Demain Le Sport: how athletes seeking Olympic medals finance themselves

Not all top athletes are super-rich stars, drowning in partnership contracts and leading dream lives. Many athletes combine performance and precariousness.

Seven years ago, a report by Brigitte Bourguignon, then PS deputy for Pas-de-Calais, worried about the situation of top athletes. 40% of them lived below the poverty line... In 2016, a Complément d'Enquête report on France 2 revealed that half of the 450 French athletes present at the Rio Games lived on less than five hundred euros per month...

There is indeed a difference between a professional sportsman who secures a monthly salary thanks to a contract signed with a club, and the high-level sportsman, non-professional but no less invested, whose income is more uncertain. In the second case, the sources of funding can range from the practice of a profession (in addition to the sport practised) to sponsorship via image contracts, paid speaking engagements, or even winnings in competition. But dealing with so many parameters without any certainty at the dawn of a great barnum like the Olympic Games in his country is not ideal. Athletes can also count on the support of the National Sports Agency (ANS), whose credits linked to high level have increased from 104 M € in 2021 to 118 M € in 2022. A significant contribution but still insufficient to attempt to seek an Olympic title or a place on the podium in 2024.

Put the athletes in the best conditions

So what role can companies play in all of this? Many of them establish professional integration agreements (CIP) to enlist athletes. CIPs are a form of tripartite employment contract signed between an athlete, his employer and his federation. They define the conditions under which an employer frees up time for his employee to enable him to combine a professional career with sports. In short, an exchange of good practices between an athlete who needs time and money and an employer who hopes to be able to surf on the notoriety of his foal. Among the pioneers of the genre are large companies such as La Poste, EDF, the RATP or even the SNCF, which today engages the services of the reigning Olympic karate champion, Steven Da Costa. The FDJ, through its “Challenge” program, has supported more than 400 athletes for twenty-eight years. Since 2020, its FDJ Sport Factory has had the same objective: to put athletes in the best possible condition before their sporting events.

This is also the policy of Enedis, formerly ERDF, which last April became the official supporter of Paris 2024 in the sustainable distribution of electricity on the sites. "Our commitment to sport notably involves the support that the company makes available to athletes through a system dedicated to high-level athletes", we explain within the company. Guillaume Toucoullet, world silver medalist in para-archery, and Vladimir Vinchon, 6th individually and 9th in teams at the Tokyo Olympics in para-equestrianism, are thus 50% seconded to practice their sport, while being paid 100%.

“In total, no less than 43 athletes have become our ambassadors. And we have supported them throughout their Olympic journey by giving them the visibility they and their discipline deserve”

Thierry Jupsin, European Marketing Vice-President of Bridgestone

World Olympic partner since 2014 and Paralympic since 2018, Bridgestone also relies on athletes without employing them at home. Yesterday, during a press conference in Paris, the company specializing in the design of tires and mobility solutions enriched its portfolio of athletes two years from the Games. Kevin Mayer, world champion (in 2017 and 2022), Olympic vice-champion (in 2016 and 2021) and decathlon world record holder, Amandine Buchard, silver medalist in judo at the Tokyo Olympics (-52 kg) and champion mixed team Olympics, as well as saber Manon Brunet, individual Olympic bronze medalist and team silver medalist (in 2021), surfer Pauline Ado and triple Paralympic medalist (gold in 2012 in the 100m, silver in 2016 in the 100 m, bronze in 2021 on 200 m) in para-athletics Mandy François-Elie have become the new representatives of the brand, which wishes to provide them with financial support for more serenity until the Games. “In total, no less than 43 athletes have become our ambassadors. And we have supported them throughout their Olympic journey by giving them the visibility they and their discipline deserve”summarizes Thierry Jupsin, Vice-President Marketing Europe of the multinational.

At Matmut, the strategy differs. Initially a local player in sport, particularly in the Rouen region where it was born in 1961, the mutual insurer has recently begun to directly support athletes. The first time was four years ago with boxer Elhem Mekhaled, who was on Floyd Mayweather's evening program in Abu Dhabi last May. “She was already an internal collaborator, explains Yann de la Fourchardière, brand activation manager. When she told us that she was boxing at a high level, and that she was going to need a little more support, we decided to respond favorably to her request by giving her more time. » Since the beginning of the year, the insurer has also decided to expand its sports financing strategy by supporting Alexis Hanquinquant, gold medalist in paratriathlon in Tokyo last year.

Usually, Matmut rather deploys its presence in sport by combining local proximity and national impact, thanks to the performance of professional clubs and the influence of the sports arenas it sponsors. In the Lyon region, it supports LOU Rugby, winner of the European Challenge on May 27, and the naming of its stadium, the Matmut Stadium in Gerland. The same is true in the greater South-West, with Castres Olympique, finalist in the Top 14 this season, and the naming of a second stadium, the Matmut Atlantique in Bordeaux.

In addition to personalized support, all companies also regularly invest in major sporting events. Both because sport is one of the only spaces that brings together the greatest number, but also because the two worlds feel linked by common values ​​such as rigor or the management of pressure, for example. It is also - and this counts these days - the opportunity to show that they take into account the current problems of society, in the first place of which the environment and inclusion. Recognized in IndyCar, Formula 1 and the Motorcycle Grands Prix, Bridgestone has been sponsoring the Solar Challenge for several years, a race for cars powered by solar energy. She now turns more to Olympic sports. "The motto of the Games, "Faster, higher, stronger" echoes the values ​​of our society, namely ambition, determination and performance"recalls Thierry Jupsin.

Matmut wants to contribute to more equal treatment in sport, hence its support for Alexis Hanquinquant. Finally, Enedis, through its partnership with Paris 2024, is committed to illustrating its role in the country's ecological transition and ensures: “We have chosen to have a partnership policy that makes sense in relation to our business and our brand positioning. We present ourselves as a facilitator and a guide to the lasting change of the imprint of sport...” All three will also be partners of “Demain Le Sport”, Thursday.

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