Luca Massaro

2nd Apr 2022

It’s time to think differently about Growth. Welcome to the Growth Era.

We’ve been keeping a low public profile at WePlay. Make no mistake, that does not mean things have been quiet.

Of course, we continue to work hard to serve our partners from across the sports and entertainment industry, and we have welcomed new partners too. Partners who will take us into different regions and sectors, reinforcing our ambition to be a truly global sports and entertainment business. But it has been impossible not to reflect on the events of the last couple of years and realise that something bigger is at play – macro-level changes that affect how every organisation will approach the decade ahead. So, we have been asking ourselves, honestly, how we can prepare for that.

Many of us working in the industry will recognise the headline trends. The entire sports industry has been exposed. The pandemic made it clear – if it wasn’t already – that legacy commercial models, built on bundled rights packages create vulnerabilities and leave value on the table. Leaning on media rights, sponsorship or game-day revenues in isolation brings blind spots, when what brands desperately need is a healthy ecosystem.

Society expects more from sport. It demands greater responsibility and better representation. Any brand or individual who wishes to put fans at the heart of their adventure must accept and adapt to that new reality.We need to acknowledge that the world is only getting more connected, bringing more diverse communities closer together and combining people’s passions in surprising, exciting ways.

A decade of delivery has led us to understand what is actually needed

I set up WePlay a decade ago with the aim of helping our partners to reach and engage those fans through digital – with our purpose focused on delivering tangible commercial returns. We are incredibly proud of what we have achieved in that time, winning multiple industry awards, and generating over $300 million in incremental revenues for our partners – through the campaigns that we have executed.

Performance marketing was our method. But it was a response to the market as it was. The market has changed. So must the approach. WePlay has always been driven by delivering actionable business. We know what is needed, and post-pandemic, what is needed has changed. Performance marketing is a specialist approach to generating a return on investment. But what is required is more holistic.

The objective is sustainable and scalable economic growth. Retention, not just acquisition. To devise repeat revenue streams and self-sustaining commercial models.

This level of impact can only derive from a strategy that has a more rooted purpose. And when we use the word purpose, let’s align it with its synonym of ‘existence’ – because our existence is about more than just good business. Therefore, we must ensure that any strategy we deploy needs to serve us in the present and the future.

Our actions must speak louder than our words

We’ve also needed to apply this mindset to WePlay. Like many of you, we’ve been constantly questioning ourselves, looking within to try to answer why we are in this industry in the first place – and what it is we can really add. We’ve come to understand, that in the toughest of times, the importance of the roles that sport and entertainment play in bringing joy to billions of fans. So, we answered some critical macro questions, and with that, WePlay has been completely reshaped.

We need to think differently, about everything

In April 2022, almost a decade since WePlay was founded, we’ll be reintroducing ourselves to the sports and entertainment landscape. Starting with our case for how the entire industry can take on the next phase of its evolution – how it can achieve new growth in this new era. Our vision is based on the realisation that economic and societal growth can come from absolutely everywhere – providing that we recognise one important factor.

Growth in this new era is horizontal, not vertical. Rows, not columns. We need more roads, not more skyscrapers.

This mindset means thinking about where sports and culture overlap, and the audiences that rise from those points of contact. It means being ready to explore new services and produce products that fans really want. It means evolving from legacy commercial models that are over-reliant on third parties, to modernised, self-sustaining economic models. Operating like real businesses.

To pursue this route of new economic prosperity, we absolutely must keep pace with demand, but we also must be smart. Sport as an industry can no longer sacrifice long-term sustainability over short-term gain. The market will crush us all if we do. Fundamentally, we believe that the companies with a truly diverse approach, both inwards and outwards, who not only cater to a full range of people but also embrace different experiences and perspectives will find no end to growth opportunities, globally and locally.

So here we are. New beginnings. This year we’ll turn ten years old. We’ve achieved a lot, but we’ve never been more excited about the next chapter in our journey. We all know that performance matters, but so does purpose. This is the moment to bring the two together.

As we start to move out of the pandemic and into the new era, it is paramount that we find new ways to grow.

Welcome to the Growth Era.