How to leverage major sporting events to your school’s advantage

“Did you see that last night?! Wasn’t it incredible?!”

Words to this effect have been said in classrooms and corridors in schools the world over, not just during the most recent Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast. During any major, global sporting event on the scale of the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games or Soccer World Cup, the media coverage can be all-consuming. On the radio, in the papers, in your Facebook feed, on billboards, in shopping centres … but it’s not just mindless small-talk amongst your students and occasionally staff. These conversations are being had by your target markets online and on social media. And, if it matters to them, it should matter to you and your school.

Constantly creating new content is hard work. At some point, every school will start making the most of ‘International Awareness Day for x’ as the links to their content become more and more tenuous. The difference between these and major sporting events is that sport on this scale ignites conversation. Seeing a competitor in their representative colours pull-off the unthinkable is inspiring. The return shot that no one could return is inspiring. Or coming from the back of the pack to win as an underdog is inspiring. It is these moments that inspires a child to try a sport for the first time. The boom in registrations for your school’s after-school tennis camp the week after the Australian Open finishes isn’t a coincidence.

So how do you ride this media wave? Well here are four ways that you can start to leverage major sporting events to your school’s advantage.

  1. Identify trending topics
    The strength of social media lies in the immediacy of information sharing. Inspiring videos, as well as inane pet home videos, can very quickly go viral and if your school is prepared, you can ride a wave of trending content and the world could have seen your great school sporting content organically before you can search ‘Incredible Ball Boy Catch at Australian Open 2012’. No things in life are certain, however a given in social media is that during large, global events, there will likely be some form of online repercussion in the shape of the event trending on social media. There is a plethora of online resources that can help you get a better understanding of how to identify appropriate trending topics to grow your social media followers; however with proper planning, your school can really benefit from trending topics.

    It could be a ‘lookalike’ post comparing the 100m start-line to the Year 5 sports carnival, or it could be using a few selective hashtags to sneak an extra few hundred people into your social media reach. What is important to note here, is that these school posts aren’t considered as click-bait to any unsuspecting social media users. Therefore, any attempts to use a trending hashtag to highlight an athletic achievement as part of a post need to be relevant to #gc2018 or #tokyo2020 – not trying to get a few extra RSVPs for the next Open Morning.

  2. Showcasing quality photography
    It could not be understated. In marketing, especially for schools, quality imagery is king. Whilst photo shoots can often eat into a marketing budget, the old adage remains; you get what you pay for. It is vital to make the most of a school photo shoot, however there are often hundreds of quality images that are never able to see the light of day. What better way to run a mini-online campaign, showcasing some quality school sport photography than during an event like the Commonwealth or Olympic Games? As the famous saying goes, “If you can’t find an opportunity to maximise the reach of your school’s great photography that you received last month, then make one”. I may have got the quote confused but either way, the message stands.
  3. Highlighting smaller sports or activities
    Struggling to get your Ultimate Frisbee program off the ground? Tiddlywinks team dwindling? Often global sporting events such as the Olympics, summer but especially winter, or the Commonwealth Games thrust less mainstream sports into the spotlight. Granted these sports are more on the scale of Volleyball, Squash or Diving than the aforementioned sports, however quite often these sports can be quite hard to promote due to low numbers of participants. What better way to tie in a Lawn Bowls ‘Come and Try’ event than just after a surprise Gold Medal? If you need some more tips to improve event attendance using social media then there are always areas where you can improve.
  4. Celebrating unsung heroes with storytelling
    Global sporting events are rife with amazing stories and the 2018 Commonwealth Games was no different. Clyde Lewis swum the race of his life to win gold and needed medical attention in his poolside interview. Christopher Remkes broke a 24-year Commonwealth Games drought, winning a gymnastics gold medal. And Paralympic legend and flagbearer, Kurt Fearnley closed out his decorated athletic career with an emotional gold medal in the T54 Marathon.While these stories are, rightfully so, going viral online and in school corridors around the country, it is also a fantastic opportunity to highlight the ‘unsung’ heroes of your school’s sporting programs using storytelling. Do you have a team of volunteers that work tirelessly to make the Athletics Carnival run seamlessly? Perhaps there is a rugby coach who has worked for 20 plus years and ex-students credit him or her with their later sporting success? Or perhaps it is the junior school groundskeeper, who always works with a smile on their face to ensure the cricket square is in SCG condition every year. These are the stories that often spark large-scale engagement. Facts tell – stories sell.

    With some forward planning, a quick and easy online campaign to tie in with a sporting event can really help to spark conversation.

Hopefully this blog has convinced you that major sporting events can be a low-hanging fruit for you to leverage to your school’s advantage.

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