When we think of athletes being professionals, we often think of the big bucks that are in major sports like football, basketball, golf, and baseball. But for most Olympic and Paralympic sports, the pot of money is pretty small and that’s because the National Governing Bodies (NGBs) behind them are running on shoestring budgets.
On this episode we talk with Ramsey Baker about the challenges small NGBs face and how they think about sponsorship and broadcast rights in working to increase their budgets. Ramsey is a SVP at Aggregate Sports, a consulting firm that helps NGBs find sponsors and broadcast partners. Prior to joining Aggregate Sports, Ramsey spent 18 years at US Figure Skating in various leadership roles including Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Director.
We love talking about the business of sports, and we hope that this conversation sheds a light on the fact that most NGBs and sports federations don’t have much money to work with. Maybe they have great logos and a nice-looking website, but they often don’t have much in the way of staff or an operating budget to do the day-to-day things that large professional sports can do. In light of World Athletics recent announcement that it will pay the gold medalists at Paris 2024, having the money that that federation has would be a dream for most others, who, even if they wanted to pay their Olympic and Paralympic medalists, could never afford to do so without drastically cutting services to the majority of their members.
Ramsey talks with us about his experiences at US Figure Skating, some of the innovative sponsorships they developed, and what they had to think about in terms of getting TV deals. He also talks about where a company like Aggregate Sports fits into the sphere of sports business and how it helps those NGBs who don’t have the staff to develop relationships and build solid partnerships with sponsors.
Also on this episode, a doping case has rocked the swimming world. The World Anti-Doping Agency just confirmed that 23 Chinese swimmers tested positive for TMZ ahead of Tokyo 2020, but in discussions with Chinada, the Chinese anti-doping agency, took those positives to be inadvertent and dismissed the cases. However, the fact that this has just now come to light has many up in arms.
We have plenty of news from Paris 2024, including:
  • More hospitality houses
  • An installment of our new medal-payment novela, in which the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations is furious with World Athletics (get your popcorn for this one!)
  • Intel has an number of AI initiatives ready for Paris
  • A Russian modern pentathlete wants to go neutral, and gets a rude awakening
  • NBC will give some athlete parents heart monitors so TV viewers can see their reactions
  • Paris police have cleared out another group of refugees

In our visit to TKFLASTAN, it’s been a slow week, but race walker Evan Dunfee has some great news!

Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive!

Photo courtesy of Ramsey Baker.


Note: This is an uncorrected machine-generated transcript and may contain errors. Please check its accuracy against the audio. Do not quote from the transcript; use the audio as the record of note.

334-Challenges of Small National Governing Bodies with Ramsey Baker

[theme music]
Jill Jaracz: Hello, and welcome to another episode of Keep the Flame Alive, the podcast for fans of the Olympics and Paralympics.

If you love the games, we are the show for you. Each week we share stories from athletes and people behind the scenes to help you have more fun watching the games. I am your host, Jill Jaracz, joined as always by my lovely co host, Alison Brown. Alison, hello. How are you? I am well rested and refreshed. Well, that makes one of us.

Alison Brown: So after the media summit. And I sent you on your way home. I promptly slept for 14 hours.

Apparently I need sleep training for me, not for children.


Jill: Hehehehehehe Well, we are back at it, and we have Great interview for you today, plus a ton of Paris news. , but before we get to this week’s show, I would like to give a shout out to our patrons and supporters who keep our flame alive. And we had a new one this week. I was so happy. Thank you, Max.

our flame would definitely go out if we didn’t have your support. So thank you to those of you who donate money or buy products. And if you would like to be an essential part of this show and keep the flame alive, please go to flamealivepod. com slash support. So today we are talking national governing bodies.

And this is really cool because a lot of times we think, Oh, national governing bodies, it’s a big deal. They have a ton of money, but a lot of them don’t. We got the word on how that all works. We are talking with Ramsey Baker, who is a senior vice president at Aggregate Sports, which is a company that manages sponsorship and media deals for national governing bodies.

And he previously, he had worked at U. S. figure skating for 18 years. He was a chief marketing officer for 10 and spent the last two years two years as executive director and, uh, also was general manager of the ice network. as part of his work with us figure skating, he was able to get, sponsorship and media rights.

And so he tells us all about that. And he also demystifies NGBs and what their capabilities are. And we also talk about how they manage sponsorship and how sports get onto television. Take a listen.


Ramsey Baker Interview

Jill: Ramsey Baker, thank you so much for joining us.

Ramsey Baker: Well, thank you, Jill and Alison. I’m really excited to be here. Um, any time I get an opportunity to, to talk a little bit about the Olympic movement and specifically about national governing bodies and, and help, educate, I would say people about what truly happens within the national governing body world. Um, I really want to take full advantage of that because it is a, uh, a place of passion for me having spent. 20 years working around the Olympic space.

Jill: Great. It’s well, let’s start there. We’ve talked about marketing and sponsorship for the Olympics on other episodes, but what about from the NGB side?

And there’s a massive perception that. All national governing bodies are huge and have a ton of money. But what is the reality?

Ramsey Baker: I think the biggest reality is not all national governing bodies are created equal. and that I think is the first. , place that people really need to understand, and they need to come from that point of realization that, there are some really large national governing bodies when you start looking at organizations like the U.

  1. T. A. or U. S. A. Soccer, even organizations like U. S. A. Basketball, who is supported by the N. B. A. But the vast majority of national governing bodies are actually membership based organizations that are not non for profit. and I would say, you know, I’ll even use the word struggle on a day to day basis to be able to make ends meet and meet the needs of their, um, constituents.

And their constituents are vast. It’s not just Team USA athletes that typically make it. typically are seen, by people competing at the Olympics or maybe at the highest of highest levels. Their constituents are made up mostly of members who will never ever see, um, that level of competition, but really are the lifeblood of the organization.

So they have to find that balance between, supporting everybody at the grassroots level while doing the best they can to support athletes who are trying to strive to be the best in the world and win an Olympic gold or win a world championships or a Pan Am medal. and that’s a pretty complicated, puzzle to start putting together when it comes to funding and how you go about maneuvering through that space.

Jill: So for U S figure skating, which you’ve been. Heavily involved with it. It’s a large organization, but it had a big dip in membership for I would say from 2019 to 2020 2020 to 2021. the organization lost a good 50, 000 members, but then the following year put in almost a hundred thousand. So how do you get that downturn and

Ramsey Baker: upturn?

Yeah, I think numbers in how you look at, you’re going to look at a lot of NGBs and depends on what their membership cycle looks like and how COVID impacted, those numbers, and kind of when the counting would take place. us figure skating. So, so just real quickly, I was at us figure skating in a, in a number of different roles over the years, starting there in 2005 and really overseeing a lot of the marketing communications, sponsorship, media rights and fundraising side of things.

And then the last two years, um, that I was with the organization, I was the executive director. so kind of have seen the organization from a lot of different levels. But in that same vein, you know, U. S. figure skating and working in the roles that I did, I had a lot of opportunities to talk to and work closely with other national governing bodies because it really is a close knit, kind of community because we’re all facing a lot of the same issues and challenges that come up on a, on an annual basis, but at figure skating, I think one of the things that you’ll see is that, when the timing hit of our membership cycle and, um, the numbers associated with membership, with COVID, you saw a dip. But then you saw a quick rebound.

And I think one of the reasons why we saw the rebound while I was there was that there was a heavy investment during the time where a lot of our events were canceled, a lot of the need, for, competition and membership and people were saying, okay, what am I going to do? They’re pulling back a little bit.

They couldn’t go to their local rinks, because most of those rinks were closed, especially in a lot of the areas where we had, uh, you know, a high presence of our members because those are some of the hardest hit areas that had some really stringent rules around going into community spaces.

