I’d planned to celebrate the year I turned 50 with lots of (undoubtedly cliched) firsts – roller skating lessons in Hyde Park, walking up the UK’s highest mountains (not in the same weekend), an Olympic-distance triathlon and a tattoo.
I was still compiling the list when it became clear 2020 had other ideas – my year of firsts replaced by a year at home; an unprecedented nine months (and counting) that generated new experiences, all of which (perhaps naively) I didn’t have the wit to conjure up. Even as we were sent home in March, I couldn’t believe we’d still be here now.
Back in March, as it became clear the pandemic would force some restrictions on our movements for a few weeks at least, at Sport England we considered how we could help people stay active. Although our primary role is to support the sport sector, in recent years our campaigns – This Girl Can and We Are Undefeatable – talked directly to groups of consumers who found it harder to get active.
Both campaigns have large and diverse target audiences, but as the whole country faced the pandemic together, could we successfully talk to everyone at the same time? And should we? With intensive care units filling and the lockdown being announced, weren’t there more important things than sport and exercise for people to focus on?
Keeping the nation active
At Sport England we always believed that sport and physical activity are important and, as normal life stopped, that importance was heightened. It mattered for all the reasons it always did, supporting our long and short-term physical mental health, personal development and social connections. But there were new reasons too – keeping us healthy, supporting our immune systems and helping us manage the stress, anxiety and fear caused by the virus itself, as well as isolation, home-schooling, working from home, not working at all and so on. Slumping on the sofa for the duration (even when we thought it might only be a few weeks) was tantalising but unhelpful.
Our Join the Movement campaign and online activity hub countered this – and it worked. When the campaign was in full swing, we could see activity levels rising (compared to the beginning of lockdown) and our evaluation showed 49% of the adults who recognised the campaign said it prompted them to take action.
We also worked with local and national partners to help them keep their communities active – gaining intelligence, providing clarity on the guidance, involving them in campaign creation and developing toolkits that help them tailor messages to meet local needs.