Ron van der Jagt – Le Champion

Ron van der Jagt – Le Champion

Ron van der Jagt is Managing Director of Le Champion, a sports association with 20.000 members, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Ron is responsible for all (brand) activities, which includes making Le Champion a well-known brand behind the big sporting events they organise, such as the TCS Amsterdam Marathon, the ‘Dam tot Dam Loop’ and the NN Egmond Halve Marathon. Ron: “We are a sport association and have been around for 50 years, meaning some of our events will celebrate their 50th anniversary too. We organise 60 events per year, facilitating 250.000 people to participate in sports each year.”

A competitive world

From day one when Ron joined Le Champion a year ago, he has been working on the organisation’s future plans. Ron: “We call it ‘next 50’, representing of the next 50 years of our organisation. Our main purpose is to inspire and facilitate as many people in the Netherlands to start moving, and to contribute to vital people in a healthy society. Which we do based on 50 years of experience in organising events and with 20.000 members in the sports club. Our most important ambition is to further grow to achieve our mission. Which is why it’s important to keep on innovating. We’re in a very competitive world. There are an insane number of events and providers of sporting events. Our focus lies on these 3 sports: cycling, running and walking. Running has grown explosively over the last 15 to 20 years. 2,5 to 3 million people participate in running in the Netherlands. It’s a market we’ve grown in with a number of special events, such as the Dam tot Dam loop by Night, or the Alkmaar City Run by Night. We can grow even more in this segment, but you have to be smart and present innovative concepts. Back in the day, every football club that wanted to raise money for a new clubhouse, organised a running competition. Nowadays, it’s not that easy anymore, but there’s still a colossal range of events. You have to come up with something special if you want it to be successful.”

“Back in the day, every football club that wanted to raise money for a new clubhouse, organised a running competition. Nowadays, you must come up with something special if you want it to be successful.”

Realising growth

According to Ron, Le Champion focuses their growth on 3 main areas. The first one being their geographic growth. “We want to continue to expand to other parts of the Netherlands with our events. From Noord-Holland we want to become active in the neighbouring provinces, step by step. Next to that, we want to grow in the number of events and participants. By continuously renewing existing events, but also by adding new events. We create new events ourselves, but also take over existing events from other organisations. We also want to grow in the association by increasing the number of members and connecting them to our organisation. We want our members to be active, and not just join because they can get a starting ticket for the Dam tot Dam Loop. We want our members to think Le Champion is an association they want to give meaning to, and participate or become a volunteer.”

Renewing, sustainability and digitalisation

Ron: “Everyone who is familiar with us knows our events are thought through to the very last detail. We want to be solid in our organisation, which ensures legitimacy to be able to obtain permits for our events. We have a team of 40 people, and organising sporting events is something we know we do well.. Next to that, you need to be able to renew, dare to undertake. Otherwise you’ll just keep doing what you’ve been doing every year. Renewal is the path we’ve taken. Which should lead to an exciting dynamic. It’s important that an organisation is constantly moving. And we’re not just talking about our members. That dynamic creates chances for colleagues with ambition and talent.”

Le Champion has 2 main conditions to ensure their growth and future plans: sustainability and digitalisation. “These are applicable to every sector, but especially in ours. When it comes to sustainability you can think of reducing plastics during our events, such as plastic cups and bottles of sports drinks. In Amsterdam we were one of the first to sign the Plastic Promise to ban all plastics from our events in the city. So, we’ve been looking at alternatives for plastics. An example is that we haven’t given out bags with flyers for a long time. Everything can be found on apps and online. Another example is that we have installed mobile water taps in the dunes for the Egmond Walking Marathon, in partnership with the water company. This way, people can take their own water bottles and we don’t have to hand out water bottles or plastic cups ourselves. We’ve also asked the participants to take their waste with them to the finish, so they can throw it away in the containers. But we’ve also asked them to pick up trash they find in the dunes, and bring them to the sports halls in Egmond. We’ve partnered with an artist’s collective that make works of art from trash that is picked up from the beach and the dunes. Their art pieces are very special, and we were able to show them at the start to the participants, so they could see what is being done with the trash they pick up. It’s great to see that we could tell the participants at the award ceremony that the nature reserve we’ve just walked in with 15.000 people, was left behind cleaner than when we started the event. Which is a fantastic achievement. Which we hope to achieve more of in the coming years.”