“TO know that I have played a part in Glasgow 2014 is incredible.”
These – the words of 12 year-old Beth Gilmour, from Cumbernauld, who won a BBC Blue Peter competition to design the Commonwealth Games’ much-loved mascot, Clyde – sums up the inclusive, community spirit of public engagement that sat at the heart of the marketing plans for Glasgow 2014.
And whilst the 2012 Olympics presented a vision for the future – with its ‘Inspire a Generation’ motto and ambitions for long-term legacy – more and more major events are starting to present a vision for now, communicating and delivering direct benefits and impacts on communities and individuals, like Beth, in real time.
There are many recent examples of community action at the heart of brand and marketing strategies for major events.
The first European Games to be held in Baku (this June), recently announced convenient ticket booths throughout the Azerbaijani capital to connect with locals, on top of the free child tickets unveiled earlier this year.
Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games recently celebrated its three-years-to-go milestone with a huge public celebration, with come-and-try activities and meet-and-greet opportunities with athletes; on the same day that, 7,000 miles away, the team bidding to host the Commonwealth Games in Durban, South Africa, in 2022, hosted a community picnic in the shadow of its iconic Moses Mabhida stadium to drum up local support for its Commonwealth sporting ambitions.
At Glasgow 2014, we called it ‘world-class and community-relevant’. But – however you choose to describe it – this trend towards the local is good news for the hundreds of elite and grassroots sports marketers in Scotland, trying to generate support or attendances.
Here are five reasons why:
1. You’re closer to your customers
At the heart of any community-driven or ‘bottom-up’ approach, there must be a clear understanding of who your customers are.
And local clubs or governing bodies are in the enviable position of being closer to their customers than most.
Many clubs and governing bodies have a surprising amount of insight at their disposal.
Talking to customers at events, using the free analytical tools (such as www.google.com/analytics) for your website or Facebook page and conducting online questionnaires to your database or social network will help you understand who you should be talking to and, put simply, why they attend and why they don’t.
(For Glasgow 2014, the threat of people preferring to watch the Games on TV was our key challenge.)
Knowing your customers is, then, the first step to developing and growing your database subscribers or social network fans and followers – a critical priority for any organisation wanting to connect with its customers directly and cost-effectively.
2. You have a simpler, clearer message
Are you about developing your sport on an international stage, providing opportunities for local communities, or promoting fitness and teamwork amongst young people?
The single-minded focus of a governing body or local club is a huge advantage here – making it easier to develop a strong brand and clear narrative that connects directly with your community.
Increasingly, marketing is about storytelling, not just constant selling. Creating a clear sense of ownership and interest through regular updates and insights – especially via social media – will bring fans closer to your activities and athletes.
By ‘social media’, I am meaning, in the main, (and in alphabetical order) Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
3. You’re closer to your athletes
Sport is a people story – and many large events, which only host athletes for a week or two of competition, struggle to let the teams and athletes do the talking.
(For Glasgow 2014, we recruited a team of high-profile ambassadors to do this important job.)
Sports clubs and governing bodies, meanwhile, are in the covetable position of working with and supporting teams and athletes week in, week out.
Letting your network get to know your stars of today and tomorrow will inspire and motivate fans; creating the loyalty and pride needed to convert support into donations or ticket sales.
4. You’re a team
Marketing, and especially your core channel of social media, doesn’t need to be the domain of one person alone.
Indeed, the most open organisations are successful because they let their fans and customers inspire and motivate others.
The Rio 2016 Olympic organisers discovered this during their volunteer-recruitment campaign.
Whilst the official advertising got them so far; a fun, authentic but unofficial YouTube invitation – created by the volunteers themselves – ensured they reached their targets.
5. You get second chances
Hosting a mega-event that comes round once in a lifetime means you only get one shot.
With your regular cycle of seasons, events or championships – make the most of the opportunity to test and learn from what worked and what didn’t, using your proximity to customers and athletes to ask for feedback and build ever-closer connections with your network.
As the trend towards the local continues, generating mass public engagement and approval at the grass roots level in tandem with fulfilling ambitious commercial targets has become the holy grail for today’s sports marketers.
(In the case of Glasgow 2014, the final ticket revenues exceeded £30 million.)
Bums on seats don’t suffice; in the context of public investment, accountability and ambitions for legacy – hearts and minds matter too.
With a clear message, an authentic personality and a vibrant, growing network of fans and subscribers – you’ll be in a strong position to achieve both.
Martin Reynolds is a marketing consultant working in international sport and cultural events. Until recently, he was the head of Marketing for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games; and before that held senior marketing roles at the Edinburgh Festivals, Sydney Opera House and the National Galleries of Scotland. In 2014, he was awarded Marketer of the Year from the Marketing Society Scotland.
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