Basketball: why did Asvel Féminin become a company with a mission? Interview.

Despite a title of champion of France in 2019, it is not for its sporting results that the sports club LDLC Asvel Féminin The Goodonomist† Since the beginning of the year, the Lyon women’s basketball club has officially adopted the status of a mission-driven company. A first in top sport. This development is the result of careful consideration by club president, NBA champion and successful entrepreneur Tony Parker, and club vice president, Marie-Sophie Obama, also a former professional basketball player. Interview with a woman determined to push the boundaries of high-level sport.

Where does this initiative come from?

When Tony Parker took over the management of the club in 2017, he was in bad shape economically and sportingly. An economic bailout was needed. So when I arrived during the season, we became interested in the club’s entrepreneurial project, to find solutions that would give us the resources to continue.

But before that, we couldn’t duplicate our project on that of the men’s team. Because his economic model just isn’t that of the women’s team. With a hall with 5,500 seats, the men’s team can generate income that is, for example, linked to events. The women’s team does not have the same visibility. So we said to ourselves: we need to create a path specific to women’s sport.

How do you come to the conclusion that you need to create a company with a mission?

We were in full swing with #MeToo and #BalanceTonPorc. We told ourselves that we had to take up this issue of women’s place in society. That’s why we created an association, Les Lumineuses, to celebrate the achievements of women in sport, but also in gastronomy or the associative world. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 has brought a major stop to all levels of our various activities, including this association. However, the pandemic has also pushed us to deliver on our commitment to society. Especially because with the crisis, the economic threat has become more compelling on commitments entered into and contracts signed. There were major uncertainties and we had to think and commit 100% to find a viable economic model.

Thanks to my connections with the International Women Forum, I met Isabelle Grosmaitre, the founder of Goodness & Co. She was the first witness to this club model as a company with a mission.

Photo: Infinity Nine Media

Can we say that your commitment stemmed from the lack of resources for women’s sport in France?

In women’s basketball we have very virtuous economic models like in Bourges. But in general, these are clubs that are the only points of attraction in their territory, or that have less competition than in big cities, such as Lyon.

If you want to compete with the best European clubs, it is difficult to find an economic model. If you don’t have support, sponsors like Tony Parker… It’s hard to get attractive or affordable† There is a lack of visibility in women’s sports. But it is also this handicap that forced us to find new ways of working.

When we started working on our mission-driven business project, I always said to myself: If we exist, we have our way, the goal is to find the right paths. We can’t copy the men’s teams model because we don’t have the same resources. But it is this handicap that drives us to daring, to creativity and allows us to invent new models and think about how sport can take a new place in society.

What concretely changes for the club to be a company with a mission?

Being a company with a mission obliges us, it is a purpose and objectives that are embedded in our DNA, in our statutes. We have the ambition to put our passion at the service of society. Specifically, these new statutes have enabled us to merge new professions that revolve around 4 themes:

  • “Body and Mind positivity”: It’s about helping women get to know themselves and break through their limiting beliefs.
  • “Growing up through sport”: we want to break gender stereotypes in society with young girls and boys and work with young girls and women so that they can believe in their dreams.
  • “Female Entrepreneurship”: the aim is to encourage women on this path, helping them to dare a project, especially through mentoring.
  • “The feminization of governing bodies”: The goal is to help women break through the glass ceiling that can be seen in large organizations.

We act in different ways according to these four themes. In the field of mentoring, for example, we have set up vocational training courses. We also have actions with the Region: we thus become their service provider to act within the framework of systems for female victims of violence. We act on reconstruction or self-confidence. We support our partners in sourcing or recruiting to feminize their teams, especially in management positions. Finally, with our network and thanks to the lever that is sport, we allow young girls or women to break taboos, break their own chains and discover worlds they do not know.

Photo: Infinity Nine Media

What is your ambition for French society?

Sport is not an engine of French society, as we can see in the United States. But we took the gamble that sport would become a tool for the good of society, not just a narcissistic medium through which to admire the achievements of athletes. Athletes also have to open their doors. That’s what we decided to do.

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