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Good sports for exportsThere is a lot of money to be made from promoting and exporting the successes of our Australian sports stars and according to Ian Murray, we’re getting more from our $17 million investment than an Olympic gold medal.

I was watching Insiders on the ABC and the issue of how much it cost for Australia to win one gold medal came up. If I understood it correctly, it has been calculated at about $17 million for each gold medal in Beijing. The Insiders group seemed less than impressed. Thinking about it though, it’s really not that bad an investment.

Like everything in marketing, every country needs positioning that’s credible internationally, and that positioning needs to be invested in. It would be difficult for Australia to claim to be the arts and entertainment capital of the world, or hub for literary excellence. Or for that matter, a centre of excellence for international finance transactions. We can, however, claim a sporting excellence beyond our population base with credibility from over a century of achievement. This fits nicely with the clean, green image we like to portray and with the warm and inviting place to holiday, so why not invest in it and promote it to death?

Importantly though, there are sound financial reasons for investing in this unique positioning, which can permeate into a vast array of opportunities. This was apparent at the Beijing Olympic Games when the Minister for Trade, Simon Crean, launched an Australian Sports and Industry event with joint sponsors the Australian International Sporting Events Secretariat (AISES) and Austrade’s Business Club Australia.

“Australian firms have provided design and architectural services for a number of the 37 Olympic venues, including landmark Beijing venues such as the stunning Watercube National Aquatic Centre, Olympic Village, hockey, tennis, archery and rowing venues,” he noted, adding that “the business of sport is based on three key partnerships, government-to-government, business-to-business and business-to-government”. All three of these were at work in Beijing.

While design and architecture played a significant role in Beijing, so too did many sports-related activities. To name a couple, the oars used by many crews in the rowing were produced by Croker Oars in New South Wales, and in yachting the 470s won gold using high-tech pulleys and ropes made by Ronstan in Victoria. Even the international leg of the torch relay was managed by Sydney-based company Maxxam International, and the silver for the gold and silver medals came from BHP Billiton’s Cannington mine in Queensland.

The international earnings of sport-related activity goes beyond the Beijing Olympic Games. International cricket, international rugby and the Melbourne Cup, to name just three, provide Australia with substantial earnings from television rights, inbound tourism and merchandise. Both Australian Rugby and the Melbourne Cup have been recognised for their contribution by receiving export awards in NSW and Victoria respectively, and both John O’Neill and Rodney Fitzroy are Australian Export Heroes. At the individual level too, sport contributes to our international earnings whether it be in golf, tennis or cycling, or in umpiring or refereeing.

On top of that, there is a whole industry built around training and development. This ranges from our coaches building the sporting capability of those in other countries, to education facilities like the Australian Institute of Sport and universities and colleges providing a whole raft of courses to international students, from learning how to be an efficient strapper to sports physiology and psychology.

If one were to quantify the value of sport to the tourism, education and training sectors and the Australian companies and firms that in some way shape or form develop and market sport-related products and services, the figure would be enormous.

We applaud the work done by AISES, the umbrella organisation created by the states of NSW and Victoria, in marketing our capability around the world, and we press the Rudd government to invest more strongly in our sporting capability. Seventeen million dollars per gold medal is a drop in the ocean for continuing to support not only a credible international positioning for Australia, but a significant export earner.

Ian Murray
Executive director
Australian Institute of Export

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Ian Murray

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