Leaders Sport Business Podcast

Leaders Sport Business Podcast

At home with Leaders: Harish Sarma

August 05, 2020

TikTok's move into sports | The balance between commercialisation and maintaining authenticity | Benny the Bull and the Chicago Bulls' TikTok success story.

Episode 92 of the Leaders Sport Business Podcast features a conversation with Harish Sarma (discussion starts at 8:47), Global Strategic Partnerships and Corporate Development at ByteDance, the Chinese parent company, for now at least, of social platform TikTok.

TikTok is one of the fastest growing platforms in the world, with user numbers soaring over the course of the pandemic. As of June this year, TikTok's Monthly Active Users (MAUs) were estimated at 800 million.

As the political rift between the US and China has deepened, Chinese tech firms have come under pressure from US authorities, none more so, perhaps, than TikTok. Just two weeks after Sarma joined us to record this episode, a hectic weekend of rumour, statement and politicking has seen President Trump apparently threaten to ban TikTok in the US, with ByteDance countering with an offer to fully divest the management and, crucially, data storage of its US operation to a US company. Microsoft appears to be that company and it now has 45 days to get a deal done.

Sarma, who was recruited for the position at ByteDance from his role as Director of International Media Distribution at the NBA a year ago, remains focused on the development and maturation of the platform as a commercial proposition.

On the agenda:

- How TikTok went from Sarma's client at the NBA to his employer today;

- What sport means to TikTok;

- The 'show me the money' question and where TikTok could sit in the sports rights ecosystem;

- How to 'do TikTok' as a sports entity, and approaches to content marketing that are working;

- 'Selling out' vs making money: the fine line that any maturing platform needs to tread;

- The trend for odd job titles at social media companies and what employee satisfaction looks like.