We did, I think a pretty good job of connecting with people where they were and creating, opportunities for them to engage off ice and really keep that aspect of community together. so that when it became time for them to go back into the rinks, they still had an affinity for, and they still had a want to be able to go in and skate and to be with their friends and to come back into a community of being on the ice, which helped those numbers rebound a little bit more quickly.

luckily we had a great staff of people who were really focused on that on a daily basis, and we were able to even bring some of our competition into, a situation where you didn’t have to go to the rink. So people uploaded videos to us. Um, and we were able to create these virtual competitions. So there was a way to still engage.

but it took, I think a, a kind of changing of the mindset and kind of getting away what we had done as an organization for a very, very long time. and looking at things through a new lens. Which ironically came at a time when we were getting ready to celebrate our hundred year anniversary. so here we were, you know, looking back at a hundred years of history, which is oftentimes a great time to celebrate your past, but it really put us in a point of reflection and said, yes, our past is very important, but how do we make sure we’re more stable and ready for the future?

and I think that, Although COVID had a lot of negatives for a lot of people, it did open up the eyes that things could be done a little bit differently. And hopefully that’s something that’ll carry forward, um, with those who are continuing to lead the organization today.

Jill: So with a membership of over 200, 000, how, what’s the percentage of elite athletes that Would get funding.

Ramsey Baker: Yeah. from a year to year basis, you are only looking at a couple hundred athletes that are in the international, selection pool or the ISP. So it’s a small percentage, and that’s the elite of the elite. You know, those are the ones who are going to be representing Team USA at international competitions.

There are more, um, you know, you start getting into the hundreds, and, you know, into the low thousands, when you start talking about who are competing at, um, competitions across the United States to be able to maybe make it to the U. S. championships to then start. Kind of developing their, their name and start developing their skills at a level that then they could be considered for that international selection.

but it really is a small percentage of the overall membership and participants within the sport, which kind of goes back to what I was saying at the very beginning of. even though the organization maybe is thought of as what people see on NBC, on a broadcast at the U S championships or what they see at the Olympics, um, you know, every four years, when it comes to the sport of figure skating, that only represents really the tip of the sphere.

when it comes to what the organization is made up of, and that is everyone from, two, three, four year olds who are starting out, in the learn to skate programs. Through skaters who are, who are skating competitively at the club level and at their local rank, and maybe their aspirations are to be the best skater at their rank.

Um, and they don’t even think about the idea of becoming a member of team USA or an Olympian, because that’s just not within their scope of, you know, where they see themselves going. and what the sport has to do and what the organization has to do at figure skating, but. I would say that this is the same across all national governing bodies, that are membership based, is you have to figure out how to meet those individuals where they are and kind of meet them at the level of what their goals are going to be and make sure that their experience, is the same and is great, and is not going to be Thanks, everybody.

We’re only focused on the top of the top level. because as a participant in the sport, you can go on to become so many different things. You might become a judge or an official in figure skating. You might become a donor someday, that can give to help fund the organization because philanthropic gifts are a huge part of what national governing bodies rely on for their funding.

You also might be a fan and that fan might tune in. to a social media channel, they might engage on a platform. They might watch a broadcast that happens, whether that broadcast is a linear broadcast on a network like ABC or NBC, or, you know, one of the big broadcast networks or on a cable outlet or on some other streaming platform that’s direct to consumer.

So many different ways to engage, but you have to kind of realize that Every single person within that pipeline of participants has a value. and how you’re going to meet them is really important in a tricky proposition. When again, you’re a national governing body that is a non for profit and you often don’t have huge operating budgets, like a major league sports team would.

Jill: Yeah, I think that’s where people who aren’t as knowledgeable get the misperception because we see pro sports and pro athletes and there’s tons of money and tons of people going. But you really need these big numbers of membership in order to be able to have funding for elite athletes, but you also have to make sure that the masses of people aren’t paying for.

A couple hundred people to have opportunities, they need to see something out of it too. Right?

Ramsey Baker: Right. You, you can’t be top heavy, in where you’re spending your dollars. and that’s a big important place in a, in a role that the, um, US Olympic and Paralympic committee plays, um, within the NGB space.

I think in 2021, um, the U-S-O-P-C contributed a little bit more than $135 million, to support NGBs and provide funding for their elite athlete programs. that is a huge number. And, and when I think a lot of people will step back and say, wow, 135 million, where did all that money go? You have to start thinking about then, okay, well, there’s 47 national governing bodies within the Olympic movement.

So, okay, now spread that out over those, not all getting an equal amount because different sports have a different number of athletes, but then you have to think about the fact that the operational budgets, For national governing bodies, even with that contribution from the U. S. O. P. C. There is about an 80 percent gap between the funding that they get from the U. S. O. P. C. and what their operational budget is on an annual basis. So they have to come up with. the rest of that budget in some way, and that rest of the budget tends to be what supports, I would say the pipeline or the grassroots through development phases of the athletes for the most part, the US OPC money that comes in is meant to fund that the elite of the elite.

So that top, a hundred or so athletes at a U S figure skating or the top athletes at a USA bobsled, or, you know, you, you name the sport and it’s kind of those athletes who are. hopeful to represent Team USA, in some capacity at an event. but even when we look at what the costs are associated there, what’s really interesting is when you start getting really granular and you start saying, okay, this is what the budget might be.

But that budget from a perspective of the national governing body might not even come close to what their counterparts internationally are. So an athlete in the U S who’s competing in an Olympic sport. oftentimes is helping to fund their own experience, whether they’re paying for some of their travel, they’re paying for some of their coaching.

They might be paying for some of their healthcare and upkeep on their body. which is great if you’re LeBron James and he talks about spending over a million dollars a year to take care of his body, you know, to be ready to play in a grueling NBA season for 21 plus years now, but he’s also making 40 million a year.

So the athletes who are competing for Team USA aren’t making that kind of money, but yet they still have to invest because they are an elite athlete and they have to be ready to compete and do that for a number of years before they’re able to reach the pinnacle and, and, and hopefully represent the country and, and perform at an Olympics, which is what their goal is.

Um, it’s a balance there of where the money, comes from when it’s the US OPC and then the other buckets that they can draw on and the other tactics they can use to raise money, to be able to support the needs of their annual budgets.

Jill: When USA does not do well at an Olympics, like say figure skating and we can figure skating is of course, got a lot of competition from Russia.

how does results affect the money that comes in or the support from people in the pipeline?

Ramsey Baker: You know, it’s, it’s a great question, Jill. And, um, I would say, you know, Russia for sure. Japan for sure. Canada, up and down a little bit. And, and then, the crazy thing is then you, you have another, a number of other countries where.

in one discipline or another within the sport of figure skating. Similarly to the way it might be in track and field or others where you’ll have a country who will have a couple athletes who just happen to, be at really high levels. so you’re not just competing against kind of your normal, I would say, um, group of, peers when it comes to the top, you also have all of these others who are coming in.

So. It’s this constant churn of trying to be at the best. and that goes back to developing the pipeline, right? So you can’t expect to just have a success at an Olympic games and have that be, you know, just by chance. There has to be a methodology behind that. So there has to be an investment at lower levels.

And what I think sports in general are finding out across all of the Olympic sports is that investment has to start happening at an earlier level because it’s happening at an earlier level in other countries. And if you’re starting to look, and if you kind of do an analysis of not just who’s winning the medals at the Olympics from an athlete to an athlete standpoint, you’re having some of the same big countries win a number of medals.

But what you’re seeing now also is a lot of these other countries who are having athletes who will come up and be finishing in the, five, six, seven, eight, you know, four, or they’re making their way onto the metal stand. And they’re kind of closing out the number of people who are a number of countries that are represented in the top 10 now, where maybe it used to only be two or three countries who are kind of dominating.

You’re seeing so many more countries come in, so the competition is becoming greater. And a lot of that comes from heavy investment from the government side. In the majority of these countries, the US is in a really unique position that, the US government does not provide any funding, for Olympic, uh, the U-S-O-P-C and Olympic athletes.

Um, in the US. That is an anomaly. in Japan in, in 2020, the Japanese government provided over 40% of the funding for the Olympic movement. the rest came from other sources. If you think about that, that’s 40 percent that came from the government. None of the funding in the U S comes from the government.

so that’s a big gap to make up that you have to do through, through other ways, through fundraising and philanthropic gift and corporate sponsorships and media rights. And that’s not to advocate to say that there should be government funding that comes because there’s a whole nother can of worms that opens up, but I think what it does is it hopefully starts to educate people as they start to hear about that and realize it, that supporting the Olympics becomes a really important proposition, for brands and for fans and for those who want to continue to see the U S excel, that that money has to come from somewhere to be able to help infuse that earlier on in the process to make sure that the pipeline of athletes is there so that when we get to LA 28, um, which everyone will be interested in seeing the U S hopefully do well. We can’t just go into it saying, well, we hope we do well. We have to make sure that we invest to give ourselves the best chance to be successful.

