Approaching it’s 20th Year, Laureus Looks to the Future for Continued Growth

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MONACO – FEBRUARY 26: Laureus Academy Chairman Sean Fitzpatrick (L) with Laureus Sport For Good Award winners Gary Stannett, (C) Founder of Active Communities Network and Ade Akande and Ibrahim Kanu from Active Communities Network with Benedict Cumberbatch (R) during the Laureus Sport For Good Award Announcement at the Meridien Beach Plaza on February 26, 2018 in Monaco, Monaco. (Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images for Laureus)

Built from the famous words spoken by Nelson Mandela in 2000, “Sport has the power to change the world,” Laureus has touched the lives of hundreds of thousands of children over the nearly 18 years since its inception.

A far cry removed from the early days in which the organization was only able to support two or three programs, Laureus has grown into a global organization that, in 2018, will service over 150 projects in 40 countries and impact the lives of kids around the globe thanks to the power of sport.

At the helm of Laureus sits Jonathan Hill, a seasoned sports industry professional who spent time at IMG, the FA, and WPP before joining Laureus just four months ago.

“Our vision now is using the power of sport to end violence, discrimination, and disadvantage, proving that sport can change the world.” – Andy Griffiths

While only being in the chair for a short amount of time, Jonathan already has some lofty goals for the organization, especially on the digital side, that he believes will be a catalyst for further growth and development of the global Laureus brand.

“One of the very simple objectives I have is to make Laureus more famous,” said Hill as he spoke about the global reach of the organization. “We are not well known enough. I think we are one of the world’s best-kept secrets. That will come from a slightly different media strategy.”

While growth in followers might be great for Hill, he is focused on delivering growth in real engagement to leverage and deliver more partners to the organization. Achieving this goal will allow Andy Griffiths to expand the reach and impact of Laureus Sport for Good.

To really understand the meaning of Laureus and its mission, we have to take a look back at where the organization has come from.

Nestled in the beautiful mountains of Southern France sits Monaco, the birthplace and spiritual home of Laureus thanks to the organization’s connection to Nelson Mandela.

Born from the ideas of Johann Rupert, Executive Chairman of luxury goods company Richemont and his friendship with Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of German automotive giant Daimler, the two set out to bring Oscar-style awards to the sports industry. The Laureus World Sports Academy was founded, and on May 25th, 2000, most of the Academy members met in Monaco for the inaugural Laureus World Sports Awards. It was then that Mandela offered up the now famous words, “Sport has the power to change the world.”

Since then, Laureus has built its credence and mission behind those words.

“It began with the Mandela speech,” said Griffiths. “That was effectively our birthright back in 2000.”

Although they had both the Laureus World Sport Academy and the Laureus World Sports Awards, the third pillar, which serves as the foundation for all that Laureus does, Laureus Sport for Good, has grown out of the mission and vision set by Mandela in 2000.

MONACO, MONACO – FEBRUARY 25: Laureus Academy Member Emerson Fittipaldi is awarded with a medal by Laureus Academy Chairman Sean Fitzpatrick after the Laureus Sport for Good Run prior to the 2018 Laureus World Sports Awards on February 25, 2018 in Monaco, Monaco. (Photo by Simon Hofmann/Getty Images for Laureus)

Eighteen years later, the Academy has grown from 20 members to 64 and they have added an ambassador program that includes over 200 active and retired sports stars.

It is this growth that Hill credits to the overall growth of the organization on a global scale.

“The academy is really important for us because they are our influencers. They are our messengers for the Laureus projects across the world.”

The growth of the Academy and all that has come with it has allowed Andy and his team to take the message and impact of Laureus to over 40 countries in 2018 alone.

“We have grown from supporting literally two or three projects back in the year 2000, to close to 150 projects in 40 countries in 2018,” said Griffiths.

“In the general charitable development world, that doesn’t seem like a massive number still, but in 2016 it was 7.5 million euros and that has grown to nearly 12 million in 2018.” – Andy Griffiths

While being able to serve more and more projects every year is fantastic, Griffiths still wants to make sure the organization is setting people up to succeed and giving these groups and foundations more than just money.

“In the end, it is not so much about the sheer number of projects, ultimately it is about the number of children we are helping and that is hundreds of thousands now which is very exciting. Our aim is to give money, but also to give organizational capacity support to leave the organizations in a better place after the period of the grant.”

Grants from Laureus typically will fund the program for three-five years, further reinforcing the organization’s commitment to building and fostering stable programs that will be around after the initial funding.

In order for programs to apply for funds through Laureus, they have to fall into one or more of the six social focus areas that Laureus has honed in on through work with their stakeholders.

“We have six social focus areas. They are around health, education, employability, women and girls programs, peaceful society, and inclusive society,” said Griffiths. “All of our focus areas are aligned with the United Nations sustainable development goals.”

The programs that end up passing the due diligence from Laureus have the opportunity to be funded for three-five years.

NICE, FRANCE – FEBRUARY 26: Laureus Academy Member interacts with kids from local neighbourhoods during the Sport for Good Play International Project Visit at Allianz Riviera Stadium on February 26, 2018 in Nice, France. (Photo by Boris Streubel/Getty Images)

Like any other charitable organization, Laureus relies on its corporate partner relationships to help grow and spread the mission of the brand. Luckily for Laureus, two of their biggest stakeholders are also shareholders giving them stability and support from some of the biggest and most well-known brands on the planet.

“The partners are absolutely critical in relation to the overall funding process. We couldn’t do what we do without them.” – Jonathan Hill

For Hill in his messaging to partners, the belief and knowledge that Laureus is able to offer something unique for current and potential partners in the form of being connected to all sports and not just one is a huge selling point.

“I think we offer something very unique in that we are connected not just to sport, but to all sports,” said Hill.

Like the programs that apply for the grants, the companies who want to be a part of Laureus are vetted as well.

“We are looking for a commitment to the space that we work in,” said Hill. “Not every brand has that commitment because it is not appropriate for them. The partners that we have are all committed to what Laureus does.”

“We balance commercially because of the fact that we want to get the right type of brands who understand what Andy and his team are doing within the scope of their projects,” said Hill.

Having partners that are bought into the mission of Laureus has allowed the organization to utilize the back their global partners provide them to create even more opportunities.

“Working as a charity we have to raise money. When trying to raise money, there is some money, like money to pay staff, that is harder to raise than money making a direct impact on a kids life.” – Andy Griffiths

With a lineup of globally recognized partners, an Academy with 64 sporting legends and 200+ ambassadors, as well as an internationally recognized award, you’d figure the work would be done.

Not for Hill and Griffiths, who see the next five years as crucial to expand the ambassador program, grow their digital footprint, and as they like to say, “make them more famous.”

“We want to grow our academy and our ambassador programs,” said Hill “I think the growth areas for us will be in those sports where we haven’t engaged as deeply as we have done, some obvious new sports such as esports, where from a digital perspective, it may make sense to work with some of the top talents.”

Like the previous 17 years before, with all the three pillars moving in the right direction, there is no reason Laureus can’t continue to change the lives of kids across the globe.