This week, I spoke with the Commercial Development Director at Synergy Sports, Robert Błaszczak. Robert has an accolade of sporting achievements from working at the media, data, media rights, and technology side of sports business. This interview will provide Robert’s insights towards the value of having a diverse skill-set, how the journey started, and the influence technology will have in the industry for the future.
Question 1: Robert, it’s fantastic to have you on Ash’s Sports Talk. Let’s start this off by understanding how your sports career began?
We would need to go back to my junior high school days. I always knew I wanted to be engaged in sports one way or another. It all started with the mix of writing sports columns to the school’s paper, publishing football articles online (the first one went up in the autumn of 2001), and representing my school in all municipal and regional competitions.
I competed across basketball, volleyball, swimming, athletics, cross country running, football, and even table tennis! It’s a distant memory now, but I was once a member of my local hometown club Start Łódź across three sports: basketball, swimming, and football. I’ve been sports mad from the outset!
Question 2: I’m aware your sports career has been a diverse one. You’ve worked as a football consultant, reporter, researcher, media rights manager, partnership manager, and commercial development director. How beneficial have each of these experiences been towards your sports career development?
And you have just reminded me that I may need to renew my football coaching license, too! The amazing thing about sports is that it’s ever-changing; it never stands still. Having a diverse experience across this industry helps in being more adaptable but also enjoying its evolution.
Virtually all aspects of sports that I knew of at the millennium turn are different now – and they have developed for better, too. Sports as an industry is more accessible, transparent, diverse, meritocratic, and driven by a broader technological change.
Question 3: Moving on to your position at Synergy Sports. It would be fantastic to hear about what the organisation represent, your role and some of the impacts you’ve made.
Synergy Sports is a disruptive force in the sports technology landscape. We aim to serve those who oversee, participate, commit their time and efforts to sports. We do so by providing truly innovative technological solutions. What is it exactly? A few points come down to capturing, producing, analysing, distributing, and commercialising sports content. AI/ML-powered automation is at the heart of it all. And it’s not just for the top, elite sport but across all sports levels, too.
In my role, I’m predominantly looking after the latter stages of this process: distribution and commercialisation of the sports content that we capture and produce. For a committed sportsperson like myself, it’s a rewarding role. We have partnerships with leagues and federations on six continents, ranging from the top level of French basketball down to emerging nations like Mali or Kosovo – and everything in between! It is very gratifying to bring more access to their favourite teams or introduce the sport to more people for the first time. We are the world’s best in this space, and it does feel we are making a real difference!
Question 4: How instrumental have you found technology to be at driving fan engagement in sport? Plus, how do you feel the stadium experience could change when fan attendances eventually return?
Every aspect of our daily lives has been revolutionised by technological innovation – I’m glad that we can be at the forefront of this revolution in sports. (Or, perhaps, is it a natural, much-needed evolution?) The pandemic has accelerated these changes in sports – and probably highlighted what else should be reassessed, too.
Once the fans safely return to stadiums and arenas worldwide, they will not want to roll back the clocks and see the ‘same old’ in terms of their in-stadium experience. They would want to benefit from the recent innovations around fan engagement. Gamification, immersive second-screen experiences, cashless payments, richer data about their favourite athletes’ performance… The fans are brighter than ever about the sports they love and are passionate about.
Question 5: I understand sports betting solutions fall into your services. How are technological activations promoting higher levels of responsibility for gambling, and how are the sports betting landscape pivoting under Synergy Sports’ wing?
Every season at Synergy Sports, we produce thousands of live basketball broadcasts from around the globe. Our portfolio of basketball rights for betting and OTT purposes is the largest in the sports industry. On top of it, we analyse many, many more games across basketball, baseball, and other sports from the deep analytics point of view. It allows us to expand the outreach of these competitions to new territories worldwide and have a much better understanding of sports – and what may happen next during the games.
Question 6: With any successful career, there are various challenges on a personal and organisational level. Would you mind sharing some of the adversities you’ve experienced throughout your sports career?
I wouldn’t call them adversities – just some enhanced learning experiences! Looking back, if you work hard, have your eyes and mind open, every crisis brings an opportunity. The key is communication and clearly stating your understanding of the situation. Sometimes just a chat can solve problems and help find common ground and build stronger foundations for the future. It’s essential to work on these skills now in this new, predominantly remote working environment. I’m optimistic about it – we have already shown that we can adapt quickly over the past year!
Question 7: Robert, reflecting on this discussion and your sports career, what is your killer piece of advice for someone wanting to pursue a career in the industry?
Never stop learning. Simple as that. Whether it’s a foreign language, some coding, or another online course – keep challenging yourself to learn something new. Consume the industry updates, and observe the day-to-day world around you. How are they interlinked? What’s the next innovation in our lives, and how will it be adopted in sports? What can be done to benefit other people’s lives? How to make these ideas scalable and commercially viable? How to tell this story? No day will feel the same with this approach.
Incredible, what a brilliant interview by Robert. It’s genuinely refreshing to absorb how technology has enhanced responsible gambling, a new era for fan engagement and understanding the power of positive thinking. What were your key insights you took away from Robert?