Sports have become one of the largest, most popular and global activities of the world. As a cultural phenomenon, sport attracts the attention of millions of people, acts as a bridge among cultures and contributes to healthy lifestyles across all socioeconomic levels of people. It has been proven also that sports are an essential tool for the healthy development of children.
However, in my previous post I said that ‘Sports have been a neglected field for social investments and philanthropy in Latin America’, even though from an economic perspective, it is a growing and developing industry with multiple ramifications that involves production of goods and services, in such industries as footwear, clothing, entertainment and tourism.
Growth in organized professional sports alone is producing more and more powerful social icons. The connection between popular culture and marketing acts as a catalyst for generating significant wealth for a group of relatively young athletes. Mixing revenues from ticket sales, broadcast radio and television contracts, merchandising and endorsements produces enormous wealth. Union contracts, professional agents and corporate endorsement partners combine to raise the level of resources flowing into the hands of the individual sports stars. The number of multi-millionaires growing out of this modern phenomenon continues to rise, mainly in the developed countries and in a smaller scale, even though as a growing trend, in the rest of the world. In addition, these sports stars have considerable influence in society. For example, they serve as de facto role models for the youth that follow the sport and admire their heroes. A good example of a collective effort by athletes from different sports can be found in Brazil with the group of ‘Athletes for Citizenship’. The opportunity is ripe to capture both the financial wealth and potential personal influence toward positive social development. Think of your own sports star and find out what she or he is doing…
Beyond the ‘sports stars’ there are also clubs, associations, fans, large institutions and collective efforts in the making. In Latin America, for instance, the Inter American Development Bank has started an initiative around sports, and football more in particular, that deserves attention and monitoring, in particular because of its interesting association with the Football for Development Foundation in Argentina. Uruguay is also a great example of how the collective effort by the players of the national team – by donating their own money to create a foundation – can serve as a role model for other countries. Also in the field of football, but in Europe, the European Union Football Association (UEFA) has set an example by establishing an annual charity award.
In the US it is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, with the support of The Sports Philanthropy Project (SPP), who took the lead years ago to maximize the impact that professional sports leagues, teams and athletes have in society.
Finally, on a larger scale, it is worth mentioning the UNITED initiative, which is preparing a global platform to engage the millions of football/soccer fans around the world to support social change causes.
These are just a few examples that illustrate the many facets and ramifications that are involved in the equation of sports, philanthropy and development. Going back to the beginning of this post, I feel that what’s missing in this picture is the social investors in the field. Where are they?
Andrés Thompson is currently the general manager of streetfootballworld in Brazil.