The Sports Entrepreneurs Podcast by Marcus Luer

Craig Thompson, “Champions League And Beyond”

January 22, 2021

Craig Thompson has been on the forefront of Sports Marketing across the globe for over 30 years. We are taking a close look into his remarkable career with a deep dive into his role as a Founding Member of TEAM Marketing and the creation of the UEFA Champions League in the early 90s.  Amazing stories and lots of great learning as always from a true veteran of the industry.

 

 

Key Highlights

  1. From professional Beach Volleyball in California to Lausanne, Switzerland with FIVB and not a happy start/ending
  2. Next stop FEI (Equestrian) leading him to ISL, working with Peter Sprogis on IAAF events
  3. Credits and accolades to Horst Dassler for being one of the true founding father of our industry, unfortunately passed away too young
  4. From ISL to a founding member of TEAM Marketing with Juergen Lenz and Klaus Hempel
  5. The “TEAM” started from ground Zero again, the big opportunity, tendering for the Champions League project (had to raise Swiss France 200 million as part of the deal)
  6. TEAM wins the tender and has 8 months to pull off the first Season  (1992) – create broadcast schedule, sponsorship programs, operations, club manuals, etc
    • First time “mid-week Football matches”    
    • 8 Teams (two groups of 4 teams)
    • Every match at 8.30pm CET (appointment TV)
    • Country by Country Broadcast deals
    • Broadcast Sponsorship inventory from Broadcasters
    • Commercial Advertising Inventory (free spots) sponsors didn’t know what to do with it
    • Broadcasters had to show a post-match highlights of all the matches (drove exposure for all teams and competition)
  7. Success formula of TEAM was true TEAM WORK
  8. How to deal with the big teams and the egos in the room
  9. Challenges and success stories in the early days, highly successful product now with over US$ 5 billion in annual revenue
  10. The Dutch World War II story
  11. Tough decision to leave TEAM for personal reasons
  12. Champions Hockey League (Ice Hockey) – the next project – raised EURO 60 million – 2008/09 recession killed it, revived and still running now
  13. Next stop America’s Cup in San Francisco – changing the rules and appeal of the sport for younger audiences – racing Catamarans in SF Bay
  14. Cameras on boats, sailors with mics, and other inventions including America’s Cup Healthy Ocean campaign (Larry Ellison wasn’t a big fan)
  15. Mindspring Capital – focus on tech companies getting into sports (looked at over 600 companies the last two years)
  16. Mindspring Capital is a Team of investors and experts across the world, focused on early stage companies (B2B focus), paid advisor role and investor at the same time
  17. Ticket size, US$ 250k for 10-25% of company, plus advisory fee back
  18. Leadership lessons – rallying a small group of professionals, full transparency, listening to the best ideas in the room and getting rid of bad apples fast
  19. Love for sports and love for the job and picking your mentors and leaders carefully

 

 

About

For more than 30 years, Craig Thompson has been intimately involved in the creation and management of some of the most recognized sporting events across the globe:

CEO | 34th America’s Cup
Together with Russell Coutts, CEO of Oracle Racing and four-time winner, Craig created and launched the concept for AC34, which included the use of catamarans, racing next to shore, shorter TV-friendly format and the creation of the AC34 World Series.

CEO/Owner | Ovation Sports AG
Craig developed the concept and directed the inaugural season for the Champions Hockey League in association with the IIHF in Europe. Also specialized in development and management of sports properties and events for the Juventus Football Club, Spanish Basketball League, and UFL United Arab Emirates National Soccer League.

Managing Director | T.E.A.M. Marketing AG
In his role with the exclusive worldwide marketing agency of UEFA for the Champions League, Craig was a management board member for 11 years and key member of the 6-person team responsible for initial creation and subsequent development of the Champions League project. The Champions League generates billions in annual sponsorship and TV revenues and is Europe’s most important club competition in Europe’s most important sport — soccer.

If anyone is interested to reach out to Craig, please contact at: craig@mindspring.capital

 

 

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