SPORTBUSINESS INTERNATIONAL MAGAZINE – November 2012
When the events don’t get any bigger, MX Sports has learnt from experience that it pays to know what you’re doing.
Whether they say so or not, many suppliers to major sports events are keen to use the experience as a platform to expand. Indeed, many service providers knowingly enter into below-cost arrangements on the explicit understanding that the value of future events contracts will more than offset any losses they may incur as a result.
In an industry where this is common practice, MX Sports takes a very different approach. The Swiss-based international operations and logistics company works exclusively for broadcasters and specialises only in the Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup.
In every other respect, however, the company is both highly diversified and truly global. The services that MX Sports offers to its clients include the typical things that you would expect a broadcast logistics firm to provide – and many that you wouldn’t. The company establishes a forward base in each host country up to two years ahead of the event, puts team members on the ground and gets to know how the local market works. As a result, it prides itself on meeting client requirements quickly and efficiently, in a flexible and cost-effective way. It is also regularly asked for things that go well beyond its broadcast services brief.
Those requests range from staff or office accommodation, studio and production facilities and production equipment hire, transportation and management. But it is when the requests get more demanding that company owner Mara Xenou comes into her own. Long experience of the unique pressures of an Olympics or World Cup enable her to form strong bonds with clients, many of whom have grown to rely on MX Sports over successive Games or World Cup cycles.
MX Sports’ pedigree goes back to 2002 in Salt Lake City when Xenou cut her teeth on her first Winter Games. Experience gained in the US was put to good effect on the Olympic Games in her home city of Athens in 2004. Two years later, she brought her personal approach to the Torino Winter Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup in Germany. This was probably MX Sports’ biggest challenge, recalls Xenou, as the company also worked on the Doha Asian Games in Qatar that year.
Working on the UEFA Champions League final in Greece in 2007 persuaded Xenou that the company’s future was to be a specialist in the Olympics and FIFA World Cup. Both events have a scale and pressure that MX Sports has come to regard as its speciality and offer it the chance to provide the widest range of services to its base of highly-valued clients.
It is not unusual for Mara Xenou and her team to find themselves working around the clock, providing the kind of personal attention that TV company clients need. In some countries that might be security personnel, locating a specialised piece of equipment or delivering 24/7 operations management and support.
It is important to Xenou that, along with a high degree of professionalism, MX Sports builds the kind of relationships that work under pressure.“These major events bring unique challenges for broadcasters and there are no second chances,” says Xenou. “Our experience means we understand the pressures and are able to come up with the kind of creative solutions that literally keep the show on-air. And when the red light is off, I’d like to think we’re the kind of group that are fun to hang out with.”
MX Sports’ clients seem to agree with many describing the team as friends of the family and marvelling at the way the company can adapt to new environments and cultures. Several refer to the contrast between an Olympics in Beijing followed by a World Cup in Africa. The way in which the company helped ESPN Brazil and TV Bandeirantes navigate China and South Africa meant they were an obvious choice for London 2012.
Despite being one of the most expensive cities in the world, MX Sports was able to find cost-effective accommodation and servicing solutions for the Brazilian broadcasters with its on-the-ground approach paying-off for clients once again. The experience has also meant MX Sports learnt quite a bit about the Brazilian approach to life and business which will no doubt serve them well as the country takes centre-stage in the coming years.
MX Sports may not be working with Brazil’s broadcasters for the 2014 World Cup and Olympics in Rio de Janeiro (although we wouldn’t rule it out!) but the company’s extensive client list – including ESPN International, ITV, Direct TV, TYC, Intelsat, Telefe and TV Azteca – means it is likely to be fully employed. Indeed, they have been on the ground in Rio for months and that presence is likely to grow as the World Cup looms.
In parallel with the FIFA football flagship, however, Xenou and the team have the small matter of the first winter Olympic Games in Sochi. “This will be our first time working in Russia,” she says, “but I don’t imagine the challenges will be different from previous events – they are all challenging. We already have accommodation reserved to meet our client requests and, as ever, we will give them the best advice on where to locate themselves and how to access all the services they need.”
As a long-standing client puts it: “World Cups, Olympics…MX Sports will be there way beforehand smoothing everything from accommodation and transportation arrangements to sorting out other logistical problems. And they will always recommend the best place to have dinner!”
Behind the scenes at every major sporting event there are unsung heroes and those that keep the show on the road. At the winter and summer Olympic Games and FIFA World Cup there is always MX Sports making sure their clients get what they need to put pictures on the screens of fans around the globe.
They may never float on the New York Stock Exchange or make a leveraged buyout of UPS, but if you’re looking for personal service and the knowledge that its staff have seen it all before, then MX Sports is an obvious choice.