Nature+ Football

June 2024

Dan French

Athlete Marketing Expert

 

Our inaugural interview is with the legendary sports marketing expert Dan French. We’ll be releasing a new episode every two weeks with exciting experts from music, whiskey and space already in the pipeline.

 

Please tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m an athlete marketing expert with over twenty years of experience working with major global brands and athletes, including Leo Messi, Usain Bolt, Lewis Hamilton and Rory McIlroy. I’ve built and sold an agency, but now I want to focus my expertise on purpose over profit and sustainability over share price. My new career path as The Ethical Agent has made a conscious decision to harness my expertise in sports marketing to connect athletes with conscious brands and clients committed to shaping a future where environmental stewardship, social justice and societal well-being are paramount.

Firstly, Nature+ you. What’s a fond memory you have of nature?

I was raised in the Lake District and spent my summer holidays working on Lake Windermere. Summers were filled with conversations with people from all over the world in awe of the Lake’s natural beauty. Those summers would teach me about the Lake’s impact on the surrounding nature, from the vegetation to marine life. Did you know that the West shore of Lake Windermere is completely untouched as it was bequeathed to the National Trust by Beatrix Potter, who didn’t want it to be spoiled by man? The same shoreline has every species of tree indigenous to Great Britain planted. The Lake means so much to me that I even proposed to my wife on top of a mountain looking down Lake Windermere.

What do you think are the key ways your athlete marketing could help nature improve and regenerate? Where do you think the opportunities might be?

The modern-day athlete wants to use their platform and voice to do more than just talk about results on the pitch, court or track. They have passions and personal stories that can authentically align with brands, charities and NGO’s that want to make a real impact for nature. These hugely influential and untapped ambassadors (perhaps even investors) aren’t politicians or traditional media spokespeople. They can communicate progressive messages that translate into action because their audiences trust them. Data has proved that athletes drive 5x more social media engagement than brands. The challenge is identifying these men and women and translating that into action. Professional sport is a very closed shop, and it can be difficult to navigate. My role can provide strategic consultancy that brings the challenges nature faces to the fans of world-renowned athletes.

Are there any advocates, campaigns or people doing interesting things for nature in your sector?

World Rowing has had a strategic alliance with WWF International for more than a decade, with the goal of raising awareness around water cleanliness issues. When he’s not breaking marathon records, Eliud Kipchoge is helping Kenyan wildlife. Bayern Munich’s Eric Dier can often be seen posting from his small holding where fans can see him cooking his organic produce and his passion for apiculture.  The England international is an articulate and passionate speaker who could be a powerful resource for any organisation passionate about nature.  I’ve not seen a connection with sport (yet), but I like what Flock Together is doing around bird-watching, building a community and challenging perceptions about the benefits of nature.

What do you think are the barriers and challenges for nature + your sector?

Some athletes are scared to stand up and use their voice in case of being called a hypocrite; many are concerned about public and media reaction when it comes to things like short-haul flights, which could undermine their message. Elite athletes are surrounded by agents, managers and advisors from the world of sport that can manage on and off-field activities, they’re not nature experts. The key here is to facilitate access to experts and information that do. My role is to identify these authentic advocates and remind them that no one is perfect, even Greta! The next stage is to partner them with experts who can provide them with the data and details so they feel confident when they voice their opinions.

If you could do anything (a magic Nature+ wand so to speak) for nature within your sector what would it be?

With my magic nature wand, I would identify a collective of Premier League players from across the top six clubs to put aside club allegiances and unite to form a new ‘club’ dedicated to building a fan base to save nature. This would have even more impact than we saw when Marcus Rashford defeated the government over free school meals for children. We’ve seen lone voices speak out, but imagine if players from rival clubs across London, Manchester, and Liverpool united around the same issue. That would be very hard to ignore.