Sport Connect talked with the head of the most daring and bright media team of Russian sports, Yegor Kretsan. In 2017, he returned from the United States, where he studied sports management for a year at Columbia University (one of the best in the world).
– A look inside: why should one want to study in the US?
– I can not say that I had the desire to get there exactly: when I decided that it was necessary to go abroad, America was not limited to everything. I had, let’s say, a substantive interest in several universities, which was due, including rating Sports Business International, describing all the strongest master’s programs in the world. I decided not to lower the stakes and try to get into the first 3-4 of it. The first was Ohio University, then FIFA Master and Columbia.
To act it turned out everywhere, and further there were additional factors. It is clear that very much depends on the city: Cleveland or Washington – it’s not the same as Los Angeles or New York, where I eventually ended up. For me, he immediately looked more interesting – if only because it is the world capital of sports driving. On a very specific part of Manhattan are the offices of most important sports leagues and organizations. As a result, you get not only knowledge, but also if you want – interaction with these offices, with people who work there. And only leagues do not stop there: there are teams, agencies, brands. All this again is new knowledge, new people.
– The question “What did you learn in your America?” Do you hear often?
– Constantly. And it is very difficult to answer in 1-2 sentences. Globally, the sports industry there is one of the system-forming ones. And I for the time that I lived there, more or less figured out what it consists of and how it works. Sport is in the life of almost everyone, only the degrees of involvement differ. In the United States, these businesses are engaged in decades – developed models of monetization, attracting people, understanding what will happen next. It takes even a while to get used to it.
– In terms of?
– They often pay attention to things that at first do not seem important at all. A simple example: in the NBA and baseball discuss the adaptation of TV broadcasts to the proportions and sizes of smartphones. Roughly speaking, there are more medium and large plans, less common, some foreshortenings are special. And we only have options to go out to social networks, and they consider it a breakthrough. The amount of information that has fallen on me I have been digesting to this day. On the computer there is a folder with all the documents accumulated for the year. Every time I go, I find something new.
– How often in the USA did they catch themselves thinking: “Damn, we did everything wrong”?
– In general, on this idea, I catch myself daily. But in general, we think of ourselves much worse than we really are. There is no abyss between Russia and America. But there are simple and understandable things that determine the reasons why we are where we are. Although now we have quite a lot of interesting things.
American education is not necessarily a set of useful tips and instructions that will work everywhere. Rather, you are taught to think systematically, set tasks correctly and look forward a little further than one step. Americans believe that the world revolves around them. And we, on the contrary, nod to the side – see how they are there. But here, too, there is the opportunity to do cool things, make noise with them – not in the woods we live.
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– It is believed that American education is still about cool connections. Is your most powerful contact received there?
– Many different. Is the NBA Vice President good enough?
– Well, at us one of the courses was read by such a person. All the teachers who worked with us, as a rule, were at least the level of vice-presidents of whatever. Because of this, I had a couple of times a feeling “what am I doing here at all”. Previously, these people were in the stratosphere for me, but in reality they were completely accessible and pleasant.
– Were there features of life in New York that made you suffer?
– Great suffering did not cause anything, but in terms of infrastructure New York places could be much better. For example, the worst metro in the world – at least, from those in which I skated – is there. It is clear that everything is very expensive, but it’s useless to complain about it. In rubles, I stopped translating for the second week, so as not to increase the amount of gray hair with each purchase.
– Have you ever thought to stay in America and not come back?
– No no. Variants, maybe, arose, but I did not go even with a second desire to try to stay. And I still adhere to this point of view. It’s fun to go there. I’ll go back there again soon and know that I’ll have a good 2 weeks. To live in America to people from Russian chaos, I think, is not always very interesting, although everything is individual. It’s nice here, I like it in St. Petersburg and beyond. I adore the nature of the Leningrad region. Now I remembered the main thing that I missed in America.
– So, which one?
– Normal fishing. I sat there in the summer, suffered from the heat in the stone house, and my friends sent pictures, and I could only envy. In the States, of course, there is also fishing, but you need to go far beyond it, at least from New York. I’m not the hero of the movie “Brother-2”, but I still lacked something. So it’s good to have the opportunity to be in Russia and return to New York.
– The main habits that have acquired over time in America?
“That’s what I thought a lot about when I left.” First of all, running – that’s where it dragged me out. I also revised my attitude to libraries, especially at the university. I spent a lot of time in them. And the third item I will call is not quite a habit: I began to think differently (at least, it seems to me so). I revised the attitude to the analysis of some problems or tasks. Perhaps this is the main thing that I eventually brought back from there.
And yet – the habit of smiling. In the US, you understand very well the magical power of a half-open tooth.
– In Russia, sports journalism and sports SMM are the work of young people and even schoolchildren. As in the US?
– Journalism, I think, there as a whole is more senior. There are internal orders that will slow anyone down. Even if you are insanely talented, you need to sit out some number of hours, days or years on the starting positions. And if we talk about SMM, then it’s more often young people. We are talking about things that did not exist 10 years ago. It is logical that the youth grabbed them faster. Even the most popular and stellar professionals are young enough. A man with a natural gray beard who would be engaged in SMM in a sports club, I, unfortunately, did not meet. Although I admit that they are.
