Sport Industry Spotlight: Key Learnings on Active

09 Apr 2020

By: Sport Industry Group

The second Sport Industry Spotlight session - a new series of interactive, insight-driven, online panel sessions to aid those wanting to upskill in sport business - took place, as panellists and attendees took a deep dive into the 'active' world of mass participation, physical activity and major events. 

Each Sport Industry Spotlight session is based on a category at the Sport Industry Awards 2020 and the second panel cast a spotlight on the Active Award.

Featuring input from some of the organisations working to keep the population active, including two representatives from organisations shortlisted in the category, the webinar brought together Joe De Sena, Founder and CEO, Spartan; Elaine Wyllie, Founder, The Daily Mile; Tom Whiteside, UK Sponsorship Lead, Toyota; and James Hogben, Creative Director, Limelight Sports.

As with all Sport Industry Spotlight sessions, the subject matter was led by attendees, through a series of interactive polls and questions from the floor, and directed the panellists to discuss a range of issues beyond the current coronavirus lockdown such as inspiring participants, what attracts sponsors, and the next big thing in mass participation events.

Spartan Founder De Sena was the keynote speaker for the session, giving a one-on-one interview to kick off proceedings, touching on his passion for fitness and his journey to setting up Spartan. Afterwards, he joined the panel to discuss the wider opportunities and challenges as well as best practice in the active sector.

Speaking about setting up Spartan and the growth it has achieved throughout the world over the course of the last two decades, De Sena said: “It’s been a really successful and exciting journey - up until 26 days ago... If you were to pick the worst business in the world to be in during a social distancing crisis it would be this one!”

The current crisis, however, has ensured that Spartan has pivoted to other areas that were already on the cards, but weren’t yet the priority until races had to be postponed.

“We hadn’t leaned in enough because we’re so busy growing the business side,” said De Sena. “We have a strong stance on nutrition and merchandise, but we never had a chance to lean in on those, then 26 days ago we had to pivot fast! 

But we are the global experts in resilience, in our business we turn iron into steel and when the lights go back on, we’ll have a business running on four cylinders, and not just one.”

The fact that many people now find themselves in government-ordered lockdown presents challenges for the active sector in the short term, but the panel also discussed issues away from the current crisis and looked ahead to putting plans in place for when events can safely return.

The panel spoke of inspiring their participants to get active, with a focus on presenting the public with images of people who look like them. Toyota’s UK Sponsorship Lead Whiteside spoke about his brand’s involvement with Parasport, an organisation set up to grow activity among disabled people.

“We’re trying to tell the stories of real people, so people can see people like them getting active. While paralympians are inspiring, even the word sport can be off-putting for people. 

“We try to keep it framed as movement or activity rather than sport.” 

Limelight Sports’ Creative Director Hogben, added that knowing the audience was key to inspiring people to get active. “Breaking down barriers is about breaking down your audience,” he said. 

“What is it that motivates or excites them? If you go too broad with that it’s hard to get something that’s innovative or creative. Once you’ve understood that, it’s about tapping into their passions and not being afraid to disrupt the model.”

The same can be said for children’s participation, too. The Daily Mile Founder Wyllie said: “Inspiration from athletes is important, but [for children] so is their own success and enjoyment, and their own fun. 

“It’s something that they own, that’s theirs, that’s fun, is social and happens daily. I would like to see some inspirational people who weren’t the perfect shape advocate for physical activity too.”


Sport Industry Spotlight is driven by genuine insider insight, and with interactivity built in throughout, the sessions make learning about the industry’s finest work both easy and accessible.

Join next week for Sport Industry Spotlight: Communications, to talk all things campaign strategy, media management and crisis comms, particularly during the current pandemic.