Sport At The Service of Humanity

I’ve spent many years in the sports business. Having grown up playing many sports and spending many hours watching them when I wasn’t playing, working in the business was a dream come true. As with many businesses, however, I and many of my colleagues sometimes lost sight of the basic appeal of the product. It’s taken the Pope to help remind me, and hopefully many others, of that. Let me explain.

Any product needs to solve a basic need. Identifying that need and building products that serve it are the basis for any business. What often happens, however, is that we get focused on our own needs and not those of the customer. We worry about profits and supply chains and staffing, and we’d be insane not to focus on those things too. We can’t, however, let them blind us to the fundamental purpose of solving the problem and servicing the need of the customer.

What does the Pope have to do with this? He is running a conference which began today called Sport At The Service of Humanity. It’s billed as the first global conference on faith and sport. No, it’s not about getting every player to thank some higher power every time they score. It’s intended to launch a “movement” to develop ­­life skills through sports ­­ and characteristics across six principles: compassion, respect, love, enlightenment, balance and joy. You should check out the conference’s website here.

There are a couple of things stated in the “declaration of principles” that resonated:

  • Sport has the power to teach positive values and enrich lives. Every one of us, who plays, organises and supports sport, has the opportunity to be transformed by it and to transform others.
  • Sport challenges us to stretch ourselves further than we thought possible.

I liked to hire people who were athletes, and not just because it was the sports business. It was precisely for the reasons stated above. Moreover, ex-athletes “got it.” They understood the sheer joy of sports, and that joy is a big part of the reason why fans watch them.

The Pope’s conference is about using sports to make us better human beings, but I think it can also serve to remind us of a fundamental business principle too. Your product needs to serve people and not just investors. Using your product to make people’s lives better – in this case, to teach life skills – is really the goal of business in my mind. Yours?

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