Alison: How are you balancing, particularly in figure skating, where you’ve got countries like Russia and China who aren’t competing right now, but in general, where, yes, they’re doing things much earlier, but we in the U. S. obviously don’t want to emulate their process and what they’re doing to these young skaters.

And how, how is the U. S. figure skating balancing that? Maybe lack of results, but based on the fact that we’re not destroying our young athletes.

Ramsey Baker: Yeah, Allison, it’s a great point, right? I mean, you, you don’t want to change who you are, just for the outcome. Right. We have to stick by, what we’ve stood for, and hopefully we’ll continue to stand for as a country of, fair play, and clean sport.

and again, not being at, at U. S. Figure Skating now, um, at the organization, but I, I know kind of what the focus was when I was there, and I know, uh, That those people who are involved now truly believe in first and foremost, we have to make sure that the athletes are heard. The athletes are protected.

The athletes are given all the opportunity to be able to represent themselves in the way that they want to be represented as well, which is incredibly important and does not happen in a lot of the other countries. So it adds to the, the puzzle, right? It, you know, it puts a couple more challenges out there.

but I would say that that’s part of why those who get involved are involved because they love to be able to invest the time and the energy to try to come up with the solutions and to be able to support the skaters in a way, or support their athlete in whatever sport it might be. I think you’ll find that the leadership.

And the people involved within national governing bodies and with the Olympic space truly are dedicated to the sports that they’re supporting, they truly believe in, being able to provide that environment for the athletes. So is it difficult? Yes. Is it impossible? No. And I think where it comes from is starting at a lower level in educating the athletes, educating the coaches, educating the parents to make sure that they understand what role that they play in the process, because that is a huge part of it. because everyone has to work together with that same common goal and the same set of, I would say ethics, um, in, in their approach. if we’re going to be able to reach that top and be able to reach that pinnacle, Without somewhere along the line, kind of deviating from the script of doing it the right way.

there’ll be a lot of temptation along the way. I’m sure. And there always is. And, and you’ll see across sport in general, the U S has not been perfect. I mean, we’ve had athletes who have, taken some missteps when it’s, um, when it’s come to doping or things in the past, but yet I think there’s an accountability that we believe in.

Um, that when that happens, it’s not celebrated. It’s something that we look at and use it as a learning opportunity to show others that, this is something that we don’t want to do, even though maybe in other countries, they, they might celebrate it and they turned a blind eye and they may even promote it.

That’s just not who we want to be. I’m a marketer, so I say that’s not our brand, right? That’s not the brand that we want to portray to the rest of the world.

Alison: Okay. So it. On marketing. Let’s get a little bit more into that. When you’re at an NGB and you’re sitting there and you’re looking at your budget and you’re saying, I need, you know, 5 million.

Where do you start? And when you start thinking of sponsorships,

Ramsey Baker: Yeah. I mean, I, I kind of used to look at it from, in my perspective and in the conversations that I have with a lot of, others across the national governing body landscape who are kind of in that same situation. And keep in mind that I consider ourselves to be lucky at U. S. figure skating because we had a staff that had more than just a CEO executive director who was also playing the role of. fundraisers, sponsorship, communications. I mean, a lot of these organizations, you would be amazed. I mean, they might have a staff of four or five people, some even less. and people are doing roles that, you wouldn’t think would mesh together, but it’s just the nature of who they are and kind of what their overall budgets might be.

And they have to make sure that they’re focused on high performance. So they might have more people dedicated to high performance than they do to any other area. Yeah. At figure skating, you know, we, we were kind of in that middle ground. We weren’t a massive NGB. Um, when you looked at what our operating budget was, in the high teens to low twenties, you know, over the years, of what the operating budget was in terms of millions of dollars.

but you have to kind of lean into one of the buckets of membership. Um, membership fees that come in and they are extremely important to the bottom line of revenue that’s coming in to be able to help offset costs. Corporate sponsorships is another big one for sure. Um, and the ability to grow that pot, media rights, but not every national governing body has, the ownership and the ability to kind of Get into the media rights business, because it can get pretty complicated events.

but oftentimes you’re running, I would say even a figure skating, half of the events that we ran were not profitable events. They were events that you’re doing that actually they were a cost center, um, more than they were a revenue stream, but they were really, really important to our membership. And it was really, really important to the growth of the sport and the development of skaters. and then you start looking into charitable giving, and donations and fundraising, which is again, another very complicated area that takes a, an investment often of human resources and people to be able to kind of get it off the ground and it takes time.

So it can’t be a switch that you just want to flip and say, we’re open for business, give us money. It takes a lot more than that. And then that last one being the USO piece. See funding that, you know, we had talked about already. So really when you boil it down, those are your buckets. So your level of sophistication within your organization to be able to plug into one of those areas or multiple areas, becomes what do you have for resources and what’s the opportunity cost?

If I spend more time working on sponsorship, well, that means I also have to have fulfillment. For those sponsors because we can’t just take their money. So now maybe I have to hire a little bit more staff to be able to fulfill the needs and fulfill the commitments that we’ve made to be able to bring dollars in.

so that, that is something that becomes a very, very important kind of measure and a balance that you have to find in that side of things.

Alison: How are you working with the USOPC and their sponsorships and the IOC and their sponsorships? And FIG, and then you’re this, the fourth entity, and you’re obviously not trying to step on toes.

Ramsey Baker: It is an interesting balance. you know, I think every national governing body has a different approach. There is a world of sponsors, for every single sport that are the endemic sponsors. Right. And those are the sponsors who have a vested interest in the sport itself because they’re tethered to it and they’re tied to it.

And as the sport grows, their business will grow. and oftentimes you see national governing bodies do fairly well with the endemic sponsors because again, there’s skin in the game for them. So they want to get involved, but those tend to be smaller dollar amounts. depending on whether or not your sport is an industry, right?

The sport of ski and snowboard is an industry. The sport of figure skating is not an industry, right? You’re not going into a Dick’s Sporting Goods and seeing figure skating costumes being sold and, seeing skates that the skaters who are competing at a high level are wearing, who are all getting these custom blades and boots and things like that made.

So it’s not an industry on the side of like skiing, snowboard, where you’re seeing skis and snowboards and jackets and parkas and gloves and all these kinds of things that are being sold. So. Endemic sponsors there help a great deal. Endemic sponsors in a sport like figure skating, maybe not so much.

So that puts the onus then on to going out and finding other sponsors, who maybe are not, you have to educate them about your sport. And then you have to say, what is the quid pro quo for them? You know, what, what are they going to get by partnering with you? How do I commercialize the assets that I have, whether it be in an event, the membership.

In your total audience, and I always used to look at it as total audience because it was, yes, you have your members, you have your social media following, you have your viewers, and whether those viewers are watching on whatever platform it might be as the landscape continues to evolve, and they could be in a number of different places now, but collectively, they’re all your total audience.

So understanding who that audience is, um, what their makeup is, the demographics from an age standpoint and male, female breakdown, and you know, what’s their income levels, where are they spending their dollars? What are their, what’s their brand affinity, and then taking that information and going out and partnering or trying to find partner and selling yourself to the marketplace of this is why you should partner with us because we can help you get to this audience.

But even when you have the most perfect deal in a perfect kind of alliance that you would think would be there, it doesn’t mean the deal is going to happen. A lot of the big brands that are out there that are spending significant dollars, it actually, if it’s too small of a deal, it doesn’t work for them because it becomes too much work.

Right. They, they want deals that are a little bit more turnkey or something that’s a little easy for them, to manage versus, so if they wanted to do a big NFL deal and they can reach a mass scaled audience and they can do it a little bit turnkey, that’s easier than maybe taking 10 different smaller organizations that would give them that audience that then they have to put a lot of effort into each one of those to be able to nurture it and get the most out of it.

