Decathlon is the world's biggest sport and recreation retailer, employing around 100,000 people within 2000 stores in over 60 countries on five continents. The Decathlon Talent Games is an entrepreneurial competition established in 2019 where teams of two or three students collaborate with a local not-for-profit sporting organisation to come up with an innovative idea aimed at creating long-term positive social change through making sport and physical activity more affordable to all.
The AUT Challenge was the first Talent Games to be held outside of France, the home of Decathlon. It was also the first to partner with the Decathlon Foundation, a charitable organisation set up in 2005 to invest in projects that enable people in underprivileged situations to smile again, to be in better health, to develop life skills and to access employment.
The 2021 Decathlon New Zealand Foundation Talent Games began in late February with a promotional campaign targeting current student and alumni from the AUT School of Sport and Recreation. By mid-march, AUT Senior Lecturer and Project Lead, Dr Richard Wright had expressions of interest from 22 teams, each consisting of two or three talent gamers. By the end of the first round, that number had dropped to 14, eight of whom qualified for the second round having submitted a three-minute video pitch onto the Talent Games online portal. The three-minute pitch provided teams the chance to introduce themselves and their vision.
The eight teams were given eight weeks to take their business pitch into the local community and gain as many 'likes' as possible on the Talent Games online platform. The team that secured the most votes were guaranteed one of the three spots in the Grand Finale. The other two finalists were selected by a team of local judges, each of whom were given a set of criteria to follow when making their decision. Dr Andu Iordache (Hungerball Founder), Dr Sierra Keung (AUT), David Letele (Butterbean Motivation), Sheryne Lok (Make-A-Wish Foundation) and Russell Preston (Counties Manukau Sport) were asked to assess the Achievability, Inclusiveness, Obviousness and Uniqueness of the eight proposals. They were also asked to evaluate the likelihood of the idea exciting the local community being targeted.
At the start of June, each team was given a chance to make a promotional poster and meet the judges during a community event organised at Bruce Pulman Park over Queens Birthday Weekend. These posters are currently on display within the MH Building at AUT South. The judges' feedback and final scores were captured by Dr Wright, allowing him to reveal the identity of the two teams that they believed should challenge '2 Dads and A Lad', the runaway winners of the community likes competition. By the narrowest of margins, the teams that scored the highest number of points were; 'Elevate (Uplift)' and 'Access to Change'.
The final round lasted three weeks, during which the finalists were invited to attend a video call with Jean Pierre Haemmerlein, the CEO of the Decathlon Foundation, Kamel Medjabra, the creator of the Decathlon Talent Games and Gilles Rech (CEO, Decathlon New Zealand). Each team was also presented with a funding application for them to complete ahead of the Grand Finale and offered the assistance of a business mentor to help them complete the paperwork.
On the night of the final, held at AUT South Campus on Friday 9 July, the teams were each allocated 20 minutes to present the core components of their funding application to the final judging panel, consisting of Jean Pierre and Kamel (online), plus Gilles and Professor John Cronin (AUT) (in person). The winners not only won the resources required to help their partner organisation deliver their idea, but also $6000 worth of product from Decathlon NZ's extensive product range and a $6000 AUT fees scholarship. The runners up each took home $3000 worth of product from Decathlon New Zealand and an annual membership to AUT Gym.
Dr Wright, the MC for the evening, says "It was a special night, full of nerves, anticipation but also laughter and aroha/love. The technology worked, which was a major relief, allowing us to see and hear from the two Decathlon judges situated over 18,000km away in Lille, France. It was great to see some of the other teams there to support the finalists, and nobody left empty-handed."
Congratulations to all of our talented talent gamers! We hope you keep growing your ideas!
And the winners of the Decathlon Talent Games were...
A free-to-access outdoor multi-sport themed gym for the people of Papatoetoe.
Manish Nand and Nikki Singh, with community partner Kolmar.
A community sports hub located at Seaside Park, Otahuhu.
Chris Baron, Glen Jones and Stephen West, with community partner Otahuhu United AFC.
Creating access to sports bras for women and girls of South Auckland.
Shannon Chapman and Roseanne Te Hau, with community partner CLM Community Sport.