Athletes — a proud brand of Croatia

Photo: Kristina Štedul Fabac/PIXSELL

The stars of the panel entitled “Athletes as a brand” were world-famous skier Ivica Kostelić; professional sailor and ACI Sail project manager, Ivan Kljaković Gašpić; water polo champion Dubravko Šimenc; and moderator Bruno Kovačević, editor-in-chief of HRT’s television programming.

In the pleasant and cheerful atmosphere of this sports panel, discussions focused on what is actually hidden behind the scenes in the wonderful world of sports, how powerful the title of world champion is, and how one of the key tools with which Croatia can achieve great things in terms of branding—along with the natural beauty of our islands and coasts—is nautical sports.

“I think that Croatian sport really is a brand. Looking at our population of just 4 million, our sporting successes are something truly amazing. Being a world champion in anything and coming from such a small country is something the whole world recognizes. That is exactly why other top athletes from all over the world are happy to visit Croatia, because in the end it really is a recognizable brand,” said Dubravko Šimenc.

“Croatia is actively working to promote tourism, and nautical tourism in particular has shown fantastic resilience to the challenges caused by the coronavirus. Thanks to the favourable climate, thousand of islands and natural beauty, Croatia has the best marine environment in the whole world and we should definitely take advantage of it. I think that we should enjoy our sea more. It would be great for as many children and young people as possible to take up sailing as a sport and a way of life, because in this way we can achieve great things as a country,” said Ivan Kljaković Gašpić.

Kostelić referred to the slogan on his t-shirt “Always outnumbered, never over powered” and revealed what makes sport really special:

“The main strength of sports is that everyone is provided with equal opportunities, which is not always the case in other social spheres. For me, the beauty of sport is when someone from a poor country defeats an opponent from a superpower. Croatia can’t beat the USA in any conventional way, but we can in water polo, we can in skiing, and we can in football. That’s why it’s so sweet when you come to Switzerland—the Mecca of skiing—and you see someone who grew up in a city win on the sport’s biggest stage.”

One of the main conclusions of the panel is that sport plays a significant role in the development of young people—and later in their professional lives as well. Sport contributes to branding Croats as a nation and as a country, while top Croatian athletes strengthen the recognition of the nation around the world.