“A sponsor has rights, but must also be responsible”
What part can economic actors play in realising the SDGs? As a major partner of French sport, the FDJ group is developing a responsible approach to sport sponsorship. Amel Bouzoura, Sport Sponsorship and Partnership Director, explains their position.
How do you think sport sponsoring has changed in recent years?
AB: The FDJ has been committed to French sport for forty years – support which is based on shared values: respect for the rules, equal opportunities, ethics, solidarity and the social bond. We have always been convinced that businesses that invest in sport have a role to play that goes further than the traditional marketing benefits. A sponsor has rights, but must also be responsible. When French sport was going through a difficult period because of the health crisis, we chose to continue with our partnerships so as to give visibility to the actors. The Covid crisis probably served to make partners more aware, encouraging them to implement more sustainable and responsible schemes.
There is a growing notion of responsible sponsorship. How would you define this?
AB: Sponsorship is not just an investment from enthusiasts, but a thoughtful, meaningful commitment, with measurable profits. It is not just a question of adding a logo to advertise the brand, it is also a chance to improve its CSR strategy and embody its purpose.
To be virtuous, sponsoring activities must have meaning, a certain coherence and be long-term. Otherwise the effect on the general public could be the opposite of what was expected.
In 2020, the FDJ group gave itself a purpose. It is written into the foreword to the FDJ statutes and embodied by six commitments which structure all the activities of the company, including ours.
Words lay the foundations, and actions show if they are built on, and therefore if the measures are sincere. At the FDJ we have taken action, for example, by rolling out the “Sport pour Elles” (women’s sport) programme, which takes the form of various operations on the ground. We changed our activity on the Tour de France caravan, with cleaner vehicles and a mobile recycling workshop, to encourage soft transport and reusing objects. Within the company we have set up a bike plan, with great success (10% of our workforce comes to work by bike).
We also rely on the events we support to put across prevention messages around responsible playing. We support the athletes in the FDJ Sport factory as they strive for better sporting performances, and also in their career conversion projects. To be effective, all these schemes need to be maintained long term.
I would even say that that is the greatest proof of sincerity. Without it, the results cannot be measured.
Do you have any examples of responsible action constructed with your partners?
AB: The FDJ has been the official partner of the French Handball federation (FFHB) since 2009. We support the French women’s and men’s teams and invest in the development of the plan to get more women into the FFHB. Together we created the call for projects “Hand pour Elles”, with the aim of consolidating club playing, supporting and enhancing committed clubs, and making access easier for people who are remote from sport with different ways of playing. In 2022, 15 clubs won grants ranging from 1,000€ to 3,000€, funded by the FDJ. I’m also thinking about the “Gagner du terrain” (gaining ground) scheme, which was our initiative and which we set up with Paris 2024 and the National Sport Agency. The aim is to fund neighbourhood sports facilities so as to encourage a wider range of people to do sport. Around fifty towns in rural and urban areas will have gained grounds by 2024.
How can the return of the Women’s Tour de France contribute to the development of women’s sport?
AB: The FDJ has been active in cycling for a long time, and has sponsored the women’s cycle team FDJ-Suez-Futuroscope since 2017; this contract has been renewed until 2025. The team benefits today from more funding which has enabled it to join the UCI World Tour circuit. Thanks to this encouragement, the whole staff can be paid and top-level cyclists have been recruited.
The FDJ has always supported the development of women’s races in France. It was therefore a matter of course for us to become a founding partner of the 2022 Women’s Tour de France. Women’s cycling all over the world has developed over the last few years so it was time for women cyclists to compete in the Tour de France. This will increase the visibility of the sport, enthuse the general public, encourage vocations and arouse the interest of sponsors (like Suez, who joined us as a co-sponsor). It is very exciting for the FDJ to be part of this movement!
Sport is a sounding board. Do you think it can help to change behaviour for sustainable development?
AB: We are witnessing an increasingly strong awakening of awareness among sport stakeholders of the role they have to play in sustainable development. Its high visibility is a force for changing behaviour, and at the same time, sport is and will be affected by changes to come.
Each stakeholder must act at their level and together, which is what the organising committee of the Paris 2024 Olympics, of which the FDJ is an official partner, is doing very well, by setting ambitious objectives and sharing them with its partners.
The Paris 2024 Olympics aim to be the most responsible in history. What is your contribution?
AB: With more than 25 million customers and nearly 30,000 partner traders, the FDJ hopes to help bring French people together to make the Paris 2024 Olympics a big party. The FDJ has also been a partner of the French Olympic and Paralympic team for a number of years, which will continue at Paris 2024. There are many aspects where Paris 2024 must be exemplary, in the field of sport, equality, grassroots sport and the environment, and the FDJ is proud to be associated with this and contribute to it. The “Gagner du terrain” operation is one example of this. Promoting equal opportunities is another. In 2022 we launched the third round of the FDJ barometer on women’s participation in sport in France, together with Paris 2024. We also increased the call for “Impact 2024” projects by creating a specific category for women doing sport. We share with the other stakeholders the objective of increasing the number of women athletes in the media, as well as on sports grounds and in sport management.
Interview by Sylvain Landa
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