20 years of Johan Cruyff Academy: from elite athletes to leaders in Sport Marketing

September 16, 2019

20 years of Johan Cruyff Academy: from elite athletes to leaders in Sport Marketing

Johan Cruyff Academy commemorates its 20 years of history interviewing ten alumni who started as elite athletes to become leaders in Sport Marketing

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Johan Cruyff Academy and Johan Cruyff’s legacy in the academic field, we contacted ten graduates of the first generations, to explore the state-of-the-art of their knowledge field in various sport and business sectors, in line with Johan Cruyff’s beliefs: “athletes possess certain remarkable qualities. They are committed and goal oriented. With such qualities and the right academic training, they can become successful professionals in the sport world. Nobody can serve the interests of sport better than someone with the heart of an athlete”.

The Johan Cruyff Academy in Amsterdam started in 1999 with 35 student-athletes as the first initiative of Johan Cruyff to offer athletes an opportunity to balance sport with studies. Johan Cruyff Academy in Tilburg opened in 2009 to target the needs of elite athletes in the southern provinces of the Netherlands, and Johan Cruyff Academy in Groningen in 2015 to cover the northern regions.

Today, hundreds of alumni of Johan Cruyff Academy are increasingly helping to professionalize the sports sector.With Groningen, Amsterdam and Tilburg, we now have the whole country covered to get student-athletes educated on the higher educational level”, Johan Cruyff said in 2015 at the kick-off of Johan Cruyff Academy Groningen. “I believe more athletes should lead the sports sector. Athletes have both valuable experiences from sport and a passion for it, which makes them very well equipped to improve the sports industry”, added Johan.

20 years of Johan Cruyff Academy: from elite athletes to leaders in Sport Marketing

Twenty years have now elapsed, and Johan Cruyff’s mission is still the focus of what now has become an international Cruyff academic network, which besides the Johan Cruyff Academy consists of the Johan Cruyff Institute (Masters and postgraduates) and Johan Cruyff College (vocational education). Johan Cruyff Academy is part of universities of applied sciences, that have always set great store by sport-oriented education of high quality. The athletes follow a four-year, full-time study program in Sport Marketing, a learning path of Commercial Economics. The program is 100% focused on sport, where the knowledge, skills and experiences of student-athletes in the sports world are integrated into the curriculum.

Student-athletes learn to manage their studies like entrepreneur, where the acquired knowledge can be directly translated into (sport) practice. The programs are accredited by the Dutch-Flemish Accreditation Organization (NVAO), which awarded an ‘outstanding quality mark’ to the program in Amsterdam in the past and rated the dedication to elite athletes as excellent.

The class of student-athletes of 1999 was the first group that embarked in a new, innovative project: to balance their high-level sport with a full-time study program. These graduates are now halfway through their professional career. They have acquired a wealth of experience in their specific field and thanks to that expertise, they are today’s opinion leaders in sport marketing and related sectors.

We interviewed a diverse selection of ten alumni working in various sectors. During this academic year we will publish an article with one of them every month.


Sport marketing education for athletes20 years of Johan Cruyff Academy: from elite athletes to leaders in Sport Marketing

Wim de Wit, involved in the creation of Johan Cruyff Academy, and Kim Middendorp, current team leader and alumna, discuss the developments in the education of athletes and the role of Johan Cruyff Academy in society.

Wim: “Johan said to me: ‘I want to start a school where you can study and engage in top sport’, to which I replied: ‘Johan, you shouldn’t do that, because you have no knowledge of education’, and Johan’s answer was, ‘that’s why I need you to do it’”.

Read the interview with Wim de Wit: «We started with 35 student-athletes at Johan Cruyff Academy»


20 years of Johan Cruyff Academy: from elite athletes to leaders in Sport MarketingSupporting sport talent in The Hague

Edgar Vermaas is manager at Den Haag Topsport, high-level sport in the city of The Hague, and CTO Metropool, a regional center for elite athletes. By combining knowledge, strengths and image, they offer resources and opportunities for the development of talent and sport in the southwestern region of the Netherlands.

Edgar: “2022 will be an important sport year for The Hague. We will not only organize the Sailing World Cup, but The Hague will also be the sports capital of Europe. We want to have all our programs at an ambition level that fits in with a sports capital”.


20 years of Johan Cruyff Academy: from elite athletes to leaders in Sport MarketingSustainable marketing strategies for a retail brand

Jelle Mul is senior marketing manager at Patagonia a certified B Corporation that markets and sells outdoor clothing, that has run its business with a strong point of view about protecting and preserving the environment.

