Squawka co-founder & HalfSpace CEO Sanjit Atwal: “Growth across gambling-restricted markets will be one of the trends over the coming years”

Sanjit Atwal started his career in advertising at IPC Meda followed by senior positions in digital, technology and social media companies (covering start-ups, SMB’s & corporate) and eventually went on to become the co-founder and CEO of Squawka. His latest venture is Halfspace – a new category of sports & entertainment marketing agency. The Playknox spoke with Sanjit to know more –


Tell us more about Halfspace. Any plans of further expansion of the company?

HalfSpace combines the latest in data technologies & analysis with the full-service offering of a large agency group. We operate across four departments of Data, Creative, Content & Media to drive growth for our clients across fanbase and their revenue streams of sponsorship, media rights, ticketing & merchandise. Our client base tends to be clubs, federations, music festivals, media owners and more. We have offices in London, Paris & Madrid and an ever expanding international client base across Australia, Asia, Europe and North America.


How difficult do you reckon the recovery will be for sports businesses/agencies from Covid-19? What has been the impact on your agency?

The recovery from Covid-19 will be a long process for rights holders & clubs with many factors effecting not only current revenue generation but the ability businesses have to forecast. Across agencies in the sports industry we have seen approximately 50% drop off from 2019 revenues. For Halfspace we have been very lucky that we have actually grown across 2020 and are anticipating a 25%-40% increase in our revenues.

This can be looked at in a few way – firstly, some clients have reduced their full time staff and are relying on a greater degree of agency support. Secondly, many larger clients are no longer seeking multiple agencies on their roster and the concept of one full-service agency led by data is more appealing from a P&L standpoint. Thirdly, we are a revenue generation stream for clients and if you can prove this then clients tend to want to keep working with you! One interesting aspect of this year is that we now have staff working for us that we as a management team have never met in real life!


What are the ways that the sporting realm (clubs, organisations, other stakeholders) can recover from Covid-19?

I think one of the main outputs from the Covid-19 period is that it is given the industry a chance to reset how they view growth and sustainability. This doesn’t mean ‘recovery’ is a return to their previous operating models – rather, it could be that Esports and youth channels are a greater part of their marketing going forwards. In general, an acute focus on building a 360 degree view of fanbases is critical for all in the industry – it provides the infrastructure to create long term growth models. Finally, a personal view is that more sports businesses need to be thinking ethically on how they operate and in particular how sponsorship is activated.


You co-founded Squawka which was a game changer. You believe fantasy football and eSports is the way forward?

Squawka was an amazing journey and I’m privileged to have been a part of it. Fantasy football is a huge part of fan culture and I see no indication it is going to slow down. If anything, I feel growth across gambling-restricted markets will be one of the trends over the coming years. Esports has really come into its own over the lockdown period with lots of mainstream crossover – we have worked in both motorsports and tennis Esports events this year and the coverage broadcasters are giving the medium is highly encouraging. Original content-driven series such as Worlds Fastest Gamer (disclaimer – Torque Esports are a Halfspace client) are excellent examples of how a traditional sport and Esports can interact.


We have seen sports resume without fans. How can marketers/agencies ensure fan engagement without fan presence in the stadiums? Does this work well for brands?

If think most organisations are cognisant that being front of mind at a commercially important time of new kit releases and season ticket sales is imperative. Many clubs and federations are really pushing their social campaigns into new areas which is great to see. From the brand side, it’s a big opportunity to think outside the box on messaging and find a way to really help fans through this period.


What books are you currently reading or which was the last book you read?

I’m usually reading several at any one time which is an affliction I seemed to have picked up over the last few years! Right now I’m reading Originals by Adam Grant, Wabi-Sabi by Leonard Koren and Using Semiotics in Marketing by Dr Rachel Lawes.

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