Brands need to build momentum around disability sport

Buzz around disability sport has died down since the London 2012 Paralympics and more ‘storytelling’ needs to be done by brands to boost interest and participation.

The London 2012 Paralympics drew attention to disability sport across the nation and around the world, particularly when Channel 4 took the title of broadcaster of the tournament.

In the year that followed, the Paralympic events at the Sainsbury’s Anniversary Games, an annual track and field event held in London, attracted 60,000 spectators, a number that dropped to 20,000 this year.

This is despite the fact that the event attracted major athletes from around the world and was broadcast on Channel 4 and BBC, suggesting that not enough is being done to promote such events.

Paralympians David Weir and Hannah Cockroft suggested when speaking to the BBC that interest in disability sport “will die” if it is not marketed properly.

Richard Armstrong, founder of content marketing agency Kameleon, says: “Disability sport certainly doesn’t get the attention it deserves. In particular the athletes who partake in the sports certainly don’t appear to get the exposure their achievements warrant.”

Exposure isn’t the only issue surrounding disabled sport – there is also a lack of non-elite options available for the 12 million people living across the country according to Paralympian track and field athlete Sophia Warner.

In order to address this, earlier this month Warner launched the UK’s first disabled-first sports event, Para Tri.

The event, which will take place on 9 August in Windsor, invites disabled participants as well as their friends and families to either complete the entire race or to sign up as a relay team in order to “enable as many people as possible to take part for the first time”.

It will be supported by a print and social campaign in an effort to boost awareness and participation at the “grassroots level” in the build up to Rio 2016.

Meanwhile, specialist serious injury law firm Irwin Mitchell has launched a campaign titled “Don’t Quit, Do It” to highlight the benefits of sport in helping people recover from injuries or traumas.

The campaign features a series of videos of people who have used sport to overcome injuries and is voiced by former Paralympic swimmer Giles Long.

‘Storytelling’ to inspire consumers

According to Irwin Mitchell, only one in six people with a disability in the UK take part in sport regularly.

However, there are certainly a number of elite platforms for brands to choose from.

The Invictus Games, a competition for injured servicemen, women and veterans which was hosted for the first time in London last year, will also be held again in the US in 2016.

“There certainly seems to be a shift in attitude towards disabled sports,” Armstrong said. “Take the Invictus Games, which seems to be growing at a steady rate, yet it appears there is little support from brands.”

While Barclays are supporting the Para-Tri event, the bank is not an official sponsor and no others have yet signed up.

However, Warner said that the support of brands such as Barclays helps to boost awareness and “drive accessibility in such a big way”.

Some brands have helped to support disability sport. Mondelez partnered with British Paralympians while Debenhams ran an ad campaign starring Paralympic amputee.

However, Armstrong believes this is a bigger opportunity for advertisers, especially as many of them claim to be focused on “storytelling”.

“There is a lot of noise from brands about how they want to inspire customers,” he says. “Disabled sport is full of incredible stories to be told regarding outstanding athletes, yet as an industry we appear to shy away from telling these stories, instead sticking to safe bets and what we know.

“These stories would get far more attention from me than any story focused around the technology of a football boot,” he explains.

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