Brand Spotlight: Dick’s Sporting Goods and “Sports Matter”

Did you know that by 2020, 27% of high schools are projected to have no sports? Or that from 2009 to 2011, $3.5 billion dollars in funding was cut from youth sports?

Some of us are into sports and some of us aren’t. Either way, this information should be startling. The debate of whether or not to cut extracurricular activities due to budget constraints is certainly nothing new, but the importance of allowing children the ability to experience extracurricular activities has been proven time and again.

Physically active children, for instance, post test scores as much as 40% above the norm, while student athletes boast an 11% higher graduation rate.

The problem, of course, is funding.

The leaders of Dick’s Sporting Goods were disturbed by these statistics. “What we saw was shocking—even to us, and we’re in the business,” said Ryan Eckel, the retailer’s VP, Brand. In response, the Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation launched “Sports Matter,” a multiyear initiative, in March 2014. The purpose of the program is to help raise the missing funds needed for high school sports.

The organization is not just donating its own money to the cause. Dick’s gives consumers the ability to participate and feel involved with the use of a crowdfunding platform. A documentary of two, once rival inner city schools, now merged due to budget cuts, was filmed to highlight and promote their story and bring awareness to the cause. The film was broadcast on ESPN, shown at the Tribeca Film Festival, and released for on-demand viewing on iTunes. It was very successful: resonated with audiences, raised an incredible amount of awareness for the cause, and received a 2015 Sports Emmy. In its first year, the Sports Matter program was able to raise $4 million for 184 teams.

The initiative continued on in 2015, and another documentary is slated for release early this year. This film will focus on a girls’ lacrosse high school team in Idaho, telling the story of their fight against “cultural tensions” as they pursue a sport that has traditionally been limited to males. The Program has joined with the non-profit, enabling individuals to contribute funds on a smaller scale. Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation will match up to $1.5 million in donations to public school sports teams in communities across the country.

Though Sports Matter wasn’t intended to be a business driver, the endeavor has led to a positive ROI for the Dick’s brand. In fact, this poignant manner of storytelling constantly outperforms the brand’s other marketing mediums (proving, yet again, the benefits cause marketing efforts can have for caring companies).

“Our brand is about this idea that sports makes people better: not just fitness, not just because you’re healthier, but because it encourages a work ethic, and discipline, and time management, and all these amazing qualities,” said Eckel. “We want to do a better job of raising money in our stores. We have 640 stores across the country, so those are incredible opportunities to engage customers and fundraise and make them aware of the program.”

At IDealogic®, we believe that brands and philanthropy go hand in hand; and we believe in recognizing brands that are doing so. Dick’s Sporting Goods is going to great lengths to ensure that kids of today can enjoy and benefit from high school sports. We congratulate Dick’s Sporting Goods Foundation for developing such an amazing program as Sports Matters, and we’re honored to feature the Dick’s brand in our Brand Spotlight!