So not only are you finding the match between a perfect brand that matches your audience and you kind of all agree that, it makes sense, then it has to make sense for them in their strategy. And oftentimes that’s where you would run into, a gap and that could happen in a conversation that has now been going on for nine months, a year, 15 months before you finally come to the realization, Oh, now it’s not going to work.

And, and that’s why it is a, it’s a long road. And, it’s not always as easy as just saying, Oh, this is the perfect fit. And I’ll share one, one story and, The kiss and cry is well known, within the sport of figure skating and then I think well known to the both of you as well. it’s a great name, the kiss and cry.

but from that standpoint, we thought there was always a natural fit for, a figure skater. Kleenex as a brand, someone in the, the tissue side of things, Hershey’s, right, the Hershey’s kiss and cry. Hershey’s was a sponsor of, and still is a supporter of the Olympic games, of the USOPC.

and there just seemed to be a natural and, and we would get emails all the time and suggestions from people that say, you should really do a deal with Hershey’s or you should really, and, It was kind of, it got to the point where like, yes, we know, and we’ve tried. Um, and then when we finally were able to, do a deal with, Puffs, who was a PNG, um, PNG was the parent company and Puffs was the, a brand within their portfolio of brands, that deal came together, not working through originally the PNG Olympic sports group.

And they were a top sponsor, right? They were a sponsor all the way down through the Olympic level. That came together. Through a connection that we made with the creative company, creative agency that was working on the Puffs brand. And when we presented it to them from a creative standpoint, and it was, I mean, it was hard to get, it took multiple years till we got to that creative agency person that we could kind of sell the concept to.

They went back to the brand and they went back to the media agency. They went back and brought all those players together and said, You’re looking for our next creative concept. This is what the creative concept is. And it’s going to circle around the presence in the kiss and cry at figure skating events.

So what most people would have thought was just a natural, Oh, it happened because PNG was a partner of, um, the USOPC and of the IOC and they were an Olympic sponsor. Had nothing to do with that. It was all about getting to the right person at the right agency. That was the creative representative for a brand, not even through the brand manager or those who were driving the marketing side of, of that entity at the time.

So you never know where the deal is going to come from. So it is truly about being persistent, being creative, And not, just relying on someone to come knocking on your door. You have to be out, shaking the trees and making sure that you’re, putting yourself out there.

And that’s where, you know, the role I’m playing now that since I left Us Figure Skating and I’m at Aggregate Sports, that’s the role that we play for a number of our clients who happen to be in the national governing body. space in the Olympic space in general, we represent them and we help them through this process of finding sponsors.

Alison: So let’s talk about that for a second. So what you’re doing now, so is it like a consultant for small NGBs? Like how does that actually work as a relationship?

Ramsey Baker: Yeah. Um, it can be small NGB, big NGB. We work with, and it’s actually one of the ways that I got to know Aggregate Sports and the, in the individuals who own the company and founded it.

We Work with us Figure Skating. Um, we work with USA Gymnastics, we work with Us Ski and Snowboard. So three of the biggest national governing bodies who have a large presence and well known, also a lot of media components associated with it from a commercial media inventory, traditional broadcast, that kind of thing, but also a number of sponsorship type of assets.

But we also work with USA Hockey, USA Wrestling, to kind of name a few and, and then a number of other NGBs where we have relationships with them, where I would say we have opportunistic business, um, that we’ll be able to bring to them because we’re in the marketplace having conversations and, and a brand might say to us, that’s great. We really like what you’re doing here and we like, you know, working with this company or work or this property you’re working with, but we also have an interest in this sport. Can you help us navigate? And because we’re familiar in the space, we can help usually get them, to the right sport. And, um, through the relationships that I have can be able to make a phone call.

And again, we truly believe that the more we can get investment in the national governing body space, the better off the whole Olympic movement will be. but oftentimes even at a figure skating or even at a ski and snowboard or gymnastics, it’s. They just don’t have the internal resources. They can only go so far and then they need help.

We have multiple salespeople who are out scouring on a daily basis. So we’re doing the research and pulling data and trying to find those perfect matches and then going out and reaching out and selling to those are presenting the sports where at the NGB level, oftentimes, even if you have a component of your job is sales.

that may start as a really high percentage, but I like to look at it as the MGB creep. Your job responsibilities will slowly change, um, because the organization just needs help in so many different areas. You’re oftentimes understaffed, and in the sponsorship world, if you’re not out there in this business, right, if you’re in the NFL, you can wait for inbound calls.

If you’re at a national governing body, you can’t, you have to be making outbound calls and they have to be very strategic and targeted outbound calls to be able to even have a chance to have success. So that’s where I think we can be beneficial. Also, even some of the smaller NGBs then that we’ll work with from a consulting standpoint.

So that’s more of a sales side, but there is a consulting aspect to it where we can help them even understand what are the assets that we have to commercialize. You know, how do we look at ourselves and decide from an what we call asset architecture? What does the organization do that might be of interest to a brand and how can we commercialize it?

How can we package it in a way that makes it digestible and interesting to them? because if you go to a brand and say Look, this is who we are and you show them everything who you are as an organization oftentimes. They’ll say Okay. Too much information overload, walk away because all they see is the red flag of it’s going to be a lot of work.

So we help try to work them through that process of how do you present enough information to get interest without scaring somebody away because you look like you’re just too much work for them to be able to get into a relationship with.

Jill: What levels of work does a sponsor want to have to do? When they look at a relationship, what do they want to put in?

What do they want to get out? What besides? More sales, they’re more customers.

Ramsey Baker: The level of work? You know, that’s an interesting one. I think it depends on who, what the brand is and what the category is. There are certain categories that are a little bit more used to having to be aggressive and having to be creative and having to, compete with other brands so they don’t mind getting in and they will look at your assets and maybe we’ll say, yeah, we want to be part of the, you know, getting involved with content creation and being very, very specific and, and unique to our brand and how we can tap into your brand and kind of playing off of those resources. So they might get very, very involved and they could have multiple agencies that they’re working with who are getting involved as well.

So now you’re not just working with a brand, but you could have two or three agencies that you’re working with and having to navigate. There are other brands that want to come in and literally all they want to do is say, We like your commercial inventory. We like the demographic that you reach on television.

We know you’re going to deliver a million viewers for each one of those broadcasts. We’re just looking at mass kind of a audience and we’re going to insert a 30 second commercial spot and that’s all they want. Even though it might be a brand that you would think, Oh my gosh, this would be great because they really connect with the audience and they should be doing all sorts of different other things.

It’s just not within their strategy because they’ve got other places they’re So you kind of have to be willing to meet the brand where they are. And oftentimes, and we did this at figure skating over the years, there were a number of brands who had never done a sports sponsorship before, that we developed a relationship with and brought them in and said, okay, yes, that’s all you want to do to begin with.

But let’s kind of have that be a, a wet the appetite. Get a relationship started. You get to know us. We get to know you. And then hopefully we grow it into something more. Prevagen was an interesting one. They hadn’t, they hadn’t advertised in sport before. But then we were getting ready, as I mentioned before, to do our a hundred year anniversary.

And we saw that they had done something with the NFL around an anniversary year for the NFL. And we thought, well, gosh, this would be perfect Prevagen memorable moments. You know, let’s talk about the a hundred years and some of the best moments in the history of the sport. And it really resonated with them.

And it went from being a straight media kind of relationship at the beginning to unique content creation that helped retell the story around the sport to those people who were passionate and loved it. So, it really integrated them well within, I think those who are fans and the audience, and they were bringing content to the fans that was important to them and that they found interesting.

So now you’re seeing them pop up in a ton of different sports. And actually we, we as a company at Aggregate have helped bring them to some other sports. Because that concept of memorable moments and anniversaries, now they’re tying into other sports where they’re saying, Oh, this, this can be our sweet spot.

This is this can be where people know us and recognize that if we’re there having a conversation about a sport, it’s probably because of a. anniversary or important moments within that, that property’s history, which is great. I mean, that, that’s something that they can own then, and really be able to talk to fans and an audience in an authentic way.

Alison: How is the fragmenting media landscape? And nobody is sitting on Sunday afternoon watching Wide World of Sports anymore and everything is streaming. So how is that playing into all of this?

