The ten-year anniversary of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games has reignited the debate about that dreaded word ‘legacy’. What positive long-lasting impact did Britain’s summer of sporting glory actually have on the country? Did it truly ‘inspire a generation to increase sports participation?
The debate comes at a time when the world’s eyes turn to the UK for the next major sporting events of 2022: the Women’s Euro finals taking place this Sunday at Wembley Stadium with hosts England playing Germany, and the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Since London 2012, the Commonwealth Games took place in Glasgow (2014), while we’ve also had two subsequent Olympiads with Rio and Tokyo. These high-profile events offer an opportunity for athletes and their sports to take centre stage, especially those who don’t naturally generate column inches at other times. Niche sports deserve their moment in the spotlight – look at Tokyo as an example: speed climbing, skateboarding, BMX, all captured the public imagination.
At Birmingham, we will see lawn bowls, beach volleyball, netball, cricket T20 and squash, among others, all feature alongside more familiar sports. The Games, if nothing else, gives lesser-known athletes a chance to shine and to attract new fans and – ideally – subsequent commercial interest in their sports. They offer a springboard, one on which visionary brands can capitalise through athlete and niche sports partnerships post-Games.
This year, we’ve been working with one of Team England’s hottest tickets, the Spanish-born but London-raised Bello twins – Joaquin and Javier – who are aiming to put England on the beach volleyball map. The siblings, aged 22, are an immensely marketable pairing and generating a lot of buzz in their sport.
With the duo, it’s about more than just their sporting credentials. Both have been studying at university alongside their beach volleyball competitions in recent years. Joaquin is training to be a medical doctor, and volunteered with the NHS during the Covid crisis, helping at Middlesex Hospital. There is no escaping their Spanish origins, but the Bello brothers moved from Madrid to the UK at the age of 11 and have embraced the UK ever since.
Their father, Luis, a former volleyball player in Spain, is their coach, while their mother, Barbara, supports with logistics. It’s a family commitment, which brings together their Spanish heritage with their British upbringing.
Natural talent is in abundance with the brothers, who are hoping that Birmingham will be a platform from which they can develop their sporting careers, and hopefully attract the interest of like-minded partners along the way.
Why should brands get behind the Bello Brothers?
Javier: The fact that we are brothers – twins – in the same team, that’s really rare. We’ve seen the success, of course, of the Brownlee brothers, but they aren’t on the same team as each other, even if they have competed in the same sport, so I think we have a unique familial aspect to ourselves.
Joaquin: On the sporting side, we are leading a growing sport in the UK, representing Team England in beach volleyball. It feels like we are leading a positive change in our sport and growing a new fanbase. Being a twin is such an advantage when playing, I don’t think many teams have that level of connection. We certainly hope to win England its first medal in beach volleyball.
How much of a challenge is the commercial / sponsorship side of your sport?
Javier: We need to enact a mindset shift, really. We’ve had a lot of brands say that they think we’re good guys doing great things, but the sport is just not on their radar. We need to show that beach volleyball is cool, that it’s got a unique appeal and that it can support brand awareness campaigns. The Commonwealth Games can be a good starting point for this change of perception.
Joaquin: Outside of the UK, beach volleyball is a big deal. Look at the statistics from the Olympic Games, It’s one of the most watched sports in the competition. The association that the sport has with the beach, with healthy lifestyles, we have a totally different offering that few other sports, if any, can offer. We’re also more than just athletes; we are academic, too.
What type of following do you have – is it Spanish, or British?
Joaquin: On Javier’s Instagram, we have a lot of supporters from Brazil, Mexico, and Spain, more than we have from the UK.
Javier: I think the fact that we have the Spanish heritage, and the British upbringing is unique and gives us international appeal.
Joaquin: When we travel to tournaments, we capture a lot of attention, and have a great reach on the social channels.
How could you best represent a brand?
Javier: We can be good ambassadors for a brand; we have a global reach, we are friendly and approachable, we like to promote positive attributes and would integrate any sponsors into our lifestyle, our sport, and our culture.
Joaquin: We are very fortunate to be featured a lot on the sport’s channels, alongside some top tier players; we are just keen to promote our sport and those who are on the journey with us.
What does that journey look like from your perspective?
Joaquin: We have become a really good team and we obviously want to progress towards the Olympics. We need financial support to do that because we’ve been covering all our expenses ourselves to this point, and that’s not sustainable. We’ve become so much better and we’re now top 50 in the world.
Javier: We are now England’s number one male team, but we are trying to be the best team in the country’s history in this sport, and also compete with the world’s best. We are at the start of our journey, and we want people to be part of that with us.
Joaquin: Our brand image is important to us, we need to build this with like-minded supporters and to make an association with the Bello Brothers more than just about beach volleyball, it’s about sharing our unique story and representing our country at the highest level.