On February 1st-5th, 2021, the second edition of Global Sports Week, under the patronage of UNESCO and the high patronage of Mr. Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic, has returned with a new and multi-country format that mixed physical and digital experiences, kicking off sport’s big comeback year. Themed with Reinvention in Action, the forum has overcome the obstacles under the Covid-19 Pandemic and brought the world of sports together.
As sport’s Rendez-Vous of the year, the Global Sports Week 2021 provides a tailored stage for stakeholders to shake, shape and share, fulfilling its mission to break the boundaries of sports, business and society. During the forum, as one of its official media partners, Yutang Sports has conducted exclusive interviews with leaders from different international organizations, through which they expressed the changes and innovations made under the crisis.
©Global Sports Week
Facing the tough situation under the global lockdown of sports events, it is the forward-looking strategies that enables these organizations to actively convert challenges brought by the pandemic into the new opportunities and achievements that can pave the way for their future development. And Mr. Thomas Lund, Secretary General of the Badminton World Federation (BWF), is among one of these activists, who expressed his actions regarding the reinvention of the organization. As early as the year of 2018, Yutang Sports has conducted an interview with Mr. Lund, during which the word reform became one of the most frequent words shown in the talk. Thus, it is obvious that, during the process of BWF’s operation and management over the years, reinvention has always been a key word, which has also powered the organization to overcome the challenges set by the pandemic.
Thomas Lund, Secretary General of the BWF ©BWF
Global Sports Week Paris – A tailored stage to share more success stories
Yutang Sports: From your perspective, compared to other forums in the industry, what are the special characteristics of the GSWParis?
Mr. Lund: Given the COVID-19 pandemic, GSWParis has expertly made it possible for industry leaders to share knowledge and experiences in the same meaningful ways as before through use of new tools and technology. There is no better time to enable such a collaborative forum with sports organizations and other industry participants eager to stay ahead of the curve.
Yutang Sports: For what reasons did the BWF decide to participate in the forum as a Proud Supporter? And what are BWF’s expected achievements through the event?
Mr. Lund: BWF is excited to share our success stories from the past 12 to 18 months and we feel GSWParis is a very good forum to do this. We hope to broaden our exposure and good news stories to the sports community through GSWParis.
Yutang Sports: The 2nd edition of the GSWParis set “Reinvention in Action” as the theme of the forum. From your perspective, in what aspects should the reinvention be reflected in sports industry, especially in the badminton industry?
Mr. Lund: The pandemic facilitated accelerated growth for the BWF as we turned to technology to continue to deliver on key focus areas of badminton – namely governance, development and player and fan engagement. It was important for BWF that we went down this path of reinvention as what we do sets the tone for our community to follow.
Yutang Sports: As is known that the GSWParis has emphasized its focus on several social topics, such as Health, Climate Change, Education, and Gender Equality. In this regard, as one of the proud supporters, what promises did the BWF make to address these issues, and how well does the BWF practice them in action?
Mr. Lund: As we presented during GSWParis, one of the great success of the BWF has been our Star Creation Programme. Designed to help grow the global popularity of players and badminton as a sport, we provided 11 players practical social media tutoring in collaboration with our partners at Seven League. The goal has been to enhance their social media skills and understanding, grow their social media followers, generate better engagement with their fans, build their personal brand, inspire the next generation of players and fans, and amplify their player profiles. With social media hugely impacting fan engagement on platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, the programme helped the graduates pick up its best practices, leaving them well-placed to promote themselves and attract new followers. The programme has been such a success we are extending the course for another 12 months with six more athletes to benefit from the hands-on social media education.
Manasi Joshi, para-badminton world champion, speaking at the GSWParis ©Global Sports Week
Under the pandemic – A comprehensive plan has been made
Yutang Sports: There is no doubt that the Covid-19 Pandemic has brought tremendous impacts to the sports industry. Facing the challenges, what are the corresponding adjustments that the BWF has done in terms of the events operation and event schedule? In the meantime, what types of revolutionary impacts has the pandemic brought to the operation system of the whole BWF organization?
Mr. Lund: 2020 yielded many lessons as well as solutions to problems we never thought we would have. Regarding Events, we established a comprehensive action plan for a revamped, reshaped tournament calendar centred around cluster events to ensure a more feasible way of getting our players and Para badminton players on court more regularly. In view of the likely increased financial burden upon tournament hosts to implement heightened health and safety protocols at their events, BWF approved a COVID-19 Support Package to ensure tournaments can continue to be part of the HSBC BWF World Tour and BWF Tour in 2021.The support will help hosts cover the costs of testing mechanisms, arrangements around transport and hotel safety, cleaning, provisions of face masks to participants, and issuing of sanitising equipment. We have also published a revised Safety Protocols and Operating Procedures document outlining mandatory advice and measures for all BWF Major Championships and HSBC BWF World Tour hosts, as well as detailed solutions to complete the Tokyo Paralympics qualifying process. In terms of governance, we staged our first Virtual AGM in July 2020, and recently our first Virtual EGM, plus a number of virtual Council meetings and Membership and Continental Confederation engagement workshops. All these initiatives have made it possible for BWF to maintain its high governance standards throughout the pandemic.
