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  • Writer's pictureAshley Shaner

As the triple bottom line becomes a priority, will sponsors be looking for more from rights holders?

Recently, I was fortunate enough to participate in the SportsPro Hackathon - an event that set out to bridge the gap between sports professionals and the next generation in our industry. They were able to join together the top students from across the globe to compete against one another, while myself and others helped to serve as mentors for the project teams.

The task at hand for the students was simple in the scheme of things: they were asked to focus on creating a product or service in the sports industry that would support the triple bottom line. Their idea would be evaluated on the merits of having positive societal, environmental and financial outcomes or as it is often referred to, The Three Ps (People, Planet, Profit).

Simple right? That’s what I thought, but was quickly reminded when consulting with the teams that it is often easy to become too focused on one or two of the three essential elements of The Three Ps and inevitably one area becomes an afterthought.

This hat-trick of business practices is not easy to achieve. Especially as many areas of focus are built over time. However, it is crucial as we are seeing the demand from the next generation of consumers. They vote with both their wallets and the most tangible assets of time. They often spend the most with those that support the causes and outlooks they believe in. As rights holders are now modelling themselves as media organisations and D2C businesses, development of this model should be high atop their agenda.

On a positive note, not all is lost when it comes to this challenge. There are many current examples of companies actively working towards the triple bottom line, but when we look to the sports world the list becomes slimmer. It is often the brands or sponsors that partner with the rights holders that are actively working towards this trifecta.

From the sponsor and brand side, we look at companies like Adidas which has completely shifted its perspective, production, products and corporate strategy, “sustainability is an integral component of our strategy Own the Game”. Own the Game also encompasses and is working towards the key pillars of the triple bottom line:

On the right holders' side, we saw one of the best examples in the triple bottom line with the launch of a whole new property, Extreme-E. It took full advantage of creating unique sporting events based solely around these criteria. This includes the factors of reducing the carbon footprint through electric vehicles, limited media and no spectators; using reach platforms like broadcast and digital to allow fans to consume races as well as making sure there are legacy programmes set in place to continue the work with the environment.

From the financial side, Extreme E has “secured a host of major broadcast deals” and is “working with several partners that align with its sustainability goals”. This shows that there is interest in partnering around like-minded events and initiatives.

Rights holders should have a clear vision of how they are actively working towards these goals and start positioning themselves now for this change in strategy and mindset. As we see this shift at the core for many of the larger sponsors of sport (brands), this has the potential to also shape their relationship with the rights holders with whom they partner. Outside of showing an effective ROI on their partnership, rights holders may be soon tasked with (if they are not already) further criteria of a partnership deal. These new criteria may include transparency into mutual achievements in society and for the environment.

So, what can we all do as a simple start and from a day-to-day perspective? First and foremost, if you have initiatives set in place, communicate them through all your channels. It is always surprising that many rights holders have started their own initiatives that would fall into a triple bottom line strategy but they are often buried within websites or hidden on their own offshoot social media channel, thus never really landing with the fan or the consumer.

Secondly, following in the footsteps and learning from the strategies set out by adidas and Extreme E, it may be time to reevaluate your long-term strategic goals. If you don’t have technology and innovation woven in, you will never be able to make the most of this type of model. This will take time and a mindset change from all as we almost always see when any new strategy is put into motion.

As stated in our 3rd Age of Sport manifesto, sport is on the brink of change with new business models evolving on a daily basis. Our role is to help others stay at the forefront of this change and in a way that will have a positive impact on financial sustainability, as well as positive contributions to society and across the planet where sport is played.


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