In the “Zenith” social groups also engaged in an extremely young team: Petrov’s theme came to the club at 21, I – at 24. The oldest of our team is not 35. Although there is still our legendary photographer Vyacheslav Palych – he’s 68, but he already leads Instagram.
– Without a sense of humor, it is possible to have good club social networks?
– No, I think that this area of activity assumes, if not the ability to joke, then the ability to ironically perceive what is happening. Humor is one way to stand out in the user’s news feed. The brightest and most successful cases are mostly associated with irony. Including because it is cheaper.
There are two options to stand out: either you are doing something brilliant at the level of performance, some real art, from which all are pretentious; or you’re kidding, and it’s all catching.
– The last foreign case, which you would like to implement in Russia, but so far it is impossible?
– The last thing I liked was the story from the student basketball tournament March Madness. The weakest team in the first round nailed one of the favorites. They are from some small university in Maryland, their twitter is one guy. For a couple of days after that victory, he pumped the number of subscribers from 5 thousand to 100 thousand – just by the fact that he started to mock and get everyone over. It helped everyone: the guy woke up famous, the university sold in his store more than 4 years before, and probably will receive a record number of applications for admission.
– Do you often come across such ideas, which is directly offensive, that everyone came up with you?
– Of course. And not all are connected with America. A cool thing was a couple of years ago in Tunisia. There, the football team was punished with a match without spectators. They agreed with the mobile operator on a steep activation: in the stands installed speakers and made an application for fans, it was necessary to poke into the screen to make a noise in the stadium. I remembered how many games we played without spectators, and for a head it was grasped by the fact that he himself did not come up with this. It’s so simple!
– Does the Russian audience have any advantages compared to the European and American?
– The biggest plus of everything that is happening in Russian sports is our country of opportunity. You can treat this phrase as you like. But we have a huge number of options to do something and be first.
If you came up with a startup in the States, then most likely you’ll come across 10 more people who are already doing the same thing. I was fond of brewing some time ago, and for America crafted beer is a popular topic. And somehow I read that at some point the variants of the names that have not been patented have run out. All the logical, idiotic or fantastic options associated with beer, just busy. And so in everything. The USA is a country of wild competition. And we have a plowed field.
The audience is also concerned. People do not have much to do with a lot. And we are lucky to do something and say: “This is cool.” In the state of Georgia or New York, the stadium “St. Petersburg” in the form in which it opened, would not have received such a positive reaction in such a short time. At us people have come there after “Petrovsky” where drafts constantly flied from Neva, – certainly, the new arena at once became a space. It’s so cool, just in the States in order to really surprise, you always need something more.
– And what do we lack?
– Response rates. At us the fast and mass reaction occurs only on absolutely critical or loud events. The American audience, if she successfully stuff something, gives an instant reaction.
– Why is Instagram now the top platform for sports SMM?
– I’m at the forum Ksenia Tsukareva from HC “Sochi” told me that they only developed successfully Instagram. Because any self-respecting Armenian is sitting there.
In this sense, we are all little Armenians. After returning to St. Petersburg, I specifically walked a couple of times on foot from the metro to the new stadium to see what people are doing on the road. Almost everyone pokes Instagram. There are no problems with understanding the content, everything is easy and intuitive. I think the main creative cases on this site are still ahead. We are only at the beginning of the road.
– Links to Instagram – a new way to increase the traffic of the club site?
– Including. I have no absolute figures now, mostly guys from our team with their hands there post something, but the links in the same story just got bigger. And partners from us are often asked to add links.
– Are there non-obvious platforms that did not realize themselves in Russia?
– The main disappointment now is Facebook. Yes, there are a lot of people there, but Russian sports seem to be of little interest to them. Have Sports.ru and its projects a huge coverage on this site, but they do it all the same not on the news from the Premier League or the KHL – the whole HYIP comes from the main clubs and athletes of the world.
About 5 years ago, while the whole of Europe developed only its pages on Facebook, we paid attention to “VKontakte” as well, as a result, the audience there grew more active and more qualitative. We have a million people on Facebook, but now, without investments in promotion or outstanding results, it’s even more difficult to move there, because the algorithms have become more complicated.
The second site is Google+. We drove it, saw the views and the response, but it was weak, and at some point it turned into an unnecessary time investment.
A couple of months ago I would have called Odnoklassniki also, but they are now actively paying attention to sports. They now have people who think absolutely American.
– When in the Russian sport there will be examples of using augmented and virtual reality, the Internet of things?
– The first attempts were already: Severstal made an application with AR-technology. It is clear that in Cherepovets such a beautiful feature is now unlikely to have been used by at least 10 thousand people (although I will be glad to make mistakes). But they tried before the rest and rang well.
VR – is still a difficult thing for both production and consumption. We are planning a project for a new season, partially affecting the topic of the first-person view. But while this is just the first step, and in some slightly more distant future, I have no doubt that we will inevitably move in this direction in one way or another.
We will stretch virtual reality glasses or constantly bring our smartphones to the field and receive a lot of information, the existence of which we do not even guess at the moment.
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Photo: facebook.com/ Egor Kretzan; Gettyimages.en / Oleg Nikishin / Bongarts