Asics is building mental health into all its athletes’ contracts in a bid to improve protection and support within the sports industry.
Recognizing it’s a problem, the sports brand will now fund mental health support for all its sponsored athletes.
It has hired industry experts including Daria Abramowicz, the high-performance sports and performance psychologist who works with world number one tennis player Iga Swiatek. Abramowicz will lead a group of specialized experts in providing confidential assistance to Asics athletes in the hopes of helping them reach their performance goals without compromising their mental and emotional wellbeing.
Gary Raucher, Asics’s senior vice-president, says: “We are acutely aware that the early detection of any negative mental and emotional health symptoms is essential, which is why we are offering access to psychological support through a network of caregiver providers.”
In March 2022, UK mental health charity Mind released its Mental Health in Elite Sport report, supported by Asics. It drew on the insights of organizations and athletes from across the sport sector and highlighted the progress being made to tackle mental health in elite sport. However, it also uncovered key areas requiring more work to tackle stigma and the need for more funding to treat mental health problems.
As Hayley Jarvis, head of physical activity at Mind, explains: “We know from our own research that more needs to be done to tackle stigma and encourage athletes to speak up and seek help. So it’s fantastic to see Asics shine a light on mental health in elite sport, help to normalize conversations about it and, crucially, provide mental health support to its athlete ambassadors. We want to help create a sporting culture where athletes can not only compete but thrive.”
Speaking on the benefits of the new mental resources, Ascis’s brand ambassador Lucy Charles-Barclay, who is a pro triathlete and Ironman 70.3 World Champion, adds that: “Being an elite athlete comes with all kinds of pressures. And to get through the tough times and thrive, you need support for your physical and mental wellbeing. While there is more talk about mental health, many athletes still lack the support they need at the right time. Asics is setting an amazing example for the industry by offering confidential, on-demand mental health support for athletes that need it.“
Last year, following the hardships of the Covid-19 pandemic, Asics rejuvenated its strategy to emphasize the connection between exercise and mental wellbeing. At the time, executive vice-president and EMEA head of product, marketing and merchandising Gary Raucher told The Drum: “Many people don’t know that Asics is actually an acronym, standing for ‘Anima Sana In Corpore Sano’ – Latin that roughly translates to ‘healthy body, healthy mind‘.”
Now, as part of all new contracts in the European region, Asics athletes will also be encouraged to be ambassadors of movement for positive mental health. Through the words and actions of athletes, the brand says it hopes to reinforce the positive message that sport doesn’t just uplift the body, but it also uplifts the mind, as it aims to normalize conversations around mental health and encouraging athletes to be open and honest about how they are feeling.