Sports have played a fundamental role in his career linked to the technology sector and its links with marketing.
Sports have embraced the Web since its inception
Online Sports have a long history
Fabio Fabbi is among the pioneers of the Web in Italy. He was especially so thanks to having created projects related to sport.
His history in sports marketing began in February 1995 when he created “Sports on Net”, a vertical guide to sports on the Internet. The idea was born after meeting and speaking with Jerry Yang and David Filo just when they founded Yahoo!, the first index of the Web. Google had not yet been born, while YouTube and Facebook were still to arrive many years later. In those early years of the Web, Yahoo!, Lycos, and Webcrawler were the search engines and Sports on Net was one of 4 sports sites selected on Yahoo.com USA. In the first months of 1995 over 50% of the significant traffic (for that time) came from overseas. From 9 initial sports, it went to 12 and subsequently to 21 disciplines, with over 2,200 links selected. For its time it was like an encyclopedia.
However, the fact of being an index of sports on the Web was not enough, it was necessary to study this new means of communication looking for the appropriate paradigm. The Web is not a newspaper but in part it is, it is not a radio but in part it can be, it is not television but in part it could become one – thought Fabbi. It certainly has something that other media don’t have: immediate interaction. Thus, shortly thereafter, the concept of “live online” and “convergent medium” was born.
The technologies of the time allowed few things, but Sports on Net in March 1995 was ready to provide online the first audio interviews of the World Superbike champions, the first videos (postage stamp size), the first events followed live including the Monza Formula 1. Some of the events to remember are undoubtedly the 1995 Superbike World Championship, the first sports live online broadcast, and the first official website of a motorcycle team, that of the multiple WSBK world champion Ducati Corse, with on-site live broadcasts from Imola, Monza and Laguna Seca (California) and the roars of the 2 cylinders in a straight line.
Fabbi’s intuition was to involve championships, the Olympics, champions and sports brands, explaining to them the importance of the Web as a means to get closer to their audience. Seeing the Internet as a newspaper or television was an extreme vision at the time, but then Bill Gates wrote a few months later that “Content is King”, in March 1996 (read the original article). The path was clear, the success of Sports on Net, which later became Sports.it, was rapid.
Rome in May 1996, the ATP Tennis Internationals live with digital photos online in real-time (thanks to the first digital Nikon reflexes to shoot silently among the many motorized film cameras). We were the first to publish digital photos when other photographers were waiting for film to be developed. Sports on Net is registered as a newspaper and sponsored by Telecom Italia.
Subsequently, for two editions (1996 and 1997) of the most prestigious horse racing competition in Italy: “CSIO Piazza di Siena” in Rome, here too the interviews and videos live on the Internet.
A fundamental stage was the unique experience of Atlanta 1996: the centenary Summer Olympics in the first major online live broadcast directly in Atlanta, with live chat, news, photos, and interviews from the stations at Casa Italia. A site in great style, with notable records to its credit. The first online complex event operation. Numerous interviews, chats with the Azzurri, comments, digital photographs, and autographs of the Azzurri medalists upon request via email. The Olympic website reported the medal table, we added the contents that people wanted to see. A live broadcast that made history and allowed me to create a new format dedicated to sports champions, capable of interacting directly with all the fans.
Already in 1997 technologies were progressing, even if modem speeds did not exceed 55 Kb/sec. The new online project was the production of the 1997 Alpine Skiing World Championships, followed live in a production studio set up near the finish line of the Sestriere slope: a record of accesses and positive opinions. In Sestriere (with a staff of 9 people involved in the production of the live online broadcast) the Sports on Net structure created the Internet video conference between fans from all over the world and Marc Girardelli on the day of his retirement, the Deborah Compagnoni charity auction, the autographs to request online, the LiveCam on the slopes, Alberto Tomba in chat, the games and polls, the weather via satellite, the 360° virtual panorama of the slopes and, of course, photos and videos in large quantities in real-time.
Then, the 1998 Nagano Olympic Games, with the most exciting live broadcast on the Web: here too photos, messages, polls, Java games, interviews, photos and autographs galore, and a video course on athletic training for skiing held by a personal trainer.
And on 11 February 1998, on its third birthday, Sports on Net became Sports.it and was the first website in Italy to display a billboard during a live television broadcast, in prime time on Rai Uno, of the Milan-Parma Italian Cup match.
After the presence of other billboards in the car and motorbike areas of the 1997 Motorshow (which also appeared for 100 hours on TV) and the 1998 edition (150 hours on TV), over 1,000,000 enthusiasts were present in the stands.
On 15 March 1998, Alberto Tomba closed his extraordinary career at the end of the season, winning the last race held, the special slalom of the World Cup finals in Crans-Montana, the location where he had won the first world championship medal of his career. Having developed his official website, where Tomba interacted very actively with his fans around the world, we organized the farewell to the races right online. It was a great emotion and a disappointment because Alberto could certainly have extended his skiing career with other victories.
The 80s and 90s were extraordinary for Italian sport. We had legendary champions and very strong teams. We had the honor and privilege of working for most of them in those years: Alberto Tomba, Max Biaggi, Deborah Compagnoni, Giovanni Soldini, Roberto Baggio, Alessandro Rossi, Alex Zanardi, Bologna FC, Fortitudo Basket, National Rugby Team, Ducati Corse Superbike.
The France ’98 World Cup was inaugurated on 10 June 1998. For the production of our new online live broadcast, we developed a competition with the richest prizes ever seen: computers, printers, digital cameras, and even a network-connected car, the WebCar. A simple game that set in motion all Italians online, making hundreds of them win in a mechanism that involved 200 computer sales points in Italy, generating an induced turnover of over 1 billion lire for the sponsor. A project that entered the history of web marketing and which had content partners La Repubblica (with 6 journalists) and Tele Montecarlo (with the granting of the rights to the goals on video, which we inserted online in real-time). It was a memorable event, even if the national team did not go beyond the quarter-finals.
Fabio Fabbi is among the pioneers of the Web in Italy. After starting a communications company in the 1980s, which was transformed into a Digital Agency in 1994 and sold at the end of the 1990s to an Anglo-American group in the sports sector listed on the Nasdaq, Fabbi spent a few years as an executive in large tech companies and Entertainment, until he resumed his role as entrepreneur in 2006.
Today he is an entrepreneur in the communication and design sectors, teaches marketing at private universities transmitting knowledge to the younger generations, is a speaker at conferences, and continues to have a great passion for everything he does.
Sports still have to write many interesting pages, which is why after many other projects developed in the 2000s and having theorized and put into practice paid content, ultra-short video formats, and live broadcasts with celebrities, Fabbi – with Movantia Sports – works together to its partners and collaborators to continue writing new sports stories, not just online.