— Published 5 April 2023

“Paris 2024, a formidable tool for economic diplomacy”

The 2023 international calendar is proof of this: the health crisis is now in the past tense in the sports movement. The events are all back in place. And with them, the public in the stadiums.

But, beyond appearances, how is the market for major international sports events doing? Who are the key players? What are the prospects for companies in the sports sector?

At the initiative of Business France, the Rencontres internationales des grands événements sportifs (RIGES) will debate all these issues on Tuesday 13 June in Paris. Sébastien Vicente, in charge of sport at Business France, answered FrancsJeux’ questions.

FrancsJeux: After two difficult years, has the GESI market recovered, or is it recovering, from the health crisis?

Sébastien Vicente: The sports market works largely by anticipation: calls for tender, for example, are organised well in advance, for events taking place in several years. Projects, including the construction of stadiums, continue. Major sporting events are launched or announced. French companies must therefore return to the market as quickly as possible to position themselves and not let European and international competition take hold. The role of Business France and its partners is to help them do this.

Which countries offer the greatest market opportunities for companies in the sports sector?

We draw up a global map of priority countries for sport, using sensors such as Business France’s analyses of the world, data from the Ministry of Sports and feedback from French companies. We evaluate countries according to upcoming major sporting events, but also the political authorities’ five-year plans to promote sport and its place in society. The map can change every year. It classifies countries into three categories: priority, challengers and countries of interest.

What does the map look like today?

The list of priority countries for our mapping is very diverse. The United States is on it, because of the World Cup in 2026 and the Los Angeles Games in 2028. Saudi Arabia and Australia were added recently. We are also focusing on Africa, where governments have a strong desire to promote sport in society. The continent will host the 2026 Youth Games in Dakar, Senegal, and the 2025 World Road Cycling Championships in Rwanda. Kenya, Togo, Tunisia, Gabon and South Africa are also targeted. India, Mexico, Chile and Japan also offer interesting opportunities. For the year 2023, we have added Poland and Germany to our list.

Qatar is no longer on the list?

Qatar is no longer considered a priority country in our mapping. Although we have been organising missions with French companies in the sports industry for seven years, we noticed a certain loss of momentum after the World Cup. There are fewer opportunities and less demand from companies. We continue to work with Qatar on an individual basis, assisting companies wishing to go there on a case-by-case basis.

Are the Olympic Games and the World Cup still the most promising events for companies specialising in sport?

No. The Games and the World Cup are not necessarily the most profitable events for companies specialising in sport. The size of an event does not necessarily guarantee its potential for a foreign company. The Los Angeles 2028 Games are an example of this: the American market is very mature and there is stiff competition with American companies.

With less than 500 days to go, do the Paris 2024 Games still offer opportunities for the sports sector?

They represent a showcase of French know-how, offering a unique opportunity for foreign companies and organisations to discover our expertise and solid experience in organising international sports events. Decision-makers, international federations and organising committees will be on hand to observe our skills. These Games are also a lever for the export of our products and services. Business France acts as a bridge between investors interested in the sports economy and the growing number of national and local players who see the potential for economic, territorial and social development in sport. We are proposing a real strategy to promote France and the Paris 2024 Games on the international scene. Paris 2024 is a formidable tool of economic diplomacy for France.

Which activities offer the most interesting markets today?

The French sports sector is very heterogeneous and diversified: construction, transport infrastructures, security, new technologies applied to sport (fabrics and connected objects), broadcasting, sports equipment, infrastructures and services, events, communication, marketing and ticketing.

Which countries have the best sports policies, especially for sports practice, and which ones offer the best prospects for companies?

The United Arab Emirates has a strong desire to position itself as a destination of choice for international sports events, which creates numerous opportunities for companies in the sports sector. In India, the practice of sport is growing, with a growing demand for equipment and infrastructure. In Côte d’Ivoire, the government has launched an ambitious plan for the development of sport, with the construction of new stadiums and sports facilities. Mexico is an important market, particularly for sports equipment and infrastructure management consulting services. As for China, it is investing massively in the development of sports.

How do you support French companies?

Support can be collective, with company missions abroad, or more individual with a tailor-made strategy. A trip abroad, such as to Senegal in May, often lasts four days. It is preceded by business coaching, focusing in particular on the country’s cultural rules and customs. In Japan, for example, there is a very specific ritual for entering a meeting room. On the spot, companies meet the decision-makers, visit the infrastructures and show their know-how. Then a debriefing is carried out on the way back, to prepare for the next step.

What type of competition does France face in the sports sector?

The competition is mainly British, American, Chinese and German. The British and the Americans are our most serious rivals. Like us, they rely on a range of very solid companies in the sports sector.