Reporting from London, professor Moïse LOUISY-LOUIS

In this Olympic year, London most likely represents the apex in the career of an athlete. In addition to athletic performance, London also hosts some of the world’s leading experts in the sports industry. This fact could not be ignored by IUM students enrolled in the Master in Sustainable Peace through Sport (MSPS) and in the Master in Sport Business Management (MSBM) who met some of these experts while on a 3-day trip to London (from January 22 to 25) to bridge course material discussed in class and practical experience.

Students met Mrs. Lyz Twyford, Manager of the 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. Mrs. Twyford explained that by first building a relationship with Education Ministries, the programme allowed training of 79,000 teachers, coaches and young leaders. In addition, students learned that funding, a rigorous budget and having the right partners are essential to ensure the continuity of this initiative beyond the Games year. The below picture shows students along with Liz at UNICEF’s London headquarters.

Students also 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). As explained by Mr. de Giorgio, an important characteristic of Greenhouse is that it seeks to make a deep impact in the lives of young participants. As such, coaches must be technical experts but also social workers and interact with participants on average three times per week during sessions that last one to two hours. 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.

On day two, students went to Octagon’s London headquarter 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. Now part of the InterPublic Group, Octagon is known for its agency services (Octagon has (or is) represented(ing) top athletes including Michael Phelps, multiple Olympian champion swimmer, tennis stars such as Martina Hingis, Anna Kournikova, star rugby player, Jason Robinson, and many more …), its marketing and communications services (Octagon represents for instance global brands or Olympic Games official sponsors such as Visa or HSBC), and its rights representation services. The firm has locations worldwide especially in the US where it represents mostly NFL or NBA players. During the presentation, our hosts, Clifford and Philippa, 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’s emphasis on the importance of effectiveness and communication skills for those seeking to enter and grow in the sports industry concluded the fruitful discussion. It was a great satisfaction to hear practitioners and recruiters stress those skills which echo and reinforce professors’ recommendations given in the classroom.

Lastly, students met with Mr. Nick Keller, Founder of Beyond Sport, “an entrepreneurial network of brands and businesses specializing in the development of sport, entertainment and social properties.” As such, the organization designs and manages events, business summits or networking events and runs innovative Awards programmes as a means of identifying and rewarding the best sport-related community initiatives. Beyond Sport is organized around three key activities: philanthropy (essentially from the New York office), sport business (London), and Sport for Development Programs or SDP (Johannesburg). The group was quickly captivated by Nick’s energy and passion about his business and the sports world in general. Mr. Keller, a former rugby player and later sport agent, insisted on the need for organizations, whether for-profit or non-for-profit, to be effective. Mr. Keller sees the sports industry with the eyes of a businessman and as such is rigorous, realistic and recognizes the importance of a solid network. These qualities have certainly helped the organization to successfully launch Beyond Sport United, the first initiative that has seen all five big US league team up (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL and MLS).

Students have shown great enthusiasm and satisfaction during this trip to London. Not only they have interacted with individuals who have exhibited expertise and charisma but they have learned or strengthened important elements relating to their studies. For instance, several of their hosts have put emphasis on the notion of effectiveness (despite being altruistic, the worlds of peace and sport require organizations to be rigorous in order to achieve corporate goals; as such competency is highly valued).

We would like to sincerely thank all of those who have directly or indirectly contributed to this trip: Antonella (IUM), Joël, Yann, Mélanie (Peace and Sport), Maurizio (Interlaw Monaco), Liz (UNICEF), Michael (Greenhouse), Clifford, Philippa (Octagon), Nick (Beyond Sports) and John (INSEEC Group in London). We would like also to address special thanks and thumbs-up to Alexandra (Beyond Sport) for her time and energy.