From Pepsico to the sports industry

Frank Hendrickx

Cruyff Institute was the institution chosen by Frank Hendrickx to jump from Pepsico to the sports industry

Frank Hendrickx came to Barcelona in 1989 to work for Bayer for 3 years where he then jumped over to Pepsico, where he stayed for another 7 years.  He treasured more than 20 years of experience in large multinational companies but one thing was clear for this finance specialist: that the baggage should serve to give him the third and definitive jump towards what was really very exciting to him, the sports industry.

But how do you make the leap from a multinational company to sport? It was a challenge that was as passionate as it was complicated. So he chose to educate himself first. “I remember that moment quite well,” Frank said. “It was October 2004, I was online searching for ‘Sports Management Barcelona’ and saw that Johan Cruyff was organizing the first Master in Sports Management here. I signed up the next day and it has changed my life.”

He now works as a sales representative for Podoactiva Elite Barcelona, a center which conducts biomechanical studies of footprints to subsequently design and manufacture custom insoles for both elite athletes as well as people who practice sports. The Spanish National football team, Real Madrid, Liverpool, Atlético de Madrid, Real Zaragoza or race walkers Garcia Bragado and María José Poves and tennis player Nicolás Almagro are among his clients.

What did you discover with the Master?

Maybe I was just lucky to be in the first student class because no less than 25 elite athletes signed up; we were surrounded by Olympic medalists – gold, silver, bronze, in all kinds of sports – and the interaction with them was, for me, the most beautiful thing that I have lived in regards to studies. We also stayed in the United States for two weeks and we learned a lot about how sport works there. And above all, to be able to exchange ideas with the athletes and do networking because after my studies I got involved directly in sports thanks to these relationships; that was what really got me on the sports track right after.

What was your first job in the sports industry?

During my studies I had a lot of contact with one fellow student and once we finished the program we decided to put ourselves into action; we came together and opened a sports hospitality agency. We saw that there was a gap in Spain, that hospitality existed in England, United States, Belgium and Holland, but that travelling to visit sporting events such as Wimbledon, Roland Garros…, in Spain was practically non-existent, so we embarked on this adventure.

And how was that experience?

The truth is that we were lucky because in a short time we acquired a very important client in Spain and while working with them for several years we introduced them into sporting events. Many clients were invited, we were at Formula One, in football with Barça and Real Madrid, at tennis tournaments and even in the Copa América with a very nice act and I think we were very lucky to coincide with them at a time when they needed a claim to take their clients to sporting events. And from there we grew little by little.

Why are you associated to a project like Podoactiva?

Three or four years ago I came in contact with Podoactiva, a company that conducts biomechanical studies in the world of sport.  Since it was sport, it captured my attention: not only the company itself, but also its founder, a visionary for me, and also the technology. It’s a combination of technology, sports and medicine. For two or three years I was only in contact with the founder until they decided to open a Podoactiva in Barcelona. Then I was sought, along with other partners, to open Podoactiva Élite in Barcelona and from May 2014 on, I have been engaged in this, which I am passionate about.

What does a sports enthusiast need to work in this sector?

I think that the most important thing is being an entrepreneur. To have the financial, economic, visionary and marketing bases to be able to have certain success. Sport may come later, if you have it, it’s a plus because you possibly already have a network of contacts and because you’ve lived close to it as an athlete and you know what’s important and what isn’t. But only with this, I believe that it’s difficult, you need a solid base or at least have done a Master in Sports Management in order to develop your project. When you start in a company you have many questions, financial, economic, how to do it and marketing topics. You can surround yourself with specialists, but this costs money and is better that you be the entrepreneur and have the foundation.

What is your work in Podoactiva Elite Barcelona?

Sales. Although I don’t have much experience in this position, my experience in the business world gives me enough confidence to get closer to sports federations, clubs, athletes and gyms to search for collaboration.

Who are your customers?

The company motto is ‘what works for the athlete, also works for the person in the street’. In the end, 70-80% of our patients are people who do little or no sport, but they have problems with the footprint. Athletes are our reference also, sometimes they are our ambassadors and give us credibility because to work with the Spanish Athletics Federation or be the podiatrists of the Spanish National Football Team gives us a lot of credibility. But what we do with elite athletes is test new materials, new technologies and we apply them to the rest of the people in general.

What do you think about the work that Johan Cruyff Institute does to professionalize the sports industry?

I believe that for many athletes who are not elite footballers and who are in a minority sport, but which they dedicate a lot of time to and have possibly dropped out of their studies for that same reason, it’s an opportunity to educate themselves and make the leap to being an entrepreneur. They can do the Master with the baggage that have as an athlete and make the leap to create a business. If you don’t have these skills and you haven’t been with these professionals who explain so well how the world of sport works, this is vision you lack. I am very glad that Johan through his Institute gives so many athletes the opportunity, athletes who would possibly not be on track after their sports careers to actually get into the world of sport. If not, I think it would be very complicated for them.

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