Ramsey Baker: I would say they’re not watching while, um, um, Wide world of sports in the way that it was delivered before, how they’re watching it is they’re watching it on, as you said, a fragmented or in a number of different platforms.

I think one of the misconceptions that might be out there is that, any sports can have their contents distributed. And to a work tool audiences, why does they want it to be at any time? And why wouldn’t they? Um, if it was that easy, everybody would be doing it, right? You would be able to put out all of your content in a way that was easily, easily digestible by an audience.

I think what is going on is a lot of these platforms that have been built, even though there’s not the 24 hour kind of cycle of a day where they used to do programming where, okay, we have 24 hours in the cycle to fill. We have these number 1 hour shows this number of 30 minute shows. And once you’ve kind of gone through the rotation, you have to kind of fill the next day.

Even though that kind of goes away when you have, a platform where you can have a number of different, properties there and people will go and, and eat the digestible chunks that they want to when they want to eat it. There still is a balance of, user interface and, and, and a usability for their consumer.

If they become too cluttered, of a platform because they have too many different, types of properties available or two of entertainment, let’s just call it too many types of entertainment across their platform. That doesn’t make sense. And there’s no way to really organize it in a way that from a functionality, it’s good for a consumer to be able to come in.

Now you’re going to have people come in and try that platform. And then probably walk away, um, because it’s just too much. So they have to kind of start to decide where do we want to spend our dollars. Where do we want to invest in the types of entertainment that we want to have on our platform that we think are cohesive and that somebody who’s in the audience will find, you know, these 15 things that we put together across our platform to be all connected in a way that, Oh, I like these 15 things.

But yet there’s nothing here that’s going to kind of distract me. So you have to be able to line up well in a vertical like that for a platform, but also there’s a lot of costs associated, for a property, getting your content into a format that is something that you can deliver, to a mass audience.

And I will just say in a way that represents the brand that you are trying to be, your aspirational brand, you can film something raw, down and dirty and kind of stream it in a number of different ways that is maybe, you know, the stream isn’t so great in some cases and other cases it’s okay. the lighting isn’t great.

You don’t have commentary. You do have commentary. I mean, there’s a number of ways to do it. But if you want to have your sport represented a certain way, which is really important because we’ve got to remember back to the other side, if you’re talking to non endemic brands, Big sponsors, they have a certain expectation of what you’re going to look like and how you’re going to talk about yourself and portray yourself in the marketplace.

And if you want them to be able to invest significant dollars with you, you have to be on the level that they want you to be at. so now it’s like, you have to pick and choose what do I put out there? So all the content that I put out has to meet a certain standard if I want to be able to deliver it for the partners that I’m working with.

It can’t be just this raw aspect. So there’s a balance, you know, you can, you can go out and just say, I’m going to put everything, every single piece of my content out there that I can create, and I’m not going to worry about it, or you can be very strategic and say, what I put out there represents who I am, who I, as a property, what our aspiration is to be, and is hopefully going to attract them, the type of sponsor that we want, who can pay the type of dollars that we want.

That can invest, that can help us grow our athletes, help us grow our membership, and maybe then reinvest back on creating more content and telling the story in a different way. So there’s a lot more to it than just, we want to be able to see everything on every opportunity and everything should be free.

because there’s a cost, and somebody has to bear that cost. And as we talked about earlier, the NGBs are struggling anyway, just from a, um, a day in, day out to make their budgets and to make ends meet. If they want to meet the needs of their membership and their constituents all the way up and down, the chart.

Alison: So you had Puffs for the kiss and cry. Is there another one that you’re just saying to yourself, that was the coolest idea I’ve ever had to put a sport and a product together?

Ramsey Baker: I don’t know if it was the coolest idea. I think one of my favorite executions, And this stemmed from a long term, relationship, with the Smuckers brand.

And as they grew as a company, we had the athlete lounge, and we brought San Jose and gosh, I’m going to blank on the year, San Jose US championships, and we brought puppies. into the athlete lounge. And we created an environment where, we had puppies and it was for Milkbone was one of their brands that they had within their portfolio.

And we created kind of a living room setting. And then next to the living room was the puppy pen. And we had the athletes be able to interact with the puppies. And at the time we had done a lot of research and looking at things about, it was in an Olympic year where, puppies were used for therapy and creating an environment where the athletes would be calm and, you know, they could kind of go and just kind of relax.

But the execution, one building up the space was so much fun. The creative that was able to go into it. Partnering with a local shelter, who brought the puppies who were actually up for adoption. Kristi Yamaguchi ended up adopting one of the puppies who was in there, whose name was, is Tank.

She still has tank today. Tank’s a big part of her family. So that was one that was incredibly fun because the athletes loved it. Right. And if the athletes love an integration for a sponsor and it becomes this authentic and natural kind of thing. Free flowing space that you don’t have to force , and the coverage for media was great.

It just was one of those things that came together and you stepped back afterwards and you’re like, wow, when we first started talking about that, um, it was like, uh, will this work or not? And you know, it was a little bit of a risk. Uh, you’re bringing live animals backstage and. But looking back on it, it was one of the coolest things I think that we did and it was unique.

And then we actually saw it replicated in some other sports and in different ways. And that’s always like the ultimate compliment, right, is when you can see that the concept that you had kind of inspired somebody else to do something similar or at least expand upon it in their own way. So that was a really fun one.

Jill: One thing else I really wanted to touch on, sure, is a lot of people wonder why is an export on TV?

What is the process of getting a sport onto TV? Television, be it in NBC, be it in ESPN.

Ramsey Baker: This is where I do the shameless plug and say, well, one of the capacities and capabilities of aggregate sports is we do media rights consulting. and we, we help, properties, be able to take their rights and find the home for them and find the correct home, not just a home.

And I think that’s probably, you know, part of that equation. There’s a lot of conversation that has to go on. It’s about who your audience is. And there are certain media partners that if you don’t meet the audience that they are trying to reach, and that matches with, both what the other content is that they have on their platform and who it’s reaching, and how they’re going to sell against it.

Cause that’s what it comes down to in the end is if you’re looking for, especially a rights fee is can the media property that you do the deal with and that you find as a home, can they turn around and then sell your property to advertisers? And if you look at it this way, if you have a, a very male dominant, audience network, traditionally ESPN has been that, and you are a heavy female audience sport.

Traditionally, that has been an uphill climb. and oftentimes the reason it’s an uphill climb is because one, they, they know who their audience is and they’re going to continue to play to their audience and they have to keep that audience happy. Um, but also from a sales standpoint, they have a sales force that is used to selling against a certain audience.

And it becomes really difficult if you have one property on your platform, that is such an outlier from where everything else you’re selling that becomes a challenge to sell that. And if you can’t sell it, then you can’t recoup the investment that you’ve made. And if you can’t recoup that investment, then why are you investing in it?

So, I think it’s finding. a partner who is a believer in what your sport is or your property is a believer in who the audience is that you can deliver and one that values that audience. Finding that match is really important to make sure that the relationship is going to work and that you’re not going to just become filler.

Um, there’s nothing worse than having a property that, is not going to be valued by the platform that you’re on. Because there’s a couple of things that happen. One, the term warehousing can get used. So some of your content can get warehoused, meaning that they’ve tied it up. and that in the deal that you’ve done, they kind of own the rights to it, but they might not use it completely.

the other thing is the promotion, right? I mean, one of the reasons you want to be on these various platforms is the reach and the appeal and to be able to grow your sport and be able to grow awareness, and help your athletes be able to develop their brands and get recognition, and if your partner is not going to help promote you and they’re just going to put you on at not great hours, if it’s a, appointment type of a schedule, or if they’re not going to, promote you across our platform, if you’re say a streaming direct to consumer, um, kind of on demand type platform, then you’re losing out on a big part of the value that comes with finding a media partner.

So it’s a two way street, in finding a partnership. And a lot of times you have to think about your strategy from the standpoint of, Are we all about generating revenue from our media rights deals? Or is it all about getting reach and awareness and driving eyeballs in terms of, you know, is that what’s most important to you?

Or is it somewhere in between? Because sometimes the most lucrative might not drive the most eyeballs because it could be behind a paid wall and, or someone is just looking to make a splash with something, so they’re going to throw a lot of money at you. But. In the end, you’re not going to get the audience, or it might not be as friendly for your audience, which is something to keep in mind as well, because you have a commitment, that you want to make to those who have supported your sport in the past.

