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The power and promise of sport philanthropy in Asia


The power and promise of sport philanthropy in Asia

Mar 15, 2022

For millennia sport has been a way for people to bond and compete as well as stay healthy and active. But have you thought about how sport is also a remarkably powerful vehicle for uplifting communities and supporting the underprivileged? In many parts of Asia, sport philanthropy can contribute to human welfare and the building up of cities in unique and lasting ways.

Sport benefits everyone

When access to sport is widespread and inclusive, a sporting culture can emerge that strengthens community ties.

Everyone, regardless of age, gender or background benefits in their own way. This includes building mental resilience, remaining socially connected and cultivating soft skills such as teamwork and problem solving – all of which flow from the power of sport to connect people.

For their part, children have much to gain from participating in sports. For example, research has shown that active children are 9 per cent happier than inactive ones,1 and those who participate in team sports are over 5x more likely to report higher levels of self-confidence than those who don’t.2 Team sports also provide meaningful opportunities for social interaction and friendship amongst teammates, while also teaching important values such as responsibility and perseverance.

For the elderly, active aging can prevent the early onset of health issues and keep them socially connected. In addition to health and wellbeing benefits, the social aspect of an active lifestyle is especially important for older men, who tend to isolate more than women as they age.3 Regular contact with active communities can also work to keep their minds sharp, their outlook on each new day positive and reduce medical expenses.

Sport facilitates inclusion and community resilience

Being a universal language of connection, sport can bridge ethnic, language and cultural differences and bring people together in healthy lifestyles.

Sport can act as a common interest among people from different backgrounds who may not otherwise interact or immediately relate to each other.

Sport is also an important source of leadership training and confidence building, in particular for women. Collaborating with teammates towards a shared goal and distinguishing roles and responsibilities on and off the pitch can translate into more comfort directing teams and taking risks in a professional context, especially in historically male-dominated industries. 

Although the benefits of sport are clear, participation is still lacking in many parts of Asia – for example, in Hong Kong less than half the population gets sufficient exercise,4 while in Singapore 40 per cent have been found to be inactive.5 Furthermore, research has shown that young girls have 1.3 million less opportunities to participate in sports than boys, an area in need of rectification.6

By viewing sport as a means of inclusion and increased resilience, as well as supportive of healthy lifestyles, 

philanthropists can play an important role in catalysing the development of a sporting culture to nurture these benefits in society.

Philanthropy can improve access to sport

Whether it be the development of soft skills amongst the youth or the promotion of physical exercise in elderly communities, the benefits of sport are clear. But there is still a need to facilitate greater access to and appreciation of sport if these benefits are to be realised by as many people as possible. This is where philanthropic capital can play a role in developing a sporting culture where there is equal access to programming that leverages sport to create positive impact. 

Education is an important part of this process. When students have access to sport at school, they may more easily find role models and experience the value of sport for their personal development. This process is especially important for lower-income demographics where children may not receive the most guidance academically but could find their potential and confidence through playing sports. Philanthropists can consider sponsoring inter-school or inter-district sports leagues, which can act as important springboards for promising young athletes to find a way out of poverty.

Complementing the development of sport leagues is improving access to sporting facilities. More and better outlets will incentivise an active lifestyle and improve community health. Funders can consider capital projects such as the construction, maintenance or upgrading of community centres and sporting venues.

The non-profit sector often uses the power of sport to provide wellbeing support to disadvantaged demographics. Examples include providing social inclusion for the disabled and increasing the employability of at-risk youth in and through the soft skills nurtured through sport. Given the ongoing funding needs of these charitable organisations, philanthropists can step in and make a difference. 

Finally, sporting cultures thrive when sporting careers are seen as legitimate and aspirational, and retired athletes continue to thrive in their second careers. This can take the form of post-retirement professions such as being a sports nutritionist or physiotherapist as well as running community clinics that provide access to an active lifestyle for members of all ages. 

There is a gap in assistance for athletes to transition to second careers, and in the process show that there is life after sport for those considering following in their footsteps. By helping this transition, philanthropists can mobilise a new pool of talent and further extend the benefits of sport in society.


Making sport philanthropy common

The power of sport to strengthen the resilience of communities is profound but requires greater attention among philanthropists in Asia. Taking seriously the potential impact of sport philanthropy is critical for ensuring that the benefits of access to sport are enjoyed by all. For more information on the opportunities in sport philanthropy, please contact us or your Relationship Manager.

1 “Active Lives Survey Children and Young People 2018/19” Portas Consulting 

2 Ibid. 


4 “Community and elite sports in Hong Kong”, Statistical Highlights ISSH 24/18-19 The Legislative Council Commission, April 2019 

5 Health Promotion Board, Singapore Government (


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