Sport & Purpose: Earning Rather Than Serving Public Interest

Simply Google the definition for the word purpose and you will be given this, “The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.” For marketers this poses a huge question for the brands that they work behind, what is our brands purpose? What are we doing to put back into society? In relation to sport purpose is a growing principal concern, sporting governing bodies and events must now take this into account. Having to look further and not just on a “We hope to boost participation numbers in a wide range of sports and get the nation moving again.” But the type of purpose that takes on all facets in relation to public interest and popular culture. A survey conducted by the McCann Truth Central Unit found that 84% of respondents agreed that brands have power to make the world a better place.

PR/Communications and transparency has never been more important in sport. Doping, sport event legacy, bidding processes, funding for events and workers rights being scrutinised and uncovered. This making the world of sport seemingly dark and a place that has lost a certain ‘purity’, mirroring that commercial gains and winnings being the goals and not the values taken away from sport itself.

“Market like you give a damn”- Good is the New Cool

In some reading I did for this post I came across “Good is the New Cool”.  You can check out the website and find out more about the two awesome marketing professionals behind this (Bobby Jones & Afdhel Aziz).

Quick Fire Facts: Millennials, we want purpose.

  • 80% of us (millennials) want a job that goes with our passion.
  • 84% state that achieving a positive impact is better than professional recognition.
  • 85% have positive image of a brand if it supports a defined cause.

Purpose in Sport

Both organisations/events and sports personalities are building on their content experience and collaborating with brands/organisations outside of the sport market. What they post on social media and how they incorporate giving back/doing good through their actions is adding value. Brands are needing to connect further to popular culture, social issues and still achieve a sense of ‘cool’.

Our generation is barraged with so much advertising/media, it is sometimes hard to see through the clutter. This now turning the tables, no longer is sport trying to SERVE the public interest but it must EARN the public interest. Potential reasons as to why this has changed is to be discussed. CSR is essential but it needs to be used authentically.


  • IOC’s Team Refugee at Rio 2016: One of the best activations of purpose in my eyes. Read more here. However I do believe and sadly quite overshadowed by the doping scandals in Summer 2016.
  • Patagonia: Worn Wear Campaigns/Donating $10 million of Black Friday Sales to Environmental Causes.
  • Adidas UltraBOOST Uncaged Parley shoe: First mass produced (7000 pairs) shoe made of recycled plastics and polyester. Further info on the Adidas site here.
  • Super Bowl 50 (held in 2016): In collaboration with sponsors and the stadium the Super Bowl 50 organisation committee envisioned it to the be the ‘greenest’ Super Bowl.


Depending on where in the world this earning/serving public interest is being fully realised by sports organisations and teams. Sport events are what differentiate from normal product + purpose marketing, events must now hold purpose,  this to be discussed.

In Europe I believe there is still room for improvement in relation to attracting new fans or match day goers and improving the match day experience. Yet a team like Everton have done wonderfully by being the first Premier League team to open a Free-School and sixth form college. Not only does serving public interest impact brand image but it leads to under-utilised revenue streams.

Major/Mega Events

For major and mega events, this is very much an issue. The sustainability both environmentally and monetarily of such events in one city is proving difficult. Legacy is a HUGE subject matter to take on and a very difficult one at that. From the time a country or city bids to the time a country/city hosts a games around seven years go by. Knowing how the government, economy and attitudes will change in that time is virtually impossible.

Examples as to how tournaments and countries are reacting already to accommodate such issue. Euros 2020 and the bid placed together by Mexico, USA and Canada to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

UEFA General Secretary Gianni Infantino, recognised this. With the extra eight teams now as part of the tournament format (total now 24) this put further pressure on organisers and cities. Hence why spreading the games across 13 cities is seen as a feasible option, to quote Infantino “…especially in times when you have an economic situation where you cannot expect countries to invest in facilities in the way such an event requires.”. Original article found here.

Further inclusion of nations to is on the agenda as seen above and is within the Olympic Agenda 2020. As seen in the equestrian world, reducing the team numbers to three would allow further nations to compete. Leading to a further invested public interest?

Final Thought

Sport organisations can no longer get caught up in a marketing myopia and believe that there is always going to a ready made market/audience that will keep them afloat. Brands, organisations, and events need intertwine further with popular culture and global/local issues.


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