Rendez-vous 2022

WST: Sportel has been hosting successful conferences for decades. These are conferences where movers and shakers so-to-speak in the media business and sports meet. Prior to 2020, you hosted different types of conferences, including the Sportel Summit here in Miami, which I participated in. This year, you’ve introduced a new type of conference, the Rendez-vous both here in Miami and in Monaco.

Puons: As you know, we’re in a time of change, with the COVID-19 crisis. It was important we provided a new type of opportunity that adapts to the needs of our clientele. In terms of communication it was important to change the name and format of these events. Sportel Rendez-vous 2022 is a new name, and it is a success. We have more participants here than in 2017 here in Miami. As you know in 2018 and 2019 we held Sportel summit’s in Miami which were different types of events. It’s not a question of quality and quantity. It’s about communication and coming back to America with a new model of events.

Format changes and COVID-19

WST: In the previous events, you’ve had huge panel rooms and perhaps less room for meeting and mingling outside of the exhibitors hall. This event struck me as different than anything I’ve seen Sportel do, at least here in Miami, going back to 2007 when I first attended one of your events.

Puons: I am going to be honest with you, the conference program is an asset. But the most important thing is the markets, the community and meetings. It’s important for us to provide the best business model for our community. If you want to provide quality-of-business, we have to have new participants. This year we have 80 new companies at Sportel.

WST: How did COVID move along your business model? From my vantage point, I don’t think it’s just the new concept, though that helps, but I see far more mingling, meeting and participants here than in past Sportel’s held in the Miami area.

Puons: Yes, of course it was not easy to launch this new format of events, especially because of the COVID crisis. But because of the COVID crisis it became very important for us to create something where our community could interact face-to-face. For two years, we organized meetings digitally. But now it’s time for everyone to see each other again and our community wanted a face-to-face event where they could meet and discuss things in person. The Rendez-vous 2022 became more important to introduce because of the COVID crisis.

WST: One of the things that’s happened through the years here at Sportel is deals get done, sponsorship and media partnership deals. How does this new concept impact that?

Puons: Ultimately, COVID has changed the world and the industry has been changing for 20-25 years. The industry constantly evolves and our Sportel team realized we need to evolve with it. We do an annual event in Monaco which has 3,000 people a year. That’s big, but we need to make sure these smaller events are more cost-effective and useful. We want to make them more regional also but with the essence still of Sportel. You still come here to do deals, we still have a market, but you cannot do business the way you did 25 years ago. COVID was a terrible thing as a pandemic but also gave us insight into how we as Sportel needed to change to be more cost effective, time effective. We thought about this concept in 2020, we were ready to develop it, but COVID accelerated it.

The changes in the media landscape

WST: Sportel has been on the leading edge of partnering and promoting streaming properties through the years. Streaming has changed the media space, talk us through how having all of these newer media companies has changed your business model and the way your events operate?

Puons: From my point-of-view, streaming is the future. Now you can watch sporting events on phones, laptops and other devices. I don’t want to say TV is at an end, but the future is streaming. The consumer wants to watch when he wants, where he wants and whatever he wants.

WST: How do these smaller regional conferences complement Sportel Monaco? Not only is that your biggest conference, but it is one of the biggest sports conferences in the world.

Puons: Sportel Monaco is our biggest event, but it is important for Sportel to branch out into other territories, to learn. We have 80 new companies here, over 500 attendees overall. We ultimately want to do good business here and help those companies, but ultimately if you had success here, you’ll want to come to Monaco. Also, today America and Asia don’t want to travel like in the past like before, so it is important for us to bring the same experience to them. These events allow them to reconnect to the European community.


WST: You have a lot of the types of exhibitors at this conference. In fact, many I have not seen previously at Sportel. What was the motivation and thinking behind expanding your exhibitor area and allowing smaller booths?

Puons: That’s because we provided new packages. This is very important. Digital platforms, new streaming services cannot pay for a booth like we’ve traditionally had. It was important for us to connect with the evolving market but we wanted to make sure it was more cost effective. We wanted to get new people to attend these smaller events to make sure we brought new exhibitors in. In the past, we would just have these regional events be a smaller copy of Monaco, with the same exhibitors but getting a smaller return on investment because it was a smaller conference. So reaching out with new packages that are more cost friendly to startups and digital platforms allows us to make the conference unique and bring in some new participants and partners.