Sports events: don't just organise, activate!
First published on TSE Consulting.
The majority of sports events do not have substantial global media attention or large-scale investment from private and public sector sources to guarantee that the event will have a significant and positive impact. Specific activities and investments need to occur to ensure that the right platform is in place to facilitate positive outcomes. The event not only needs to be organised, but activated - and this is where the majority of policy makers and event organisers begin to struggle.
Activation can be defined simply as doing something with the event. The event is used to achieve objectives in different areas that are important for the city and is fully integrated into the city's broader goals and programmes. It is not enough to simply host the event and expect benefits to be produced. The city needs to set objectives and develop specific projects to ensure that things happen. An event should be a dynamic, ongoing process that starts the moment the bid is won.
There are many ways that an event can be activated, and the following two examples outline some of the most interesting benefits that can be generated both externally and internally.
Activating events to brand your city or country
As the world becomes more globalised, it is even more important for a place to brand itself and a sports event can play a crucial role in this process if done properly.
Indeed, sports events provide an exceptional promotional platform for a city or country due to the positive values connected to sport and the huge media attention. The (re)branding of a place, however, does not happen by itself and while sports events can help brand a place, they cannot do it alone. For a real change in perception to occur, the messages the city tries to convey through a sports event, must be demonstrated visibly to as many people as possible. Only by demonstrating the values of a place can its messages become authentic and effective.
Although many cities may want to promote themselves and raise awareness by hosting sports events, there is a risk that the results will be rather weak. There are hundreds of major sports events taking place every year and unless the host has a clear idea of the objectives behind hosting the event, it risks being an anonymous stage for the sports organisations' product.
- To determine which messages and values to promote through the sports event the following steps should be taken:
- Formulating the message; the messages that a city wishes to convey must be easy to demonstrate in the organisation of the event itself.
- Visualising the message; the message, or story, of the event, needs to reflect the look and feel of the event. The visual concept should reflect the basis on which the story is built, creating a clearly understandable and recognisable corporate identity that will guide all actions in the implementation phase.
- Demonstrating the message; the way the event is organised should also reflect the story to be told. In other words, the story needs to come alive in the methods used to run the event.
- Communicating the message; after demonstrating the message, a place must make sure these messages and innovations are acknowledged and talked about.
If enough time is given to these considerations, a proper action plan can be put in place and then the host city or country can be successful in positioning itself as a more competitive and desirable place to live, work and travel.
Activating events to create social impacts
Sports events can also have an impact on a city's social objectives. Event's social impact, in terms of physical and mental health, can provide benefits to a city's population and can instigate programmes and outcomes that will last long after the event has been organised.
Every sports event holds three key ingredients that can be exploited to maximise social impact:
- Focus; one of the most powerful things about a sports event is its ability to focus attention and excitement. This can help turn low-key, mundane social policy programmes into more active and successful projects. Event organisers and policymakers should capitalise on this increased focus and energy to transfer them to the social realm.
- Positive links; all sports events, by definition, will showcase physical well-being and role models for an active lifestyle. For example, elite-level sporting events feature high-performance athletes who can be role models or spokespeople for social platforms. Even smaller events, where the level of sporting ability may not be as strong, can highlight the health benefits of recreational physical activity.
- Sense of community; all events will feature a sense of community. Whether it is the community of athletes, the community of sports fans or the community of volunteers, communities will be developed through the process of hosting an event. These communities will develop naturally, but starting a dialogue with and between them can get various communities to participate beyond their initial interests and broaden the reach and impact of social initiatives.
So, if an event is simply hosted - merely following the technical requirements set out by the rights holder - and not activated properly, then the benefits of hosting an event are not maximised. It is therefore important that cities take into consideration the various options at disposal to leverage the event through activities and programmes.