We have been interviewing our alumni who were working at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia over the past 6 weeks.  Our final alumni who was working in Russia, this time as a freelance journalist, was Leandro Pontes, from the class of 2014.

Originally from Brazil, Leo is living in Nice, the South of France, from where he runs his own digital agency since the beginning of 2018. Four years back, he earned his degree in Sports Administration and Technology with AISTS, pursuing his interest in sports in the digital era, innovations and technologies. From the seats of AISTS Leo jumped right into the marketing office of DigitArena, a Swiss start-up launching a solution to replace football pitches advertisement seamlessly and in real-time for TV broadcasters.

Leo’s collaboration with DigitArena as Head of Marketing brought in the notion of a bold consumer relationship management online and communal activations to build a digital ecosystem around their product. A year later, Leo received an invitation from the Secretary General of the Modern Pentathlon International Union, Shiny Fang, to lead the digital transformation of the federation in an attempt to reach newer audiences online and to present the sport with a touch of social media.

Leo consider’s his achievements with DigitArean and UIPM also gave him the view to go solo with his own business at the end of these three years and helped him embark on his journey to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

“I believe that content is everywhere – and context is everything – and with this in mind I embarked to Moscow to uncover stories off-pitch and create digital content that was then sold to publishers such as Yahoo, BBC and SBS in Australia.”

AISTS – Tell us about what you were doing prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup

Days before the beginning of the World Cup while was seated at my agency in Nice, a text popped on my phone. A friend of mine from Brazil was inviting me to join him in Moscow as he was committed to big publishers to produce news, headlines and digital content from the epicentre of the football world. He needed me to be his digital force and to help him to monetize his stories. Richard was ready to cover his 9th World Cup, having served FIFA for many years as Head of Communications, Strategy and PR. I felt like I was being drafted to play at the World Cup side-by-side with a journalist I`ve always admired.

With my agency, I aim to produce captivating content through films, websites, writings and design to international sports federations and the experience at the World Cup shows me that this content must reach a unique value until the point to be packed as a product. I think there is a growing demand in the federations for external resources that can adhere to some content strategies connected to fan experience and eventually create a lead to sales.

AISTS – What was your mission then during the 2018 World Cup?

I headed off to Moscow with a clear objective: to uncover all aspects of the World Cup that people feel. There were 37 cameras covering football matches and the best stories are still off-pitch. If you can imagine an endless city parade where you see people from all over the world enjoying their freedom in the Russian capital, and Russians in awe telling me that “I didn`t know we were so happy!”. All those moments became instant stories with a touch of edition and design and then these stories are able to feed to news agencies and portals all over the world.

In terms of hard news, we were the first one to publish at Yahoo that former president of FIFA, Mr Joseph Blatter, had a VIP stay in Moscow as an honoured guest of Vladimir Putin. Or that in Beirut, Lebanon, a bar owner, a fan of Brazilian national team was murdered by German supporters on the day that German was kicked out of the World Cup. Still, when the whole world was ignoring the trapped boy’s football team and the coach inside a cave in Thailand, we were bringing up this topic in random interviews with football fans in Moscow. I always had with me my camera, microphone and stabilizer to be able to catch these moments.

AISTS – What did you most enjoy about your role at such a major event as the World Cup?

I was delighted to see how the alternative media works which complement FIFA and the world TV`s coverage.  Some of the digital content we produced ended up going to a few different TV networks in Israel and other countries. This World Cup marked the beneficial coexistence among digital storytellers, official media and broadcasters and accredited journalists with a clear separation in mission, but not in media. 

I have come back to Nice excited about the endless possibilities in creating digital assets with a minimal strategy to monetize it. From the streets of Moscow to restricted receptions of FIFA Legends and the final match, there was always great stories flying around, just waiting to be unveiled. And we did!

AISTS – Do you have any advice for those looking at the next step in their sports administration career and wanting to get into events?

There is always something in the eyes that makes our appearance unforgettable to someone. In the sports industry, there are opportunities for those interested in a work-life balanced with office and events outside. You have to come into this with tough skin, really tough. From the media perspective, it`s just a short time period that needs sometimes years and years of strategy and thought put into it. And time is constantly at hand, as work dynamics offline imitates the pace of the world online. Overall, building bridges and connections that get you across different areas of an event is definitely my biggest piece of advice.

Experience the world of sport in the Olympic Capital

Participants attend several full-day workshops throughout the programme to experience sport. These sessions are delivered by the sport organisations and federations themselves and provide a unique hands-on experience and well as an ideal opportunity to connect to our alumni and experts working in the industry.