By David Mackay   /


Sport and recreation industries generated $12.8 billion in income and employed around 134,000 Australians in 2011-12, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Globally, industry revenues are forecast to be US$145bn in 2015.

The industry comprises a wide variety of businesses, including national sporting organisations, sporting leagues, professional sports people, manufacturers and distributors of sporting equipment, and other people who are involved in paid employment or voluntary work within the sector.

In such a diverse industry, sporting organisations need to be clear about their strategies and exactly what business they are in.  While this may be easily defined for manufacturers and distributors of sporting equipment, it’s not always so simple for National Sporting Organisations (NSOs).

NSOs are the governing bodies for their sport. In Australia, most NSOs are tasked with the responsibility of growing the participation base, developing elite talent, and providing entertainment. Furthermore, given the embedded role within the community, there are expectations about demonstrating leadership in areas such as governance, management, social inclusion, and embracing diversity.

In such a diverse industry, sporting organisations need to be clear about their strategies and exactly what business they are in.

David Mackay, Partner, SPP


The business of participation

This business is about fun and community. NSOs that focus on participation have a primary goal of getting more people involved in the sport, in getting active, in developing social skills.

The target audience for this business is the general public embodied in local communities, schools and government. To reach and influence this audience, these businesses need to be open, inclusive and welcoming.

The business of winning

This business is about the pursuit of excellence. NSOs that focus on winning place the development of elite talent as their highest priority. Producing champions, winning championships and gold medals.

The target audience is the talented few who can demonstrate a winning edge, meaning they are exclusive, highly competitive, and often secretive as they push to find that extra 1%. These businesses don’t want competitive balance, they want competition domination.

The business of entertainment

This business is about revenue maximisation. NSOs that focus on entertainment drive fandom, spectator numbers, and viewers.

The target audience is also the general public, embodied in local communities, but also extends to global communities, media, sponsors and other entertainment businesses. These businesses need to be story tellers, create rivalries and focus on their commercialisation, while also creating a level playing-field to maintain competitive balance.

Which business are you in?

These objectives aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive and indeed success in one area can fuel success in the others, but there are stark differences in target objectives and audiences.  Today we see NSOs playing across all three areas simultaneously, however the limited financial capacity and resource constraints of individual sports mean they can’t be everything to everyone at the same time. The tug-of-war that results from attempting to cover all bases often results in sub-standard outcomes in each area and a lack of progress for the sport.

NSOs need to decide upon the relative emphases of  their strategies and prioritise the allocation of their resources across these different business outcomes.

So, which sport business is your NSO in? What is your focus for the current strategic cycle?

Key Contacts

David Mackay  /  Partner

David Mackay is a Partner at SPP and he leads SPP's Sports, Media & Entertainment and FMCG/Retail practices. David assists organisations to develop and execute business and technology strategy, and improve business performance through people, process and technology.  David...

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By David Mackay   /