Soundtrack of the Next Generation of Fans

Greg Davies, CEO and Co-Founder, Wavze

Phil Jacobs, Co-Founder, Wavze

Sarah Beattie, Chief Marketing Officer, Six Nations Rugby

Kieron Ansell, Business Development Manager, Wolves Records (a joint venture with Warner Music)

Luke Hodson, Founder, Nerds Collective


Sport and music share an emotional impact and an ability to move millions of people at once.

Increasingly, sports organisations have woken up to those similarities, and to the potential for multiplying the impact and cultural resonance of sport through the right musical connections. That was the theme of a panel on day one of ISC 2024 which looked at how sport can leverage music to reach a younger generation of fans.


Wavze is a platform created with that possibility in mind. Co-founded by Phil Jacobs and Greg Davies, who is also its CEO, it links a roster of emerging artists to sports rights holders, broadcasters and promoters who need access to music that brings their content and events to life. Partners can select from a library of rights-cleared tracks or – as the likes of SailGP and rugby union’s Women’s Six Nations have chosen to do – commission bespoke original music that can be the foundation of their ‘sonic identity’.


Davies and Jacobs built Wavze on the insight that the sports industry is usually looking for ‘a sound’, as much as an association with a particular artist. That a younger talent is often the right fit for a sports client if they can hit the right note. Those acts can in turn receive huge benefits from exposure to a large sports audience – such as a massive increase in streams and social media followers, which can also bring them to the attention of major labels.


Sports brands, meanwhile, are learning from music specialists about working more meaningfully in youth culture spaces. For Sarah Beattie, the chief marketing officer at Women’s Six Nations, the support of Wavze in creating an anthem for this year’s tournament is invaluable. She believes it the track will be a powerful showcase for  the personalities of women’s rugby stars not yet familiar to a mass audience, while the partnership will add marketing capacity on a more practical level.


Collaborations with the music industry are taking sport into new and different cultural spaces. As Nerds Collective founder Luke Hodson puts it: “Young people aren’t engaging with sports. What they’re interested in is sports-lifestyle culture.”


Nerds Collective helps sports rights holders understand the more fluid contexts in which youth culture operates so that they can become more valuable and relevant. But Hodson also believes that the reach and expansive networks of major sports teams can counter a shrinking nightlife sector across the UK, creating opportunities for fans to see live performances by their favourite acts.


That is a significant ambition for Wolves Records – a joint venture between Premier League football team Wolverhampton Wanderers and Warner Music. Business development manager Kieron Ansell explained that while the club can showcase musicians during games at Molineux, it will generate much more cultural and commercial value by seeding a live music scene in the local area.


Music also carries the Wolves brand more naturally into different settings. The club are owned by Chinese group Fosun and are as well-known in China for their esports outfit and Shanghai-based fashion label, both of which are better celebrated through the right music than an association with a football team. Ansell also wants Wolves Music to be a vehicle for better relationships with sponsors, offering greater inventory and more relevant activations.


For all that commercial possibility, authenticity is at the heart of this burgeoning crossover. Davies noted that many leading athletes share backgrounds and passions with their musician counterparts, especially those who come from the same working class and urban communities. Music, Beattie added, can be a way of transporting people emotionally, creating a shared experience that transcends venues to reach audiences around the world.


There are some delicate factors to consider, particularly the sensitivity around some content that touches on rawer themes or is more artistically challenging. Nevertheless, sport and music are moving towards a deeper convergence in the digital age.