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- 11 July 2016 10:30
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The London 2012 Olympics inspired the nation – just as politicians said it would. A uniting feel-good spectacle that delivered on infrastructure, facility and volunteering promises not to mention Team GB’s medal tally. The subsequent effect has been a transformation of much of the competition and training infrastructure into a lasting legacy for elite sport for Rio and beyond. But this was only part of the promise - A host nation gripped by every meter run, line crossed and goal scored should have felt the impact way beyond Super Saturday giving everyone a chance to be more active.
So, since the last petals of caldron were extinguished bringing the close to the greatest show on earth, all eyes have been on the how ‘we’ would be engaged and get active. Sadly Sport England confirmed last week that since 2012 participation has gone down. Yes, more people were active before 2012 - We have a huge proportion of the population not engaged in sport or physical activity and it’s particularly profound in those key groups identified in the new strategy "Towards an Active Nation". The most recent ‘Active People’ results compound this and coupled with the endless reasons why a more active, less obese society is better for everyone, it’s time to stand back and look at what works for consumers.
So, when searching for a solution we need to look at the wider context of how ‘we’ as consumers already engage and consume, and learn from, how we discover, socialise and purchase on a day-to-day basis. As it stands there are some unavoidable facts which can give us a clear idea of what to do:
1)The biggest increase in internet use is cited among 16-24 year olds, almost tripling from 10 hours and 24 minutes each week in 2005 to 27 hours and 36 minutes by the end of 2014. Over 3 hours per day.
2)We are now a mobile nation; In fact, during a recent sports initiative over 70% of searches were made by phone or tablet.
3)Online shopping is now a default - total online sales were forecast to reach £52.25 billion in 2015, versus £44.97 billion in 2014.
4)The number of cash transactions will drop to just under £13 billion by 2023, while the number of cashless transactions - including cheques, credit cards, debit cards, contactless cards, direct debits, and standing orders - will rise to over 27 billion.
So, in short ‘we’ can pretty much find, buy and do everything online and whilst mobile. Through widely available and easily adopted open technology you can book a holiday on a bus, send money via text message, book cinema tickets in 2 clicks and order a taxi within minutes of your location. It’s online, it’s mobile and it’d all about now. We are not involved in a ‘digital revolution’ any more; we are part of a digital society. So when a recent survey confirmed only 5% of sporting activities are booked online, it’s crazy to think, what an open goal we are missing. Yes there are directories for sports clubs with at best a telephone number to ring, but when was the last time you phoned an airline to find out more before you clicked book?
From what we read and some see first-hand, there is layer of bureaucratic nonsense coupled with a completely blinked understanding of how ‘we’ are now engaging. If the 90’s were about getting to grips with the internet, the 00’s were about scaling, then we are now in an era of integration, usability and joining the dots really simply between our offline and online lives. Another new ‘digital strategy’ comes out every week, a steering group gives another report; but in short, in what direction are they going? It is not about planning ‘how to be digital’, strategising an ‘approach’. This time is way behind us. The majority of consumers are now digital, so it is simply about being a part of this community, contributing, helping to build and shape it, acting with, not dictating against.
Citing a micro example which typifies this thinking, a well-funded sports foundation of one of the top 10 UK sports was presented on how to redesign their website. After reviewing their current literature, there was a simple and clear mission: to engage 100k+ kids in their sport. But there was a complete shut down on adopting new ideas along with simple, available, and free technology to drive and engage. It was openly stated that ‘It was not their role or responsibility to engage kids’, just distribute the funding. Instead questions revolved around problems and scenarios most of which would have cropped up 10 years ago.
The issue here is not the lack of digital knowledge. To be fair they were asking for help to solve the problem. It is the lack of understanding of what the problem is, and how obvious the digital solution is, which is staring them in the face.
Although this is one small example, the root of the problem across the industry - NGO’s, Foundations, Governing bodies, is a blanket archaic approach to the internet, mobile and consumer engagement. We have an enormous barrier to break down.
As it stands London 2012 has cost the taxpayer £9 billion, increased awareness of sport, upgraded our infrastructure, and set a strong road map for Rio, but we’ve still seen a decline in participation.
The next phase approach will be a probable call to continue to increase investment in the initiatives that have been responsible for the latest participation figures, but when you stand back and look at what works for consumers, it’s free to access, consumer online communities, which have the highest engagement - Facebook, twitter, eBay… to name but a few. These platforms rely as much on the consumer as the supplier to create a common and fair exchange, where fundamentally the consumer dictates the success and harnessing data drives the evolution. For people to become more active offline, we need to engage them better online.
To get Britain active we need not look any further than the world we already live in, using tools and infrastructure we have to hand, to score this digital open goal.