A Competition and an Event are different. Each can exist without the other. However, if merged correctly, without compromising the integrity of the competition, sports events can bring both together and be used to inspire the next generation of athletes, volunteers and spectators.
At England Athletics we are taking the first steps to branch out our competitions into sports events. The best sports do this in big stadiums and with big budgets, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Our primary focus at England Athletics is to use our events to positively impact the local community and inspire the next generation of athletes for - let's be honest - the least amount of money possible.
Nichola Skedgel is our Competition Partnerships & Innovation Manager. She said,
"We feel the best way to do this is by using our competitions as a hub in the local community, putting on family friendly activities to encourage people into the stadium so they get to see and be inspired by the athletes competing. Athletics, even without the big-name stars is impressive for children to watch, I saw this first-hand last weekend."
At the Senior and Para Championships last weekend we offered local school children and their families free tickets to our event.
We provided funetics activities for them, free of charge, so they could have fun throwing, balancing, speed bouncing and doing a standing long jump. We had craft activities, free face painting, and an ‘Athletics Hunt’ to help children familiarise themselves with the events taking place inside the stadium.
Not all activities were specifically for children though. We had our Heritage display, and also James Hudson from Nutrition for Energy doing talks for athletes, coaches and parents to help aid their performance through food.
The Sound of Music
We know athletics can be confusing with so many things happening at one time, so to help these ‘new’ spectators we also uplifted our event presentation.
- To signify the start of the event, we played Jerusalem with our Officials walking out into the stadium.
- We had music playing throughout the event with line ups for the start of the track and field events, and we had walk out boards, so spectators could see what the athletes being walked into the arena would be competing in.
- The start of the events was also signified by recognisable music, differing music for track and for field.
- Finally, we highlighted the start of our medal ceremonies with music to draw the crowd’s attention to this so all the athletes could be recognised and congratulated on their performances.
A first step to improving engagement
These were small changes for not a lot of money, we reached 100 more people with our free tickets than we would normally have, and we hope to grow on this for each of our events.
There is always room for improvement, but this was a great first step towards really engaging with our local communities. We have lots of ideas for our Age Group Championships in Birmingham on 26-27 August, so watch this space.Buy tickets for our Age Group Champs