On Purpose Series
Meet 17 Sport’s Patty Hubbard
“With 2020 a year of reaction and adaption, I would like to see companies and brands take a step back in 2021 to proactively think on and commit to a purpose and values-led strategy.”
At the end of 2020, the 17 Sport team was energized to welcome Patty Hubbard on board as Senior Advisor. This is her Purpose story; the what and the why behind her fervent belief that the sport industry can and should be leading the social impact movement.
Why Sport? The Origin Story
Growing up in Connecticut in the late 1970s and 80s set a sports industry career in motion for me. With the launch of ESPN as a cable network and the Big East as a premiere college sports conference, I would stay up late watching college basketball games. Some of the best rivalries and games to this day, that edge-of-your-seat excitement amazed me.
The first in my family to go to college, playing sports was instrumental in providing me access to a college education. Left wing on the field hockey team at Providence College, sport taught me how to be calm under pressure, work in a team and how to balance everything — lessons that have been a tremendous value to the work I now do with brands and athletes.
From the outset of my career, I’ve been fortunate to find professional opportunities that align with my sporting passions; from my first internship with the Providence Bruins Hockey team, through LiveNation and MKTG to BrandForward, Athlete x Impact and now 17 Sport.
Building BrandForward, we saw so many professional athletes struggle to make a living and plan for a post-sport career. Many were also fighting mental health issues. With 10% of athletes having access to 90% of the resources, endorsement deals and media, many Olympic, Paralympic and female athletes find themselves under-resourced.
At the same time, I strongly feel that an athlete’s story shouldn’t be confined to the field of play. With powerful voices and passions they would like to share with the world, this community is still a largely untapped resource to drive social change.
Wanting to combine my business acumen within the industry with strategies to help athletes quickly became a core component of my professional purpose.
Why 17 Sport?
For me, 17 Sport is a meeting of minds and represents the perfect confluence of business, purpose and sport. It touches on everything I have been doing over the last quarter century: brand work, strategy and athletes representation, underpinned by a fervent belief that sport is an accelerator of positive impact.
I originally met Neill through SuperBowl 50 and Purpose Plus Sport, whilst I met Fabien through the athlete work I was doing at BrandForward. I felt an immediate connection to them as people and their commitment to lead with Purpose. Repeatedly intersecting with the co-founders of 17 Sport for varying reasons, at one point we questioned why we weren’t working together more formally!
At this point in my career and after the last year, I feel the pull to continue to do meaningful work, do my part in making the world a better place through sport for my own children and the wider world.
What are your 2021 aspirations for the sports industry?
With 2020 a year of reaction and adaption, I would like to see companies and brands take a step back in 2021 to proactively think on and commit to a purpose and values-led strategy. Brands can do good while still doing well.
Personally, I want to see real and continued commitment to progress in gender and racial equity. It is time to move past it being a water cooler conversation or social media post.
Any advice for young people looking to break into the sports industry?
Go work for minor league teams because you get to wear a lot of different hats. You will work a lot of long hours, but often it doesn’t feel like a job. You’re a part of a team and you feel like you’re working towards something even though you’re not one of the athletes. My first full-time role came out of my internship as an assistant ticket manager for the Providence Bruins, a minor league hockey team — and I haven’t looked back since.
To wrap up, what is your personal New Year’s resolution for 2021?
My New Year’s Resolution for 2021 is to do things that make me uncomfortable and push me to keep evolving my career to where my mindset is today. I think for many of us, 2020 has been a year of reflection. I have learned that it is OK to slow down, take a breath and enjoy a long hike when you need to reset. It has also reprogrammed me to realize that being busy isn’t a reflection of happiness or fulfillment — personally or professionally. My goal will be to make choices that push me out of my comfort zone, and that also have a positive impact on my life and the lives of others.
An entrepreneur at heart, Patty has successfully built up several brands, companies and sports teams over the last 25 years. Firmly believing that an athlete’s story isn’t confined to the field of play, Patty co-founded BrandForward in 2017 to help athletes tap into the power of their platform to create a legacy that lives on well after the last whistle blows. The non-profit Athlete x Impact grew out of this work, with an energized focus on inspiring and enabling professional, Olympic & Paralympic athletes to realize their full impact in creating a more positive future for our world. Working with 17 Sport ties all these strands together to allow Patty to advocate for Purpose-driven progressive business strategy on a global basis.