And it’s that fine line too, of those who have supported the sport in the past versus those who are going to support it in the future. And we have this conversation a lot at Figure Skating, because figure skating does have a, an older demographic that tunes in, very female, um, it’s actually one of the largest when it comes to percentage of audience that is female based, it’s the largest, percentage of female audience of, of any of the sports that are out there.

It’s a great way for a brand to be able to reach that female audience, which has an extraordinary amount of buying power, which has shifted over the years, right? I mean, the, they often talk now about the, the CFO, um, uh, of the household, the CEO of the household, being the female buying power now, and responsibility.

So that, that’s been great to see that shift. And I think there are a lot of brands that recognize it. But also when you’re an older audience, you start to limit the number of brands who are going to be interested in investing, in, in buying the advertising because maybe they don’t market to that.

Or they’re in a category that says, You know, statistics show them that by a certain age, people are so brand loyal that they’re, they’re not going to be able to shift their, their buying habits. So there’s no reason to be able to invest in an audience that is 55 plus, where they might say, Hey, we have a much larger impact on an 18 to 35 or 25 to 54 type audience, where we know that if we invest X amount of dollars, we can shift market.

you know, buying habits by this amount, which turns into this amount of revenue. I mean, they, they do the math and they, they look at those numbers. So all of that is going to play a factor as well, into the types of success you can have with your media partner. So that might be a little bit kind of long winded of where you start, but I think you start with reflection.

Um, I think that’s incredibly important. What do you, what are you trying to accomplish? And who can you accomplish that with? And then go out into the marketplace and have those conversations with those individuals. And oftentimes that takes some outside expertise and help because if you’re not in it every day, you might not be able to get to the right people.

You might not be able to have the right conversations.

Jill: Right. And if we’re looking at small sports, what, what popped into my head was the example of the Ocho. when you were talking. There we have, you know, a ton of very small, maybe a very obscure sports like speed tag or Quidditch. But when you talk about what you want the property to do for your, what you want the perception of your brand to be is something like that, where you go, Oh, I can get my sport in front of a lot of eyeballs, but it also could be played for laughs.

I mean, is that the kind of trade offs you’d start thinking about? Yeah.

Ramsey Baker: You know, it’s interesting. Um, you, it’s amazing when you go into, uh, when you travel a lot and you go into airport lounges and things, and you see, or you, you go into restaurants, at noon because you’re eating lunch out because you’re on the road.

And, and if they happen to have ESPN, ESPN2, you know, various different obscure sports channels that might exist. And you’re like, Whoa, is that even a sport? What is that? I was with my daughter on a trip not too long ago, my 17 year old. And, and, we were walking through the airport and she saw, world chase tag, the championships and she just looked at me and she says, whoa, whoa, this is a sport.

And I said, yeah. And I, and it’s actually one that we’ve had a relationship with before, as a company and have kind of been able to do some work with. But when she saw it, she was like, that’s interesting. And she watched it for a few minutes. And then kind of moved on. And I think it’s the perfect, not this sport in general, but a lot of those sports become filler.

It goes back to what we were saying before. and it’s also, there’s a lot of testing that gets done, right? They can start to see who the audience is. and then if you look at the brands who are buying against it, it’s very specific. I mean, they’re, they are buying that audience. They know who that audience is.

They’re being very targeted. Yeah. So for them, it’s not, it’s not a funny thing. It’s not a, they’re not as worried about the sport itself. They’re really just worried about who are we reaching through advertising across this and the, the media partner in that case in the, in the broadcaster knows that, and they know that they can sell against it.

And they might be willing to kind of put that content on. and it’s, It all meshes together really well, right? I mean, there’s a collection of those sports that kind of all fit within the same realm. and they don’t have to have high level production that goes along with them as well. It’s very closed, easy to produce.

Oftentimes, a lot of those things can be even studio produced, you know, and that’s a big part of it as well because there’s a cost associated with being able to put that content on.

Alison: You’ve seen a lot of skating Ramsey. Yes, I have. Okay. Is there a piece of music that you’d never want to hear again?

Ramsey Baker: You will probably laugh at this because it’s not the piece of music you’re going to think of, or it’s not like a classical piece.

But there was a year where I think there were five show programs skated to sexy, bring sexy back. And I was so tired of hearing that song because you would hear it during the rehearsals. Then you would hear it during the shows. And then I would rewatch the broadcast because I would be watching from the commercial conversion standpoint and all of that afterwards.

And for some reason, like that song, just if that song comes on on the radio, All I think back, and I wish I could remember the year, but I’ve kind of just blanked it out in my mind, , of what it was, but it was at least five programs to that song. And I, I can’t listen to it the same anymore. Otherwise every skater was so different to the song.

I mean, you can have the same song over and over show programs are pretty much not that every show program is the same, even if it’s a song that has been skated to by a hundred different skaters over the years. They all bring their own interpretation to it, and I think if you don’t get caught up in the song and you focus more on how that song was brought to life by the skater and how they interpret it, then it doesn’t matter.

You could listen to the same one over and over again if you’re focused on, on, on the skater and what they’re doing.

Jill: Well, Ramsey, thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciated your time and talking about this very nuanced topic.

Ramsey Baker: Uh, well, I appreciate you having me. And again, as I said at the very beginning, um, the Olympic space means a lot to me and the fact that the two of you are continuing to give it a voice and investing your time and energy to cover it, um, I think it’s incredibly important.

And I think this next year, is going to start a cycle of games that is going to be historic, as we go from Paris to Milan, Cortina, to L. A., and beyond. And then hopefully getting all the way to 34 with, with Salt Lake, if that all comes together the way we believe it will. It’s a really exciting time, I think, for the Games and the evolution that’s going to happen around them.

And I’m just really excited to, to come see what happens.

Jill: Thank you so much, Ramsey. You can follow Ramsey and Aggregate Sports both on LinkedIn. We will have links to both of those in the show notes, and we’ll also have a link to Aggregate Sports website.


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Alison: I did, and, and I failed. Oh,

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Doping News

Jill: Everybody knew that sound was coming. Yeah. Oh my goodness. We have an interesting doping, not doping situation from Tokyo 2020.

Alison: Fake news.

Jill: This involves China’s swimming team. And so this has been all over, several outlets include, we’ve looked through Swim Swam and New York Times and Reuters and others. They have reported that 23 Chinese swimmers, which is half of their swimming team, tested positive for the banned substance, trimetazidine, trimetazidine, which is also known as TMZ, that is found in heart medication.

Maybe you’ve heard of this before.

Alison: If that sounds familiar, that is the same medication that Kamila Valieva tested positive for. Right.

Jill: And that, discovery of the, the band substance and the positive tests that took place at a meet over New Year’s from 2020 into 2021. So ahead of the Tokyo Games testing apparently happened per usual, but the results were not reported until March 15th, 2021, which was unusual.

And so Chin, which is. equivalent of USADA or any country’s anti doping agency or RUSADA if you want to keep going on what our ADA agencies are. Uh, but Chinada said that, uh, WADA allowed it to freeze tests for a month because of the pandemic. So, okay, that sounds legit. and they found that the deal is that even trace amounts of TMZ.

Innocent and a sample should trigger a suspension, but none of them happened here because China had an explanation for this. And that was in the hotel where they were staying, there was a kitchen and the kitchen was contaminated with this drug and the positive tests had an extremely low concentration of the drug.

So they said, Oh, this is from this inadvertent exposure that we got from our hotel kitchen. And that’s why they were allowed to go to Tokyo

Alison: however, this is the first we’re hearing of it and there was no public investigation, which is what WADA rules dictate for this kind of situation.

There should have been a provisional suspension with an investigation which could have been done prior to Tokyo and completed because not everything is the Vallejeva epic. But no,

Jill: so this is all very suspicious. you saw it, uh, apparently tipped water off in 2020 that, there was some potential doping going on in the Chinese camp, except for, Those were allegations and I guess water got never got any evidence for that to keep following up.

So, water stand by stands by its processes says everything is on the up and up, but the swimming community is kind of up in arms and about all of this because China has. A record of swimmers recently who have been, banned for substance use,

Alison: Sun Yang. And also they have had violations for, not being available.

