Monday 23 August 2021 7:30 am

Justin King: Big business must do more to support grassroots sport

Observing the wonder of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, it underlined my belief that big business must do more to support grassroots sport.

As we enjoy this fantastic summer of sport, it’s important to remember that our sporting stars all started at a grassroots club somewhere. While only a select few make it to elite level, sport plays a vital role in the lives of young people, teaching them a variety of essential skills and important life lessons.

Yet less than a handful of the top 300 companies in the UK are involved in grassroots sport.  

It is entirely understandable that brands have focused on the biggest sporting events in the past, but I want to call on companies to recognise the vital role grassroots sport plays in social and economic development. 

If brands want to make a serious contribution to the health and wellbeing of their customers, supporting community sport will drive a significant return and loyalty that advertising alone can never match.

Grassroots sport will continue to be invaluable in reinvigorating communities and supporting young people post-pandemic. 

I want companies to completely rethink what they believe sport can do for social development, and what their personal contribution can be to helping young people develop and communities to thrive. 

Often companies think about brand building at much too high a level; as a business, your ability to operate is through the consent of society, so it is imperative to give something back. To function productively, businesses should prioritise making a positive difference to the communities where they want to operate and make their profits. 

There is incredible potential for the biggest brands to strike up authentic relationships with their customer base by investing in sport within local communities.

If companies want their customers to truly engage and believe they have their best interests at heart, they need to show it – and there is no better way to make a difference than through grassroots sport. 

Investing in grassroots sport can drive strong returns for all

As Chairman of Made By Sport, a charity that raises awareness of the power of sport to change lives and raises funds for organisations doing just that, I have seen first-hand the positive impact community clubs and organisations have on young people. 

Sport can teach us skills that last a lifetime, which is why it is vitally important that we facilitate clubs to continue the invaluable work they are doing in mental health, reducing crime, developing employability skills, making communities stronger, and so much more.

Research affirms the value of sport at a grassroots level. A report by Sport England and Sheffield Hallam University showed that every £1 spent on community sport and physical activity generates nearly £4 for the economy. The findings also reveal that community sport and physical activity brings an annual contribution of £85.5bn to the country through both social and economic benefits.

If businesses change their approach, they can tap into the power of community sport, that serious investments will drive strong returns from customers – and most importantly, will make a clear, positive impact on health, wellbeing, and community cohesion. 

Investment in grassroots sport will have a measurable positive impact on customers and employees; there is no one that community sport does not reach.

Justin King is the former CEO of Sainsbury’s and now Chairman of Made By Sport, which is partnering with Allwyn to run the #PoweringGoodTogether campaign to show the value and wide-ranging importance of sport to communities across the UK. Find out more at