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This year the Sport Connect Forum, organized by Interros Group and the Russian International Olympic Committee, gathered more than three hundred attendees from the sports industry. The main themes were Global Market Changes and Best Local Projects.

The discussion spanned a diverse range of topics, from major trends in sports management and marketing to ways to promote sports clubs.

To quote Anton Muravyev, Interros Group’s Director of Communications, «The Forum is so much in demand because it provides quality content, not status glitter».

The Forum opened with a session on the impact that private sponsors and investors are having on sports club and league development. While earmarked funding from the government and quasi-governmental companies has declined, the sports industry has been attracting more private finance, and this has been forcing sports clubs to be more creative and aggressive. Alexander Atamanenko, commercial director of the Spartak Football Club; Robert Ter-Abramyan, head of the Department of Sponsorships and Advertisement at the KHL (Continental Hockey League); Vadim Yangirov, director of the Kazan Marathon and Timerman sports events series; and Igor Bilous, president of the Elmont Beach Soccer Club, who invested 40 million rubles in the construction of his own stadium close to Moscow, talked about striving to operate according to free-market principles.

The best local practices were also discussed at the Forum, including how to generate stories that will go viral, how to launch popular public campaigns on a limited budget, and how to promote sports for everyone and make schools and competitions sources of real energy and inspiration. Marketers from Sochi and Severstal hockey clubs shared their experiences.

Egor Kretsan, the Zenith Football Club’s Director of New Media, talked about turning clubs into large media companies and discussed different approaches to content. Representatives of the Irkutsk Football Club Federation told the story of how regular football fans were able to create their own small Russian Soccer Union and take large-city amateur soccer to a new level.

On day two of the Forum, speakers and attendees discussed significant changes in sponsorships and sports event broadcasting. Large bookmakers, such as Tennisi, bwin, and the Betting League, talked about the industry’s explosive growth. Since the law was amended, team uniforms can now incorporate ads, and bookmakers can now form partnerships with entire sports leagues. At the concluding session, key players in the media market (Match TV, Telesport Agency, Odnoklassniki, Yandex Video, and Mediascope analysts) discussed whether social media could overtake television to become the preferred medium for sports broadcasting.

The forum ended with a beautiful and emotional address by Natalia Belogolovetskaia and Anna Shilova, who head the Dream Ski program. Their unique project of rehabilitation through sports launched in 2014, offering to people with Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, and other disabilities rehabilitation opportunities through downhill skiing. The coaches who work with the program follow a special methodology that was developed to allow people with disabilities to achieve significant progress. Thirty-four ski stations in twenty-four regions of Russia participate in the program. This winter the Dream Ski program began operating at the Rosa Khutor resort.

«Right now there are six specially trained and certified coaches working at Rosa Khutor. More than 70 children from Moscow, Tomsk, Ryazan, and Krasnodar Region have taken the basic training course, which consists of an average of 10 classes — that’s more than 700 hours of skiing», said N. Belogolovtseva, who added that this is an excellent track record considering that the program at the resort launched just two months ago.

This past season all classes were offered free of charge, thanks to a charitable donation from the organizers of the game between the Hockey Legends and the Night Hockey League. All funds from the sale of tickets to the January 3, 2018 game were donated to the Dream Ski project.

In summary, Sport Connect Forum attendees learned about best practices in the Russian sports industry. The majority of case studies presented at the Forum clearly demonstrated that under good management, and with a dash of creativity and determination, local initiatives can grow into global projects, in sports and in the social sphere.