30 Mar 2022

By: Sport Industry Group

Last week, Two Circles revealed Diversity in Sports – an evolution of the LiveWire Sport Diversity in Digital Mentoring Programme launched in 2020. The programme supports and accelerates the growth of under-represented talent in the sports industry.

Two Circles CEO Gareth Balch and LiveWire Sport co-founder and Two Circles Director, Content, Pranav Soneji, discuss their experiences building businesses, and how it led to the new look Diversity in Sports programme.

How did the Diversity in Sports programme come about?

Pranav Soneji: Among the thousands of conversations Gareth and I had ahead of our two businesses converging in February was one that focused on what we hadn't done well in our respective agencies.

Across the industry we tend – rightly – to focus on the positives: growth, revenue, profit, impact, new clients and our ever-expanding teams. While admitting you've made mistakes is tough, it's also an essential process that can strengthen relationships through brutal honesty.

Gareth Balch: We talk internally about mistakes being crucial to our pursuit of rewiring sports. As a business we try to make original mistakes and ensure we don’t make the same mistake twice.

In our early years, the pressure to hire quickly and with insufficient processes saw us hire too many people with a similar profile to the executives that have dominated the sports industry for the last 50 years.

So that is a mistake we are focused on learning from and are busily making amends for –developing our business into on that is truly representative of the sports fans we ultimately serve.

PS: It takes courage to admit mistakes, even more so as a successful CEO of an award-winning company like Two Circles.

So, when Gareth told me he wished he had done more to improve Two Circles' staff representation, I knew we were on the same wavelength. The Diversity in Digital Mentoring Programme, which we launched in 2020, was a direct action of an area we also did not get right - reflecting the diverse audiences we serve – and was our commitment to lowering the barriers of entry for under-represented talent in the sports industry.

We therefore knew it was going to be a major vehicle for us to invest in once we’d come together.

How will Diversity in Sports make a difference?

GB: I was fortunate to have been a mentor on the Diversity in Digital Mentoring Programme in years one and two, and I was inspired by the opportunities it created and the progress it is delivering.

Sport is one of the most inclusive passion points in society, its power to bring people together and bring the best out of society never fails to amaze me. We believe the sports industry will only reach its full potential when it is representative of the audience it serves.

It’s all too obvious this isn’t currently the case – at Two Circles or across the industry – and Diversity in Sports looks to address that. Two Circles is aspiring to be the change we want to see, and in the process of evolving our own business, we want to support the industry along the way.

PS: Diversity in Sports sits at the heart of Two Circles' Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategy, providing a pathway to people who have faced barriers breaking into the sport industry That can be race, religion, sexuality, disability or gender; individual challenges such as socio-economic, geographical, health, or a family situation.

Since launching Diversity in Digital in 2020, I'm proud to say that over 70% of the mentees have experienced paid work with us. Many have gone on to secure new roles in the sport industry and beyond, including six members who are now full-time employees with us.

This year it has a new name but the same commitment, and we hope for even greater results.

What’s the long-term goal?

GB: As a business, Two Circles was created to innovate, and I’m proud of the impact we’ve had in numerous areas across our 10-year history: in driving the shift from analogue to digital, from instinct to insight, and from B2B to D2C.

But it’s clear one of the defining trends of this era of the sports industry will be in the shift from exclusive to inclusive. I hope that one day, we will look back on the Diversity in Sports programme as having played a role in a much larger step change for our industry, from exclusive to inclusive.

PS: Ultimately, my hope is that this programme does not exist in the future. We still have a long way to go, but we hope the wider sports industry can join us for the journey.

Visit the Two Circles website to find out more and apply to the Diversity in Sports programme.