Minority sports?

Head of fixed income Bryn Jones explains why the Olympics gives him a taste for minority sports and what it takes to win a wider fan base.


Every time the Olympics comes along, I find myself suddenly obsessed by some so-called ‘minority’ sport I’d previously hardly been aware of. For a few weeks, I’m suddenly an authority on what it takes to win gold in dressage, trampolining or (this time around) karate. My longer-term sporting passion is ultra-running (races significantly longer than the traditional marathon length of just over 26 miles). Ultra-running isn’t yet an Olympic sport, but I live in hope!

Earlier this year, I was thrilled to be part of the team supporting the amazing Lithuanian ultra-runner Aleksandr Sorokin when he beat the world 100-mile running record by nearly five minutes. He completed the run in 11 hours 14 minutes and 56 seconds, at a blistering average pace of six minutes 45 seconds per mile. I was charged with Alexsandr’s nutrition. That involved doling out sodium supplements, sugary snacks and cream cheese sandwiches (they’re easy to eat on the go!). I focused on the ‘marginal gains’ principle that helped British cycling achieve such huge success. If you make small incremental improvements in all the various things that drive better performance, you can secure significant outperformance. This is just what I do in my day job to be honest!

Anyway, it gave me huge pride to help someone not in the first flush of youth (Alexsandr is 39) finally win some of the wider recognition he deserves.

I’m acutely aware, of course, that ultra-running may not be everyone’s cup of tea. It takes real devotion to glue yourself to the track for 10 hours plus. But the Olympics proves that sporting minnows can grow their fan bases significantly if they get the chance to showcase their sport.

Leaping from niche to mainstream

Equally, the Olympics will only manage to win huge audiences if it embraces sports whose popular appeal is growing. The Tokyo Games’ mascot is an anime-style character called Miraitowa. This name is inspired by the Japanese proverb, “learn from the past and develop new ideas”. The International Olympic Committee actively sought to ensure that the Games attracts a new and younger audience by including sports like skateboarding and surfing (as well as karate!) which are no longer niche, but not yet quite mainstream.

Apologies for the awkward Alan Partridge-style segue, but investing which integrates environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles has also been shifting from the hinterland towards the mainstream. When I first began managing the Rathbone Ethical Bond Fund around 17 years ago, it was very much a minority taste. Over the years, it has gradually won a wider investor base as more and more people have chosen to prioritise ESG principles.

I’m delighted to say that appetite for the fund has now grown so significantly that we were nominated in the mainstream IA Sterling Corporate Bond category in this year’s Investment Week Fund Manager of Year awards. What’s more, we won best fund!

In more normal times, winning the award would involve me donning a suit and heading to a hotel ballroom, followed by some dodgy dad dance moves and possibly a breakdancing windmill before the night ended.

Instead, I watched the awards on my sofa in a pair of a trackies that have needed replacing for the last six months. I may just celebrate our move to the mainstream with a new tracksuit. I can always wear it when I’m watching the canoe slalom or speed climbing!


Important legal information

This area of the site is for professional advisers

Please read this page before proceeding, it explains certain legal and regulatory restrictions applicable to the distribution of this information. It is your responsibility to inform yourselves of and to observe all applicable laws and regulations of the relevant jurisdiction.

This section of the website is directed only at investment advisers and other financial intermediaries who are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

The information provided in this site is directed at UK investment advisers only and must not be circulated to private clients or to the general public. It does not constitute an offer to sell, or solicit an offer to purchase any investments by anyone in any jurisdiction in which such offer or solicitation is not authorised or in which a member of the Rathbone Group is not authorised to do so.

I confirm that I am an investment intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. I have read and understood the legal information and risk warnings below:

Important Information (Terms and Conditions)

The information contained on this site is believed to be accurate at the date of publication but no warranty of accuracy is given and the information is subject to change without notice. Any opinions or estimates included herein constitute a judgement as of the date of publication and are subject to change without notice. Furthermore, no responsibility is accepted for the accuracy of any information contained within sites provided by third parties that may have links to or from our pages.

Rathbone Investment Management Limited ("RIM") is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Registered Office: Port of Liverpool Building, Pier Head, Liverpool L3 1NW. Registered in England No 01448919.

In accordance with regulations, all electronic communications and telephone calls between Rathbones and its clients are recorded and stored for a minimum period of six months.

The information provided in this site is directed at UK investors only. It does not constitute an offer to sell, or solicit an offer to purchase any investments by anyone in any jurisdiction in which such offer or solicitation is not authorised or in which a member of the Rathbone Group is not authorised to do so.

In particular, the information herein is not for distribution and does not constitute an offer to sell or the solicitation of any offer to buy any securities in France and the United States of America to or for the benefit of United States persons (being resident in the United States of America or partnerships or corporations organised under the laws of the United States of America or any state, territory or possession thereof).

In order to comply with money laundering and other regulations, additional documentation for identification purposes may be required.

Rathbones shall have no liability for any data transmission errors such as data loss, damage or alteration of any kind including, but not limited to, any direct, indirect or consequential damage arising out of the use of services provided or referred to in this website.

Past performance should not be seen as an indication of future performance.

The value of investments and the income from them can fall as well as rise and you may not get back the amount originally invested, particularly if your client does not continue with the investment over the longer term.

Changes in the rate of exchange between currencies may cause the value of an investment to go up or down.

Interest rate fluctuations are likely to affect the capital value of investments within bond funds. When long term interest rates rise the capital value of units is likely to fall and vice versa. The effect will be more apparent on funds that invest significantly in long dated securities. The value of capital and income will fluctuate as interest rates and credit ratings of the issuing companies change.

Tax levels and reliefs are those currently applicable and may change and the value of any tax advantage will depend on individual circumstances.

Investing in emerging markets or small companies may be potentially volatile, as these investments are high risk.

The design, text and images are owned, except as expressly stated by members of the Rathbone Group. They may not be copied, transmitted, displayed, performed, distributed, licensed, altered, framed, stored or otherwise used in whole or in part or in any manner without the written consent of Rathbones except to the extent permitted and under the procedures specified in the copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, as amended and then only with notices of Rathbones' rights.

Subscribe to the In the KNOW blog email