Opportunities aplenty in Japan’s growing sports industry

Posted by in Asia, Japan, Management, Yusuke Isoda

The Japanese sports business industry is set to grow exponentially and those who boast critical skills are in high demand, says SRi’s Yusuke Isoda

The sporting world’s focus will shift to Japan for a packed calendar of major events and although there are challenges ahead, a land of opportunity awaits those who have the critical skills required.

With the Rugby World Cup and 2020 Olympic Games on the horizon, the Japanese sports business industry is enjoying an unprecedented period of growth.

The opportunity for both businesses and candidates is significant. The sports industry in Japan boasted revenues of JPY5.5tn ($US 47bn) in 2012 and is expected to more than treble by 2025.

The signs of the industry booming are already evident; the largest broadcasting deal in Japanese sports history was recently completed by the J-League and DAZN, Perform’s new OTT service.

Outside of Japan, footballing giants Barcelona signed one of the biggest shirt sponsorship deals in history when they partnered with Japanese conglomerate Rakuten. You can bet more is to come.

The sporting goods market continues to go from strength to strength too. Growth continues to be fuelled by a general wellness trend, and a surge in interest in sports and fitness ahead of Tokyo 2020.

With the eyes of the world focussing on Japan, the ability to conduct business across borders has never been more vital to globally facing sports businesses.

To put it simply, the Japanese sports jobs market is booming.

However, the sector faces several challenges that can make it challenging to source the right candidates that can deliver results.

The big question for many in the sports business industry is how best to attract the very best talent to ensure brands, teams, events, leagues and stadiums take full advantage of this once in a generation opportunity?

Those who boast a CV of relevant international experience are in very high demand. However, sourcing this type of talent can pose a challenge when just 12 per cent of the Japanese population are bilingual.

One of the issues many non-Japanese based firms have in finding the right talent is that social media across Asia varies hugely from what those in Europe and North America might be used to.

Business and employment-orientated behemoth LinkedIn may be entering its teenage years as a business but less than one per cent of the Japanese population are users, whereas nearly 40% of the American population use the platform.

Other markets that don’t have a groundswell of LinkedIn users tend to have similar platforms that serve as able replacements, but that isn’t the case in Japan. There simply isn’t a like-for-like social media replacement that is focused on business. In fact, Facebook is the preferred way to develop professional relationships.

However, as it’s still considered ‘un-Japanese’ to boast publicly about one’s career accomplishments, or risk your employer feeling you are openly on the look-out for a new role, steadily building personal relationships is the path forward for recruitment.

The issue of lifetime employment, an ageing population and no real improvement in the number of ‘Internationalised’ Japanese are all real challenges – as is women’s lowly status and low participation in the workplace in Japan, further reducing the potential pool of candidates.

What should be crystal clear is that a different approach, one borne out of on the ground experience, is required to find the right talent in Japan.

Further education is needed too, especially as the sports industry in Japan looks to present itself as a ‘blue-chip’ choice for the brightest and best.

Employers need to be prepared to think laterally about candidates able to transfer relevant skills, attitude and experience from complementary industries.

The starting pistol has been fired and the race to secure the top talent ahead of the looming major events in Japan is on.

Have you got the right team in place to take full advantage?

Based in Singapore, but focused on Japan, Yusuke Isoda is a consultant at SRi, the leading firm dedicated to executive and management talent in sports, media and entertainment.

To have a confidential discussion about how Yusuke can help you attract the right talent, please contact Yusuke on yisoda@sriexecutive.com.