Here’s an overview of a recent CIPR Rise & Shine breakfast.
Ahead of this year’s London 2012 Olympics, I invited Jane and Sarah from Sport Wales to be guest speakers at the monthly breakfast seminar I organise on behalf of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) in Wales. As well as an Olympic themed talk, my fellow PR professionals enjoyed an Olympic sized breakfast courtesy of Bacchus!
The talk was perfectly timed a day before the opening ceremony and Jane and Sarah discussed how Sport Wales was creating a buzz around the Welsh athletes involved in the games and the issues they faced as an organisation.
A key issue in the lead up to the games was a lack of athlete awareness both internally and externally. While some athletes such as Dai Greene were well know, not all of the 30 Welsh athletes taking part in this year’s games were recognised so in order to combat this, the press team organised a series of day in the life films, updated its website to include elite performance sections, produced athlete cardboard cut outs that have been taken around their offices and to events Wales-wide and undertook an extensive media relations programme in the build up to the games to highlight athletes to look out for.
The press team also worked hard to overcome the negativity surrounding the benefits the games would bring to Wales. To do this, the team focussed on pushing a sporting legacy message – ‘biggest ever marketing campaign for sport we’ll ever see in the UK’. It also used the build up to Games to promote Sport Wales’ vision and strategies. The games have come at a time when the sports sector in Wales is being reenergised. It has bold ambitions for the future and that’s something Sport Wales has wanted to get across clearly. ‘Getting every child hooked on sport for life’ has become a strap line for the sports sector in Wales.
In addition to the athletes, Sport Wales wanted to ensure that its sports science, medicine experts and coaches got the recognition they deserve so they created a ‘team behind team’ campaign that was delivered through the organisation’s website and extensive media relations activity which has proved to be successful.
As the team knew the weeks surrounding the Olympics and Paralympics were going to be extremely busy with the press team being the first port of call for media in Wales, in the lead up to the games they overhauled Sport Wales’ website to ensure information was readily available (athlete biogs, participation stats, strategies etc) and started media engagement including fortnightly meetings with BBC Wales early. The team predicted the type of information journalists would want and provided it in advance.
To ensure that momentum to the games built and did not lose pace, Sport Wales’ press team used milestones as clear markers and consequently enjoyed live broadcasts from BBC Wales, Newyddion and ITV Wales surrounding key milestones such as Year to Go, 200 days, 100 days, torch relay, final team numbers. Many of these milestones were used to convey community sport messages so that the right balance was struck between elite and grassroots sport.
One aspect, the team was acutely aware of in the lead up to the games was athlete pressure which was especially high as a home games. British governing bodies, British Olympic Association, ParalympicsGB, LOCOG, sponsors were all in touch with our Welsh athletes and Sport Wales was conscious that a high volume of media commitments could distract athletes from training so they tried to act as a buffer for the athletes where possible. The press team kept in regular contact with the athletes’ coaches so that they were not asking too much of them at the wrong times, too close to competition for example. Media days were staged at the Welsh Institute of Sport for Welsh media to help manage the interview bids that were coming in and make it more manageable for athletes.
During the games Sport Wales’ role is more logistical – it has introduced an out of hours rota, the team will be providing information to its spokespeople (including schedule of when athletes are competing, biogs, Q&A, key messages etc), handling enquiries and undertaking a vast amount of tweeting!
It was an insightful and interesting talk that really got everyone that attended excited about this year’s games. Thanks to Sarah and Jane from Sport Wales and we wish all of our Welsh athletes every success!