We’re about violations where the swimmers don’t show up or aren’t where they’re supposed to be when out of competition testing was supposed to happen. So this is a pervasive problem. As someone pointed out, their explanation was. Even more ridiculous than Valyeva’s because Valyeva’s explanation was her father or grandfather was crushing the pills on a cutting board and then she used the cutting board and so she got the drug.

That at least could possibly happen. It’s not soap opera level ridiculous. This is soap opera level ridiculous. Like soap opera in the 1980s ridiculous.

Jill: Well, I mean. When you think, how many kitchens do you, do you think are tainted with TMZ? That’s that’s the interesting thing. Should be nothing.

Alison: It’s, it’s not like a growth hormone that is used in meat or anything that could be cross contaminated, which can happen because I remember there being a whole discussion about, um, dirty tacos at one point for somebody.

Jill: And remember, Jenny Fuchs got, had a situation go on as well.

Alison: But that’s one person for exposure and they could follow it back.

An entire kitchen contaminated with enough to be detectable in all of these athletes. Just wow.

Jill: I think they were eating desserts because that was Camila Valleva’s situation as well. It was a dessert. Are you fat shaming? No, I’m just saying that athletes like desserts.

Alison: as maybe listeners have now discovered, I’m obsessed with Adam Peaty because I’ve been posting about him a lot.

He came out and basically said, not anything to do with whether they’re guilty or not, whether the swimmers were involved, whether the Federation, but why was there no investigation? Why was this not made public as it should have been? And I have to agree, that’s what makes it so suspicious. And this is what I used to tell my daughter when she was little.

It’s not the doing a bad thing that gets you in trouble. It’s the lying about it. The cover up is always worse than the crime. And now this has led to many athletes, many federations throwing up their hands at WADA and saying, you’re not protecting clean athletes, which you know how this makes us feel.

Jill: Exactly. And I would agree with you that the Not talking about this publicly at the time it was happening and talking about why we are not doing an investigation and, et cetera, et cetera, finding out about it 3 years later right before another major world event. It doesn’t look good. And it’s not the fact that we think there should be a guilty verdict, but you’re right in that it’s the covering up of the situation and the not being public about it.

That is really the thing we worry about going forward. What else is going on that’s not being said? and are there other situations where, okay, this is a one off or this is an inadvertent positive or a fake positive? Let’s be public about it. And that’s going to make, that’s going to provide a lot more understanding and acceptance rather than hiding something for three years.

Alison: I guess every Chinese swimmer has a heart problem.

Jill: They could. Who knows?


Paris 2024 News

Jill: The torch is still in Greece, everything is lit, everything is going well, except for I’ve seen little bits of the video and boy does that, uh, top of the torch look a little smoky. Get those polished gloves ready. Right. So as if you got our newsletter, which you did a nice little deep dive on the torch relay once you got me started So it will soon head out to the across the Mediterranean and we’ll get to France on May 8th So it’s coming up.

It’s getting getting more real day by day

If you plan to go to the games Guess what? Just like our travel expert, Ken Hanscom said, lodging prices are going down.

Alison: Because all of a sudden they realize, one, people double booked. Two, they can’t get the prices that they thought they could get.

And now they’ve got empty rooms and gouging didn’t work this time.

Jill: If you follow the Facebook Paris 2024 planning group, uh, there was an article posted from The Independent in the UK and the little bit that they had that was outside of the paywall, said that last year in July, the hotels had 90 percent occupancy.

And this year they are predicting like 60 to 70 because people aren’t coming.

Alison: Because people said, Oh, the Olympics are coming. I don’t want to go there for my regular vacation.

Jill: And then those who would like to come for the Olympics said, Oh, no, we can’t afford what you want to charge. So, we’ll see. I did do a little Airbnb search, and boy, prices have gone way down.

And there’s a lot of availability.

Alison: And the resale platform should be coming out soon. So if you want to rethink your plans for Paris and just sort of wrote it off as too expensive, go back, take a look, because it may be less now if you’re flexible about when you can go and what you’re willing to see.

Jill: Exactly. And also, as Ken had said, even closer to the games, you’ll probably see more deals and, and some rooms open up if there’s a space that had been booked that hadn’t, that gets released. So opportunities knocking.

Other things to check out in Paris. We have more hospitality houses.

Alison: We don’t have enough days to go to all of these hospitality houses.

Jill: We don’t, and you don’t even need tickets to see stuff. You could just go and spend the entire games, both Olympics and Paralympics, I think at this point, and at hospitality houses. Oh, that sounds like fun. It does sound like fun. So Austria is going to have a, a hospitality house at the Pavilion Montsouris in the south of Paris in the 14th arrondissement.

It will be open July 25th through August 11th and will be ticketed. By the time you listen to this, the tickets will be on sale. We don’t know the prices, but they’ll be on sale very soon. There will be a Czech house at the Cabaret Sauvage in Parc which is a massive site for hospitality houses.

This is the same location where Team Netherlands house is going to be for the Paralympics. So. You can check it out. Now, this will be open to the public. It will be ticketed as well. Those go on sale May 1st, ticket prices. if you buy early through the end of June, there’ll be 20 euros, 24 cents and from July on, they will be 24 euros.

All in all, very cheap. They’re trying to keep it cheap. Children under six will be free. They have an Opening Ceremonies event on July 26th. Ticket for prices for that early bird is 35 euros until June 30th and 40 euros afterwards. That’s cheap for an opening ceremony event. Yeah, it’s going to be a good party.

And one of the features that will be at this hospitality house is beer tasting. 16 different breweries are going to be there representing Czechia . You’re going to have to check that, check that out.

We will also have a Slovak house. this will be on Ventrous Avenue View, which is a restaurant in Parc de la Villette. So another place in the park. They will have indoor and outdoor spaces. This one is open to the public for the first time and they have not released any more details, but we will keep an eye out for that. I challenge you. I have a challenge for you.

Alison: It don’t. I want you to let it involve 16 check in beers.

Jill: No, I want you to go to the Czech house and then go to the Slovak house right after that and then come back and report and see how you do, Czechoslovakia.

Alison: Oh my goodness. Oh, maybe my friend Michael from Beijing will be there. Wouldn’t that be nice? Oh, I won’t even recognize him though because I only know what half his face looks like because we were both wearing masks the whole time.

Jill: If you were hoping that the, oiled Tongan wonder Pita Tatatafua would be making a return to the games, sadly, he will not. He did not qualify this year. He had tried in Taekwondo, which was his main sport, and he’d also tried a canoe or kayak and he sadly did not qualify in either of those events. Uh, but you know.

Paving the way for new generations.

Oh, this is good. I, you know, when one novella ends, another one just magically opens. I love the sports world so much.

Alison: We are like the Telemundo for sports epics.

Jill: Right? Right? Okay, We recently talked about World Athletics deciding to pay the gold medalists 50, 000 bucks from their IOC revenue sharing money.

The Association of Summer Olympic International Federations is furious with World Athletics. And as our friend, Rich Perelman from The Sports Examiner said in one of his newsletters, like, not a little bit, they released a statement, and they had some pretty obvious things to say, and usually this is a very, very diplomatic, so everything is very thinly veiled, or very thickly veiled.

Oh no. No. No, no. so ASOIF released a statement saying that they were neither informed nor consulted in advance of the announcement, which was made one day after the ASOIF General Assembly and during Sport Accord, which is this big conference for, uh, federations. And as a matter of principle, ASOIF respects and defends the autonomy of each and every member federation.

However, when a decision of one IAF has a direct impact on the collective interests of the Summer Olympic IAFs, it is important and fair to discuss the matter at stake with the other federations. in advance. This is precisely why the ASOIF was created more than 40 years ago with the mission to unite, promote, and support its members while advocating for their common interests and goals.

And it goes on, but basically, You do make a big announcement the day after your big meeting with everybody, and you don’t tell anybody that you’re going to do this? Not a good look.

Alison: There’s a lot of this, I feel like, this week of people not communicating with each other in this world. And with social media, and with kind of our interconnectedness, I think this stuff has been going on probably forever.

