What are young people focused on and why does the sports industry need to attract them?
David Grevemberg CBE, Chief Innovation and Partnerships Officer, Centre for Sports and Human Rights: “What we do in sport is sell the dream of the lifestyle of the athlete. What we fail to do, and what is most needed, is sell life purpose.
“As for how we launch this into the future and are able to attract the hearts and minds of young people: my kids have taught me so much about identity, and their sense of what they want to belong to physically, mentally, spiritually and virtually. Their fluidity in terms of their knowledge, scale and skills and experiences at 17-18 years is much wider – and they are much more likely to offer sincerity and authenticity.”
Mayi Cruz Blanco, MD, Sports Practice & Partnerships, Adecco Group: “One issue that is ringing out is public trust. This is influencing the way sponsorship is done. The human rights movement, women in sports and geopolitics are shaping sports like never before.
“By 2025, 50% of the world population will need upskilling, in terms of data and digital literacy. We need to bring sports organisations to that future.”
Bill Powell, MD, Black Lab Sports: “There is a ‘give first’ mentality of Gen Z. A lot of sport is totally underestimating the change in how people from 8-25 are going to consume sport. They might look at their favourite team for only 15 minutes. You need to give first and get their attention.”
What can athletes bring to the professional sphere?
Mayi Cruz Blanco, MD, Sports Practice & Partnerships, Adecco Group: “The sports industry needs to think more about how they bring athletes back. Athletes are positive disruptors. They can bring a business mindset and creative thinking.”
Jeroen Straathof, Tournament Director, European Para Championships 2023: “We use the voice of athletes in the perspective of our event; we let athletes to tell their story. We advise all organisations to get the voice of athletes in their company. We need more athletes on boards.”
Rowena Samarasinhe, Founder, GENsport: “Now athletes have a much stronger voice through social media. It’s taken until now to put athletes first, or at least up there.”
What are the considerations for athletes planning a career in sports?
Jeroen Staathof, Tournament Director, European Para Championships 2023 and former athletes commission chair: “Athletes need to be aware that they are people who can do things really well – but out there are also guitar players who play really well, so you’re not special!”
Xu Lijia OLY, Olympic gold medallist: “When I was training in the 90s I didn’t know English. I was like a frog in a well! Learning English helped me a lot, to access the most advanced information and knowledge. And it helped my second career in sports media. By mastering both Chinese and English I could quickly switch between the two. A multinational experience really helped me to survive well in the western world – and perhaps people here can learn more about China.
“There are lots of courses, online and offline, from IOC other organisations, to help us to experience this difficult transition. As athletes we have many transferable skills – time management with a clear role.”
“But I did feel quite low when I realised I couldn’t compete any more, and I wouldn’t feel as high again.”
David Grevemberg CBE, Chief Innovation and Partnerships Officer, Centre for Sports and Human Rights: “You need a trauma informed approach. It’s traumatic to reidentify our life purpose.”
Why is it important to have a diverse workforce?
Bill Powell, MD, Black Lab Sports: “Some of the most culturally diverse teams are the ones grabbing onto exponentially growing technology.”
Mayi Cruz Blanco, MD, Sports Practice & Partnerships, Adecco Group: “Diversity is not just about numbers. It’s about making a huge difference in the world. Candidates are declining organisations that are not inclusive enough. You need to bring different groups into the sports industry.”
Rowena Samarasinhe, Founder, GENsport: “We are a global industry, but if you look at federations it’s very much a western ideology. We need to represent the entire world. Its 60 years since Martin Luther King gave his ‘I have a dream’ speech, but we’re in the same situation now, still talking about diversity.
“We have also had a spate of female leaders getting vilified. We’ve got to ride that wave, but get through it. A big part is supporting that next generation and helping them to be our future leaders.”