March 5, 2021

Encouraging participation in sport

Author:
Will Enever, Associate Director
With massive investments in encouraging sports participation, research plays a key role in understanding how to make a difference.

Participation in sport has been a focus for successive Governments and seen as a priority to build on following successful Olympics in 2012 and 2016. Whilst GB recorded the most successful medal haul since 1908 at the Rio Olympics, the hope would have been to see an increase in physical activity and sports participation.


Recent Data by Sport England* highlights the fact that Sport and Physical activity** among adults (16+) has grown slightly from 77.2% in November 2016, to 77.9% in November 2019. Activity levels have since dropped in the UK, impacted by measures to counter COVID-19. If you take a closer look at the types of physical activity, there has been mixed success, with an increase in walking and adventure sports, while football and swimming have seen decreases during this time period.

*Active lives adult survey, published by Sport England, October 2020
**activity at least twice in the last 28 days

With massive investments in encouraging sports participation, research plays a key role in understanding how to make a difference. Here at Savanta we work with sporting bodies, NGB’s and other organisations involved in delivering sport to provide insight on sporting behaviours and attitudes to maximise ROI.

We’ve detailed below some of our top tips which include:

Creating a first-rate experience:
Sporting bodies need to understand the participant experience to ensure participation and involvement is maximised. Experience is key to long-term engagement and the motivation to continue involvement in the future. Driving habitual participation is critical to repeated success, as there are always temptations to look for new challenges in new sports which offer new levels of excitement, new environments, and less expense.

Driving participation:
Understanding perceptions of a particular sport, including attitudes, behaviour and associated social norms, are valuable for identifying levers for driving participation.

The underlying drivers for behaviour (health, challenge, enjoyment, competitiveness, relaxation, socialising) as well as barriers (cost, time, location, accessibility, social barriers, weather, training, elitism) are critical and must be identified to help understand a sports potential. In particular this understanding can be used to break down barriers or perceived barriers and encourage wider participation levels to help build appeal.

Targeting the right audience
Segmenting a sport’s current and potential participants by demographics, socio economic factors, attitudes and behaviours etc can help to build an understanding of a sports potential for growth. This enables sporting bodies to position their sport within the market, measure participation levels and develop a clear proposition to maximise a sports appeal, increasing participation both short and long term.

Creating communications that connect
How do sporting bodies engage with participants and non-participants to maintain and maximise involvement?

Attracting new audiences into any sport is crucial to its long-term growth. With a fragmented media, understanding how different audiences engage in communications is key; whether it’s online, social media, as well as traditional formats. Combining this understanding with a detailed knowledge of the motivators and barriers to a sport will help shape communications and maximise their effectiveness in driving up participation levels.

For more information on our work with sporting bodies, NGB’s and other organisations involved in delivering sport and how we help brands to understand changing behaviours please get in touch.


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