Jelle: “The pillars of Patagonia  were until recently: ‘Build the best product, Cause no unnecessary harm, Use business to protect nature’, until the owner decided that this was not sharp enough. The mission is now: ‘We’re in business to save our home planet’”.

Read the interview with Jelle Mul: «At Patagonia, we are in business to save our home planet»


20 years of Johan Cruyff Academy: from elite athletes to leaders in Sport MarketingOnline strategies for sport knowledge

Bob Winter is online advisor at Kenniscentrum Sport (knowledge center sport) that strengthens the impact of sport through better use of knowledge, and to increase the level of knowledge about sport and physical activity.

Bob: “Our organization is eager to share its’ knowledge with professionals, volunteers and the public in general. Everyone can turn to us for a clear and substantiated answer to a sport or exercise question”.


 Temporary sport structures with impact20 years of Johan Cruyff Academy: from elite athletes to leaders in Sport Marketing

Gordon Machielsen is managing director at by Assembly in Atlanta (United States), an organization that builds ‘spaces for the moment’, temporary structures for festivals and sporting events that leave lasting impressions.

Gordon: “We want to create something that evokes emotion, where people get a feeling and what stands out. Under the motto ‘Here Today, Remembered Tomorrow’, our company organizes the entourage that is intended to leave a lasting impact”.


Courage coaching for personal growth20 years of Johan Cruyff Academy: from elite athletes to leaders in Sport Marketing

Ewout Boogaard is teaming specialist and certified leadership coach and co-founder of Courageous Teaming, combining courage, sensitivity and curiosity for physical and mental development in sport and business sectors.

Ewout: “A famous quote of Nelson Mandela is: ‘The brave man is not who does not feel afraid, but who conquers that fear’. I took that to heart, for myself and in my coaching of others. Of course, everyone loses matches or makes mistakes, but it’s important to have a good feeling afterwards: The feeling of pride”.

Read the interview with Ewout Boogaard: «Team building needs to be worked on constantly, just like in elite sport»


20 years of Johan Cruyff Academy: from elite athletes to leaders in Sport MarketingYouth development through sports and motion

Ziggy Tabacznik is director at marketing & sport agency 2Basics, commissioner at the International Judo Federation, and director at MQ Scan, a project that uses a smart app to provide immediate digital results about the motion levels of the children of an entire class.

Ziggy: “The first ten years of life of a child are crucial in creating a commitment to lifelong sport and exercise. With the insights we deliver, one can improve motor skills in a targeted way, so children experience more pleasure in moving, they show fewer injuries and they also develop more social qualities”.

Read the interview with Ziggy Tabacznik: Judo as a perfect sport to support children’s development


Online B2B strategies for businesses20 years of Johan Cruyff Academy: from elite athletes to leaders in Sport Marketing

Dirk Tuip is founder of SearchUser, a B2B online marketing agency and initiator of H20 esports, a campus and stadium for developing the next generation through gaming, esports and creative tech, and CEO of FacilityApps.

Dirk: “This might sound strange but our work is a lot about ‘act fast, fail fast’ when we support businesses to improve their online strategies. I mean, we are continuously trying and testing, and watching how others are doing. All knowledge is available, but how do you absorb it as quickly as possible? You need to be extremely flexible, and able to adapt very quickly”.

Read the interview with Dirk Tuip: «In Online marketing, like in sport, you can now be judged on the result»


20 years of Johan Cruyff Academy: from elite athletes to leaders in Sport MarketingEvent management for football clubs

Sabine Bleijenberg is event manager for football club FC Utrecht . She is responsible for the organization and hospitality in the stadium of home matches of FC Utrecht and for all other public and business events for the club.

Sabine: “Working for a football club has many peculiar and dynamic aspects: the football world, the many people you meet, the unique working location, the thrills and excitement up and around the field during events, and the performances we need to deliver ourselves”.


20 years of Johan Cruyff Academy: from elite athletes to leaders in Sport MarketingStorytelling, branding and digital experiences

Laurens Bianchi is founder of creative marketing agency Headsprung. The agency started by creating Ons Oranje (‘Our Orange’), the website for fans of the Dutch Football Team. It now creates digital experiences for various sport organizations and business projects.

Laurens:Ons Oranje was the reason to start our company but in the following years we have grown from a content marketing agency to a creative marketing agency, hence the new name “Headsprung”.


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