An esteemed list compiled by TIME for their inaugural 100 Most Influential Businesses list highlights businesses making an extraordinary impact around the world. TIME solicited nominations across sectors including health care, entertainment, transportation, technology and more from their global network of editors and correspondents, as well as from industry experts. Evaluation of each category was carried out on key factors, including relevance, impact, innovation, leadership, ambition and success.
Eight sports brands made the list, which was broken into five sections:
Pioneers, leaders, innovators, titans and disruptors.
Pioneers: Klutch Sports Group (agency), Strava (fitness)
- Leaders: EPL (league), NBA (league), Nike (apparel)
- Innovators: Adidas (brand), Flutter Entertainment (sports betting)
- Disruptors: Peloton (fitness)
More than 80 million people use Strava’s fitness-tracking app to log stats while partaking in a wide range of sports, including jogging and cycling. Now, anonymized data from the app, provided free as of 2020, is helping cities develop infrastructure to support those activities. Officials in Portland, Ore., for example, planned cycling paths on Tilikum Crossing, the longest car-free bridge in the U.S., after affirming with Strava data that bikers were avoiding the bridge, a central thoroughfare.
As the app’s user base grows—in 2020, Strava added about 2 million people per month—so too does the wealth of information available to urban planners and alternative transit.
KLUTCH SPORTS GROUP (PIONEER)
In the span of a decade, Klutch Sports Group has grown from a startup with two employees into a disruptive super-agency. Klutch now has over 70 clients across the NBA and NFL, including superstars like LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and over $1.8 billion in contracts under management.
Most important, the agency and founder-CEO Rich Paul has helped define an era of heightened player empowerment, in which athletes have moved between teams with greater ease, by striking a series of headline-making deals.
Adam Silver, commissioner of the NBA, has been at the forefront of NBA’s success. After taking over as commissioner in 2014, Silver has presided over an unprecedented expansion of pro basketball’s business: annual revenue nearly doubled from the 2013–2014 to the 2018–2019 seasons, to north of $9 billion. Silver received praise for overseeing the completion of the NBA’s shortened 2020 season in the Orlando “bubble,” showing that businesses with strict testing and safety protocols can operate in the pandemic.
He’s had a tougher time, however, managing this year’s unbubbled campaign, as teams are back to traveling and living in their home cities.
ENGLISH PREMIER LEAGUE (LEADER)
The most popular sports league on the planet, in the world’s most popular sport, is the English Premier League (EPL). Led by chief executive Richard Masters, the EPL is projected to amass $6.2 billion in revenue this season, according to Deloitte.
International TV deals have offered a source of growth: such riches have allowed the EPL, now broadcast in 190 countries, to attract the world’s best talent—more than 100 EPL players suited up in the last World Cup.
Nike has a track record of being one step ahead of its competitors in channeling cultural movements. In 2018, the brand made headlines when it released its ad featuring athlete turned activist Colin Kaepernick, resulting in a $6 billion increase in market value and demonstrating that social equity and brand equity can mix.
In 2020, as protests against systemic racism swept the U.S, Nike was not the only brand to release a message advocating for change—nor the only to promise to its employees that it would do better—but it was one of the first to announce a eight-figure donation, pledging $40 million in total funding to social-justice organizations.
Thanks to the synthetic fibers present in 60% of clothes worldwide, every laundry load releases an average of 6 million plastic microfibers into our wastewater. The worst offender is polyester, which accounts for more than half the global market for synthetic fibers.
So it was big news when Adidas—one of the world’s largest clothing companies, known for its collaborations with designers such as Beyoncé and Kanye West—pledged to stop using virgin polyester in all of its products by 2024.
That commitment, aided by the company’s development of Primeblue and Primegreen, two new athletic fabrics created with 100% recycled polyester, immediately set an industry standard.
- FLUTTER ENTERTAINMENT (INNOVATOR)
The world’s largest online gambling enterprise placed big bets in 2020, working to expand its global footprint—and, in doing so, make recreational gambling part of more people’s lives.
The Dublin-based company finished merging with Stars Group, owner of industry giant PokerStars, and moved to own almost all of FanDuel, America’s top betting app (which has exploded beyond fantasy sports like rival DraftKings),
“Nowhere has our growth been more evident than in the U.S.,” says CEO Peter Jackson. Even with sports schedules curtailed in 2020, Flutter’s U.S. revenue rose by 81% to almost $1 billion, in a market it forecasts reaching $20 billion by 2025.
When gyms closed last year, demand for Peloton’s pricey at-home treadmills and exercise bikes—the cheapest of which goes for $1,895—spun out of control.
Led by CEO John Foley, the company now has 1.67 million members (up 134% from a year earlier) paying $39 a month to take virtual classes with celebrity instructors like Ally Love. The overwhelming demand led to 10-week backlogs on orders of its equipment, but Peloton has taken steps to fix its supply issues, amping up production at its new factory in Taiwan.
In December, the company acquired fitness equipment maker Precor for more than $400 million, increasing its manufacturing capacity and gaining entry into hotel gyms and other commercial facilities—which will be of strategic importance to Peloton as the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues and exercise returns to the public sphere.
A lot has been brewing in the sports industry in the last 12 months or so. Complete shutdown of live sports in the 1st half of 2020 has forced organisations to pivot and pivot swiftly. It’s been a pleasant surprise at how efficiently few have altered their modus operandi, made bold changes to their business models and revenue lines and are now all geared towards dealing with the post-pandemic world.
We, at Sportrybe, feel that there will be a far bigger representation from the sporting world next time around.