62-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

By Sheri Cioroslan | July 01, 2014, 5 p.m. (ET)

Day 62, July 1 - ITTF’s Matt Pound Promotes Table Tennis 24/7

“In the digital age, it is important for Table Tennis and the ITTF to be constantly visible.”

Yesterday President Adham Sharara’s concluding remark was: “Table Tennis is evolving all the time, so what’s new?”  Today Matt Pound answers that question!

Matthew PoundBefore being named the ITTF’s first-ever Promotion Manager in February of 2013, you had already served our sport at Table Tennis Australia and then internationally you also had worked for UIPM, the international federation for modern pentathlon.  How did those two positions prepare you for heading up the ITTF’s promotion portfolio?

Working for TTA, I was introduced to Table Tennis on a grass roots/international level. This gave me deep knowledge of the sport and the issues that National Federations have promoting the sport within their own countries.

UIPM gave me valuable understanding about all aspects of how an international federation runs and operates. Being a part of a small team meant my responsibilities were very widespread, which allowed me to gain experience right across the communication/promotion/marketing spheres.

Since Modern Pentathlon is a small sport, I had to work hard and think of creative ways to get penetration into international media and television. This gave me a lot of ideas to transfer to the ITTF to be able to promote the bigger sport of table tennis more effectively.

What impresses me about you is the vitality and focus you bring to the way you work.  That’s a good thing because you have a boatload of responsibilities, and I imagine that in this electronic age, you could keep busy 24/7 if that were humanly possible.  How do you compartmentalize all of your responsibilities or do you prefer to multitask?

You are right, in the digital age that we live in, it is important for Table Tennis and the ITTF to be constantly visible.

I am generally a multitasker.  On my internet browser, I usually have about 10 tabs open at a time! I am consistently going between Facebook, twitter, youtube, ITTF.com and my emails to ensure that everything is done and that table tennis is having a voice globally.

We could spend a week detailing all of your ongoing projects.  How about giving us a brief description about your approach to, and progress in, the following Internet / social media outlets and promotional activities:

Website: ittf.com  

This is the central information hub for the ITTF, where fans and members can find detailed event reports, the ITTF calendar, results, information about our projects, contact details and much more!

ITTF Facebook

We use Facebook to engage table tennis fans. The more people like, share and comment on a post, the better it is for the ITTF as we get more exposure. For this reason, we post fun and interesting content, but at the same time we convey the ITTF’s key messages. To ensure we don't overkill people with content, we limit ourselves to 2-3 posts a day, unless there is a major competition running.

Facebook is also a great tool, as it allows us to cater specifically to our global audience. For example, we can send out geo targeted posts in different languages to specific countries (e.g., post a message in Arabic and only countries who speak Arabic will see it). This allows us to give more relevant content to our fans.

Twitter

There is only so much you can say in 140 characters, so twitter is used more for live blogging and summarizing key messages from Facebook. Twitter is fast moving, so there is potential to post more content than Facebook. During the World Championships we used twitter for the first time to ask TV commentators live questions on the air. This worked great as it enabled fans to feel that they were more involved with the itTV and TV productions and it was much more interactive.

TV Broadcasting

TV is still king, so this is one of the most vital promotional tools of the ITTF. The 200+ million viewers that watched the ZEN-NOH 2014 World Team Table Tennis Championships on TV is proof of this.

itTV

Despite TV still being king, more and more people are consuming their media online, which itTV is vital for. In addition to people being able to watch all of ITTF’s events live and on demand, this works well with events being in many different time zones.

YouTube

YouTube complements what is already being done on itTV with more viral content. Content that we put up on YouTube includes: individual match highlights, amazing shots/rallies, top 10 shots of the major events, player interviews, monthly pongcast, documentaries, promotional videos, player profiles and more. This medium has proved a major success, with the ITTF Channel now having over 28 million views.

Stiga Trick Shot

The most viral videos on YouTube are fun, creative and out-of-the-box. These are the type of videos we are encouraging people to enter into this competition. The STS is also a way for the ITTF to connect directly with fans, and for us to show the younger generation that table tennis is cool and fun.

ITTF Star Awards

Everyone knows the table tennis players on the table, so we wanted to show them in a different light, all glammed up and on the red carpet. This was a huge success as we were able to attract not just the sports media, but fashion media as well, which gave table tennis great promotion. We were also able to engage the fans, as they were invited to vote for their “Player of the Year” and the shot/rally of the year, which worked well.  We had over 80,000 people vote. The other bonus was that we were able to reward our best athletes for their outstanding performances in 2013!

“Race to Bangkok”

The idea of the “Race to Bangkok” is to link the World Tour more to the US$ 1 million dollar World Tour Grand Final. So now when people hear that player XYZ has gained some “Race to Bangkok” points, then they straight away know that these are points to qualify for the WTGF in Bangkok.

Thanks, that quite a rundown! 

Communications is a big part of your job, including internally within the ITTF.  How do you communicate, for example, with President Sharara?  Same question, regarding others on the staff that you are working together with? Local organizing committees?  Media outlets?

Due to the different time zones between Canada and Singapore, President Sharara and I mainly communicate through email. We also try to meet whenever we are both at the same events to discuss the most pressing issues.

Email would be the main communication tool for everybody else as well, in addition to Skype and more recently the instant messaging service whatsapp.

Everybody in the ITTF is striving to make the ITTF the “Top 5 in all we do,” but realistically, your position as Promotion Manager bears a large part of the task.  What is your sense of how the ITTF compares with other international federations? 

Of course there is work to be done to achieve our goal of being in the Top 5, however, I believe we are on the right track to achieve this goal.

Here are some of our digital rankings with other Olympic IF’s:

  • ITTF.com – 2nd most viewed during the ZEN-NOH 2014 World Team Table Tennis Championships
  • Facebook/ITTFWorld – 7th
  • YouTube.com/ITTFChannel Subscribers – 5th
  • YouTube.com/ITTFChannel Views – 5th

What are the areas that will be our biggest challenges and, without revealing any secrets, what strategies have been or are being implemented in those areas?

If you look at all the top sports, they all have well known, identifiable top players/athletes. Football has Ronaldo and Messi, tennis has Federer and Nadal, and golf has Woods and McElroy.

To take the next step up the food chain, table tennis needs to start promoting our stars more, to make them better known as personalities off the table.

One of the ways we have started to do this is our new YouTube series called “Off the Table”: http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLIl_mJ3zK7B--M8rjqMyIx4AIqNHsWSru. This looks at the top players away from competition, so the fans can get to know them better. Stay tuned for more of these!

Last question.  The ITTF dealt with a bit of a surprise at the last AGM as the new position Chair was created and Thomas Weikert will become the new president on September 1.  How has this news been received by the media and the Olympic family generally?

The feedback has been more of a reflection about all the good that President Sharara has achieved in his Presidency and praise for it. There is also a sense of anticipation about the new direction that the ITTF will go in with its new leader Thomas Weikert.

Thanks so much for your time and insights!