Sports seek to cash in on Olympic spirit

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The Independent Online

Thanks to the Olympics, this summer has provided a unique window of opportunity for "minority" sports such as triathlon, handball or taekwondo to increase participation and funding.

But now the football season has kicked off in earnest, many see that window closing. The smart ones are investing in communications campaigns to maintain the momentum.

British Cycling has gained 4,000 members since GB rider Bradley Wiggins crossed the finish line as victor of the Tour de France, and is now at a record 54,000 membership. In May, cycling's governing body hired former Press Association Olympics editor, Scott Dougal, to head its PR function. He is using a number of track cycling events this autumn to exploit the goodwill and is looking to hire a PR agency.

Even the nascent sport of handball has become PR-savvy, revamping its website and using an agency to forge ties with country sports partnerships.

With UK Sport now guaranteed the same funding for the 2016 Olympic Games as for 2012 – £300m – many sports will also be lobbying for a slice of that pie.

The World Taekwondo Federation brought in JTA PR last month. JTA founder Jon Tibbs says we will see a big upsurge in sports federations trying to tap into the political goodwill on the back of London 2012's success.

It will not be easy though, because after the sporting euphoria of the past month, good old British cynicism has started to regain hegemony.

The Government's reluctance to protect school playing fields has dominated the headlines recently, and there is still no resurrection of the Schools Sports Partnership, which was so successful in getting kids to try minority games.

Meanwhile, some claim that despite the media's acres of positive sporting coverage this summer, the ability to gain national exposure for many sports will be lessened by cuts in the newspaper business.

Alison Donnelly, head of comms for London Wasps and ambassador for women's rugby – not yet an Olympic sport – says there are now very few single sports supplements and fewer national sports journalists, all of which makes it increasingly difficult to generate sustained interest.