I mean, we do Olympic history and Paralympic history. We know. People are dumb sometimes, but it’s so obvious now when people do something not politically correct and not well communicated. And where are your PR people? And how poorly are they trained? Like, when is PR going to catch up to these kind of things?

Like, this is so obvious that, you know, World’s Athletics, yes, you are the tail wagging the dog. You are the big gun here. How could you not inform? I mean, just inform, just send a little memo, right, saying, Hey, we’re going to do this or host a coffee. And they seem shocked by the reaction. Yeah. That’s what kills me.

They’re all reacting like, Oh, well, isn’t it great? And Sarah Hirschland, we heard her say this, the, the head of the USOPC say, you know, we love the idea of money in, athletes hands, like that’s a good plan, but did nobody Kind of think what this meant for, you know, badminton who 50, 000 is their annual budget. You know, it just

Jill: Yeah, it doesn’t make sense it’s and and I get that World Athletics gets one of the largest shares of the IOC revenue sharing from a games because it’s one of the biggest sports I get that it has a lot of events Compared with like like you say badminton there There’s like four or six events in badminton and swimming Yeah, a swimming, a ton of events and swimming is another one that has a lot of money.

Uh, the, uh, International Gymnastics Federation said, yeah, we don’t plan to pay. And they make money too, but they think it’s better to use the money to develop the sport in other nations and make sure that some of these nations have better equipment than what they get because they get a lot of hand me downs going around.

and I think, you know, Rowing was another one that said, we need this money to last for four years, and they get a smaller chunk of the IOC revenues. but they are one, and that’s another one with a ton of events where they really could not afford. 50, 000 going to a winner. Can you imagine paying an eights boat 50, 000?

Alison: Well, the relay was going to have to split the cash.

Jill: Right. But still, I mean, it really put the other international federations in a bind and, and kind of pits the athletes against each other in a way.

Alison: Though, the one criticism that I will criticize is, and I apologize for not remembering who said this, but it was one of the heads of federation saying, this is not in the spirit of the Olympics and the whole idea of amateurism and the love of, you know, doing this for the love of sport.

To which I say, come on, that ship sailed. 30 years ago. Let’s, let’s not ring that bell.

Jill: Right. Because it’s not been amateurism for decades. And even before you allowed professionals in, it hasn’t really been amateurism. You know, I read an interesting article today from David Goldblatt, who’s a historian and wrote a book about the games.

And he said, he was talking about Paris, Paris, Paris. 1924 being a savior of the games and wondered, will Paris 2024 play the same role in that during 1924 you had this women’s Olympic movement, the Olympics were still very much a gentleman’s thing and, uh, they didn’t want, lower class people in, so they had a worker’s Olympics.

Uh, organized separately and that’s when you started seeing the Olympics go, Oh, we need to be a little bit more open to everyone else. I don’t know. We’ll, we’ll see what happens with this. we’ll payments and attitudes be just a little bit more open. Don’t know. Do you think that if, do you think the IOC should just pay people on the podium?

Alison: Yes. Okay. But not 50, 000. Okay. That feels a little excessive. But I do feel like there should be, because the IOC is making money off of these kids, and the kids should get some of that reward. But how you work that out That’s a much more complicated question.

Jill: I, I would be curious to know what you listeners out there in Shooklist don’t think, if you could let us know.

I, I’m very curious what, uh, other people think of this development and let’s keep it going, novella.

Intel announced that it’s going to have a number of AI initiatives. In Paris, so there’s going to be some sort of interactive AI powered fan experience or activation, if you like the new lingo.

Alison: I know you don’t like the new lingo.

Jill: I don’t like the new lingo. This is going to be in Paris and it will have they call it the journey of becoming an Olympic athlete. I call it a, hey, do some things and figure out what sport you’d be good at. And I always love those. So I’m hopeful to figure out where this is.

they’re also doing some, for viewers at home, 8k live streaming, which is going to be high res and the highest broadcast grade quality. So hopefully it will look good. Uh, They’re going to do some kind of legacy project where they will be able to do neuro object cloning so they can take video of Olympic collections and turn those collections into 3D digital artifacts so you can explore Olympic history virtually.

Alison: So I can swim against Adam Peaty.

Jill: Maybe, but I think you’d be able to explore Adam Petey’s goggles and cap more so than a swimming cap.

Alison: Okay. That sounded a little creepy. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to do that.

Jill: Um, we’ve got a little bit of news out of Russia. Thank you, listener, Hilary.

One of the Russian modern pentathletes named, Yuliana Bateshova, Applied to become a neutral athlete so she could compete in Paris and the Russian Federation of Modern Pentathlon has, basically kicked her off the national team.

She submitted papers for status according to this article from sportexpress. ru Warned the federation and She took on all of the expenses. She paid for her preparation She The federation didn’t help and they let her go. she doesn’t quite know what’s happening. So she was removed from the team on April 1st.

She no longer receives a salary from the team because it’s kind of like how, athletes in the U S get stipends. And I think that happens in other ways. They get stipends there too. So she’s no longer getting her monthly stipend. , and, uh, we’ll see what happens to her. And if she’ll be able to compete for Paris and in the future.

Alison: So go to Georgia. That seems to be the new thing for Russian athletes.

Jill: Also for you viewers at home, Variety is reporting that NBC will give out five heart rate monitors to athletes parents and display the results as their children compete.

Alison: Okay, I said this in the Facebook group, and I’m going to say this again.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Okay, the parents are nervous. Shocking revelation. This was great for biathlon where you could see them trying to, you know, calm down or things they were using that heart rate monitor, but the parents.

Jill: Yeah, I know. And who do you, who, well, who do you select?

And what happens if they don’t get that nervous? I mean, they, I think it nervous, but what happens if their heart rate isn’t affected? And then you have this. I would agree that

Alison: dad has a heart attack in the middle of the race. I mean, this could end so badly on so many levels.

Jill: I can just see it being a whole lot of nothing.

Two. And, you know, who gets it, what, but apparently this went well on audience testing and focus groups, so they’re gonna try it. , there was a nice conversation, at least in our Facebook group. And, the AP has reported that French police have cleared out a tent camp near the Seine.

This affected about 30 teens and young men from West Africa, most of whom were in the process of getting residency papers and some had set court dates for asylum hearings. So they were shipping them very far away from Paris. The article noted that this type of action happens every spring.

Apparently, during the winter, the police kind of let, tent camps lie to get through the winter. They tend to clean them up in the spring, but, aid groups say the cleaning out efforts are more intense this year and especially them being sent farther and farther away from the city. So we just want you to keep being aware of that.

Because it is something that happens with the games and it’s, it’s not a cool efforts to make the city look perfect. Not cool.



Jill: Welcome to Shookflastan.

It is time to check in with our team Keep the Flame Alive. These are our past guests and listeners of the show who make up our citizenship of Shookflastan. Slow week this week?

Alison: Slow week, but Very exciting week at the World Athletics Race Walking Team Championships in Antalya.

Evan Dunfee paired with Olivia Lundman for the marathon race walk mixed relay. They finished 26th. They got a personal best, a Canadian record, and most importantly, qualified for Paris as a team. Whoop, whoop. So that, very excited. And Olivia had a rough, a very rough race. Evan posted about this, that she kind of hit a wall and just got up and kept going.

So absolute kudos to her for keeping it going, and pushing through. that was not an easy day for her.


Coming Soon

Jill: Well, that is going to do it for this episode. Let us know what you think of how, or let us know what you learned about. what it takes to run a national governing body.

You can find us on xYouTube and Instagram at flamealivepod.

Send us an email at flamealivepod at gmail. com. Call or text us at 208 422 4222. 3 5 2 6 3 4 8, that’s 2 0 8 flame it. Chat with us and other fans on our Facebook group, Keep the Flame Alive Podcast, and sign up for our weekly newsletter with even more Olympic and Paralympic info for you at our website, flameit. Flamealivepod. com.

Next week, we are going back to the world of breaking and we will be talking with Ivan “Flipz” Velez, who will be one of the judges at Paris 2024. He will break down how this sport is judged, which is pretty eye opening. And if you’ve wondered what is going on in a break in battle, you will not want to miss this conversation.

So thank you so much for listening. And until next time, keep the flame alive.