Loved pretty much all sports for as long as I can remember, a childhood fully of Daley Thompson winning medals galore, John McEnroe shaking Tennis up and the then mysterious and exciting world of European football with St Etienne and Borussia Monchengladbach in European Cup finals.

An arthritis scare in my early 40s curtailed all my efforts and the impact was profound. The thought of not being able to do any of the sports I loved was a massive blow that had a huge impact on me and an early glimpse into what I thought at the time was a dark tunnel to getting older

Thankfully acupuncture/physio/rest and some common sense have raised my aim and I’m more now more active than I was in my 30s. The current pandemic and lockdown has actually increased my fitness levels as I have cycled more and become a slave to the seemingly nice but really quite evil Joe Wicks. I’m still no Iron Man and in fact distance running/poor technique and weight probably contributed to my earlier arthritic scare. It was one of the sparks behind Greyafro and the start of an obsession with ageing well so not a total disaster.

Two things in 2020 have reinforced my belief that Sport/Leisure really is the next battle ground in the anti-Ageism agenda (and I’m excluding Covid).

I created a whoop group for over 50s athletes interested in sharing/discussing what their stats meant. Is my RHR (resting heart rate) a sign of impending doom? No simple answers but in a couple of days very clear I’d hit on something. A flurry of enquiries from all over the world and the start of something hopefully really interesting. Fitbit has a group of 65k+users tagged as Fit Seniors, that title misses the mark for me in a lot of ways, but the number involved is pretty telling.    

I then shared an old but pretty great article from the Washington Post about starting running over 50. I asked if people could share inspiring stories of athletic endeavour above the age of 50. Well that went crazy and I have had some incredible stories shared which I’m going to profile in future blogs. There are some inspiring stories of people taking up sport comparatively late and excelling through to those more “normal” stories of people just keeping going and reaping huge benefits.

This got me back onto the issue of how the sports business represents older athletes of any variety & level.  I’m still a much bigger spender on sportswear than I’d care to admit or add up. Over the years golf clubs/trainers/tennis racquets/fitness trackers/memberships I have spent a lot of money and had a great amount of value. That isn’t going to stop anytime soon and in fact will only change when I’m physically unable to participate. So why is the messaging /advertising I see so far removed from this reality.

Not expecting the focus to be entirely on older athletes rather being worked into the promotional mix. At the minute I buy inspite of the promotion not because of it and I’m not alone – think I can highlight where the problem might be:

Exhibit A Fitness AI driven apps – perfect for middle aged men like me that want advice when I want it so I can use at the gym/work out at home when quiet and the Love Island style muscle men aren’t there. But what do I get? This: 

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Yup over 45 excluded and at 40 you are covering up! I know what the many female sports enthusiats I know would say to that and I can only agree with them. (In the interests of balance, I haven’t done the same for women and frankly am scared to look). I did make contact with the people behind this app to offer help but am still waiting for a response.

Exhibit B

I’m a Nike lover – they make most of my favourite Football teams kits (Chelsea, England and Eintracht Frankfurt) I have bought their tennis and running and fitness stuff in steady levels for years and years. Yet whilst their approach to diversity in some ways is evident and to be applauded Age doesn’t appear to have hit the mark. If I log into their lovely app I can see lots 20/30s but at my age I’m clearly not of interest! Nike 2020 Reflects the continued challenge of Ageism which has been more exposed by the pandemic.

Exhibit C

The positive side – check out your roads on a Saturday or Sunday morning (pre Covid and every day now) early on. The cycling boom is clear to see men and women on likely very very expensive bikes with trackers galore and sparkly clingy kit tearing through the streets. Link this to the running boom (check out your local park run and post covid the number of people taking their daily exercise as a run).

Much more on this topic to come but for now I’m really interested in more examples of sportswear brands actively promoting/supporting older athletes. And Nike if you want a very average model for a post covid Tennis campaign just say the word – if you think an inverted Nadal you would be bang on the money. Pretty sure you will be finalising your 2021 (replanning around now so what a chance given the Pro calendar is currently suspended but we can play in the UK)

I’d love to hear more about sporting endeavour from anyone older – it does not have to be in the lights out category I’m really keen to hear about anyone starting out and the benefits it has for isolation/mental health and wider physical well-being. Even more so given the tough time we have been living through and the increased need to encourage our nation to take better care of itself – you only get one chance (and for now at least one body) so best make the best of it.

Thanks for reading

If you’d like to get in touch you can reach me at Julian@greyafro.com and on all the main social media platforms. I’m available to help businesses unlock the potential of talking to older consumers.