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How Can Marketing Help to Solve the Sport Legacy Problem?

Advertising Agency
London, UK
Football has finally come home for England, but brands are missing out on the potential of creating lasting impact after sporting events, writes FCB Inferno strategy director Tom Lindo

Euro 2022 has reached its unforgettable climax and rightly there has been a lot of focus and excitement about how the women’s tournament is finally starting to be treated as an equal to the men’s competition. There is still a long way to go but more coverage, larger audiences and more investment should logically lead to a sustained interest and continued improvements to the game (although it’s hard to get better than a 2-1 win in the final). But we would be missing a huge opportunity if we just saw this as a chance to improve the sporting experience of 0.01% of the population who make it to the professional level. 

The assumption is that any domestic large-scale sporting event will automatically lead to an increase in activity levels amongst the population, and that can be true on a temporary basis. Anyone who tried to book a tennis court during Wimbledon will have experienced this, but a quick glance at Google Trends in the following weeks also shows that there is a rapid drop in interest. As Ian Wright impassionedly pointed out, we even missed the legacy opportunity following the 2012 London Olympics because we assumed it would lead to a long-term uptake of sport and ignored many of the structural issues such as reduced funding or even certain sports not being part of girls’ PE curriculum. As a result, the number of people participating in physical activity continued to decline, which led to the need for campaigns like This Girl Can. Sport England’s most recent Active Lives Adult Survey found that only 61.4% of UK adults (28 million) did an average of 150 minutes or more a week of activity which is the minimum to be considered active. This is alarming because two in every five of the UK population is expected to be obese by 2030 which not only highlights the upcoming health problem we will need to deal with, but it also means there is likely to be a shrinking pool of sporting talent.

But marketing can play a role in getting people active that can also be adapted to meets a company’s business objectives. The first thing is to lower the threshold for people getting active. Most people aren’t inspired to be the next Alessia Russo or Cameron Norrie, they usually just want to have fun and socialise so the ‘sport celebrity’ factor isn’t always essential. Secondly, marketers should liberate themselves from just focusing on the tournament sport. Football may be the focus of Euro 2022, but women and girls are more likely to play netball or hockey which don’t benefit from the same tournament coverage as provided by UEFA. These team sports share a lot of qualities with football, qualities which we are all drawn to such as the camaraderie, the underdog stories, and the great leadership. By viewing sports tournaments through this lens, it’s easy to see that marketing can be broadened to appeal to more people without being forced to just focus on one sport. And finally, marketers shouldn’t turn off their media budgets as soon as the tournament has ended. There is much to be gained from prolonging any campaign to increase SOV after the event has taken place. People naturally try and get more active in January as part of ‘new year, new me’, April in preparation for summer, and September when we go back to normal schedules. As most tournaments take place between June and August, we are missing out on talking to people when they naturally get active if such campaigns end in July/ August. 

Some brands are starting to do these things to both the benefit of their business and sport in general. If this continues, it may help to solve our legacy problem. But for now, we can enjoy the fact that football has finally come home. 

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