Yutang Sports: Since the new season is coming, what are the BWF’s specific expectations towards its events’ development in the post-pandemic era?
Mr. Lund: Although the COVID-19 vaccine may in time create a world with fewer restrictions, BWF expects that the pandemic will still influence tournament hosting throughout the whole of 2021. That is why we have been so committed in getting our plans right as outlined in the above questions. But we do see the cluster-style of tournament as being the blueprint for sustained competitions in 2021, and we hope to see international badminton return to China, and all over the world, as soon as possible.
BWF in China – Remarkable achievements in digitization
Yutang Sports: We have also noticed that, in recent years, the BWF has also attached great importance to its development in the Chinese market. In 2021, the Sudirman Cup will be held at Suzhou. How does the BWF see the value and status of China in global sports industry, especially in the badminton territory?
Mr. Lund: We are planning to host the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2021 in Suzhou in China, although we have had to postpone the championships until a later time in the year due to COVID-19. Events in China are usually packed with spectators, and while there have been numerous cancellations in the last 12 months, there is no doubt fans will return in greater strength when tournaments resume. In this time though, we have seen great digital growth on our social platforms, which shows there is still a huge demand for badminton from our online fans in China. Our Weibo account grew by almost 2 million fans in 2020. This has taken us to 3.7 million in total – something we are very excited about. And despite only launching in December 2019, our Douyin account has grown to 100,000 fans. This positions us quite well compared to other leading international sports in the China market. With the return of international badminton tournaments, we expect our digital and social footprint to soar even further in China.
Yutang Sports: Eyes on the future, what types of expectations and suggestions does the BWF have to the development of badminton industry in China? Last but not least, does the BWF have any specific plans to further strengthen its cooperation with China in the following years?
Mr. Lund: China has a very strong top performance structure, but further developments could be implemented around creating more structured badminton activities at all levels: recreational badminton; wider competition systems (individual and team) for all level of players and not just elite players; more widespread coaching and academy developments; and creating more activities around badminton in schools. China has also been a big focus of our AirBadminton project and we have delivered outdoor badminton courts across a number of cities in China for local badminton communities to use. One positive of the pandemic has been the fact that participants can enjoy this new outdoor version of badminton in a safe manner while complying with local safety regulations. People playing badminton outdoors is a regular sight in China, and we are confident our efforts to build public access AirBadminton courts and offering standardised rules and equipment will play a vital role in making AirBadminton popular all over the world. Digitally, our success has been aided by our partnership with global sports digital consultancy and agency Mailman. Currently we are the fastest growing sports governing body on Chinese social media and the most followed racket sports organisation on Chinese social media. Our data tells us we have 735 million badminton fans worldwide, of which 339 million are active participants in the sport, with a large representation coming from China. To strengthen the sport’s presence and standing in China among the public, we have embarked on a comprehensive offline to online conversion campaign to capture all those active participants who play badminton daily into regularly engaged social and digital consumers of badminton content. We have seen the fruits of this already and this will continue to be one of our main strategic ventures in China as we look to further develop the sport in the modern age and with COVID-19 being a factor.
Thomas Lund, Secretary General of the BWF ©BWF
During the pandemic, the actions made by the BWF has exactly emphasized the significance of putting reinvention in action, while Mr. Lund has also demonstrated a valuable sample set by the BWF for the sports organizations to thrive after the pandemic, including a practical action plan, special attention to the digital channels, as well as a feasible consumption pattern designed for fans. Eyes on the future, it is an unstoppable trend for sports to play a more significant role in human society, while the BWF, with a well-developed system and rich experience to cope with potential challenges, will continue to follow the path of reinvention and locate its niche in the future market.
About Global Sports Week Paris
Global Sports Week Paris is an annual international forum that brings together leaders and disruptors from sport, business, culture, media, government and society. Its agenda is focused on the future of sport at the intersection of business and society.
The inaugural edition, held under the patronage of UNESCO and the high patronage of M. Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic, took place at the Louvre in Paris in February 2020, gathering more than 2,000 delegates from 70 countries.
In 2021, GSWParis returned from February 1st - 5th, boasting a new, multi-country format, mixing physical and digital experiences, with events in six cities worldwide.
More information: www.globalsportsweek.com | #GSWParis
About Yutang Sports
As one of the official media partners of the GSWParis, Yutang Sports is a Chinese leading sports marketing and media platform, with an ultimate mission to connect China and world through sports. After years of growing, Yutang Sports, with a comprehensive media and marketing promotion system, is now dedicating to reporting sports business and marketing trends, providing sports business news, analysis and exclusive data reports in both Chinese and English. Having been cooperated with top-level domestic and international sports summits, Yutang Sports is opening a window for Chinese sports industry to embrace the world.