What’s behind the meteoric rise of chief content officers in sport?

by Lindsey Francy Mar 18, 2023 News
What’s behind the meteoric rise of chief content officers in sport?
Simon Cummins, Odgers Berndtson.

Chief content officers are being hired by sports businesses to help them grow their businesses.

The traditional industry model, predicated on rights-holders working with third-party broadcasters to distribute content, reaches huge numbers of fans but doesn't offer much in the way of audience engagement or growth potential. With the widespread adoption of direct-to-consumer models, CCOs can drive huge commercial gains.

A relationship between rights-holders and fans allows brands to collect data. They can target fanbases with relevant products and offers from both the brand and their partners. Data for negotiating higher sponsorship and broadcast deals can be unlocked by going D2C. It creates an ever-increasing pool of accessible data, driving revenue across all metrics, and ultimately leads to that sought after'stickiness' and long term loyalty.

A key driver for companies looking to expand their D2C offering is cutting out the middle man. Direct engagement between fans and the sport is more important than ever. A new generation wants more than a transactional relationship with their team. Over the past decade, fans have become less interested in the team and more focused on the players, their personal lives, tips, and endorsements.

The England and Wales Rugby captains playing each other at darts during the Six Nations rugby championship is one of the creative content we are seeing right now. The second screen phenomenon refers to the match taking place on the television while the community engagement takes place on the phone screen. It is down to the CCO to bridge the gap in order to pull in more revenue.

Julie McKeen (Photo: Douglas Kurn).


The types of experience they have can vary a lot. In spite of the title, it is not just about understanding content for the position at the C-level.

A CCO needs to be able to build a connection with the audience without negatively impacting the relationship.

Strong influence and stakeholder management skills are required by CCOs. In creating fan-to- player connections, the latter is essential. Managers and executives are concerned about cameras giving away performance secrets and players are reticent about opening a window into their personal lives. In sport, CCOs need to deftly navigate these concerns while building entertaining content that can be effectively monetised.

Business needs and ambitions can affect the role. The CCO title can encompass more than one role like fan engagement director, customer growth officer, digital strategy officer, and head of data analytic. The output is a big factor. Is it possible that they are making and producing broadcast quality content? New distribution channels are being developed for existing content. Is it possible that they have major rights ownership issues to deal with? Maybe the business has achieved both and they need someone who knows how to create packaged services and make money from digital content.

If you have a less mature D2C channel, you may need someone to tell you who your fans are. A data-led position, someone well versed in audience demographic, who understands user experience design, and who brings a digital marketing lens to the role would be ideal.

The corporate structure plays a role. The CCO is likely to focus on low-cost customer acquisition if the primary goal is to raise money. If there is an established community that needs to move from occasionally to habitually, the CCO will need to look at creatingsticky content that will justify the value of the sign-up.

The background of a CCO can be very different. They can be former news editors, heads of TV production, growth marketers, or audience experts.

Before understanding who is right for the role, the trick is to establish the short to mid-term business needs. In order to determine who that person is, we need to look at what the business wants the CCO to accomplish in three years. The skills mix needs to be assessed. The CCO is a great editor, but do they have someone who knows how to sell audience data? It is possible that a senior analyst or data expert is needed. Functional support is a crucial part of the hiring process as each CCO will have different experience and challenges.

Content is king and the CCO is wearing the crown as the broader industry trend shows.