Porter Novelli

Every year that I get to attend SXSports, I return home more invigorated, educated and inspired.

In 2014, when I first booked my ticket to Austin, AIM Sports Reputation Management (AIM) was in the fledgling stages. I wasn’t very familiar with SXSports, but I had sat in on my first session with the Texas Tech head football coach, Kliff Kingsbury, on the Innovation in Big-Time College Football. After it was all said and done, I felt like “Johnny Football” (Texas A&M era) after he threw a red zone TD and did the money dance. The lively discussion, insight and rolling questions had reignited my competitive fire and I was thirsty for more. I was only able to attend a handful of sessions, but it was a breakthrough moment.

I was a tenacious competitor during my collegiate track career and rarely showed that side of myself in a professional setting. I stayed quiet and reserved, but was always knowledgeable about how to effectively handle whatever was thrown my direction. Everything I was able to retain from my first SXSports experience brought that intensity back.

As the saying goes, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life …”

It was a tipping point for me. I finally realized and accepted that the convergence of my acquired PR skills and passion for sports could work in tandem. I didn’t have to choose one or the other.

Year Two: Beastmode Emerged          

AIM was approaching its first year in operation and my level of confidence had heightened. I had the opportunity to engage with collegiate programs, professional athletes and organizations to make a positive impact. I was able to learn so much from Bill Curry, a great man of integrity and a legendary sports figure.

In 2015, when I stepped into the Austin Convention Center, I told myself, “You know why I’m here.” I was ready to attend every possible session, starting at 9 a.m. and closing the day out at 6 p.m. sometimes not even taking a lunch break because I preferred to immerse myself in everything SXSports had to offer. I attended at least six sessions a day and tried to network organically (not push my card on anyone that had a pulse) as much as possible.

On Saturday, March 14, I had the opportunity to meet one of my track idols, Edwin Moses, the best 400-meter hurdler of all-time. I was speechless when he first entered the room and then I hit the switch to transform from a fan to a keen professional interested in learning more about the new era of doping and how it was becoming an unwanted epidemic across all major sports.

After I survived on as little sleep as possible on my very last night, I had the opportunity to meet Rebecca Feferman, the Phil Jackson or Pat Summit of SXSports (whichever you prefer). What I mean by that reference is that she is a master of pulling together the right elements to create a compelling program track that grows with success each year. After I introduced myself, I can remember her asking me what my favorite part about SXSports sessions was and what I thought could be done better.

Year Three: The Triple Threat

My triumphant return to SXSports helped the evolution come full circle. On day one, I ran into Rebecca after one of the early sessions with Sanya Richards-Ross. During the very next session I connected with a blast from the past, Carey N., a super athlete I attended high school with and now is continuing her passion as an accomplished sports’ executive in the college ranks. I was able to hear the latest and greatest on TwitterSports from Danny Keens and why great athletes need to be good people off the field, (where Johnny Manziel – Former Cleveland Brown -was a focal point).

I attended a session that included Ronda Rousey, Odell Beckham Jr (Geaux Tigers) and Maverick Carter on UNINTERRUPTED creating a platform for athletes to be themselves. Last but not least, I had the opportunity to sit in on session with the legendary Bun B, Bomani Jones, Rembert Browne, Elena Bergeron and Spencer Hall addressing the southern cultures influence on sports and music. I only outlined a few sessions I attended, but literally every session I was able to participate in was valuable.

I want to leave you with a few tips if you plan on attending SXSports in the near future.

  • Be Visible – Ask questions, network and try to connect with at least one person on the panel or in the audience.
  • Be Attentive – Absorb all the insight and content possible.
  • Be Social – Engage across social channels, share key learning and quotes, and view others social content.

Thank you SXSports, and in 2017 I will be back with a vengeance. Feel free to follow my social channels to see the insights, photos and interactions I captured from SXSports @ReidWriteThink (Twitter) and @harold_r_  (Instagram).