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Keith Pelley, president of Rogers’ media division (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)
Keith Pelley, president of Rogers’ media division (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)

Transcript: Canada’s biggest sports executives on state of the industry Add to ...

I just personally don’t think that if you own the team that you should be any different than if you don’t own the team. I don’t think you should be cheerleaders. Listened to game yesterday, it had home town broadcasters and I turned it off. Was way over the top – you have to maintain separate sides. Sometimes you go too far because you want to show you can say whatever you want and that’s a challenge of a different sort.

I think pro sport and amateur sport you have to group together. Pro sport is going to continue to be challenged by not only the other individual sports but by amateur as well that are really starting to gain traction. You might think I’m crazy here but if you catapult ahead 10 years I honestly believe that obstacle courses are going to be a monumental sport. The team that continues to excel is the one that is most fashionable – that will be determined by people who are young and people like my son who is nine and already starting to get involved in social media.

Tom Anselmi, MLSE president

Sports is at a really fascinating time in its development, it’s a really young industry that’s only really been around for 30 years or so and before that was just a toy for rich people. The economy is challenging, there is more competition for a fan’s time. I am really fascinated by what’s going on and how expectations are growing. Social media is changing how they interact with them team. It starts with good product and delivering on expectations and/or giving them hope.

In the last 10 years we’ve gone through an extraordinary amount of growth and a lot of it was investing in the building and Maple Leaf Square and doing things like adding restaurants to add to the experience from a bricks and mortar standpoint. Where we are going next as an organization is to step back a little bit and really focus on the core business – the teams, what they are doing, our relationship with the fans and what we’re doing in the community.

The relationship with the fan is not just about some silly transaction – you sell a ticket and they show up and buy a hot dog coke and call it a day. Customers expectations are changing dramatically, they are more fickle and they expect there to be an experience. They want to know what you’re thinking and what you’re doing next, interact with you.

The passive two-way relationship we’re used to with the fan of yesterday is long over. So that creates all kinds of opportunity – we’ve got all kinds of different products and different customers. We’ve got media partners, people season ticket holders, occasional buyers, we’ve got Madge who plays bingo up in Sudbury who is a huge Leaf fan but we never have any interaction with her but she’s a huge customer.

Success tomorrow and adding value tomorrow is how you engage with them, and mobilize them and how do you permit them to have the kind of relationship with you that they want to have.

I talked about this $2-billion organization that has grown dramatically over the last several years and that we’re hunkering down now and really focusing on core business, our teams and relationships with our fans. The last thing on the list is the community. Regardless, it’s one of the most important things we do and important for a number of reasons.

No. 1 for students out there aspiring to be in industry it’s a business and lots of hard work but a privilege to be in this industry. We have an obligation to do this – not that community is good business stuff, it’s a privilege and we have to take the clout we have with our brands and go and do good that’s just an obligation.

Brian Burke, Leafs general manager

On my teams, players get a speech at the start of the year that you will give back here in Toronto. You have the privilege of playing in one of great cities in world, God’s gift of athletic ability that you have developed (to your credit) but you will use that gift to make a difference or you will play somewhere else. It is not negotiable. I really believe you can make a city like a team before the team is successful – I really believe you can get a city to embrace a team long before they are competitive if you do the right things.

Chris Rudge, Toronto Argonauts CEO

Thanks for the comments on (playoff) win. But I’m not silly enough to be seduced by one win and feel like this is going to turn around the franchise. It is exciting to be part of an organization that has worked hard for years and to experience success was good and I feel the fans are excited.

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