The Impact Series: Motasem El Bawab

Motasem El Bawab has been making waves in the Digital Media and Advertising industry at international levels for the past 10 years. His expertise and love for data are what has allowed him to develop successful customer retention strategies for companies such as The International Basketball Federation, BAM Strategy, and Make a Wish Foundation.

Apart from spending the last 7 years as an independent Digital Transformation Advisor, he is also currently the Head of Digital for the International Federation of Volleyball. On the side, he acts as a mentor to young professionals pursuing a career in sports and tech.

The Sponsorship Space got the chance to speak with Motasem regarding his extensive journey and major achievements in the industry.

Q: Seeing how you’ve worked in Brazil, Canada, America, Switzerland, Qatar, and Japan -- how did you find transitioning in each country?

To be honest, it is sometimes complicated to leave a place where you have built relationships and memories. However it is always incredible to experience new things and meet new people, and most importantly, just getting uncomfortable. Living and growing in each of these countries taught me so much about being adaptable, about being comfortable with risk and instability, but the key to them all is the knowledge of the different cultures. Which in our day now is helping me a lot, as I am managing different teams from completely different countries and backgrounds. So these experiences teach you to build connections with whoever is in front of you.

Q: What skills as an athlete made you into the great sports professional that you are today?

I think being part of a professional team really helped me to become who I am now. As a team, you strive for one goal together. So you have to work together in harmony and support each other to get to that goal. So teamwork and communication are key components to bring a department and an organization together closer to its goals. In addition, being a student-athlete as well, you had to juggle between studying and going to workouts, getting to exams, going to games… it was exhausting at the time, but so rewarding. And it taught me one lesson: there is always enough time in the day to accomplish great things.

Q: Recently, you worked as a Digital Projects Manager at FIBA -- can you tell us about what you learned during your time there and how it helped prepare you for your current role?

FIBA is one of the leading International Sports Federations in the Olympic Movement. Being part of the organization during the preparation for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China has allowed me to grow in so many ways. From having a great experience in building projects for China, which is extremely complex, to working on large scale projects that need to cater to all 5 continents. During my time there, I led the Digital Products development and the technical implementation of key projects towards their digital transformation. My background came from digital marketing. So the FIBA experience allowed me to bridge the gap between marketing and technology and ensure that both sides are taken care of, as you need both to create a great experience for the fan.

Q: Seeing as you are a mentor in two organizations, can you explain to us why you prioritize giving back to the marketing community and what being a mentor means to you?

I wouldn’t be in the position that I am in today without the support of a few mentors that I have had during my career, such as Luiz Fernando Lima (Secretary General of the FIVB), and all the others that gave me their valuable time to ask questions and provide guidance. I know how important it is for aspiring sports professionals to have a guiding light, so this is my way of giving back.

Q: Can you tell us about your role currently with FIVB -- how has your role been impacted by COVID-19 and how has your restructured thinking around digital?

In many ways, COVID-19 has accelerated a lot of our projects that were planned in the next few years. We have had to shift our priorities to first support the members of the organizations in their transition to working from home, then providing our fans with some engaging content to keep them engaged and keep the positivity during these times. One of the key impacts of COVID-19 for our department was the sports sponsorship’s transition to being a digital business that was accelerated, which allowed us to be more creative and focus on areas we haven’t thought of previously.

Q: The federation’s Instagram following has now grown to over 907,000 followers, having started 2019 with 350,000. At the end of 2019, the FIVB had also become the third most followed international federation on Facebook, with over 1.6 million subscribers. What’s been driving a lot of the success of the FIVB this last year?

When I joined the FIVB, my main goal as the head of the digital was to bring volleyball closer to its amazing fans. We have restructured ourselves and acquired key technologies such as WSC Sports and Marketing Automation Tools to create a 365 days content calendar that provides the fans what they want when they want and wherever they want it. Through data and personalization, we have started pushing different types of content to fans based on the insights we have gained, which kept our engagement high and resulted in our incredible growth. This also wouldn’t have been possible without the support of a great content team led by Ace Asas our Digital Content Manager and Sebastien Billington, our editor in chief.

Q: As you get ready for the upcoming Olympics, how is your role changing and shifting?

As everyone in the sports industry is planning the return of live sports, we are currently focusing on delivering the best of volleyball and beach volleyball to its fans, athletes, players, and partners. We are now shifting gears and use the learning from this year to gradually build up our international season. We have some exciting plans in the pipeline for volleyball and beach volleyball in 2021, so stay tuned :)

Q: Norway's Anders Mol and Christian Sorum took the sport all the way to the very top of the Svolværgeita, near a Norwegian fjord. It’s something that your team posted on the FIVB accounts -- how did this idea or social content come to life?

During the pandemic, we have shifted our strategy from event-driven to becoming more of a digital entertainment entity. So we tried different ideas to work with the athletes to keep the fans engaged and entertained while they are at home. So the stunt came to life as a collaborative project between Beachvolley Vikings, the FIVB, the Norwegian Volleyball Federation, LofotVolley, the Good Net project, and Red Bull to celebrate the return of international competitive beach volleyball.

Q: What’s some feedback you have for anyone exploring a career at the intersection of digital media & sports marketing?

The sports industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry with literally thousands and thousands of jobs of all types. Patience is critical when you begin a career in the sports industry. Success in this industry is also about your moral character and your effort. Work far above and beyond what people expect and with great intensity and good things will happen. For those who are seeking to work in sports and digital, my personal advice to them is: stay relevant: Which means two things:

  • Network, reach out to people from the industry to know about what they are doing, offer your support when needed.

  • Digital never stops, so never stop learning and get knowledge about the next features in products, or even tendencies on social media.

The reality of it is that you can follow your passion and your love for sports into a career. However, it is not easy and it takes the same commitment and hard work that you have shown to be an athlete, a student, a parent, or anything you have accomplished in life.