As the Olympic Games come to a close, London Business School professors look into the business of sport. Our experts explore topics from how to develop an athlete’s mentality, to how to start a sports business, and the gender pay gap.
Richard Jolly, Adjunct Professor of Organisational Behaviour
The athlete’s mentality: lessons for business leaders
“When things go wrong, there’s one thing you can control – how positively or negatively the brain responds. The great marathon runners cope with pain and manage to go faster when it hurts the most. Athletes achieve this by visualisation. They imagine winning. And when they are losing, they visualise winning the next leg of the track and keep focused on that.
“If you can focus on small changes that make a big difference rather than trying to completely reinvent and transform yourself, it’s much more powerful. Human beings aren’t very good at fundamentally changing who they are because they feel their identity is at stake. Ask: what are the smallest changes I can make that will have the biggest impact on my performance? Then, focus on them.”
John Mullins, Associate Professor of Management Practice in Marketing and Entrepreneurship
Will your sports business idea win the crowd?
“Entrepreneurs need passion, conviction and tenacity, and die-hard sports fans usually possess those traits. But personality isn’t enough. You have to spot a hole in the market: something that people really need. Too many entrepreneurs fail because they have an idea they think is great, but realise no one wants it. You need to find out how attractive your market really is.”
“You need to make assessments at both a macro (broad, market wide) and micro (particular to a specific segment, one customer at a time) level. The macro/micro distinction is important because the questions you need to ask yourself differ. The macro analysis is done at the 30,000 foot level. It’s essential aerial reconnaissance and a good look at the road ahead, but for the full picture you need observers at the ground.
“Most successful entrepreneurs, rather than targeting the entire market, identify a much smaller segment of customers within the overall market. Just as most car buyers take a road test before committing to buying a new vehicle, so serious entrepreneurs run toad tests of the opportunities they consider. Each road test resolves a few more questions and eliminates a few more uncertainties lurking in the path of every opportunity.
Raina Brands, Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour
The gender pay gap: do women have a sporting chance?
“Men draw bigger crowds, therefore they’re worth more to us, so they get paid more – but then, men’s sports are given more coverage, so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we don’t cover women’s sports, they don’t become as popular and we can justify paying the competitors less.”
“Industries where women predominate tend to involve lower-paid and lower-status work than men. But, if you look historically at trends, it’s not that women enter into low-paid, low-status professions. It’s that, the more women populate a profession, the more low-paid and low-status it becomes. We associate men with high status, women with low status. So if we look at groups of men performing something and groups of women performing something, we automatically assign status to that task. We see it in sports and we see it across professions and within organisations.”