Sector spotlight: sports franchises

Sports franchises are making money by using innovative methods to enable people of all ages to play sport in their spare time.

A new breed of business is challenging the age-old British attitude of avoiding sports participation. Sports franchise owners aim to change figures that increasingly showing Brits as more overweight and sedentary than ever. 

There are already many thriving British businesses focussing on the regular watching of sports teams play. But now agile sports franchises are making money by using innovative methods to enable people of all ages to play sport in their spare time. 

Beyond the Olympic legacy

Back in 2012, the Olympics was a huge boon for sports franchises, with 15.3 million people playing some form of sport between April 2012 and April 2013.  Whether it was the success of team GB or a receptiveness to additional advertising that caused it, the effect soon waned with Sport England recording a recession in participation levels

But now, during the year up to April 2016, 15.8 million people aged 16 years and over in England were reported to be playing sport at least once a week - seeing an increase of 17.5 million since 2005/6 according to Sport England.

Sports businesses have had to woo new customers with the promise of easy, inexpensive activities that are locally based, as well as focusing on health benefits. This refocus has generated a number of innovative business opportunities in myriad areas. 

There are now franchises designed to bring Olympic-like events to the local community. Popular sports franchises include football, golf, and tennis – where a franchisee can make use of local sports clubs under a recognised brand name. 

Illustrating how trends in sport unexpectedly ebb and flow - the steep rise in interest in swimming post London 2012 has been surprising. Since the Olympics, swimming has remained as England's most popular participation sport followed by athletics, cycling and football.

With over 2.5 million Brits swimming at least once a week in 2015/2016, swimming franchises that teach children and adults are now applying cutting-edge techniques to meet this growth. Together with the UK’s sporting body ‘England Hockey’ securing the rights to hold the Women’s 2018 Hockey World Cup, these sports are likely to play a firm part in the national psyche for years to come. 

Emerging trends 

Sports businesses have often been overly-concerned with the young, but the UK’s aging population – as one in six people in the UK are aged 65 and over – means that new revenue streams are opening up to franchises catering to the older market. 

The established health and fitness industry is only just moving its emphasis onto the silver pound. This is partly because the requirements of the mature market differ from the average sports player. Niche franchises have already been quicker to adapt by applying training methods and equipment specifically designed to aid the older market. 

Consultancy firm PWC’s Global Sports Outlook report sees emerging trends in the provision of businesses building a relationship between entertainment and sporting events. However, this must be provided with care, as consumers are still sceptical of whether the two worlds can merge. Sports franchises like Leisure Leagues are able to provide 5-a-side football pitches to groups of all ages without the need or sponsorship from brands unrelated to healthy living, like McDonalds and Coca Cola. 

Value for money

Importantly, sports franchises do not require a large amount of initial financial outlay from franchise owners. As this is an agile business model, inexpensive franchise opportunities have been created that are able to evolve to meet the changing needs as discussed above. 

Many sports franchises allow franchise owners to develop and run their future business in the way that they want, while still utilising a format that generates immediate return on investment today.

And unlike sporting events, sports franchises are not seasonal as well as being low-cost, leading to higher profit margins as the business meets market requirements year-round. 

Wide in scope, agile and cheap to start, the sports franchise sector continues to thrive. Franchises that allow customers to have fun, play competitive sport and promote relaxation will also hold onto customer interest for the longer-term. 

Sarah Louise Dean

About the author

Sarah Louise produces content across all titles in the Dynamis stable.