A year after hosting spectacular Olympic Games, London welcomed IUM students as part of the educational journey. Students enrolled in the Master in Sustainable Peace through Sport (MSPS) and in the Master in Sport Business Management (MSBM) met some of the most renowned sport industry experts while on a 3-day trip to London (February 19 to 21) to bridge course material and practical experience.
On day one, students visited Octagon’s London headquarters to meet the founder of the world’s “2nd largest” sports marketing and agency firm, Mr. Clifford Bloxham, along with his colleague, Mrs. Philippa Gamble. Octagon has (or is) represented(ing) top athletes including Michael Phelps, multiple Olympian champion swimmer, tennis star such as Martina Hingis, star rugby player, Jason Robinson, and many more. Now part of the InterPublic Group, Octagon is known for its agency services its marketing and communications services (Octagon represents for instance global brands or Olympic Games official sponsors such as Visa or HSBC).
During the presentation, our hosts described the firm’s vision, business approach and its client-relationship philosophy. Students particularly enjoyed the anecdotes and the party analysis (i.e. the location of participants in the party is quite important). Mr. Bloxham insisted on the importance of competency and regrets the fact that the industry attracts too many individuals that are poorly trained. This comment hopefully made resounding echoes to students and helps strengthen IUM’s message to strive for excellence. Lastly, to conclude a fruitful discussion, Mr. Bloxham emphasized the importance of effectiveness and communication skills for those seeking to enter and grow in the sports industry. It was a great satisfaction to hear practitioners and recruiters stress those skills which echo and reinforce professors’ recommendations given in the classroom.
After enjoying a well-deserved lunch, the group went to Stamford Bridge Stadium, home of Chelsea FC, the 2012 winner of the continent’s most prestigious trophy, the Champions League. The one-hour tour allowed students to see the behind-the-scenes protocol, including the press conference room, the visiting team and local team locker rooms, the control room and more. Students were exposed to the business generated by football matches, official merchandise and goodies, food and beverage, VIP services, museum and tours of the facilities. Chelsea FC is definitely a brilliant performer, both on and off the field.
On day two, students met Mrs. Liz Twyford, Manager of UNICEF’s programme International Inspiration. As part of its pledge to deliver on the Games’ bid promise to “reach young people all over the world and connect them with the inspirational power of the Games,” UK authorities including the British Council and UK Sport have teamed with UNICEF to give some 12 million children the opportunity to participate in sport, physical education and play. Beyond the Games, the programme is to run until 2014 and the organization will seek to rigorously measure the impact of its initiatives on the lives of unprivileged children. Similarly to Mr. Bloxham, Liz insisted on the fact an organization such as UNICEF, which is clearly a not-for-profit entity, needs qualified and committed employees, whether enjoying language skills, being committed to child protection or being proficient in fundraising, media, and communication. The below picture shows students along with Liz at UNICEF’s London headquarters.
On day three, students met with Michael de Giorgio, Founder of Greenhouse Charity, an organization that seeks to use sport as a catalyst to help underprivileged teenagers. Greenhouse identifies schools whose sports facilities are underused and offers them to work with inspirational coaches. In addition to various sports (football, basketball, table tennis, etc…), the organization relies on dance and drama activities to have kids truly involved (this also reflects the founder’s view that sports is not the only way). Mr. de Giorgio was particularly proud to share some of the organization’s success stories. For instance, during the Christmas season, Greenhouse had been selected by The Times to be one of the three charities to be featured and covered by the newspapers. As such, the paper advocated for several weeks why individuals and organizations needed to donate to Greenhouse and support its activities. The Times’ coverage featured success stories including those of Adam Wahab, for whom table tennis became a life changing experience, Winston Gordon, two-time Olympian in judo and who had been introduced to the sport at a difficult school to which he has returned to act as an instructor and mentor, or Darius Setsoafia, a talented England volleyball player who preferred to turn down a chance to make the Olympics in order to commit to unprivileged youngsters attending troubled schools. As Octagon and UNICEF, Greenhouse highly considers education. As explained by Mr. de Giorgio, the organization does not fool around with those who do not commit to academics. Lastly, Michael’s exchange with students was very inspirational as he stressed the importance of having a strategy, the right people in the organization and being effective regardless of whether an organization pursues altruistic or for-profit motives.
This year again students have shown great enthusiasm and satisfaction during this trip to London. Not only have they interacted with individuals who exhibit expertise and charisma but they have learned or strengthened important elements relating to their studies. For instance, several of their hosts emphasized the notion of competency and effectiveness. Despite being altruistic, the worlds of peace and sport require organizations to be rigorous in order to achieve corporate goals.
We sincerely thank all of those who have directly or indirectly contributed to this trip: Dr. Antonella PATRAS (IUM), Maurizio COHEN (Interlaw Monaco), Liz TWYFORD (UNICEF), Michael DE GIORGIO (Greenhouse Charity), Clifford BLOXHAM, and Philippa GAMBLE (Octagon).
Reporting from London, Professor Moïse LOUISY-LOUIS