Sport can answer the need for successful purpose

Following the release of the second Laureus Sport For Good Index, Drew Barrand, commercial and sales director at Laureus, discusses sport’s power to amplify brand purpose and how the corporate world can lead from the front.

It is not easy to run a business in 2022.

The old yardstick of providing a product or a service that has market demand and delivers a profit is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the requirements of the modern era.

A 21st century organisation needs to care about much more than the bottom line. The onus of responsibility has been broadened and not just to its immediate operating circle but to the wider world as well.

Not only do they have to care but also to act – to make clear their contribution to society in tangible terms. Throw in a global pandemic, a major war and an economic recession and the external pressures facing business leaders are probably greater than they have ever been.

It is against this backdrop that the power of sport can truly be seen. At a community level, there are decades of evidence that show how, when times are tough, sport becomes the entity that people gather around, that provides the opportunity for hope against the bleakest of circumstances. This is also now true of the corporate sector.

Laureus and SportsPro created the Sport for Good Index with a view to establishing best practice in the growing area of brand investment in sport for good; to celebrate those that do and advocate for more to follow. Now in its second year, this initial growth in activity has become a defined trend. Purpose is now firmly front and centre of the sport sponsorship agenda.

This focus is subsequently raising the bar on delivery, and in response required greater scrutiny in the judging process and due diligence behind the Index. Criteria was strengthened, the judging panel tripled in number – bringing the watchful eye and opinions of experts from all corners of the globe – and the long list of brands under consideration got longer.

The result of this effort is the identification of the cream of the crop – a list of organisations on the 2022 Index that have not only taken the concept of sport for good to the heart of their investments but also proved its worth in both delivering tangible impact on society and driving prosperity for the brand concerned.

More responsibility has been taken – sport for good investments are no longer single-faceted. Many of the brands on this year’s Index have been operating on multiple levels, using sport as a tool to tackle inclusivity issues, at the same time as driving gender equality, whilst also providing the platform for the frontline response to the climate change crisis.

In addition, the rise of the athlete voice – with many of sport’s highest profile stars using their platforms to raise awareness of the societal issues that most concern them – is lending extra thrust to the brand agenda, enabling their sport for good activations to reach further and engage deeper than ever before.

However, whilst practices have evolved and brands have more clarity about the framework for success, there is still some way to go before the full potential of sport’s purpose platform is realised.

The brands represented on the 2022 Sport for Good Index are best in class, but they, by their own volition, are not the finished product.

Challenges exist everywhere. From the huge variance of different impact metrics to be tracked, to defining narratives that can be understood by all audience segments, to ensuring the organisation is operating internally exactly in line with how it articulates its purpose to the outside world. These are all works in progress.

Harder still is the ability to maintain and grow these elements year on year, a fact proved by the over 50 per cent churn rate in the brands named on the Index list in 2022 versus those listed in the inaugural year.

What is abundantly clear is that sport makes all these objectives easier to achieve – it’s the lens through which corporate grandstanding becomes tangible contribution. For under-pressure businesses facing unparalleled challenges and heightened obligations to their operational rationale, this transformational power is gold dust.

2022 was the year that sport for good went mainstream and this year’s Sport for Good Index reflects the very best of that movement. The corporate world is no longer a silent partner – it is leading from the front.

Turns out Laureus’ patron Nelson Mandela did have it right after all – sport does have the power to change the world.